Home » NFL combine 2023 sleepers: Blazing WR, military edge rusher among those hoping to impress, improve draft stock

NFL combine 2023 sleepers: Blazing WR, military edge rusher among those hoping to impress, improve draft stock

The NFL Combine is a place for prospects to truly break out and improve their draft stock. In some cases, it is simply a matter of the media catching up to the information to which teams are already privy. Here are some of the lesser known prospects that could boost their respective stock in Indianapolis:

Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army    

Carter is a long edge rusher with an athletic build. The Texas native moves well for his size. He amassed 15.5 sacks as a junior last season. He is competing to be the first service academy prospect drafted in the top-50 since Navy tackle Bob Reifsnyder was taken No. 45 overall as part of the 1959 NFL Draft. The cause for concern has been his competency as a run defender setting the edge and fitting run gaps. 

Army training is not necessarily conducive to adding and maintaining mass. Inside of a professional football environment, can Carter become a more well-rounded player capable of being an every down defender?

Jacob Copeland, WR Maryland

Shrine Bowl director of football operations Eric Galko believes that Copeland could run sub-4.3 seconds in Indianapolis. Copeland, a Florida transfer, has had modest production during his career. Film shows a wide receiver with an understanding of how to sink his hips into his breaks. If he can perform more consistently, while maintaining his track caliber speed, then the sky is the limit in his career.

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU  

Freeland will be one of the longer offensive linemen standing at 6-foot-7 with an impressive wingspan. A quick dive into the lineman’s background tells the story of his athleticism. He was a three-time captain on the football team, two-time captain on the basketball team six-time all-state member in track and field. The Utah native should stand out during the on-field portion of the workouts. 

Freeland has already been discussed a potential top-50 prospect but a strong showing at the Combine could boost his name into the first-round conversation. 

Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton  

A year ago, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson was a draft darling as a player with great speed and a boundary receiver’s frame. Iosivas is making a similar leap in competition level but has had quality production over the past two seasons (107 receptions for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns). The buzz has not built in the same manner as it did for Watson but teams will be captivated by his athletic frame and traits. 

Terell Smith, CB, Minnesota

Smith has been lightly-discussed during the pre-draft process but the tape tells the tale of a player not to be overlooked. He won the Georgia State Championship in the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.39 seconds. He can flip his hips and stay in-phase up the boundary with ease. One concern from his junior to senior seasons was his over aggression downfield. It was not uncommon to see Smith in coverage wearing boxing gloves at Minnesota practices this fall. 

Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State

Strange is more in the mold of an F-tight end, like Maryland’s Chig Okonkwo a year ago. He has not had eye-opening production but he is a fluid athlete that blocks with good leverage and seals the corner. Perhaps there is a bit of bias in play as Strange grew up about 15 minutes away from my hometown in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Penn State prospects always run fast during the pre-draft process and Strange is expected to continue that legacy.

Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC

Tuipulotu spent most of his final season in Los Angeles playing on the edge despite his 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame. His work rushing the arc has given him an opportunity to develop his pass rush moves and become a more fluid athlete; that should serve him well testing alongside bigger players without that exposure. However, the early stages of his NFL career will likely bring bring frustration as he furthers his development as an interior defender.

Carrington Valentine, CB, Kentucky

Valentine has good size and competitive toughness to be a man coverage cornerback in the NFL. He has to become a more consistent tackler but this is a player that has transformed his body since the college season concluded and should run in the 4.4s. 

The Cincinnati native has not been a common name in draft coverage but that should change with a strong outing in Indianapolis this week.