clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 NFL Draft: Biggest Day 3 Sleepers at Each Position on Defense

The biggest late-round NFL Draft sleepers at every defensive position.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Indiana at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I love each and every round of the NFL Draft, from Round 1 to Round 7. Each round has its format and style, and not a year goes by where something out of the ordinary happens during the three-day event. While Day 3 of the draft does not get much publicity compared to the early rounds, its importance cannot be ignored.

In this annual two-part series, I highlight my favorite sleepers in the draft, familiarizing their profiles to the reader and giving the reader a reason to have a rooting interest in the later rounds. As always, be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and tell us about your own sleepers as well!

Let’s dive in!

Defensive Tackle

Kobie Turner | Wake Forest

Here is my scouting report of Turner from the BTSC Big Board:

Turner is not completely polished in any aspect of his game, but the upside is undeniable. As a pass rusher, Turner’s active hands and twitchiness make it difficult for linemen to contain him one-on-one. While he still needs to learn how to become a finisher, he does generate pressure with his knack for splitting gaps and ability to get upfield in a hurry. His quickness is second to only Calijah Kancey in this class, but his production as a pass rusher is rather minimal. Although Turner has the versatility to play in any scheme, his best fit is likely as a 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme at the NFL level, making him an unlikely selection for the Steelers.

You can listen to our interview with Kobie on this week’s episode of the Steelers Fix podcast. You can listen below!

Jerrod Clark | Coastal Carolina

Clark is a two-gap defender who has shown flashes as a pass rusher. Here is Tony Pauline’s Scouting report on Clark:

Strengths: Massive interior defensive lineman who projects to nose tackle. Fires off the snap, immediately gets his hands up, and knocks blockers off the line. Flashes a tremendous first step off the snap that makes him impossible to stop. Plays with proper pad level, consistently gets leverage on opponents, and keeps his feet moving.

Possesses outstanding lower-body power and bullrushes double-team blocks to collapse the pocket. Holds his ground against triple-team blocks and is impossible to move off the point. Displays good change-of-direction ability and short-area quickness and works to get down the line of scrimmage in pursuit.

Weaknesses: Must develop more moves and be quicker disengaging from blocks. Marginal pass rusher. Didn’t perform all that well during Senior Bowl practices.

Overall: Clark is a massive lineman who plays big football and does an outstanding job occupying blockers and clogging the middle of the field. Though he’s not much of a playmaker, Clark has enough ability and upside to be used as a zero-technique lineman on Sundays.

EDGE Rusher

Thomas Incoom | Central Michigan

Here is my scouting report on Incoom from the BTSC Big Board:

If you want a guy who doesn’t mess around with his work, Incoom is who you are looking for. A true breakout player in 2022, Incoom developed into one of the best MAC defenders, recording 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Converting speed to power is his true calling card, although he is capable of winning with finesse as well. Unfortunately, there is a difference between being able to do something and proving it on a consistent basis. Incoom has more twitchiness than people think, but his technique is so poor that his physical abilities do not always shine through against tough competition. I love Incoom’s potential, but do not expect much from him in Year 1.

Jose Ramirez | EDGE | Eastern Michigan

Ramirez needs to add play strength, but his natural feel for rushing the passer bodes him well heading to the NFL. Here is my breakdown of him from the BTSC Big Board:

Ramirez does not possess ideal length for an NFL pass rusher, but ability to disengage from blockers and close quickly on ball-carriers has allowed him to still make an impact as a run defender. He needs to become stronger at the point of attack, however, as he can get overwhelmed by power blockers. If Ramirez wants to carry his collegiate production to the pros, he is going to need to expand his repertoire of pass-rushing moves, as he cannot depend solely on his quickness in the NFL. His in-game awareness, quick feet, and decent bend give him the versatility to play in any scheme, but I believe his lack of strength will be exposed if playing in a 4-3 system. I think he is best as a stand-up outside linebacker in the NFL.

Inside Linebacker

Ben VanSumeren | Michigan State

Here is my scouting report on VanSumeren from the BTSC Big Board:

VanSumeren is an interesting prospect with a background unlike any other in this linebacker class. He started his career as a fullback at the University of Michigan before converting to linebacker. One year after the position change, VanSumeren up and left Michigan only to transfer to their in-state rival, Michigan State. After being used minimally in 2021, VanSumeren was a huge part of the Spartans defense this past fall, displaying good open-field tackling ability as well as the fluidity and range to keep up with most skill players in coverage, regardless of position. What put himself on the map, however, was his incredible pro day workout, which included a 4.4 40-yard dash, 29 bench reps, a 42 ½” vertical, and a 131” broad jump. Ben is not a playmaker who has been able to shift the momentum of games with splash plays, nor has he been able to display a good closing burst as an open-field tackler. He also gets out-leveraged from time to time due to poor technique, making it look as if he doesn’t play as big as even his average size would suggest. That is probably the biggest concern as he heads to the NFL. Nonetheless, with a player as athletically gifted as VanSumeren, I cannot blame any team who takes a stab at him on Day 3. The potential makes it well worth it.

Trevor Nowaske | Saginaw Valley State

Here is my scouting report on Nowaske from the BTSC Big Board:

Nowaske was often aligned in an outside linebacker role in college, but I project him as an inside ‘backer at the next level. With the athleticism to cover many receivers, Nowaske has the versatility to line up just about anywhere. His aggressiveness allows him to fearlessly get into passing lanes and make plays on the ball in coverage. He also puts great force into his tackles, driving defenders to the ground when his tackling angles are clean. The big concern I have is that he second-guesses himself in coverage on occasion. He has good instincts as to where he needs to be as the play unfolds, but his backpedal is not the cleanest, and he lacks the field awareness needed to maintain proper spacing relative to both his zone and the nearest receiving entity. That aspect will likely improve as he gains experience (and settles in on one position), but it is something worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Overall, I like Nowaske’s nose for the football and would consider him a steal in the later rounds. The upside is tremendously high long-term, and his experience on special teams will allow him to contribute immediately.


Steven Gilmore | Marshall

Here is my scouting report on Gilmore from the BTSC Big Board:

The brother of NFL star Stephon Gilmore, Steven is an undersized cornerback prospect (5’9”, 174 lbs) with the speed, ball skills, and bloodlines worthy of enticing *any* NFL franchise. Likely destined for the slot in the NFL, Gilmore does not provide ideal arm length and strength for the outside. Despite that, Gilmore displays a feistiness that I love. His hips are fluid and quick when changing direction, and his hand usage is impressive downfield, having an aggressive mindset and gameplan but not being overaggressive and called for penalties. Having said that, he is never going to be an extremely physical player at his size. Overall, I see Gilmore as an early Day 3 prospect with starting potential in a nickel role.

Anthony Kendall | Baldwin-Wallace

Here is my scouting report on Kendall from the BTSC Big Board:

This dude loves lowering the BOOM on opponents! One of the most recurring themes on Kendall’s tape is simply lighting up opposing receivers, and he does it unapologetically. He is also one of the better open-field tacklers in this class, although the lack of competition may have made him look better than he truly is. Nonetheless, he put on a show at his pro day, running a 4.44 in the 40, putting up 20 reps on the bench, jumping 39.5” in the vertical, leaping 133” in the broad jump, and recording a 7.01 in the 3-cone drill. If he was a little thicker, I would recommend moving him to safety, as his play style reminds me a little of Antoine Winfield, Jr. coming out of college. There are only six Division III players in the NFL, but Kendall could easily become number seven.


JL Skinner | Boise State

If not for injury, Skinner would have been a potential top-50 pick. Here is my scouting report for Skinner from the BTSC Big Board:

Skinner is quite the prospect. At 6’4”, the Boise State product possesses unparalleled length in this class of safeties. When Skinner reacts quick enough, he does a good job of getting in passing lanes and making plays on the ball, as his ball skills are one of the most intriguing parts of his game. The downside is that he sometimes struggles reacting quickly to the ball, causing him to give up the occasional big play. His ball-tracking skills down the field are superior to just about anyone, and he has the speed to keep up with most receivers 1-on-1 once he accelerates to full speed. There is still development that needs to take place, but he may have the highest ceiling of any safety in the class.

Xavier Henderson | S | Michigan State

There are no late-round safeties that I love, but Henderson is a guy who could carve out a depth role in the league. Here is my scouting report on Henderson from the BTSC Big Board:

Henderson is a strong run defender at the strong safety position, but do not expect many flashy plays. Over five college seasons, Henderson only recorded three interceptions and 9 passes defended, and he did not have many pass-rushing assignments outside of a brief stint during the 2021 season. Fortunately for Henderson, his consistency from down to down as well as his ability to read and react in a timely fashion give him value as an NFL prospect. His role as a rookie will likely be limited to special teams, but if he can learn to take better tackling angles, he could become a nice rotational number three safety.

What are your thoughts on these Day 3 sleepers? Do any of them make sense for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for all the information you need before, during, and after the NFL Draft!