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5 Best NFL Draft Prospects From the Sun Belt

Sun Belt

With the 2023 NFL Draft under three weeks away, I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at the top prospects from a league I watched quite a bit of in 2022. The Sun Belt Conference. Each week during the 2022 regular season, I posted a column called Sun Belt Saturday. As I live in a region that houses quite a few of these squads, I thought it was the appropriate thing to do.

The Sun Belt had six players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. With the new additions to a conference that is dedicated to producing quality football, I expect that number to exceed that total. Perhaps even reaching double digits.

5 Best NFL Draft Prospects From the Sun Belt

Darrell Luter Jr., CB, South Alabama

Luter has been an excellent man-cover corner over the last two seasons. Only one receiver has gotten the best of him (more on that later). Luter had four INTs in ’21. Teams didn’t cross him as much during the 2022 campaign. I questioned whether he had enough long speed to hold up. Luter answered that at the Combine with a 4.46 forty.

Projected Draft Range: Late 3rd-4th Round

Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

The transfer from Penn State, Zack Kuntz caught 73 balls in 2021 for 692 yards. He ended up missing significant time for the Monarchs during the 2022 season. Kuntz is an athletic freak. He is the most athletic player since 1987 to play the position. Surpassing Jelani Woods from just one year ago. Kuntz isn’t much of a blocker. However, as a big slot, he can be a difference maker, ala Mike Gesicki.

Projected Draft Range: Late 3rd-4th Round

Jerrod Clark, DL, Coastal Carolina

Clark is your traditional nose tackle prospect. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher. But as a run defender, Clark can make a huge difference for a team. I view him as more of a reserve-type role to start with at the NFL-level with starter upside.

Projected Draft Range: 4th Round

Jason Brownlee, WR, Southern Miss

I have a column coming up in a few weeks entitled “My Guys”. Jason Brownlee will be on that list. I don’t know if the teams in the NFL are as high on him as I am. But more and more have come around on his skillset during the draft process. Brownlee was consistent in his production during his three-year stint in Hattiesburg. He had a great week of practice at the NFLPA Bowl. Then he had a great showing at the Combine. Brownlee doesn’t have elite speed. However, he beats defenders with his explosiveness and route running.

Projected Draft Range: 5th-6th Round

Nick Saldiverdi, IOL, Old Dominion

Saldiverdi started at right tackle for ODU but projects inside at the next level. During Senior Bowl practices and the game, he played all three interior spots, including center. Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy thinks he will excel at the pivot in the NFL. I happen to agree.

Projected Draft Range: 4th-5th Round

BEST OF THE REST

Not every team in the Sun Belt Conference is going to have a player selected. In fact, I would dare say multiple teams will not. However, I don’t want to leave those schools out. So, here is one player from each school not already represented.

Appalachian State: Nick Hampton, LB

Arkansas State: Kivon Bennett, LB

Georgia Southern: Amare Jones, WR

Georgia State: Quavian White, CB

James Madison: Kris Thornton, WR

Louisiana: Michael Jefferson, WR

Marshall: Steven Gilmore, CB

Texas State: Nelson Mbanasor, EDGE

Troy: Jake Andrews, IOL

UL-Monroe: Caleb Thomas, DL

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