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Five Big 12 Football 2023 NFL Draft Sleeper Picks

The NFL Draft is upon us and many Big 12 prospects will be drafted or added through undrafted free agency over the next several days. In the past few weeks, I’ve taken a look at Big 12 players that are first-round prospects, some under-the-radar stars, and former players from the league that have become stars in their own right. This week, let’s take a look at some of the Day Three diamonds in the rough from the Big 12 in the 2023 NFL Draft class.

Dylan Horton, DE, TCU

Horton was a starting defensive end on an impressive TCU team last year and showed a lot of growth during his time with the Horned Frogs. He has an explosive burst when getting out of his stance to get after the quarterback and can power through a blocker’s edge. He can hold his own as a run defender but could improve in that area at the next level. If he wants to be an every-down player, he has some things to work through, but he could be a sleeper that a team could snag on day three of the NFL Draft in Kansas City.

 

Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma

Gray transferred from Tennessee to Oklahoma in 2021 and started six of 13 games during his first season with the Sooners. His senior year was a breakout in which he ran for 1,366 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and added 11 touchdowns on the ground. He also had 33 catches for 229 yards, showing his abilities as a pass catcher. He’s a decisive runner who can make things happen and his willingness as a blocker and soft hands as a pass catcher could make him a candidate to be a three-down back at the next level.

Keondre Colburn, DT, Texas

Colburn is a stout nose tackle who finished his senior year as a second-team all-conference player in 2022. He started 12 of 13 games and had 28 tackles, including three for loss and 1.5 sacks. He is a bulldozer in the run game and can create a push as a pass rusher. Right now, he isn’t a three-down player but could work his way into that role with some work. His unique blend of power, size, and agility could make a team very happy in one of the later rounds of the draft.

 

Lonnie Phelps, DE, Kansas

Phelps transferred in from Miami Ohio and made an immediate impact on the Jayhawks defense. He had 46 tackles, including seven sacks and two forced fumbles. He also showed grit and toughness playing through a couple of nagging injuries throughout the season. He has the label of “tweener”, meaning he isn’t the ideal size to play defensive end but could play an outside linebacker role in a 3-4 defense situation. Phelps was a monster on special teams and could start his career there before building his way up to a rotational pass rusher. Any team that uses a late pick on him could be getting a steal.

Kade Warner, WR, Kansas State

Kade Warner, the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, played his final two seasons at Kansas State after starting his college career at Nebraska. He was even an offensive captain at Nebraska, which is a credit to his leadership skills. Warner won’t stand out on tape as being great at one thing but does every little thing well and the right way. He can get after it as a blocker on the outside but fits more of a slot receiver role when running specific routes. He can also play special teams which is where he’d likely be a regular to start his career at the next level. Warner showed his toughness over and over again, both mentally and physically, and would be a welcome addition to any team.

These players will be looking for their names to be called, likely on day three, during the NFL Draft in Kansas City this weekend. There will be plenty of other Big 12 players to keep an eye on, even after the draft as the undrafted free agency frenzy begins. Good luck to all of these young men looking to get work at the next level.

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