Through most of the 21st century, the UConn Huskies have averaged an early-round pick around every other cycle. If that trend holds, the 2024 NFL Draft will feature a new wave of representation for the program.
UConn Huskies NFL Draft Prospects
From 2016 to 2021, the UConn Huskies only won 10 total games. That lack of sustained success never precluded UConn from producing NFL Draft talent. Byron Jones was a Round 1 pick in 2015, Obi Melifonwu was a Round 2 pick in 2017, and Matt Peart and Travis Jones went in Round 3 in 2020 and 2022, respectively.
Talent always seems to migrate in at UConn, regardless of school results. But in 2022, under Jim Mora Jr., the tides changed. The Huskies went 6-7 and made an appearance at the Myrtle Beach Bowl, where they competed against the Marshall Thundering Herd.
The Huskies had a few notable losses in the 2023 offseason, among them transfer departures Nathan Carter and Aaron Turner on offense. But much of UConn’s core from the successful 2022 season remains intact, including their stalwart offensive line and their diverse defensive cast.
The biggest question for the Huskies is ultimately who starts and maintains the QB role. Sophomore Zion Turner will compete with Maine transfer Joseph Fagnano and redshirt junior Ta’Quan Roberson, but whoever kicks off the 2023 campaign with the job will assuredly have a short leash.
Kevens Clercius, WR
After the departure of Aaron Turner through the transfer portal, UConn’s top returning receiver is Kevens Clercius, who registered 24 catches for 288 yards and a score. Clercius fits a fairly confined mold at WR. At 6’2 3/8″ and 212 pounds, his size is perhaps his greatest strength. He’s a long, wiry receiver who can box out defenders with his frame, but he needs to refine his separation skills and hold up better against direct physicality if he wants to ascend.
Geordon Porter, WR
Alongside Clercius, Geordon Porter could be an intriguing find for UConn through the transfer portal. Porter, who stands around 6’1″, 195 pounds, was a coveted recruit back in the 2018 cycle. He had offers from Florida and Tennessee and originally committed to Notre Dame before flipping to Arizona State. In 2022, he transferred to New Mexico and had a career-best campaign, complete with 22 receptions for 312 yards and two scores.
Chase Lundt, OT
UConn should have one of the better offensive lines in college football in 2023. Christian Haynes is the team’s top prospect, but right tackle Chase Lundt may also have some NFL Draft appeal. Lundt is a towering spectacle at 6’8″, 300 pounds, but is a very nimble athlete in space at his size. He’s a rangy pulling blocker who also boasts exceptional recovery athleticism and flexibility in pass protection. Leverage management is an issue at his height, but his mobility pops.
Valentin Senn, OT
Ironically, UConn’s left tackle Valentin Senn can’t tout mobility as a calling card as much as his teammate Lundt. But Senn also bears watching as a fringe NFL Draft prospect with an intriguing background. He’s originally from Austria and is still getting his feet wet in college football. Predictably, his hand usage is still a work in progress. But at almost 6’7″ and 301 pounds, he’s a powerful blocker who wants all the smoke, from snap to whistle.
Christian Haynes, G
The central piece of UConn’s offensive line — and one of their most likely 2024 NFL Draft picks — is right guard Christian Haynes. The 6’2″, 313-pound Haynes started all 13 games at guard in 2022 and earned third-team All-American honors in the process. He’s an explosive, tenacious blocker in space but also brings heavy hands and torque in close quarters, and his finishing power and relentlessness at contact prove awe-inspiring.
Noel Ofori-Nyadu, G
Noel Ofori-Nyadu is far less likely to be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, but he’s one more name to know on UConn’s offensive line. He logged starting reps at left guard across from Haynes in 2022. Though he’s not as powerful, he’s an easy athlete out of his stance with good mobility as a puller. Given his natural leverage, square-built 6’2″, 298-pound frame, and athleticism, he might deserve a look as a center convert in zone-heavy schemes down the line.
Dal’mont Gourdine, DT
UConn’s interior defensive line remains largely intact after the 2023 offseason, and one of the central pieces of the unit is Dal’mont Gourdine. Gourdine is more of a space-eater compared to his counterparts, but he still produced in 2022, picking up 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and two pass deflections. At 6’3″, 293 pounds, he’s a densely-packed interior defender who can drive good power with his natural leverage and proportional length, even if he’s a lumbering athlete off the snap.
Jelani Stafford, DT
While Gourdine was a bit more productive behind the line of scrimmage in 2022, Jelani Stafford has more promising NFL Draft prospects. Stafford, who’s listed at 6’0″, 303 pounds, and logged three TFLs and two sacks in 2022, thrives with his burst and energy off the line. He can offset blockers with his lateral mobility, use his leverage to maximize power generation, and levy double swipe-rip combos from the interior. He fades in pursuit and can attain more consistency, but he has some upside.
Collin McCarthy, DL
Rounding out the Huskies’ interior rotation is Collin McCarthy. McCarthy isn’t incredibly dynamic or explosive, but he has some in-built versatility with his long, 6’6″, 272-pound frame. And as he showed in 2022 with his 30 tackles, four TFLs, three sacks, and two pass breakups, he can be productive as well. He’s shown that he can counteract his lacking burst with quick arm-over moves, as well as pry past blocks with ankle flexion.
Eric Watts, EDGE
UConn’s leading sack artist from the 2022 season is Eric Watts, and he returns as a fixture on the line in 2023. At 6’5 1/2″ and 277 pounds, Watts has a very intriguing power profile. He can be more efficient channeling burst out of his stance, but that power profile grants him exciting force capacity. He used that profile to put up 48 tackles, nine TFLs, and six sacks in 2022, and he’ll be aiming for even greater numbers this coming year.
Pryce Yates, EDGE
Opposite Watts, the Huskies have another edge rusher to watch in Pryce Yates. At 6’4″, 270 pounds, Yates also has a good power profile, with which comes alignment versatility. He’s also a high-motor competitor through contact and second-effort waves, and he has solid range in pursuit. Yates’ traits helped him accrue 46 tackles, 10 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles across the 2022 campaign.
Jackson Mitchell, LB
Not only is Jackson Mitchell a likely draft pick in 2024, but it’s not brash to say he could be one of the better LB prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. At around 6’2″, 235 pounds, Mitchell has the desired size and athleticism, and he was a swarming defender in 2022, with 140 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, a pick, three pass breakups, five fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles to his name. Mitchell is equally explosive and instinctive and can use that combination to invade gaps time and time again.
Noah Plack, LB
Alongside Mitchell, FCS-to-FBS transfer Noah Plack will be doing what he can to magnify his 2024 NFL Draft imprint. The 6’1″, 230-pound Plack is a sixth-year senior who was a standout at Delaware before making the move to UConn. In four years as a starter with the Blue Hens, Plack put up 268 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, three interceptions, 17 deflections, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. His coverage utility is a visible plus and could help him stand out early.
Eriq Gilyard, LB
Mitchell and Plack constitute the main portions of UConn’s linebacker group but also keep Eriq Gilyard’s name in the vault. Gilyard, who stands around 5’10 1/2″, 229 pounds, played four seasons at UCF before spending his fifth year at Kansas in 2022. His best stretch came across 2019 and 2020. Over that span, Gilyard managed to accumulate 136 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, a sack, two picks, a pass deflection, and three forced fumbles.
Chris Shearin, CB
UConn lost Tre Wortham this past offseason, but they have a very valuable cornerback returning in Chris Shearin. Shearin, who had a 37″ vertical coming out of high school, transferred to UConn from Missouri in 2022. He immediately broke out with the Huskies, amassing 46 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, a half-sack, two interceptions, and six pass breakups. Shearin can play the boundary, the slot, or safety, and he’s a feisty cover man with great closing burst and physicality at the catch point.
Malik Dixon-Williams, S
Haynes and Mitchell are the Huskies’ best 2024 NFL Draft prospects heading into the season but don’t discount Malik Dixon-Williams as a massive riser candidate. Dixon-Williams emerged with 90 tackles, a half-TFL, two picks, and six deflections in 2022, and he profiles as an incredibly versatile, impactful defender for UConn’s squad. At 6’0 3/8″ and 203 pounds, he’s a rangy, physical box threat who can adjust tackling angles at a moment’s notice and explode into contact, and he’s also a ball-hawk in coverage.
Durante Jones, S
Joining Dixon-Williams at the back end of the UConn secondary again in 2022 is Durante Jones. Jones was one of UConn’s leading tacklers in 2022, amassing 97 takedowns, 1.5 TFLs, a pick, two deflections, and a forced fumble. He’s not as versatile or as free-flowing of an athlete as Dixon-Williams, but at 6’0 1/2″, 199 pounds, he’s a very willing competitor in support who can lower his shoulder to halt runners in their tracks.
UConn Huskies Schedule
- Week 1
- Week 2
Aug. 31: vs. NC State Wolfpack
- Week 3
Sept. 9: at Georgia State Panthers
- Week 4
Sept. 16: vs. FIU Panthers
- Week 5
Sept. 23: vs. Duke Blue Devils
- Week 6
Sept. 30: vs. Utah State Aggies
- Week 7
Oct. 7: at Rice Owls
- Week 8
- Week 9
Oct. 21: vs. South Florida Bulls
- Week 10
Oct. 28: at Boston College Eagles
- Week 11
Nov. 4: at Tennessee Volunteers
- Week 12
Nov. 11: at James Madison Dukes
- Week 13
Nov. 18: vs. Sacred Heart Pioneers
- Week 14
Nov. 25: vs. Massachusetts Minutemen
- Week 15
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