2023 NFL Draft Preview: Group of 5 Prospects To Watch on Night 2, Including Tyjae Spears
Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyjae Spears (center).
For the first time in 58 years, every pick in the NFL Draft’s first round came from a Power Five program. As our very own Brett McMurphy pointed out, there were only 14 first-round picks in that draft. Suffice it to say, it’s shocking that the Group of Five was shut out on Thursday night and there’s a chance they may have to wait until the third round to hear a player’s name on Friday.
Here is a breakdown of the best G5 players and where they may land on Friday night.
Tyjae Spears, Tulane, RB
Best Fit: Philadelphia Eagles
Spears was a home run hitter for the Green Wave, averaging a hair under seven yards per carry last fall. When you combine his production (1,580 yards rushing and 21 total touchdowns) with his excellent measurables, it’s easy to see why he is the best bet to come off the board in the second round from the G5 ranks. NextGen NFL Stats ranked him as the No. 3 running back at the combine after he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash.
The Eagles played the first round perfectly, adding to their “Georgia North” roster with a pair of Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball. But despite their elite overall roster, the loss of Miles Sanders in free agency looms large. Adding a versatile back to their running back room would be a savvy move at 62nd overall.
Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell, while well established, seem to be a better fit as complementary backs. Spears would have an opportunity to mature into a feature back in the Eagles offense.
Tyler Scott, Cincinnati, WR
Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
Scott made himself a lot of money during the pre-draft process by running a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine. His RAS score came in at 8.58 out of 10, placing him in the 86th percentile of all wideouts evaluated since 1987.
Scott’s speed offers the Steelers value from the get-go this season, and getting Kenny Pickett more weapons, particularly those that can take the top off the defense, is a high priority for this front office.
From a production standpoint, Scott did struggle with drops in college, but he was a high school running back and can generate yards after the catch with ease. It’s also worth noting that with better quarterback play in 2021, he almost averaged 19 yards per reception for the Bearcats.
The generous evaluation is that Scott has room to grow as he learns the position and gets more reps moving forward. The Steelers have had a great track record molding versatile wide receivers into stars at the pro level, so this marriage makes sense on a lot of levels.
Tank Dell, Houston, WR
Best Fit: Buffalo Bills
It’s unlikely that the Bills can keep Gabe Davis after this season, which brings into question the viability of their wide receiver room in general. Outside of Stefon Diggs, there is definitely a need for a game-breaker, and Dell could compete with Khalil Shakir in the slot from day one. The Bills’ first-round selection of Dalton Kincaid doesn’t preclude them from adding more weapons for Josh Allen, in my opinion.
From a size perspective, Dell is a carbon copy of Isaiah McKenzie at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. McKenzie was productive within the Bills system, tallying 703 yards and seven total touchdowns in the past two seasons. Dell was insanely productive at Houston, snagging 199 receptions for 2,727 yards and 29 touchdowns in his last two collegiate campaigns.
Also like McKenzie, Dell offers an added dimension in the return game. While he wasn’t a full-time returner for Houston, he still found the end zone returning a punt last fall and averaged an eye-popping 17 yards per return. In 2021, he moonlit as a kickoff returner and showed some pop there as well.
Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion, TE
Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have relied on elite tight end play for years, but Darren Waller was sent to the New YorkGiants last month. Waller’s production was really impacted by his injury issues in the last two seasons. Without his ability to stretch the field and easily beat man coverage, the offense was far less efficient.
Kuntz, a former four-star recruit at Penn State, was once in line to be the next great tight end in State College. But when he was healthy at Old Dominion, as he was during the 2021 season, he was capable of being a game-changer all over the field.
Kuntz’s sophomore campaign ended with a stat line of 71/674/5 and he has a highlight reel filled with athletic plays in the red zone. He may take time to develop as an in-line blocker, but he can line up in the slot or out wide and flat-out get open.
Kuntz’s physical makeup is off the charts. He scored a perfect 10 on his RAS scorecard and at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds with 4.55 speed, he could get a team like Las Vegas to reach for him in the third round with the 100th overall pick.
Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan, OG
Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers want to run the football and use their defense to break through and win the Super Bowl in 2023. Adding a mega-athletic guard who can work his way to the second level and make blocks downfield on screen passes is a must in this draft for the 49ers.
Sow went from an unknown Canadian prospect to a physical marvel at EMU. He posted elite numbers at the combine in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump. He posted a 9.72 out of 10 RAS score placing him in the 97th percentile of guards evaluated athletically since 1987.
The 49ers finished fourth in the NFC in rushing a year ago and with Brock Purdy projected to start if healthy, it seems unlikely they’ll deviate all that much from that recipe in the fall. Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel and Spencer Burford all played well last season along the interior of the line, but Sow has a Pro Bowl ceiling and at the very least would offer San Francisco great depth as a pick toward the end of the third round.
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