Big 12 Football: Top Five Under-The-Radar NFL Draft Prospects
The 2023 NFL Draft is quickly approaching and many draft prospects are eagerly awaiting the fate of their future.
As we covered last week, many Big 12 prospects are projected to go in the first round of this year’s draft, but who are some prospects that could be steals in the later rounds?
The Big 12 conference is deep and full of talent. Yes, the projected first-round players will be featured and have all the bright lights shining on them during draft weekend, but the diamonds in the rough could be just as successful over the course of their NFL careers.
Let’s take a look at five of the best “under-the-radar” prospects from the Big 12.
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State
Hutchinson is a big 6’3”, 205 lb target that would be a nice red zone weapon for any team looking to add to their wide receiver room. Although he wasn’t used that way at Iowa State, only getting one touchdown in his final season with the Cyclones, an NFL team could help him reach his potential. Hutchinson knows how to get open and can find yards after the catch when the ball is in his hands. A big knock on Hutchinson has been his drops, as he had six in 2022, but his playmaking ability and the impressive catches he has made along the way make him an exciting prospect. Hutchinson is currently projected outside of the first three rounds and that could make him a steal for whatever team chooses to take him if he falls to day three of the draft.
Wanya Morris, OT, Oklahoma
Morris has been the starting right tackle at Oklahoma and has experience playing tackle at both spots which is a nice bonus for teams looking to add a swing tackle later in the draft. Morris is a former five-star recruit out of high school and has always possessed NFL traits. He’s a better pass protector than run blocker but his size and ability to process and learn at the next level will give him a chance to move from backup to starter over time. Morris is the type of offensive lineman who could create a nice career in the NFL and may be a steal if taken in the fourth round, where he is currently projected to go.
Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State
Vaughn’s size (5’5” / 180 lbs) will scare off a lot of NFL teams. Despite his smaller frame, Vaughn has proven to be versatile and durable during his time at Kansas State. He has good field vision and is fearless between the tackles, showing good contact balance throughout his collegiate career. He also has good hands and can be a receiving threat out of the backfield. Another positive for Vaughn is his ability to play special teams. Vaughn is currently projected as a fifth-round pick and could be a steal if selected in the fifth round or later.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
Ford-Wheaton is a wide receiver who has size and speed that should translate well in the NFL. Standing at 6’4” and weighing 220 lbs while running a 4.38 40-yard dash will catch the eye of scouts all around the league. Ford-Wheaton also continued to get better with each passing season during his college career, culminating in his best year in 2022 with 62 receptions for 675 yards and seven touchdowns. He has the 50/50 jump ball ability teams like to see on deep passes or in the red zone and has strong hands to make tough catches when contested. He is a wide receiver who could climb draft boards as the draft continues to get closer but is currently projected to go in the fifth or sixth round. Ford-Wheaton could be one of those guys that teams look back on in a couple of years wondering why they passed on him so many times in the 2023 draft.
Max Duggan, QB, TCU
Duggan has such a great story, overcoming a heart issue that needed surgery, other injuries, as well as being the backup quarterback for TCU to start the 2022 season. All Duggan did in 2022 was lead the Horned Frogs to the College Football Playoff, winning Big 12 offensive player of the year, garnering second-team All-American honors, and winning the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Awards, given to the nation’s top college quarterback. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up and finished the season with 4,121 total yards and 41 total touchdowns. While Duggan may not be an immediate starter in the NFL, he seems like the perfect backup quarterback that could have a decade-long career in the league if he wants to do so. Duggan isn’t projected to be drafted until the sixth or seventh round and he could be a nice fit for any team looking to draft a tough, hard-nosed backup quarterback option.