After an NFL draft drought of almost 10 years, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane have had consecutive classes with a first-round pick. What do their prospects look like for the 2023 NFL Draft? While another first-rounder looks unlikely at this early stage, there are a number of Tulsa players that you should be keeping an eye out for this college football season.
Tulsa prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Tyler Smith and Zaven Collins have set an almost impossible level of expectation for future Tulsa prospects to follow. Meanwhile, arguably the program’s top 2023 NFL Draft prospect — Jaxon Player — transferred to Baylor following the end of the college football season. Nonetheless, Tulsa has several players who could hear their names called in the 2023 NFL Draft. While other players may emerge during the season, these are the top names to watch out for.
Gerard Wheeler, C
Although he’s attracted attention in previous cycles, Tulsa center Gerard Wheeler opted to return for his sixth season. While being an older rookie has negative connotations, he brings invaluable experience as a prospect at the offensive pivot. At 6’3″ and 337 pounds, Wheeler has a stocky build with a low center of gravity. The 2023 NFL Draft prospect has showcased explosion and agility while possessing an impressive amount of strength and power at the point of attack.
Kendarin Ray, S
After a breakout season in 2020, much was expected in 2021 from Kendarin Ray. However, having sustained a foot injury against Memphis, he saw action in just six games last fall. He returns this year as one of Tulsa’s top players in the secondary and a genuine 2023 NFL Draft prospect. At 6’4″ and 200 pounds, Ray possesses the size but, importantly, the length to be impactful at the catch point as a safety. Meanwhile, he owns impressive movement skills for his size, with speed and fluidity. Ray also boasts special-teams experience.
Davis Brin, QB
Entering his first season as the starter last fall, there were high expectations for Davis Brin. Those resulted in an up-and-down, good-but-not-great campaign for the third-year passer. At his best, Brin showcases a devastatingly strong arm and the ability to lead his receivers with anticipation throws. Meanwhile, the 6’2″ QB has the ability to navigate the pocket well while keeping his poise in the biggest moments. If he can cut down on the turnover-worthy plays (16 interceptions last year), he could emerge as a viable 2023 NFL Draft prospect.
Keylon Stokes, WR
Tulsa WR Keylon Stokes was expected to establish himself in last year’s class but unfortunately played just four games due to an undisclosed injury. He returns to the Golden Hurricane for his sixth season as one of their top 2023 NFL Draft prospects. Boasting impressive speed, savvy route running, and the ability to extend at the catch point beyond his 5’10” height, Stokes has been a big-play threat out of the slot. He adds significant after-the-catch value, with special-teams experience and excellence as well.
JuanCarlos Santana, WR
Although Tulsa hasn’t had a WR selected in the draft since 1994, they boast multiple pass-catching prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft class. JuanCarlos Santana finished second on the team with 51 receptions and 689 yards, averaging more yards per catch than Josh Johnson. Santana has good size, if not a little slender, at 6’0″ and 176 pounds. However, he’s more than able to absorb contact as a physical pass catcher who fights for yardage. He has some open-field elusiveness and can get up and snag the ball out of the sky.
Tyon Davis, CB
A smaller, skinnier kid at the high school level, Tyon Davis was a late bloomer who had to travel the JUCO route via Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before transferring to Tulsa for the 2019 season. With the departure of Allie Green IV and Akayleb Evans, he stepped up as a full-time starter last year, leading the team with 10 pass deflections. At 6’0″ and 180 pounds, he’s certainly more developed than in high school, and he boasts an impressive athletic profile. Furthermore, he’s willing and able in run support, with 74 tackles last fall.
Bryce Bray, OL
Tulsa’s entire draft class last year was made up of offensive linemen. Could Bryce Bray continue that tradition in the 2023 NFL Draft? The versatile prospect was a starter for Oklahoma State before transferring to Tulsa for the 2020 campaign. While he has experience across the line and projects to be the starting RT this fall, his 6’4″, 323-pound frame suggests he’ll be considered a guard prospect. Bray displays impressive grip strength, with manipulative power both in the run game and pass protection.
Joseph Anderson, DT
At 6’0″ and 272 pounds, it’s likely that Joseph Anderson has to battle the “undersized” tab in this 2023 NFL Draft class. However, the former walk-on has seen action right at the very heart of the Tulsa defensive front, lining up at NT on a good number of snaps. Expected to be a significant starter this fall, he showcases impressive hustle to the ball with a red-hot motor. Meanwhile, there’s clear violence in his hands and deceptive strength for his size. His ability to shed blocks and penetrate the backfield may prove alluring for NFL teams.
Anthony Watkins, RB
While it was Shemari Brooks who surpassed the 1,000 rushing yards marker last season, Anthony Watkins led the team with an impressive 7.4 yards per carry. The former Missouri running back boasts good size for the position at 6’0″ and 200 pounds. However, it’s his home-run hitting speed that could earn Watkins attention as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. Meanwhile, he possesses impressive vision and the ability to make a man miss with elusiveness and cut ability in the open field. Watkins also has special-teams upside.
Anthony Goodlow, DE
With eight tackles for loss and seven sacks, defensive end Anthony Goodlow is the top returning producer on the Tulsa defensive front. However, look beyond the numbers, and the 6’4″, 274-pound defensive lineman has some 2023 NFL Draft potential. You know you’re dealing with a monster defensive disruptor when he routinely attracts double teams. Goodlow is powerful at the point of attack. Meanwhile, he has some pass-rush moves and the body control to get skinny between tackles, making himself a menace in the backfield.
Zack Long, K
Kickers are 2023 NFL Draft prospects too! In Zack Long, Tulsa has one of the best in the nation. Long by name, long and accurate by nature, the former high school soccer star led the nation by completing 95.7% of his field-goal attempts last season. He hit his career-long 50-yard attempt in the toughest game of the year at Cincinnati. Meanwhile, he’s missed just two extra-point attempts in his college career.
Jaise Oliver, S
Tulsa has produced some mid-to-late-round defensive backs over the years, and they have several potential secondary prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Redshirt junior safety Jaise Oliver only made his first start for the program last fall. However, he’s proven to be a physical playmaker for the Golden Hurricane. At 6’2″ and 198 pounds, he has impressive size coupled with the athleticism to get up and compete at the catch point. Furthermore, he’s been a force at coming downhill and laying a hit with impressive ferocity.
Isaiah Epps, WR
If Brin gets the passing game dialed up this fall, Tulsa has a trio of wide receivers who could attract attention in the 2023 NFL Draft. Kentucky transfer Isaiah Epps completes the WR room and has the potential to be extremely productive at the Group of Five level. At 6’3″ and 190 pounds, Epps boasts the size to be a red-zone threat, especially considering his impressive catch radius. However, he’s more than just an above-the-rim target. The new Golden Hurricane WR has showcased after-the-catch ability with nice movement skills.
Justin Wright, LB
Filling Collins’ shoes at Tulsa is a daunting task, but Justin Wright lived up to the challenge admirably last season. Leading the team with 82 tackles, the now-senior linebacker converted nine of them into either tackles for loss or sacks. He also forced a fumble and secured an interception last fall. Wright showcases impressive quickness and fluidity in his 6’2″, 234-pound frame. Additionally, he is a high-level processor whose ability to read the game allows him to make big plays. Another big season may help him attract attention.