NFL Hot Press: 2023 Small-School Prospects

2023 Small-School Prospects

Updated July 26, 2022
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Every year on NFL teams’ preseason watch lists there are some small-school players with surprising early-round grades who end up being sought after prospects in the draft class. Previous players who were highly graded on the preseason watch list include Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn – Panthers second-round pick -, Villanova defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon – Chiefs second-round pick -, Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen – Bears second-round pick – and Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger – Patriots second-round pick. The 2023 NFL Draft could follow suit, and here are a few of the small-school players who received favorable grades entering fall training camp.

  • The highest-rated small-school player on some teams’ preseason watch lists is Army outside linebacker Andre Carter II. Carter was a beast for the Black Knights in 2021, ripping off 15.5 sacks in a stellar season. He also recorded 44 tackles, four forced fumbles, an interception and two passes batted. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Carter is a long, tall defender who could continue to rise if he stays consistent in 2022.

  • Another outside linebacker who received a good grade from advance scouts was Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton. Hampton had a big 2021 season for the Mountaineers, ripping off 11 sacks, 68 tackles. He flashed pass-rush ability in 2020 – three sacks – and 2019 – 5.5 sacks – while totaling 66 tackles and three forced fumbles over that time. For the NFL, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Hampton could stand to get stronger and add weight to his frame to help him get off blocks. It would help Hampton to perform well at an all-star game.

  • The top offensive prospect from the small-school ranks on some teams’ watch lists is Old Dominion tight end Zack Kuntz. He broke out in 2021 with 73 catches for 692 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder has mismatch size that could lead to him continuing to rise similar to how Shaheen did in the 2017 NFL Draft.