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2023 NFL Draft: Top 10 Surprising Decisions to Return

2023 NFL Draft: Top 10 Surprising Decisions to Return

With the passing of the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft, here are 10 of the players who made the surprising decision to return to school for another year.

Players are listed alphabetically by position.

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2023 NFL Draft: Top 10 Surprising Decisions to Return

Jacob Cowing (WR – Arizona)

Jacob Cowing was somewhat limited by a knee injury this past season but still finished with a monster line of 85-1,034-7 in his first season at Arizona. A player with four years of escalating production under his belt, it seemed like he could have come off the board as early as the third round as a dynamic slot receiver.

Rome Odunze (WR – Washington)

After a solid redshirt freshman season in which he caught 41 passes, Rome Odunze broke out with an outstanding 75-1,145-7 line this past year, showing some advanced releases and savviness as a route runner. With excellent size at 6’3″, he could have attracted second-day attention but opted to return; Washington did an excellent job of retaining their underclassmen this season.

Cade Stover (TE – Ohio State)

Considered one of the strongest and most athletic tight end prospects in this year’s class, Cade Stover had an excellent breakout campaign. He caught just five passes before this season, posting a line of 36-406-5. The second day wouldn’t have been out of the question, and he looked like a lock to come off the board relatively early on the third day.

Olu Fashanu (OT – Penn State)

If he had declared, Olu Fashanu would have had a solid case for being the first offensive tackle off the board in a solid crop of edge protectors. He will be just 2o years old on draft day. His build, functional strength and technique are highly advanced for a first-year starter, and he allowed just one hit and no sacks this past season on the blind side.

Cooper Beebe (OG – Kansas State)

Cooper Beebe has been starting for the Wildcats for the past three years, so it was somewhat of a surprise that he decided to return to school for a fifth year. He has experience at both tackle and guard and plays with the intelligence and toughness teams look for. He would have likely received second-day consideration from teams running gap/power schemes.

Jared Verse (DE – Florida State)

Having transferred from Albany after spending two years with the Great Danes, Jared Verse was one of the breakout stars of the college football season, showing an immediate ability to jump in and deliver against a much higher level of competition, posting a 48-17.0-9.0 line. He plays with much more power than his frame suggests and would have been a likely first-round pick.

Tommy Eichenberg (LB – Ohio State)

Coming off of an incredibly productive season in which he recorded a line of 120-12.0-2.5, Tommy Eichenberg was a two-year starter with pro bloodlines (brother Liam plays for the Dolphins). He plays with plenty of physicality and the ability to read keys quickly. This allows him to take solid angles in pursuit and reliably bring down ball carriers. He would have been a high-floor inside linebacker prospect.

Jacoby Windmon (LB – Michigan State)

Last season was Jacoby Windmon’s first with the Spartans. He picked up right where he left off in his last two seasons at UNLV, showing a strong first step, highly impressive bend and balance around the edge, active hands and a nice closing burst. He could go even higher next year by adding more bulk to his frame, but he would have been a potential second-day pick anyway.

Kris Abrams-Draine (CB – Missouri)

Kris Abrams-Draine, a high school receiver and quarterback, mostly played in the slot in 2021, his first season at the cornerback position. He then became an outside cornerback for the Tigers this past year and had a pretty good year. His recognition skills and technique are still a work in progress, but the speed with which he has acclimated to defense is impressive.

Tyler Nubin (DB – Minnesota)

A big, well-built safety who lines up all over the defense (primarily high, but often also in the box and occasionally in the slot), Tyler Nubin has been a three-year contributor. He’s played solid football for the past two seasons, showing the polish and versatility to interest teams as a potential starter on the back end. His decision to return to the Gophers is a boon for the program.

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