Arkansas State’s 2023 NFL Draft prospects led by defensive dynamo Kivon Bennett

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

In the early 2010s, Arkansas State had something of an NFL draft streak going on. However, when the 2023 NFL Draft rolls around next April, it will be nearly 10 years since the Red Wolves will have had a player taken in the NFL’s annual selection event. Can that streak be broken this season? Who are the top Arkansas State prospects to watch out for?

Arkansas State prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

The main order of business for Butch Jones will be ensuring his second season in charge at Arkansas State is more successful than his first. Let’s be honest, with a 1-7 conference record and a 2-10 overall record, that’s not a high bar to clear. Although they lost some key players from last year, a few potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects could propel the Red Wolves to success.

Kivon Bennett, DE

With Joe Ozougwu departed for the NFL, defensive end Kivon Bennett is the top returning defensive producer for Arkansas State. The former four-star recruit who came to the Red Wolves via Tennessee tallied 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks last fall. Meanwhile, he added two forced fumbles. The production helped catch the eye of Shrine Bowl scouts, and Bennett enters this season as one of two Red Wolves on the Shrine Bowl 1000 watch list.

The 6’2″, 236-pound pass rusher has shown to be a disruptive force, both while at Arkansas State and Tennessee. He showcases impressive power in his upper body, with the ability to be a people mover at the point of attack. Meanwhile, Bennett has the athletic upside to be a force in the backfield by attacking the outside track. If you add in special-teams value as a blocker, Bennett should attract some significant interest in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Leon Jones, CB

A former high school utility player who took snaps under center, rushed the ball, and caught touchdowns as a receiver, Leon Jones arrived at Arkansas State last season following two successful seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Earning seven starts at cornerback for the Red Wolves, his performances caught the attention of Shrine Bowl scouts, and he joins teammate Bennett on the Shrine Bowl 1000 watch list.

The fourth-year cornerback led the team with eight pass breakups last season. He also added an interception in his first FBS season. The 6’1″, 192-pound defensive back not only has the size to make it as a DB in the NFL, but he also has great length, which allows him to make plays at the catch point. Boasting that swaggy physicality that the best CBs play with, Jones also has impressive athletic upside and moves with fluidity around the field.

Marcel Murray, RB

Despite entering the transfer portal following the 2021 season, running back Marcel Murray returns to Arkansas State for his fifth college football season. During the past two seasons, Murray’s been injury limited, leading to a production total of just 263 yards and one touchdown. However, in his first two years with the Red Wolves, Murray tallied 1,660 yards and 14 touchdowns while being named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2018.

If he can return to that sort of form — and remain healthy — the 5’10”, 204-pound RB may get a sniff of an opportunity in the 2023 NFL Draft. Murray boasts impressive physicality, with the ability to run through or over his opponent. He has demonstrated excellent footwork and contact balance, and can use a mean stiff arm to help extend the play. Meanwhile, he brings extra value as an adept pass catcher.

Ethan Miner, C

If Arkansas State is to return to winning ways this fall, they’ll need to establish the ground game better. A hopeful return to form and health for Murray can help, but it’ll be led by returning interior offensive lineman Ethan Miner. The fourth-year player — a former New England Offensive Lineman of the Year — has seen time at both center and guard.

Despite being undersized at 6’3″, 278 pounds, Miner has showcased some strength and athletic potential. He’s been praised by coaches for his improvements and consistency through camp, with the potential for a breakout campaign to increase his 2023 NFL Draft stock.

Te’Vailance Hunt, WR

With James Blackman returning as Arkansas State’s full-time QB starter, the success of the passing game will require consistency. Thankfully for Blackman, he returns his two top targets from last season in the form of Te’Vailance Hunt and Jeff Foreman. Much was expected of Foreman last fall, but it was Hunt who stepped up as the top target.

Listed at 6’1″, 208 pounds, Hunt has good size to go into battle on the boundary. Yet, he plays even bigger than his measurements, with the ability to go up and pluck the ball out of the sky with an impressive catch radius.

The 2023 NFL Draft prospect also demonstrates impressive ball-tracking ability. While he’s not an elite speedster, he has some juice combined with the ability to absorb contact that allows him to add an after-the-catch element to his game.

Taylon Doss, S

A starter as a freshman in 2020, Taylon Doss emerged as a key component in the Arkansas State secondary last season. The now-junior safety tallied four pass breakups, while his 44 tackles included two forced fumbles. Doss might be considered undersized at a listed 5’10”, 188 pounds, but he plays bigger than his size, both in terms of his physicality and impact at the catch point.

While he’ll be the starting safety for the Red Wolves this fall, Doss’ versatility to fit in any spot in the secondary could add some value in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Samy Johnson, CB

If Samy Johnson can remain healthy, and win out over Kenneth Harris to be the starting CB, then we could be talking about him being a genuine 2023 NFL Draft prospect for Arkansas State by the end of the season.

The former high school RB has tallied five interceptions in the last two seasons, showcasing a nose for the ball despite limited playing time. The 5’10”, 188-pound playmaker has the speed, awareness, and football IQ to be an impactful playmaker for the Red Wolves whenever he’s on the field.

Other potential Arkansas State prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

  • Jeff Foreman, WR
  • Johnnie Lang, PR
  • James Blackman, QB
  • Brian Snead, RB
  • Robert Holmes, OT
  • Ernesto Ramirez, G
  • Jordan Rhodes, G
  • Eddie Smith, S
  • Jaden Harris, LB
  • Melique Straker, LB
  • John Mincey, DT
  • Blayne Toll, DE
  • Kenneth Harris, CB

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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