2023 NFL Draft: Cameron Ward, Puka Nacua, Plus More Offensive Sleepers
With the college football season ending, many eyes will begin shifting to the 2023 NFL Draft. Many more people will get to know this year’s draft prospects. Almost every fan — casual or diehard — will be aware of the big names, such as Will Anderson or Jalen Carter, but here are some prospects that aren’t too highly regarded at the moment to keep an eye on. These names could shoot up NFL Draft boards before April.
2023 NFL Draft: Offensive Sleeper Prospects
Quarterback: Cameron Ward, Washington State
Quarterback was easily the most difficult position to find a sleeper pick, as the spotlight is placed on them a lot more than any other position. However, Cam Ward enjoyed a successful season as the signal-caller for the Washington State Cougars and could declare for the 2023 NFL Draft despite being a redshirt sophomore.
The Incarnate Word transfer is built in the new style of quarterback prospect, with a strong arm and a good dual-threat ability. He will have to improve the mental aspect of his game if he is to become an NFL quarterback, but a year behind a veteran will help that transition.
NFL Draft Projection: Day-Two Pick (QB6)
*Note: Projection is dependent upon Ward declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft*
Wide Receiver: Puka Nacua, WR, BYU
Despite playing for a BYU offense that took a step back, Nacua was able to rack up over 800 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns. In 2021, he ended with over 900 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, trailing only current NFL running back Tyler Allgeier on that BYU team.
Nacua is not your typical receiver prospect. He lacks a lot of traits that teams look for in their future primary (X) receivers, but what he does have is a skill set that resembles players such as Deebo Samuel. Nacua has great versatility, and great burst after the catch, as well as having potential as a vertical threat.
NFL Draft Projection: Day-Two Pick (WR15)
*Note: I am quite high on him as compared to many people*
Tight End: Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota
Although this tight end class is incredibly top-heavy, with Michael Mayer being the only true first-round pick, there is value to be found in the later rounds. Brevyn Spann-Ford being a good example. Last year, he recorded almost 500 receiving yards and two touchdowns for the Golden Gophers.
Spann-Ford could be highly regarded primarily due to his size and athleticism, as he is a very tall prospect at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds. This means he is a real dual-threat prospect as a blocker and as a receiver, which is something that NFL teams enjoy having in their offense. However, he does need to prove that he is a good route-runner before he can earn a starting spot in the league.
NFL Draft Projection: Day-Three Pick (TE8)
*Note: Teams could take him earlier due to his traits*
Offensive Tackle: Graham Barton, Duke
It has been well documented that this year’s offensive tackle class is weaker than recent years’, but there is still talent throughout. Graham Barton has enjoyed a successful career at Duke, having played over 2000 snaps and allowed only 23 total pressures (according to PFF), as well as receiving a PFF grade of 86.5, which was good for sixth in the nation.
Barton has good hand placement and exhibits good efficiency and speed in pass protection, as well as being quick to climb the levels when run-blocking. He also shows good patience when faced with an assignment in pass protection. Something that he needs to work on is his pad level, as he will occasionally play with a high-pad level, making himself prone to being beaten by speed rushers.
NFL Draft Projection: Late Day-Two Pick (OT9)
Interior Offensive Line: Christian Haynes, UConn
Another small-school player, Haynes had a great career as part of the UConn offensive line, playing over 2500 snaps at right guard and allowing only 7 sacks (according to PFF). He recorded a PFF grade of 83.1 in 2022, good for third in the nation.
Haynes shows great aggression and physicality when in run blocking and in pass protection. He is quick when climbing levels. However, his best trait is his hand usage as he displays a very strong ability to move incoming defensive players with just a push of his hands. Despite this, he is quite undersized, and his aggression can occasionally lead to him getting off-balance.
NFL Draft Projection: Late Day-Two Pick (IOL6)