The West Virginia Mountaineers made use of the transfer portal in the 2021 offseason and, in doing so, may have strengthened their 2023 NFL Draft prospects. After adding a few high-profile names on the college football stage, here’s where West Virginia stands ahead of the 2022 campaign.
West Virginia prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
West Virginia will need their headlining transfer additions to make an impact this coming season, but plenty more players will also be relied upon to contribute. With a good year, the Mountaineers could send quite a few prospects off to the 2023 NFL Draft.
JT Daniels, QB
A long, winding career saga has landed former five-star QB JT Daniels at West Virginia in his fifth year. Now, with the Mountaineers, he’ll aim to reclaim a place as a CFB starter after injuries forced him off the field with Georgia in 2021. Daniels isn’t a QB in the modern creator mold, but he has enough arm talent to make NFL throws to multiple levels of the field. With offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, Daniels might be able to put up numbers and make a resurgence as a mid-round prospect.
Lyn-J Dixon, RB
West Virginia might have an entirely new backfield in 2022, with Lyn-J Dixon joining Daniels in the transfer portal. Dixon is a graduate transfer from Clemson, whose production steadily waned over four years with the Tigers. He flashed promise over his first two seasons but fell back in the rotation in 2020 before entering the portal in 2021. Dixon will need to prove himself again, but he has enough open-field burst at 5’10”, 195 pounds to be a factor.
Tony Mathis Jr., RB
Dixon may have the most name recognition among West Virginia’s backs, but Tony Mathis Jr. may be in line for a larger role in 2022. Now in his fourth season, Mathis has a chance to take the brunt of the workload following Leddie Brown’s departure. Standing at 5’11”, 207 pounds, Mathis has better size than Dixon and has shown to be a more physical runner. With more carries, 2022 could be a breakout season for him.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR
It remains to be seen how the Daniels acquisition will play out for West Virginia. But it’s reasonable to expect him to be a modest upgrade from Jarret Doege. This transition could be of benefit to the team’s receivers — most notably Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Ford-Wheaton had a career year in 2021 with 42 catches for 575 yards and three touchdowns, frequently using his 6’3″, 220-pound frame to win in contested situations. Ford-Wheaton has size and good burst upfield as well, and one more productive year would be great for his stock.
Sam James, WR
A mainstay in West Virginia’s receiving corps, Sam James has accumulated 142 catches for 1,482 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three seasons. He’s never been a dominant producer, but he’s quietly a quality deep sleeper in the 2023 NFL Draft class. The 6’0″, 176-pound pass catcher is on the lighter side but keeps his legs churning through contact nonetheless. He’s also shown he can track the ball in tight situations, and he has some multi-phase appeal.
Brandon Yates, OT
After starting 21 games over the past two seasons for West Virginia, Brandon Yates returns as the Mountaineers’ starting left tackle. A fourth-year player with budding NFL aspirations, Yates has a chance to start earning real estate in the draft conversation. There’s still work for Yates to do. He can play a bit uncontrolled at times, and at 6’4″, 307 pounds, he is a bit undersized relative to the NFL mold. Nevertheless, any experience is valuable, and Yates is on track to get plenty more in 2022.
Doug Nester, G
West Virginia has several starters returning on the offensive line, with Doug Nester being the primary piece on the interior. A transfer from Virginia Tech, Nester quickly made himself at home with the Mountaineers in 2021. He played through a broken bone in his hand early on and went on to start all 13 games at right guard. In the process, the 6’7″, 320-pound mauler levied impressive blocks in both the pass and run phase. He struggles with pad level at times, but his combination of size and athleticism is very intriguing.
Dante Stills, DT
He’s one of the most productive interior defensive linemen in recent memory. And yet, there isn’t a ton of hype surrounding West Virginia DT Dante Stills on the draft circuit. Over the past four seasons, the 6’4″, 280-pound Stills has amassed 20 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. 2021 was a career year that saw him pick up a whopping 15 TFLs. Stills doesn’t have great length, which may weigh him down. But with his athleticism and motor, he can be a valuable asset as a stunting lineman and a mismatch generator.
Taijh Alston, EDGE
Stills will be the primary catalyst on West Virginia’s defensive line in 2022, but edge rusher Taijh Alston also has a quantified role. Alston logged five sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2021, playing alongside Stills on the outside. Alston is 6’4″, 245 pounds, with a boxy upper body. He’s not the elite athlete that can win around the edge with burst and bend, but he has shown the ability to break anchors with strength and win one-on-one battles.
Jared Bartlett, LB
His production doesn’t quite jump off the page, but Jared Bartlett is a player who has a very translatable role at the NFL level. The 6’2″, 230-pound BANDIT linebacker can do everything for West Virginia. He can play in tight quarters and square up against linemen. He can set the edge in run defense and rush the passer with bend and hand usage. And he can drop into coverage and hold his own. A career season could put Bartlett on the radar, as he has the kind of versatility that’s coveted in the NFL.
Jasir Cox, LB
The Mountaineers splurged on offensive talent in the transfer portal, but one of their more intriguing additions rests on defense. At linebacker, West Virginia landed Jasir Cox, the younger brother of Dallas Cowboys defender Jabril Cox. The elder Cox was a star at NDSU before transferring to LSU. His sibling Jasir is following a similar path. Last year, Jasir logged a career-high 58 tackles, three picks, and five deflections. He doesn’t have the same size/athleticism combo as his brother, but the playmaking instincts are there.
Charles Woods, CB
The Mountaineers had to wait a bit to enjoy Woods’ talent, but it was worth it. Woods came over from Illinois State after racking up four picks and 13 deflections with the Redbirds in 2019. He redshirted during the 2020 COVID-impacted season but broke out in a big way in 2021. After earning more playing time amidst injuries, Woods proved himself as a playmaker and a high-energy competitor. He’ll be relied upon in 2022 to carry the unit to greater heights.
Rashad Ajayi, CB
Working to offset multiple outgoing transfers, West Virginia brought in Rashad Ajayi from Colorado State. In Ajayi, the Mountaineers get an experienced boundary cornerback coming off his most productive season. In 2021, Ajayi registered 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and six pass deflections. He’s average size, around 5’11”, 190 pounds, but he plays low in his stance, can turn and run with receivers, and has shown he can disrupt passes at the catch point.
Marcis Floyd, CB
Ajayi isn’t the only one coming to reinforce the Mountaineers’ secondary. West Virginia also brought in cornerback Marcis Floyd from Murray State. Floyd brings a playmaking element that could be very valuable to the Mountaineers in the Big 12. Over the past two seasons, Floyd, who’s listed at 6’0″, 194 pounds, put up five interceptions and 15 pass deflections. That ability to generate momentum-changing plays will be necessary if he wants to put himself on the 2023 NFL Draft radar.
Casey Legg, K
Casey Legg is aptly-named and an early candidate to be a top brand ambassador in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Legg stands at 6’4″, 213 pounds, and has a massive … well … leg. He’s got enough juice to hit from over 50 yards easily but also has been very consistent in his time at West Virginia. He hasn’t missed an extra point in 51 career attempts and was 19 of 23 on field goals in 2021. Early on, he just might have a leg up in the race to be the top kicker.