Every year, there are prospects who’ve established themselves but still go largely undiscovered through the early stages of the process. Which defensive backs profile as sleepers in the 2023 NFL Draft? Here’s who you should know if you don’t already.
2023 NFL Draft Sleepers at DB
The 2022 NFL Draft was famed for its depth at both cornerback and safety. The 2023 NFL Draft, on the surface, doesn’t appear quite as bountiful. But as we all know, that can change between now and next April. And some of these defensive backs may have a direct hand in strengthening the perception of the 2023 class.
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
Cam Smith isn’t always one of the first cornerbacks mentioned in the 2023 NFL Draft discussion. But he should be. Smith is quietly one of the best returning cornerbacks on the college football stage. And if you ask me, he has legitimate early-round upside. Somewhere within the first 32 picks isn’t out of the question.
It won’t be surprising if Smith models his game after former teammate Jaycee Horn because he plays with the same biting physical edge. Smith sets the tone with his voracious physicality both in press coverage and in run support, but he also has the athleticism to hold up downfield. He’s long, explosive, fairly fluid, and a proactive playmaker at the catch point, evidenced by three interceptions and 11 pass deflections in 2021.
Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse
Garrett Williams was a player I would’ve taken on Day 2 in the 2022 NFL Draft had he declared. Instead, Williams decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season. In doing so, his hype has died down a bit. Here’s an important reminder that Williams, like Smith, is also one of the best returning cornerbacks in the 2023 cycle.
Williams may be one of the best playmakers at the catch point among cornerbacks entering 2022. Not only does Williams have great coordination, body control, and ball-tracking ability, but he also plays the ball through the catch point. He’s aggressive in seeking to dislodge and generate deflections. Going further, Williams is explosive and fluid, with smooth footwork at the line. And he’s also very aggressive in run support.
Rashad Torrence II, S, Florida
It’s early — almost too early to tell which positions are deep and which positions are not. But right now, the safety class looks a little thinner, or at least more uncertain, than it looked in the 2022 cycle. Of course, with the help of prospects like Florida’s Rashad Torrence II, that can change.
Torrence has all the tools to emerge as one of the better safeties in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He has a strong frame at 6’0″, 205 pounds. He’s long, explosive, and rangy enough to make plays coming downhill. He has the coveted enforcer mentality as a safety coming into the box, but he can track the ball in the air and make plays as well. Together, he and Trey Dean III make up one of the most exciting safety tandems in college football this year.
Micah Abraham, DB, Marshall
It can be a beneficial exercise to look to the Group of Five for prospects that supersede their lesser competitors. Marshall’s Micah Abraham, the son of Pro Bowl defensive back Donnie Abraham, quickly stands out when looking at MAC football. Abraham was one of the best players in his conference last season, and he returns in 2022 with hopes of becoming a household name on the 2023 NFL Draft circuit.
With Abraham, it all starts with his playmaking ability. The 6’2″, 175-pound defensive back has a knack for making plays on the ball and disrupting passes. In 2021 alone, he had a pick and 14 pass deflections, tying for third in the entire NCAA in the latter category. Abraham uses his length well, but he’s also a reasonably fluid athlete for his size, and he has some positional versatility. He can line up on the boundary or in the slot. His talent demands that he moves a lot to match the best his opposition has to offer.
Beejay Williamson, S, Louisiana Tech
We’ll close out with a common theme — playmakers. There’s always a place for a defensive back who can make plays on the ball. If there’s one thing Beejay Williamson has proven in his time at Louisiana Tech, it’s that he can do just that. Over the past two seasons, Williamson hauled in six interceptions, and he should only add to that number in 2022.
Louisiana Tech is a bit off the beaten path when it comes to draft evaluation, but Williamson is a prospect worth knowing. Listed at 6’1″, 185 pounds, he has good size. He’s a bit underweight, but he compensates with his instincts and playmaking ability in coverage. Lining up at a multitude of spots, Williamson can read and react, jump routes with his closing burst, and make momentum-changing plays for his team.