2023 NFL draft: 6 small-school prospects Chargers should consider
If the Chargers want to hit a home run in the 2023 NFL draft, they will have to consider all options when choosing who will make their draft board.
Every year a prospect from a small school becomes an NFL star in the making. Whether it’s the early rounds or undrafted free agency pool, there are plenty of players that always fly under the radar.
With that, I take look at six small school standouts that Los Angeles should consider based on positional needs.
WR Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
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Iosivas was a three-time Ivy League champion in the indoor heptathlon. He posted a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds at the combine. In addition, he had the second-fastest three-cone drill (6.85 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.12 seconds) among all receivers.
That speed shows on the field, as Iosivas immediately gets to top speed vertically and can outpace defenders in the open. He is a solid route runner, quickly getting in and out of breaks. He does a great job tracking deep passes and is elite above the rim in contested situations.
Iosivas led the Ivy League in receptions (66), receiving yards (943) and touchdown catches (seven). He ended his Princeton career ranked sixth all-time in receiving yards (1,909), 12th in receptions (125), and third in touchdown catches (16).
DT Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
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The Chargers should address the interior part of the defensive line, with Austin Johnson and Otito Ogbonnia still working their way back from their serious knee injuries.
Brooks was one of the most dominant players in the Group of Five, racking 46 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks in five seasons, including 18 for loss and ten sacks this past season. He was a Senior Bowl participant and dominated the bigger competition.
After lining up as an edge defender in college, Brooks is projected to be a three and five-technique at the next level. Brooks is a problem for blockers with his size, power, quickness off the snap, and a good repertoire of initial pass-rush moves. He’s also stout in the run game.
EDGE B.J. Thompson, Stephen F. Austin
The Chargers need more pass-rush juice off the edge behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Thompson could supply that, and he fits the mold of players that Brandon Staley covets at the position with his explosiveness and length.
Thompson ran a 4.56 40, recorded an 11’3″ broad jump with a 40-inch vertical last offseason, and the freakish athleticism is evident on the field. He possesses first-step explosiveness, speed, a few counters, bend, and his 82.5-inch wingspan.
Thompson finished with 25.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in three seasons, recording five sacks, 29 pressures and an 18.3% pass-rush win percentage in 2022. He’s also coming off of an excellent East West Shrine Bowl where he finished with two sacks in the game.
LB Marte Mapu, Sacramento State
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Mapu’s name was not on the map, but then he looked like one of the best players at the NFLPA Bowl, which got him a late invite to the Senior Bowl. In Mobile, he carried that momentum and put together a solid week.
Mapu wore many hats in Sacramento State’s defense, playing nickel safety, linebacker and single-high safety. With a combination of size, versatility and athleticism, Mapu is a physical run defender and solid in pass coverage against tight ends and slot receivers.
With his ability to play all over the field, Mapu would be a great fit in Brandon Staley’s defense. Mapu finished his collegiate career with 22 passed defended, 13 tackles for loss and seven interceptions.
TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
With Gerald Everett only having one more year on his contract, Donald Parham’s injury concerns looming and Tre’ McKitty’s underwhelming play, the tight end position must be addressed. Kraft, who had a formal interview with the Chargers, could be a solid addition to the room.
At 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, Kraft has a blend of size and strength. He has good speed, short-area quickness and ball skills. Kraft has the run-blocking ability and toughness to be a solid contributor in that department. Additionally, he has experience playing in-line, in the slot, and out wide.
Kraft had 65 receptions (the most among FCS tight ends) for 773 yards and six touchdowns as a first-team All-American in 2021. In 2022, he suffered an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for eight games. He returned to finish with 27 receptions for 348 yards and three touchdowns.
OL McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga
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The Chargers have their starting offensive line set with Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Jamaree Salyer and Trey Pipkins. But as they’ve been a team susceptible to injuries, Los Angeles knows that depth in the trenches is imperative.
Curtis played in 49 games and made 38 starts – 30 at right guard, seven at left tackle, and one at left guard. At 6-foot-6 and 324 pounds, he has the build of a guard but the arms of a tackle at a whopping 35 inches. Curtis is a heavy-handed lineman to stymie rushers with great movement skills.
Something notable is that according to The Draft Network’s Justin Melo, Curtis revealed that the Chargers have “always” sent scouts his way and that in Mobile, AL for the Senior Bowl, Curtis was catching up with scouts he already knew.