NC State’s 2023 NFL Draft prospects include Devin Leary and Payton Wilson

The PFN Draft Preview series takes a deeper look into the potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects set to hit the field for NC State this season.

Led by their quarterback Devin Leary, the NC State Wolfpack should sport several namesake prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft. Like their quarterback, however, they’re incredibly underrated. Ahead of what could be a terrific 2022 college football season, here is their full list of draft-eligible prospects for this upcoming season.

NC State prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Leary quietly had a terrific season at the helm for NC State. While Ikem Ekwonu took the headlines, it was Leary who drove them to victory more often than not. With Leary in the fold and a few more pieces ready for continued success, NC State could be a major ACC contender in 2022.

Devin Leary, QB

As mentioned, Leary is an underrated quarterback prospect. Not only for the 2023 NFL Draft but for the 2022 college football season. He delivers a strong football both in power and accuracy. He’ll navigate the pocket well and find every level of the field just as strong. There isn’t much not to like about his game, and Leary needs more love before we get to this season. Putting up another 35-touchdown performance against just five interceptions should do the trick.

Trent Pennix, RB

Replacing the two-headed monster of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. will be Trent Pennix and Jordan Houston. Pennix returns to the backfield, of sorts, from his H-Back position. At 6’3″ and 235 pounds, he’s a load to bring down with the ball in his hands. His most valuable contributions will certainly come in the receiving game, as he’s proven to be a dominant threat with his size advantage over smaller linebackers or safeties who are tasked with covering him.

Jordan Houston, RB

Speed is the name of Jordan Houston’s game. And speed is how he wins. Houston, though declining in total rushing yards since a breakout freshman season, is set to receive the majority of the carries this year if all goes to plan. He makes defenders miss with his quicks as well as with his great vision.

Devin Carter, WR

After averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch last season, Devin Carter is back for another go. A long receiver with plenty of juice to his game, Carter flashed at times against some of the conference’s top defensive backs. No catch is out of reach for Carter as he possesses near-elite body control.

Thayer Thomas, WR

If Thayer Thomas isn’t throwing touchdown passes, he’s hauling them in. One way or another, Thomas is most likely going to score on your favorite team. A crisp route runner and constant student of the game, Thomas can get open at a moment’s notice or make you miss all the same. Thomas also has some of the surest hands returning to any team in the country.

Darryl Jones, WR

A transfer from Maryland, Darryl Jones could see the benefit of more targets his way after the departure of Emeka Emezie. Jones hauled in over 300 yards a season ago at Maryland as well as two touchdowns. He’s a big-play threat outside when he’s on his game and presents a mismatch with his size at 6’2″ and 200 pounds.

Bryson Speas, OT

Shifting to left tackle after the departure of Ekwonu, Bryson Speas is set to continue his pancaking ways. With double-digit pancakes in his last three seasons, Speas is a fun player to watch. Some will question his size as a deterrent to playing tackle at the next level, but he’s talented and not far off from Ekwonu size wise.

Dylan McMahon, G

With starts at both guard positions, Dylan McMahon uses his long and lean frame at 6’4″, 300 pounds to his advantage. He’s never out of position and presents a mismatch for slower defensive lineman in the run game. Increasing his play strength will undoubtedly do wonders for his draft stock as it may be a ways off for the redshirt sophomore.

Grant Gibson, C

A true road-grader, Grant Gibson is no stranger to planting defenders on their backs in the ground game. He’s also no slouch in pass protection as he’s been credited with just 7.5 sacks allowed over the past three seasons that has consisted of 36 starts. Gibson’s footwork is terrific, and his understanding of the defensive mindset is unmatched.

Derrick Eason, G

A man on a mission, Derrick Eason started just six games last year and still recorded a whopping 18 pancake blocks. Eason is a nasty, ferocious lineman in all the best ways. He plays with tremendous strength and is equally impressive in both facets. With strength comes a trade-off in contact balance, something that, if he improves, will pay off in spades at the next level.

Timothy McKay, OT

Playing the swing tackle role a year ago, Timothy McKay is set to move to the right tackle for the Wolfpack in 2022. If all goes to plan, McKay may be the next great NC State lineman we talk about for some time. He’s long and has an incredible reach at 6’4″. He also presents an issue with his strength. All that’s left for his development is to work on his footwork and reaction speed.

Cory Durden, DT

There isn’t much more to say about Cory Durden at this point. The big man on the inside had a great season for NC State after three years at Florida State. Durden rushes the passer with ease from a variety of spots on the interior. He’s dominant at the point of attack and with his hand usage. Another big year for Durden is likely upcoming, as it’s what we’ve come to expect.

C.J. Clark, DT

Set in line for a big uptick in snaps, C.J. Clark returns to man the nose tackle spot on the Wolfpack’s defense. Clark missed the spring this year but looks like he’ll be ready to roll in the fall. If he’s back to the form he showcased in 2020, he may just hear his name rumored in draft circles. He can two-gap well and rush the passer against most centers in the ACC.

Savion Jackson, DE

After a breakout year in 2021, Savion Jackson returns to potentially see the benefit of a healthy interior line and continue to feast on tackles outside. He recorded multiple quarterback pressures last year. Jackson has a high motor and plenty of speed for his massive frame at 6’2″, 290 pounds.

Drake Thomas, LB

NC State’s do-it-all linebacker is back as Drake Thomas returns for his fourth season. It’s hard to say where Thomas is at his best as he can rush the passer easily, drop in coverage just as well, and stuffs the run among the best in the country. After recording three interceptions a year ago, Thomas put his name in the national spotlight as one of the top linebackers in the country.

Isaiah Moore, LB

An incredibly experienced standout, Isaiah Moore returns to NC State for his fifth year. Moore has a multitude of skills, including his ability to disguise his blitzes well. He also showcased an improved coverage ability in his injury-shortened season of 2021. Moore is a sure tackler and runs the alley very well from the middle of the field.

Payton Wilson, LB

Though the injury bug caught Payton Wilson, he’s firmly on the radar as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Wilson is quick and has tremendous instincts. He’s a tackling machine as he finished fourth in the country in tackles while ranking fourth in the ACC in tackles per game back in 2020 (10.8). His ability to read and react to the play is second to none in the conference.

Shyheim Battle, CB

Locking down one cornerback spot is Shyheim Battle. Developing a common theme, Battle is incredibly long at 6’2″ and plays a sticky brand of football on the outside. He’s never out of the play and has enough burst to make snap plays on the ball at every level of the field. Battle keeps everything in front of him and reacts incredibly well in all types of coverages.

Derrek Pitts Jr., CB

Another long cornerback, Derrek Pitts Jr. has journeyed around the FBS ranks over his six-year career. With two years at West Virginia, two years at Marshall, and now entering his second season at NC State, Pitts had somewhat of a breakout season a year ago. Starting opposite Battle, Pitts was tested often but never broke in coverage. He made multiple plays on the ball and had two interceptions. He’ll break up passes in his coverage and pass off defenders in zone in the blink of an eye.

Tyler Baker-Williams, CB

The basis of Tyler Baker-Williams’ game is standing tall and carrying a big hit. He lays the lumber in the run game with impressive skill. He’s essentially another strong safety out there except playing it from the slot cornerback position. Baker-Williams also has terrific length, not just in his arms but in his ability to close space in the open field with his burst.

Cyrus Fagan, S

Though Cyrus Fagan’s first season with the Wolfpack was cut short after two games, all signs pointed toward him rekindling some of the magic he displayed during his four years at Florida State. Fagan is a sound coverage defender when tasked, but he’s better when he’s roaming free at safety. He’ll easily close space and shut down rushing alleys with his combination of speed and instincts.

Tanner Ingle, S

An incredibly experienced safety, Tanner Ingle does it all from the position for NC State. Whether in coverage or against the run, Ingle is a tough man to avoid for opposing offenses. He plays a downhill brand of football and even showcased an ability to rush the passer a year ago when given the opportunity.

Christopher Dunn, K

Perfect on extra points, Christopher Dunn also showcased an ability to hit from a distance at times a season ago. He’s hit two field goals from 50 yards out and is a lifetime 85.9% from within that mark yards. If he improves his deep accuracy this season, he’ll be an NFL kicker.

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