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2023 NFL Draft: Nick’s picks — 10 players consensus big boards are not high enough on

Nick Falato offers 10 NFL Draft prospects he likes more than most analysts

Missouri v Kansas State
Julius Brents
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The New York Giants have less than two weeks until the start of the 2023 NFL Draft. Joe Schoen and the Giants coaching staff are finalizing their pre-draft discussions, with last-second changes possibly materializing.

General managers and coaching staffs have specific styles that fit their needs and desires. They’re higher on some players and lower on others - it comes down to preference, prognostication, and, for some teams, size thresholds.

Draft pundits are similar; we like some players more than others. The New York Giants have less than two weeks until the start of the 2023 NFL Draft. Joe Schoen and the Giants coaching staff are finalizing their pre-draft discussions, with sparing last-second changes possibly materializing.

General managers and coaching staffs have specific styles that fit their needs and desires. They’re higher on some and lower on others - it comes down to preference, prognostication, and, for some teams, size thresholds.

Draft pundits are similar; we like some players more than others. has a fluctuating consensus big board. Their board is updated daily and was compiled using 125 big industry boards, 1,131 first-round mock drafts, and 935 team-based mock drafts.

Based on the consensus, here are 10 players that I’m higher on than the industry.

Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State

Rank: 59th

Are we overthinking Julius Brents a bit? I ask myself this for a few reasons. The guy is a rare athlete with the length that forces defensive backs’ coaches to salivate.

Corners with his profile typically do not run sub-7.0 three-cones with a 4.05 short shuttle. The explosive testing is elite, it’s just that damn 40-yard dash. Personally, I don’t care much about the 40, but if I had speed or recovery concerns on tape, then I rely on the 40 to substantiate what I saw. Unfortunately, Brents wasn’t the most natural-man coverage player and he was beaten deep a few different times.

Here’s my synopsis:

Julius Brents is a physical cornerback with rare 99th percentile length and height. He’s smart, tough, and dependable as a player who also has press upside. His aggressive mentality and ability to switch zone-coverage responsibilities promptly helped Kansas State create turnovers in 2022.

Unfortunately, concerns about Brents’ vertical speed to carry faster wide receivers are valid. He’s not a complete stiff, but some of his transitions could use WD-40 - it’s not always smooth. He will be able to play man coverage, but his ideal fit is likely as a zone defender. I love his tackling mentality, but he can get wild and doesn’t consistently drive his feet into contact - he has to wrap up more.

There could be a discussion about moving him to safety because of his aggressive nature to fill in run support and his unique size. His instincts in zone coverage suggest he could handle that from a processing standpoint, but that remains to be seen. I like Brents’ skill set a lot, and he could be a Jimmy Smith for Martindale’s defense.

There are corners in this class whose skills align more with Martindale’s philosophy, but Brents, with defensive backs’ coach Jerome Henderson, inculcating the correct press and overall technique could unlock an upside that others in the class don’t possess.

Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

Rank: 76th

I feel like it’s cheating placing Spears on this list. He is a darling of many who cover the draft, but I like the former Green Wave runner higher than 76th, especially with a player like Texas A&M’s Devon Achane ranked 12 spots ahead of him. I like Achane because of his speed, but several players with difference-making speed will be available later in the draft (Pitt’s Isreal Abanikanda, ECU’s Keaton Mitchell)

Spears isn’t the biggest at 5-foot-9, 201 pounds, but how he angles his body in a manner that presents challenging targets at the tackle point for defenders, and his instantaneous ability to redirect his momentum while cutting are traits that can successfully translate at the next level.

Spears didn’t test nearly as well as Achane, who has sprinter speed, but the late third-quarter touchdown run against USC and the early touchdown run against UCF show rare breakaway traits and acceleration. Spears had plays that looked way faster than his 4.52-timed 40. He understands the nuance of playing running back and will be a valuable asset to a team at the next level.

Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell, WR, Houston

Rank 79th

I will not be shocked if Tank Dell is selected at pick 79 in the draft. It’s not unreasonable to value a 165-pound receiver in that range. He’s small; he’s slim, and he’ll turn 24 years old next season. Still, Dell has rare change of direction and initial burst off the line of scrimmage. He extends away from his frame, understands how to uncover, and had two consecutive seasons with over 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns. Here was my synopsis:

If I had one adjective to describe Nathanial Dell, it would be FUN. The NFL is centralized around creating explosive offensive plays - Dell does that very well. Dell appears to be shot out of a cannon when accelerating, yet he exercises excellent precision and timing when changing direction. He has good body control when he’s running his route, and his movements are deceptive. He’s difficult to jam, and giving him a free release is dangerous.

I like Dell’s skill set and think he can be a difference-maker in the NFL. However, his frame will turn some teams off, and he’ll be relegated to the slot or as an offensive weapon in the NFL. Names like Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin, and Tutu Atwell are typically associated with Nathaniel “Tank” Dell. I’m not necessarily in the comparison game, but I can see the similarities. The landing spot is crucial for Dell’s success in the NFL. If he is drafted by a team with a progressive offensive mind who can effectively leverage his strengths, he could be a dangerous weapon for that offense.

Dell is smart as a route runner, understands how/when to get open, can separate against man and zone, and has the desired athletic traits for a wide receiver. He’s not perfect, but damn, he could be a FUN player in the right situation.

Again, 79 is not necessarily a terrible rank for him, but nine receivers are ahead of him on the list - I have Dell higher than at least four of those players.

Jartavius ‘Quan’ Martin, DB, Illinois

Rank: 88th

Martin is a versatile secondary piece with single-high capabilities, nickel ability, and reported very high character. He played the star position for the Fightin’ Illini’ and was an elite tackler. Martin is an elite athlete who had a 1.44 10-yard-split, a 44-inch vertical jump, and an 11’1” broad jump. Not only is he smart, tough, and dependable, but he’s versatile, and I love the idea of the Giants adding him to their secondary on day two. Here is my synopsis:

There’s a lot to appreciate about Jartavius Martin’s skill set; for starters, he’s a phenomenal athlete who can play all over the back end of a defense. Illinois leveraged his versatility in their man-heavy approach. Want him to play the post? He can; what about a nickel slot defender? Well within his wheelhouse. His ability to wear many hats is invaluable. He could improve as a man covering defender, but the potential oozes out of his tape. Furthermore, he’s an elite-run defender who packs a nasty punch for his size. His missed tackle rate in 2022 & 2021 were 6.1% and 4.8%, respectively.

Martin’s risky - gambling - nature is a bet that has burnt him; there were several plays throughout his tape where he attempted to undercut out routes out of the slot or deep horizontal routes from a single high look, and he failed to maintain body presence. Conversely, several times, he was able to get his hand on the football for a PBU. If he can play with more overall patience and restraint in coverage - and once the game slows down for him - he’ll be a valuable addition to any secondary.

This list has his teammate - safety Sydney Brown - ranked at 75; all things considered, I prefer Martin to Brown.

Cory Trice, CB, Purdue

Rank: 119th

If the Giants are looking for a discount Joey Porter Jr., Trice is a player to entertain. A super-sized cornerback with solid athletic traits and an excellent change of direction for a player of his size. Recovered from a torn ACL that ended his 2021 season and played adequately throughout his 2022 campaign. Trice has an excellent feel in zone coverage and was a threat as a Cover-2 flat defender in high-low situations. Has very good zone instincts and reacts well to explode out of his backpedal quarter turn to close width on WRs breaks. He has solid ball skills with five career interceptions and 16 passes defended, doing a stable overall job utilizing his length at the catch point.

Trice brings a physical - sure tackling - aspect to the cornerback position. For a player of his size, he is solid in man coverage and good in zone. He plays a bit high and isn’t technically refined; his press technique needs some ironing out, and he opens his hips a bit too early, which puts him into a less-than-ideal situation (on display against Michigan and Northwestern on the goal line). Trice is a solid cornerback addition late on day two who may best fit into a Cover-3 scheme with his backside to the sideline as he reads route combinations in front of him; however, his length, disruption ability, and balance will allow him to play adequately in man coverage.

Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue

Rank: 157

Charlie Jones shouldn’t be the 21st-ranked wide receiver (in my opinion), but I understand how the profile is quirky. He’s not the biggest, not the fastest, and is an older player - but he is a playmaker who makes some of the more ridiculous catches in the class. His concentration, attention to detail while running routes, and toughness - along with his kick-returning upside - are just some of the reasons to buy in.

Jones had an unconventional college journey. He started at Buffalo, transferred to Iowa for two seasons, and then produced significantly at Purdue in 2022. He had 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns as the catalyst for Aidan O’Connell and the Boilermakers. He never had more than 21 receptions in any of his previous seasons.

I understand the trepidation, but Jones didn’t lead the FBS in receptions by mistake. He’s going to make an NFL team very happy as a high-floor player on Day 3 of the NFL draft.

Nick Hampton, Edge, Appalachian State

Rank: 175th

Hampton is a 6-2, 236-pound edge defender with excellent suddenness that helped him record 134 pressures and 30 sacks through 829 career pass-rushing attempts. The 23-year-old has a quick first three steps with good bend to threaten the edge.

Although he feasted on a lower level of competition, he did sack North Carolina QB Drake Maye twice in 2022 while pressuring him seven times. Due to his size and some point-of-attack issues, he’ll start as a situational pass-rusher. Hampton is a great developmental pick who can impact money downs as a rookie.

Jon Gaines II, IOL, UCLA

Rank: 201

Gaines II would be an excellent addition as a possible long-term replacement for right guard Mark Glowinski or a solution at center since he’s played so many positions in college. Bobby Johnson would likely be delighted to develop a player like Jon Gaines II.

He’s an interior offensive lineman who played all 932 2022 snaps at right guard for the UCLA Bruins. He has 1,886 total snaps at right guard through five seasons of college football, but he also has 218 snaps at left guard, 184 at center, and 94 at right tackle. In 2022, he surrendered a pair of sacks and hits, 14 hurries, and 18 pressures.

He finished his college career surrendering just five sacks and 52 pressures. His offensive line was selected as a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award in 2022, and he was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 player. Gaines tested as one of the best offensive line athletes at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. He had the best short shuttle for the position at the event; the short shuttle is typically predictive of NFL success.

Here’s my synopsis:

Jon Gaines II is a very good run blocker who ideally fits in a zone-blocking scheme due to his overall body control and athletic ability while moving. Gaines II combines quick feet and excellent change of direction skills with agility and impressive mental processing to understand how to eliminate threats and maximize offensive success on any given play.

His elite combine will help him rise up draft boards, but he’s a better run blocker than a pass protector. Most of his issues in pass protection are correctable (punches and lunges, pops out of stance/high pad level, handling of counter moves, erratic initial punch, etc.). His baseline athletic traits and intelligence make it plausible that he could be a developmental player with the upside to start in the right scheme.

He’s not a bruiser, but not many offensive linemen can move like Gaines II, which - in terms of movement ability - reminds me a bit of Josh Ezeudu from last year’s draft, albeit Gaines II tested better than Ezeudu. Gaines II could be looking at a selection similar to Ezeudu, and he’ll be an ideal fit for a zone-oriented blocking scheme.

Rejzohn Wright, CB, Oregon State

Rank: 262

This is too low for a player with great size (6’2, 193 pounds) and length (32 1/2” arms). Wright is a physical cornerback who isn’t afraid to press at the line of scrimmage; he is fluid enough to play man coverage, and he exercises good patience and timing as a zone defender.

He had two passes defended against Washington; he jammed the WR in the first one and stayed on top of his curl before aggressively challenging the catch point. The second one was an out-and-up move that Wright patiently awaited before breaking in front of the ball and almost coming away with an interception. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he could be an excellent option for the Giants on day three. He did not test because of a hand and hip flexor injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl.

Nick Anderson, LB, Tulane

Rank: 485th

Dorian Williams isn’t the only linebacker at Tulane who pops off the screen. However, being 5-9 230 pounds is typically not something that translates to linebacking success, albeit I love the undersized LB from Cincinnati, Ivan Pace Jr., albeit Pace Jr. has more upside penetrating gaps on the blitz; however, Anderson had 30 pressures and took snaps at edge defender, showing pass rushing moves and explosiveness.

Anderson was a productive, undersized linebacker with a versatile skill set and a team captain during Tulane’s magical 2022 season. Anderson recorded 113 tackles, seven for a loss, 44 STOPs, two sacks, 30 pressures, and four passes defended in 2022. He finished his time at Tulane with 283 tackles, 29 for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 60 pressures, 118 STOPs, and six passes defended.

Anderson is a violent, run around with your hair on fire, type of player. Here is my synopsis of his play:

Nick Anderson’s size is his biggest downfall, and that’s unfortunate because he’s a good football player. He is the type of guy everyone wants to succeed, and it was a joy of mine to evaluate his film. I stumbled across his film while analyzing fellow Green Wave linebacker Dorian Williams. Anderson’s measurables may prevent him from being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft; if he were 6-2, his name would be well known.

Anderson is reportedly an excellent locker room presence with a high football IQ and a brilliant young man in the classroom. His closing burst, ability to slip around blocks, and physical nature at the tackle point are all reasons to buy in. However, it’s difficult to ignore his lack of size; if he were taller/longer, this grade would be higher. He’ll likely go undrafted, but he deserves to be drafted based on his overall ability to play football.

Anderson will latch onto a team as a UDFA and be a lightning rod on special teams. He has an uphill climb, but his skills warrant a draft selection. has a fluctuating consensus big board. Their board is updated daily and is currently compiled using 125 big industry boards, 1,131 first-round mock drafts, and 935 team-based mock drafts.

Based on the consensus, here are 10 players that I’m higher on than the industry.