Sean Tucker and Devon Achane are hidden gems in the NFL Draft.
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10 NFL Draft Sleepers Who Could Become Stars on the NFL Stage

The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on April 27-29. Over that time, there will be 259 draft picks. Some of those picks have been discussed to death, as big boards get shifted due to Twitter theories and NFL mock draft movement. One thing we can safely say, if there's a sleeper in this draft, they probably aren't coming out of a school like Alabama, Georgia or Kentucky. More likely than not, it'll be a player from LSU and Arkansas who will surprise during the offseason and take their team to the next level. That's what makes these guys into NFL DraftsSleepers.

Among the 259 picks, there are bound to be NFL Draft prospects who may not be top draft selections but will have excellent careers for the NFL teams that select them. Whether it's a pass rusher, an offensive lineman who is an excellent blocker, or a linebacker who can blast through the line of scrimmage into an opponent's backfield, and breakout as a defensive star. A recent example from the 2022 NFL Draft is Seattle's fifth-round cornerback, Tariq Woolen, who had a Pro Bowl rookie season.

And with teams like the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and Green Bay Packers moving up the boards and shifting their draft strategies, it's only a matter of time before one of these NFL Draft sleepers makes themselves known, whether it's as a late-round pick on Thursday, or a seventh-round gamble on Saturday.

Here, we'll look at 10 hidden gems in the 2023 NFL Draft class who could go on to become NFL stars.

Cam Smith, Cornerback, South Carolina

Cam Smith for South Carolina.

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RELATED: Bryce Young's Height Would Put Him in Rare First-Round Territory

After a massive 2021 campaign, Cam Smith saw a setback in 2022, allowing two touchdowns, 211 yards and a 47.4% completion rate. He also allowed 18 receptions on 38 targets across 302 coverage snaps.

At 6 feet and 188 pounds, Smith tested in the 72nd percentile or better in the 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, vertical jump, and broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine. He's not a top-flight athlete at the cornerback position, but he plays well and is a menace against underneath routes. Smith will likely end up as a slot corner, which is a fine role for him and his prowess against those underneath routes. 

Luke Musgrave, Tight End, Oregon State

Luke Musgrave plays for Oregon State.

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The tight end class looks like a two-horse race between Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid, but two others could be productive in the NFL. First, we'll look at Luke Musgrave out of Oregon State. 

The highly athletic 6-foot-6 tight end didn't have a lot of college production. He caught 11 passes in 2022 and 22 in 2021. However, Musgrave ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, ranking fourth at the position. He also ranked inside the 80th percentile for height, hand size, 10-yard split, 40-yard dash and vertical jump, and in the 93rd percentile in the broad jump.

Musgrave needs time to develop at the position and refine his route-running, but the comparisons to Jared Cook aren't far off. He'd be a perfect fit for the Kansas City Chiefs as they groom the heir apparent to Travis Kelce. 

Sam LaPorta, Tight End, Iowa

Sam Laporta runs with the ball for Iowa.

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In his final season with the Hawkeyes, Sam LaPorta caught 58 passes on 90 targets for 648 yards and one touchdown. If you paid attention to the Hawkeyes' offense, you'd know those are amazing numbers for one of the consistently worst offenses in college football. The problem with LaPorta is that he'll need an accurate passer, as he's not great at adjusting to balls thrown his way. That said, he can be used up the seam and will be a great yards-after-the-catch threat. 

LaPorta ran a 4.59 40-yard dash and posted a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump.

Joe Tippman, Offensive Line, Wisconsin

Joe Tippman for Wisconsin.

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The interior offensive line is never a glamorous position to evaluate, but it's absolutely necessary to help offenses flourish.

Starting two seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers, Joe Tippman allowed just one sack, four hits and four hurries in those two years. He played more than 1,400 total snaps. He's agile for a player of his size — 6-foot-6 and 317 pounds — and will be excellent on power and counter teams. If he landed on a team such as the Philadelphia Eagles, he'd have an immediate impact.

Rashee Rice, Wide Receiver, SMU

Rashee Rice for SMU.

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The wide receiver position has some depth to it this year. Still, all eyes are on Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

However, if your team is looking for a 6-foot-2, 203-pound receiver with experience on the outside and in the slot, Rashee Rice could be their man.

In his final season with SMU, Rice saw 156 targets — catching 96 of them — and went for 1,344 yards, 10 touchdowns and 14 yards after the catch.

Rice isn't the fastest receiver, but he's excellent at regulating his speed, playing well in his career against zone coverage. His 156 targets indicate how reliable of a target he is and show an endorsement of his ball skills.

Devon Achane, Running Back, Texas A&M

Texas A&M Aggies running back Devon Achane (6) runs the ball in the Southwest Classic between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Texas A&M Aggies

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At around 5-foot-8 and less than 190 pounds, Devon Achane needed to show off his speed at the NFL Combine — and he did that, posting a staggering 4.32 40-yard dash. In his first two seasons at Texas A&M, he was behind Isaiah Spiller. Interestingly, a common comparison to Achane is another Spiller named C.J., who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.

Achane ran for 1,100 yards on 196 carries last season for eight touchdowns. He also had 36 receptions.

If a team is looking for a change-of-pace or third-down back, Achane will excel. Due to his size, there are concerns over his pass protection — which could impact his third-down availability — but his skill set will find a way onto an NFL field. Especially with his special teams versatility, it's very possible that Achane becomes an NFL player who excels on fourth downs and kickoffs.

Sean Tucker, Running Back, Syracuse

Sean Tucker runs for Syracuse.

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While Achane may not be an every-down back, Syracuse's Sean Tucker very well could be. He's often looked at after Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs and Zach Charbonnet. Still, Tucker has had plenty of carries and experience in his college career. Tucker had 204 carries in 2022 and 247 in 2021.

Tucker ran for over 1,000 yards last year and over 1,500 in 2021.

Over the last two seasons, Tucker had 23 touchdowns; and he improved in the receiving game, catching 37 passes for 262 yards.

At 5-foot-9 and 207 pounds, Tucker is a bruising running back and isn't likely to be one of the faster guys in the class — he didn't participate in the combine other than measurements.

He showed how bruising he can be in 2021 with over 1,000 yards after contact, which was only behind Kenneth Walker III.

Tanner McKee, Quarterback, Stanford

Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee (18) warms up before the college football game between the Stanford Cardinal and the Arizona State Sun Devils

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The talk of the NFL Draft is Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis, but there's potential for two other quarterbacks to have valuable NFL careers. 

One of those is Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee, who has one of the more interesting backgrounds. After a two-year mission in Brazil, McKee came back to Stanford and had one of the worst supporting casts in the nation. His receivers weren't great, and his offensive line was one of the worst in the nation. 

At 6-feet-6, McKee is strictly a pocket passer. While that's somewhat of a dying breed in the NFL, McKee excels in this role and is accurate when it comes to NFL window-type throws. He profiles as a great backup who could come in and actually win some games for you as opposed to being just a body on the bench. 

If McKee lands on a team with a suitable offensive line — such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders or Tampa Bay Buccaneers — he could be a valuable asset to back up their starting signal-caller. 

Mazi Smith, Defensive Lineman, Michigan

Mazi Smith plays for Michigan.

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While Mazi Smith didn't participate in many drills besides throwing up 34 reps on the bench press, it doesn't take long to turn on the tape and see how insanely athletic the 6-foot-3, 330-pound-plus interior defensive lineman is. The Michigan defensive tackle played the majority of his career lined up in the B-gap, playing 400 snaps there. However, in the NFL, he'll be an excellent nose tackle who could take on double teams due to his pure strength, allowing a team's pass rush to explode.

Hendon Hooker, Quarterback, Tennessee

Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to pass against Alabama Crimson Tide

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The Tennessee Volunteers had an excellent season, and a big part of that was Hendon Hooker's success. Coming into the league with a torn ACL that happened in November, Hooker has two other things working against him — the Volunteers' gimmicky offense, and the fact he just turned 25 in January. 

That said, we're looking for gems, not a high draft pick. 

Hooker enters the league at 6-feet-4 and nearly 220 pounds. He's an excellent deep-ball thrower, improved each year at Tennessee, and can run a bit. In his final season with the Vols, Hooker had 3,135 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, and he completed 70% of his passes before his injury. 

As he gets into the NFL, he'll need to be on a team that'll let him develop and learn a proper NFL offense. He also needs to get into the habit of throwing even if he breaks the pocket. He had just five completions all season when he came off his final drop-back spot. 

Hooker has all the tools to be a long-term success story. Let's just hope a team is patient with him despite his age. He's older than a lot of players in the league already. 

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