Every week of the college football season produces more film for NFL scouts to digest and creates movement on draft boards around the league.
There’s always intrigue at the top of the draft, but, barring injury or surprise, the first few picks will feature some combination of Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter, Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young . Clemson defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee also likely won’t wait long to hear their names called.
But NFL success is often determined by players taken in later rounds. Many sleepers eventually become key contributors or stars. Identifying them is the tricky part, but I’ll take a shot.
Everyone has a slightly different definition of an NFL draft sleeper, so to keep things simple, I took the early 2023 NFL draft rankings from Todd McShay and Scouts Inc. and identified 12 draft-eligible players ranked between No. 90 and 200. These players project as draftable prospects and have made contributions this season but aren’t generating the same buzz as guaranteed first- or second-round picks. To gather additional insight, I spoke to coaches and some scouts about the potential draft sleepers for 2023.
Here they are, in descending order from the highest rated in ESPN’s rankings.
Scouts Inc. ranking: 92
Measurables: 5-foot-9, 180 pounds
2022 stats: 25 tackles (22 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups
Hodges-Tomlinson broke through in 2020, when he led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally with 13 pass breakups, earning the highest grade from Pro Football Focus as a cornerback in coverage. The two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection relishes being assigned to opponents’ top wide receivers, a role that has continued this fall under new defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie and cornerbacks coach Carlton Buckels.
“Pretty much being more physical, making them understand, ‘You’re going to have to work for these catches, and I’m going to come at you every play,'” Hodges-Tomlinson told ESPN. “It’s the physicality part of it, and also my quickness, it makes it harder for these guys to be able to catch the ball.”