Nebraska’s 2023 NFL Draft prospects led by Casey Thompson, Ochaun Mathis

Can the Nebraska Cornhuskers use a star-studded transfer class to improve their returns in the 2023 NFL Draft next April?

What kind of talent might the Nebraska Cornhuskers produce in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle? Here’s a look at what one of the most intriguing teams in the Big Ten West brings to the table.

Nebraska prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

There’s a sense that Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers were relatively unlucky in 2021. Nebraska didn’t even sniff a winning record, yet they were rarely out of any game they played. The Cornhuskers were better than their record suggested in 2021.

At the same time, the pressure is now to turn the odds back in their favor and produce. With their returning standouts and their transfer additions, Nebraska might be able to do just that.

Casey Thompson, QB

Nebraska’s most notable transfer acquisition might be quarterback Casey Thompson from Texas. Thompson famously led the Longhorns’ offense through most of its tumultuous 2021 campaign. Thompson himself put up decent numbers, completing 63.2% of his passes for 2,113 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. But he still had to transfer and seek a fresh start after volatility lost him his starting job.

Thompson has legitimate talent. He’s mobile, agile in the pocket, and has a good arm. A fresh start might be just what he needs to break out in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle.

Trey Palmer, WR

The Cornhuskers struck gold in the transfer portal last season with Samori Toure. Could they do the same with Trey Palmer? Palmer comes in with a bit more hype. He was a prestigious four-star recruit in the 2019 class and signed with LSU. As a junior in 2021, he logged 30 catches for 344 yards and two scores.

Now, entering what should be a stable QB situation, Palmer could potentially break out with the Cornhuskers. He’s not overly imposing at 6’0″, 180 pounds, but he’s a dynamic athlete with fast feet, loose hips, and great explosiveness in the open field.

Omar Manning, WR

Like many on the current roster, Omar Manning didn’t start his career at Nebraska. Instead, he came to the Cornhuskers through the JUCO ranks in 2020. Last year, he flashed alongside Toure, registering 26 catches for 380 yards and two scores.

At 6’4″, 225 pounds, Manning has impressive size. He can out-muscle defensive backs with that size, box them out at the catch point, and extend beyond his frame. He’s an imposing big-bodied target whose ability to generate big plays makes him very intriguing.

Travis Vokolek, TE

Having been around since 2017, Travis Vokolek will be an older prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Thus, it’s not likely that he commands a selection. But there may be enough to earn Vokolek a shot in a camp.

The 6’6″, 260-pound tight end has excellent size. And now, with Austin Allen off to the NFL, Vokolek could inherit his targets at tight end. Vokolek has never eclipsed more than 184 yards in a season. But perhaps a year with Thompson as his QB could change that.

Turner Corcoran, OT

A top recruit in the 2020 class, Turner Corcoran has essentially locked down Nebraska’s left tackle spot since he arrived on campus. It’s not a certainty that Corcoran will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft, but he should at least be on the radar by this point.

The 6’6″, 300-pound blocker is quick off the line and has good range in space. There’s still room for him to clean up his timing, hand usage, and footwork. But Corcoran is young and has plenty of time to keep developing.

Bryce Benhart, OT

The right tackle across from Corcoran for most of the 2021 season, Bryce Benhart has worked his way onto the radar as well. At 6’9″, 330 pounds, Benhart is a massive blocker. But at that size, he has impressive knee bend capacity.

Benhart does show issues with balance, pad level, and hand placement at times. But he’s flashed good burst and power generation off the line for his size. At the very least, he’s worth writing down and keeping in the memory banks.

Stephon Wynn, DT

Sometimes, there’s a projection element involved with transfer additions. This is true for Stephon Wynn. A former four-star recruit and Alabama commit, Wynn comes to Nebraska having never logged a sack or a tackle for loss in his time with the Crimson Tide.

Wynn undoubtedly has natural talent. And he also has the size, standing at 6’4″ and well over 300 pounds. A change of scenery can be a catalyst for some players. Time will tell if that’s the case for Wynn.

Ochaun Mathis, EDGE

If Thompson is Nebraska’s most exciting transfer addition, then Ochaun Mathis is a close second. Mathis was a stalwart pass rusher for the TCU Horned Frogs, particularly in 2019. That year, Mathis put up eight sacks and 12 ½ tackles for loss, establishing himself as one of the best edge rushers in the Big 12.

Now listed at 6’5″, 260 pounds, Mathis has great size and length. But more than that, he’s also proven to have good burst and bend capacity around the apex. Mathis’ game has steadily progressed with experience, and a strong final year at Nebraska could serve as a send-off to the 2023 NFL Draft.

Garrett Nelson, EDGE

Listed at 6’3″, 245 pounds, Garrett Nelson doesn’t have Mathis’ size. He might not have the degree of natural talent either, but Nelson is still a worthwhile prospect to watch.

The veteran defender broke out for the Cornhuskers in 2021, putting up 57 tackles, 11 ½ tackles for loss, and five sacks. Nelson has enough burst to pressure tackles off the line, but his all-out motor truly helps him supersede his size limitations. In both run and pass defense, he gives 100%. That’ll help at this level and the next.

Luke Reimer, LB

Get redshirt junior Luke Reimer on your radar if you haven’t yet. The 6’1″, 225-pound linebacker may be undersized, but he’s a tremendous player at the second level. His 2021 campaign was stellar. He led the team with 108 tackles and added six tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, six pass deflections, and three forced fumbles.

Reimer has legit high-end range at his size, and he also brings great urgency in pursuit. He’s a strong tackler with natural ability in coverage as well. Whether he declares in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle or in 2024, he looks like an easily draftable prospect early on.

Caleb Tannor, LB

He doesn’t have much name recognition, but Caleb Tannor is certainly a player to keep tabs on for Nebraska. The 6’2″, 230-pound linebacker quietly had a solid season in 2022, amassing 33 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss, two sacks, three pass deflections, and a forced fumble.

For his size, Tannor has very impressive pass-rushing chops. He can put his hand in the dirt, explode forward, and channel power. But he can also play off-ball and make plays in coverage, and his high-motor style ties together his game.

Nick Henrich, LB

The Cornhuskers have a strong linebacker unit with Reimer, Tannor, and Nick Henrich. Henrich isn’t as much of a factor in coverage. However, he can engage blocks at the second level and make tackles with his size.

That was what he did best in 2021, accruing 99 tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss, and a half-sack. At 6’4″, 225 pounds, Henrich’s frame is a bit lean. But his sheer size and wingspan can be challenging for runners to get outside at times.

Quinton Newsome, CB

Having lost Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska will need a new No. 1 cornerback this coming season. Quinton Newsome is the heavy favorite to take on that responsibility.

Newsome is long, standing at 6’1″, 185 pounds. And with that length, he can wall off passing lanes and play the ball through the catch point. Newsome doesn’t appear to have elite fluidity, but he can play low in his stance and move his feet. And when he’s in phase, he accelerates exceptionally quickly.

Braxton Clark, CB

It’s unclear how exactly Braxton Clark projects, either in the 2023 NFL Draft or the next cycle. But at the very least, he’s worth mentioning on account of his unique physical profile.

Clark is a defensive back listed at 6’4″, 200 pounds. That’s a rare size for such players, mainly because it’s more difficult for taller defensive backs to transition and flip their hips. But Clark has shown to have utility with his length and closing speed. Those traits give him something to build on.

Myles Farmer, S

Myles Farmer isn’t yet an established NFL Draft prospect. But like many on this Nebraska team, he has the talent and the opportunity to earn greater notoriety during the 2022 campaign.

Farmer has great length and has flashed playmaking ability at the catch point on more than one occasion. His recognition and angles coming downhill can improve at times, but the talent is visible. Farmer has to channel it more efficiently in 2022.

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