2023 Senior Bowl: Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects Include Rashee Rice, Tyjae Spears, and More

2023 Senior Bowl: Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects Include Rashee Rice, Tyjae Spears, and More

The Reese’s Senior Bowl has established itself as one of the best opportunities to elevate your NFL draft stock, regardless of what level of competition you come from. However, that opportunity is somewhat heightened if you come from outside the Power Five level. Who are the Group of Five NFL Draft prospects competing at the 2023 Senior Bowl?

Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects at the 2023 Senior Bowl | National Team

Nick Hampton, DL, Appalachian State

The National Team at the 2023 Senior Bowl is packed with Group of Five NFL Draft prospects on both sides of the ball. They’re led by one of the more underrated pass rushers in the class, Appalachian State’s Nick Hampton. The Mountaineers monster has already demonstrated his prowess against Power Five competition, annihilating North Carolina for 2.5 tackles for loss.

Despite being considered on the smaller side by the NFL (6’3″, 235 pounds), Hampton generates impressive power. Meanwhile, he has the speed and flexibility to be a dangerous presence around the outside track. His physical tools are impressive. However, Hampton also displays a bulging toolbox that is weaponized by an understanding of how to combine moves.

Jerrod Clark, DL, Coastal Carolina

If the American Team offensive line can contain the presence of Hampton and Army’s Andre Carter II off the edge, they will have their hands full trying to hold off the interior pressure from Coastal Carolina nose tackle Jerrod Clark. This season alone, Clark accounted for 10 tackles for loss while adding five sacks over the past two seasons for the Chanticleers.

Big men really shouldn’t be able to move the way that Clark can. He’s a 6’4″, 340-pound behemoth with a great first step and legitimate quickness. Naturally, his sheer mass allows him to clog rushing lanes, but the quickness, power, and advanced technicality in his hands allow him to shed blockers for fun as a genuine and consistent backfield threat.

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU

As an FBS Independent, BYU players in the 2023 Senior Bowl don’t strictly fall under the Group of Five NFL Draft prospects moniker. But humor us here because there are a lot of top-tier Cougars in Mobile. While Puka Nacua might be the most overlooked WR prospect in the class, you literally can’t overlook gargantuan offensive tackle Blake Freeland.

MORE: Top Offensive Tackles at the 2023 Senior Bowl

Although his sheer height (Freeland stands at 6’8″) does pose some problems for pad level and ability to sink his hips, the BYU OT can mitigate those concerns with an exciting combination of length, jaw-dropping power and physicality, and phenomenally fleet footwork that is just one element of a top-tier athletic profile. He’s comfortably a top-100 prospect in this class.

Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

While this 2023 NFL Draft class is somewhat lacking in elite-level linebacker talent, one of the best Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the position will be on show at the 2023 Senior Bowl. Ivan Pace Jr. came to Cincinnati from Miami (OH) with a reputation as a game wrecker and only enhanced that last college football season with 20.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

Like several of the top linebackers at the Senior Bowl, Pace might be considered undersized at 6’0″. Yet, he plays much bigger than his listed size with a ferocious game that exudes energy on every snap. You won’t find many linebackers in this 2023 NFL Draft class that are as potent in the backfield as the Bearcats beast with his ludicrous closing speed and physicality.

JL Skinner, S, Boise State

Boise State safety JL Skinner isn’t just one of the top Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the Senior Bowl, he’s one of the very best at his position. The Broncos standout entered the college football season as a potential S1 in this 2023 NFL Draft class, and while there are others that have elevated their game above him this year, he’s still very much amongst the best.

At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, Skinner is likely to receive some “Kyle Hamilton-lite” comparisons, but that’s being slightly unfair to his legitimate skill set. The Boise State safety is an exceptionally explosive athlete with the speed to cover from sideline to sideline. Furthermore, his ability to come downhill with force in both phases is truly breathtaking.

Other Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects on the Senior Bowl National Team

  • Thomas Incoom, DL, Central Michigan
  • Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green
  • Andre Carter II, LB, Army
  • Carlton Martial, LB, Troy
  • Jake Andrews, OL, Troy
  • Camerun Peoples, RB, Appalachian State
  • Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
  • Puka Nacua, WR, BYU

Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects at the 2023 Senior Bowl | American Team

Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane

The Tulane Green Wave has washed over college football this fall, making the Cotton Bowl champions one of the fairytale stories of the season. If the program is akin to a Disney story, then running back Tyjae Spears is the heroic leading protagonist. The Green Wave has truly flown through his dynamic playmaking ability, resulting in 21 total TDs and 1,837 yards in 2022.

Furthermore, he’s never averaged less than six yards per carry in his entire Tulane career. Spears is explosive and fast. He’s got good vision and cut ability. Meanwhile, he can lower his shoulder to initiate contact or extend runs with excellent contact balance. A dynamic weapon as a receiver, too, Spears is comfortably one of the best Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the Senior Bowl.

Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

There’s some top-tier pass-catching talent heading to Mobile for the 2023 Senior Bowl, and two Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at wide receiver have the opportunity to solidify themselves at the very top of an exciting class. SMU’s Rashee Rice led the nation with 112.9 yards per game last fall while breaking 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

Rice is more than just a product of a system. He’s more than a statistical standout. The SMU wide receiver is a smooth-as-silk route runner who uses his speed and twitchy, deceitful movements to create separation. Whatever he measures in Mobile, Rice has shown he has the size, ball tracking, and body control to be a consistent threat at the catch point.

Darrell Luter Jr., CB, South Alabama

South Alabama cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. entered the 2022 college football season as the most productive returning defensive back in the country. As the Jaguars established themselves as a force in the Sun Belt, Luter was once again exceptional for one of the best defenses in the nation. In two years, he’s tallied 18 passes defended with five interceptions.

MORE: Top Defensive Lineman at the 2023 Senior Bowl

As one of the top Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the 2023 Senior Bowl, Luter ticks many of the evaluation boxes at the cornerback position. He’s tall, long, and athletic. He has an eye for the ball and routinely puts himself in the right position to make a play. The South Alabama cornerback also plays with the right blend of patience and aggression.

Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane

In compiling this list of the top Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the Senior Bowl, we’ve tried to avoid doubling up at the same college football program. However, the American Team has drastically fewer players from the level than their National counterparts. Secondly, after Tulane’s exceptional season, it’s impossible to avoid the plethora of talent they’ve produced.

I called Dorian Williams a “sleeper linebacker in the NFL Draft” ahead of the season. It’s fair to say he can longer be considered that. He’s led the Green Wave defense with a combination of violence, impressive closing and sideline-to-sideline speed, and top-tier play recognition and instincts. Throw in his special-teams experience, and he’s a well-rounded prospect.

Nathaniel Dell, WR, Houston

Sitting just behind Rice for the most yards per game in the 2022 college football season is Houston WR Nathaniel “Tank” Dell. Perhaps defense was optional in the American Athletic Conference this year (it wasn’t). Or perhaps, these two Group of Five NFL Draft prospects appearing at the Senior Bowl are legitimate offensive weapons with an NFL future (they are).

Dell is one of the most explosive playmakers in the entire nation. A nickname like “Tank” conjures up an image of a bruising, physical threat, but the 5’10”, 155-pound WR is actually a blur of speed and explosion. He boasts unbelievable footwork and body control that makes him virtually impossible to stop with the ball in his hands. Expect fireworks from the Houston WR.

Other Group of Five NFL Draft Prospects on the Senior Bowl American Team

  • Nick Saldiveri, OL, Old Dominion
  • Jalen Wayne, WR, South Alabama

At the time of writing, the quarterback team alignments hadn’t been announced by the Reese’s Senior Bowl. However, there are several Group of Five NFL Draft prospects at the position on show in Mobile. Jake Haener (Fresno State), Clayton Tune (Houston), and Jaren Hall (BYU) can all elevate their stock with a strong showing at the 2023 Senior Bowl.