For the past two or three months, our staff of draft analysts at Arrowhead Pride has been researching the 2023 NFL Draft class, preparing for the big-time event this weekend in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Over that time, we've gotten eyes on many prospects — but each of us has specific prospects we liked over the rest — and would pound the table for if we had the chance.
So this is the post version of us banging the table for "our guys."
Here are the prospects our staff is most confident in:
Ron Kopp Jr: Keeanu Benton, defensive tackle, Wisconsin
One of the first prospects that really intrigued me in this draft cycle, Benton is a hulking defensive tackle that eats up space along the interior of a defensive front — but that isn't all he does. Benton's athleticism allows him to beat blockers off the ball, and his long arms (33 3/4") get used to controlling and beating blocks. His best football is ahead of him, so I'd love to see the Chiefs pair him with Chris Jones. He'd be a great pick early on Day 2.
Rocky Magaña: Cedric Tillman, wide receiver, Tennessee
I'm not going to lie; I wasn't always a Tillman truther, but that was before I turned on his 2021 game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Tillman smoked the vaunted Georgia defense for 200 yards and a touchdown, abusing Derion Kendrick and Kelee Ringo, who attempted in vain to press him at the line of scrimmage.
Tillman's 2022 campaign was maligned by a high-ankle sprain that required surgery and caused him to miss four games. Based on Tillman's 2021 tape alone, he is the No. 1 wide receiver in this draft class. Tillman ran a mediocre 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine, but nearly a month later, he corrected that number, posting an unofficial 4.22 40-time at his pro-day.
Price Carter: Julius Brents, cornerback, Kansas State
It's been fun watching Brents' stock rise over the draft cycle. In early January, I was grabbing him on day three of the draft, and now he's a top 60 prospect for most. Brents is one of the biggest and longest — just under 34" arms — in the entire draft class. He posted a 99% RAS score at the combine and played on some of the biggest stages in college football in 2022. He uses his size and arms so well in coverage, and he plays a physical brand of football in both coverage and run support. Despite his extreme physical traits, one of his best might be his eyes. Brents is excellent at keeping his head turned to the quarterback and deceiving them by jumping routes.
He was first-team All Big-12 and led the Wildcats in passes defensed and interceptions. Brents Brents feels like Tariq Woolen 2.0 — teams will wonder how he didn't get drafted much higher.
Maurice Elston: Keaton Mitchell, running back, East Carolina
Running backs were the first position I dove into as I prepared for the draft. I skipped over most top running backs, predicting the Kansas City Chiefs would not take a running back in the early rounds. Having full confidence in Isiah Pacheco to carry the load at running back, I turned my sights towards a good complimentary piece. Mitchell is just that.
Standing only 5'8" and 180 lbs., Mitchell is not built to take the punishment of an every down back in the NFL, but he is a threat to make a big play every time he touches the ball. He turned in a 4.37 40-yard dash time at the combine, and his speed shows on film, too. His agility to get to top speed helped him lead the FBS with 54 runs of 10-plus yards in 2022.
He also would give the Chiefs a dynamic kick returner. In most mock drafts I've done, I got him in the late-fifth or early-sixth round. I am pounding the table with both hands for the Chiefs to go and get Mitchell.
Nate Christensen: Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
One of the first prospects I watched during this draft process was Anudike-Uzomah, and I instantly became a fan. Ever since then, I've grown more confident about Anuduke-Uzomah. He's a super young pass rusher (21 years old) with an ideal physical profile. While Anudike-Uzomah might lack the ideal explosiveness for a top-tier edge, his balance and flexibility make me feel better about his ceiling as a pass rusher.
Anudike-Uzomah was also widely productive in college, finishing in the top 10 in this class in true pressure rate, sack rate and "win" percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. Put him in a defense that allows him to rush off the edge more, and Anudike-Uzomah should thrive.
Caleb James: Sam LaPorta, tight end, Iowa
In what is perhaps the most loaded tight end class of all time, LaPorta is the cream of the crop. At 6'3" and 245 lbs., he is slightly undersized but makes up for it with explosion and a vicious running style. A yard-after-catch monster, LaPorta dominated with the ball in his hands despite playing in one of the worst offenses in college football. He also has the underrated ability to go up and make contested catches in space using his 35" vertical. He will bring natural versatility to the position, lining up as an "X" receiver, an on-ball "Y" tight end and an H-Back.