Who do the Kansas State Wildcats have on deck for the 2023 NFL Draft cycle? Deuce Vaughn and Felix Anudike-Uzomah headline the Wildcats’ upcoming class. But as you’ll see, on both offense and defense, there are many more potential prospects who could rise with a good year.
Kansas State prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Let’s begin with the offense, where Kansas State’s class is defined by a dynamic running back and a veteran quarterback transfer seeking to boost his stock in his final season.
Adrian Martinez, QB
After amassing 8,491 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions through the air in four years at Nebraska, Adrian Martinez is now taking his talents to Kansas State, in an attempt to start fresh with his eligibility running out. Martinez’s running ability should help him produce to a certain degree with the Wildcats. But if he wants to be a legitimate 2023 NFL Draft prospect, he needs to vastly improve his poise, mechanics, and field vision.
Deuce Vaughn, RB
Deuce Vaughn almost logged 2,000 total yards from scrimmage last season and tacked on 22 total touchdowns. His monstrous production clashes starkly with his 5’6″, 176-pound frame. But for as small as he is on the football field, few players make a bigger impact. Vaughn’s projection to the NFL at his size, however, is unclear. He should at least go on to have a change-of-pace role with his burst, dynamic ability, and receiving prowess.
Malik Knowles, WR
Malik Knowles is one of those wide receivers who has all the tools, but hasn’t quite been able to put things together throughout the course of his career. The 6’3″, 200-pound pass catcher is long and athletic, but in his career-best 2021 season, he only notched 29 catches for 441 yards and four scores. It’s hard to tell if Martinez will help Knowles reach a new peak. Nevertheless, with his tools, Knowles should at least garner interest as a PFA in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Phillip Brooks, WR
Similarly to Vaughn, Phillip Brooks is another offensive weapon who should still generate interest even with below-average size. Brooks is only around 5’7″, 169 pounds, but he’s an incredibly dynamic player.
Brooks caught 43 passes for 543 yards and two touchdowns in 2021, using his twitchy short-area athleticism, smooth throttle control, and ball-tracking ability to consistently draw opportunities. He’s an able receiver, but Brooks also has three career punt return touchdowns. That return ability only sweetens his appeal.
Cooper Beebe, OT
Cooper Beebe was a big part of Vaughn’s success last season, picking up first-team All-Big 12 honors at offensive tackle in 2021. Listed at 6’4″, 322 pounds, Beebe has the size and frame density to earn a look at the next level. With less-than-elite length and average athleticism, he might be a candidate to eventually move inside. But as long as Beebe keeps up his strong play, he should earn a chance to make an NFL roster in the future.
Christian Duffie, OT
The Wildcats return both of their starting tackles from the 2021 campaign. With his first-team All-Big 12 recognition, Beebe will often draw the first look. But at right tackle, Christian Duffie is also a prospect worth knowing.
Duffie comes in at 6’5″, 310 pounds, with a frame that’s a bit leaner and a bit longer than Beebe’s. Duffie is a solid athlete who gets decent depth on his kick. While he can work on improving his hands and sustaining anchors more often, there might be some tools to work with.
Robert Hentz II, DT
Robert Hentz II came to Kansas State from NW Mississippi Community College. It’s been a slow, gradual climb since then for Hentz. But with some talent leaving the interior line this past cycle, it may be time for Hentz to take on a greater role. He’s visibly undersized, standing around 6’0″, 285 pounds. But for his size, Hentz has decent proportional length, and he shows glimpses of good initial quicks off the line.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE
Vaughn is perhaps the Wildcats’ most well-known prospect heading into the 2023 cycle, but the team’s best 2023 prospect might be edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Anudike-Uzomah was a menace on defense last season, amassing 11 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles in a dominant campaign.
Anudike-Uzomah has good size and length, explosive athleticism, and is visibly trending up with his hand usage. He’s still experimenting on that front, but he has a lot of counters in his arsenal.
Nate Matlack, EDGE
Nate Matlack still has a few years of eligibility left, so the 2023 NFL Draft cycle might not be for him. Yet, if Matlack comes out and has a breakout campaign, there’s nothing stopping him from ascending up boards.
Matlack is already coming off a mini-breakout, having registered four sacks and six tackles for loss in 2021. But with his elite burst and bend combination, along with his long, lanky frame, Matlack has a chance to reach even greater heights opposite Anudike-Uzomah in 2022. Both top KSU edge rushers have early-round upside.
Khalid Duke, EDGE
Behind Anudike-Uzomah and Matlack, there’s also senior edge rusher Khalid Duke, who will provide depth for the Wildcats in 2022. Duke has been a consistent rotational producer for Kansas State, notching five sacks and eight tackles for loss over the past three seasons.
He’s not quite as long as his two predecessors on this list, but Duke does have good short-area athleticism and ankle flexion. And he compounds it with violent hands in both phases. Duke should earn a chance to make an NFL roster next summer.
Daniel Green, LB
Daniel Green is another Kansas State defensive prospect who should garner draftable appeal from some teams. Green has great size at 6’3″, 242 pounds, and he couples that size with impressive length.
In 2021, Green was incredibly productive — putting up 89 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries. He might not be an elite athlete, which shows in coverage and on outside plays. But Green does have decent range, and his willingness to surge inside and impose physicality will be coveted.
Will Honas, LB
The Wildcats are getting some help on the defensive side of the ball via the transfer portal. Will Honas joins Martinez from Nebraska to join up with Kansas State. Honas missed the entire 2021 season with injury, but up to that point, he was a steady contributor on the Cornhuskers’ defense. Between 2019 and 2020, he totaled 124 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Perhaps Honas can end on a high note in the Big 12.
Julius Brents, CB
The Wildcats have enough NFL upside on defense with their edge rushers alone, but cornerback Julius Brents might have just as much potential. Brents is an insanely long CB, listed at 6’4″, 204 pounds. He’s essentially an albatross with his length, and it shows on tape.
Brents has an incredibly wide disruption radius and combined with his explosiveness, that makes him a handful in zone coverage. He needs to improve his ball skills, but Brents is already incredibly physical in run support, and he has extremely exciting upside.
Shawn Robinson, S
Shawn Robinson is one of the more interesting stories on Kansas State’s roster. He actually started his career as a quarterback. In 2018, he threw 204 attempts for KSU’s Big 12 rival, the TCU Horned Frogs. After failing to sustain success, however, Robinson soon transferred to Missouri, where he eventually made the transition to safety.
Last season, the 6’1″, 220-pound Robinson actually saw some production at strong safety. There’s a chance the former four-star QB could use a year with the Wildcats as a springboard to becoming a pro safety.