Rutgers Football had multiple players selected for the 2022 NFL draft last weekend, marking the first time the program had multiple draft picks since the 2019 draft, when defensemen Saquan Hampton and Blessuan Austin were both picked in the sixth round .
As it’s become an annual tradition here, we’re taking a far too early look at which current Scarlet Knights could hear their name in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Of course, other younger players who aren’t seniors could pop up as the season goes hand in hand with great years on the field.
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WIDE RECEIVER TAJ HARRIS
The former Syracuse star wide receiver is expected to be the contact point for the Scarlet Knights offense after Bo Melton was selected in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Harris has shown his potential during his time with the Orange, totaling 58 catches for 733 yards and five touchdowns in the 2020 season. He had a good early performance for the Orange in 2021 but decided to leave the team and enter the portal mid-season to retain his redshirt status. Harris, who is now back home and playing for hometown Scarlet Knights, is hoping to have another big season in 2022 to impress NFL scouts for a chance to have his name heard next year.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: Harris was not mentioned in any early mock drafts for the 2023 NFL Draft at this time.
WIDE RECEIVER ARON CRUICKSHANK
The star kick returner/slot receiver for the Scarlet Knights missed last spring as he continues to recover from a knee injury sustained last season. As long as he makes a full recovery, there’s no reason Cruickshank shouldn’t once again become one of the most dangerous players in all of college football because of his kick/punt return skills.
Now, to take it to the next level, Cruickshank needs to brush up on his receiver skills a bit and make that jump to the next level. We’ve seen his receiver potential flash in games against Michigan and Ohio State, where he had multiple receptions for 50+ yards, but he needs to make that leap to get his name on draft boards.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: For now, Cruickshank isn’t mentioned in any NFL mock drafts in early 2023, but his special teams skills should at least earn him a spot on a team as a UDFA. But if he can hone his receiver skills, he has a good chance of getting drafted.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN JD DIRENZO
DiRenzo was an All-American at his previous school, Sacred Heart, at the FCS level. This led to many great offers when he reached the portal. He chose Rutgers and seems to have the inside track to potentially start on the left. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder has started every game he’s played in (40 games) with either left or right tackles. Teams love versatility and he could add to his resume in 2022.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: At the moment, DiRenzo hasn’t been credited in any mock draft for 2023, but if he can produce like he did in the Big Ten at Sacred Heart this year, his name should start climbing the charts.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE IFEANYI MAIJEH
Since his breakout season in 2019 with the Temple Owls, there has been talk of Maijeh eventually ending up in the NFL. Not only does he have the size, but he has proven that he can produce when healthy. If he can stay healthy throughout 2022 and rack up a few more quarterback rushes and sacks, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be drafted next year as the defensive back has become a key priority for teams in the NFL .
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: Right now, only one Sports Illustrated writer mentions him as a seventh-round pick in 2023.
CORNERBACK MALACHI “MAX” MELTON
Well, this one’s interesting given that Melton will technically only be a junior sophomore after the 2023 season, but it’s hard to argue that there’s another player in this year’s roster that’s better than him. Melton has developed into a pretty solid lockdown cornerback and has performed well in his first two seasons. Last season, he was named a fourth-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele despite missing three games due to a suspension in early October. This upcoming season could be a big one for Melton as he has the potential to be one of the best corners in the B1G this year and could leave early if he proves himself.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: As Melton is currently entering his junior year, he is not currently listed in any mock drafts for early 2023. That will likely change as the year progresses.
DEFENSIVE BACK AVERY YOUNG
It’s been a very up and down career for Avery Young in the banks. He was credited to Wolves as a true freshman, starting 11 of the Scarlet Knights’ 12 games at cornerback, and despite the team’s struggles, he looked even better in 2020, earning the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. However, he was rescued by head coach Greg Schianoa last season and it’s been a real rollercoaster ride as he’s had both good and bad moments. He finished second on the team in tackles for a total of 81, adding two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Proving he’s versatile now is great, but to be a draft pick in the NFL, he needs to up his game a little bit.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: Looking at the current mocks, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Young as he was drafted by fourth-rounders in the 2022 NFL Draft. The SI staff even have him as a top 100 player on their big board far too early.
PUNTER ADAM CORSAK
There’s no question that Korsak was Rutgers’ MVP during his dejected years in the Era of Ashes. Korsak was one of the best players in college football during his time on the Banks and was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season. Honestly, according to the criteria, he should have won baked. Korsak has a unique rugby style that has proven to be extremely effective. The Aussie hasn’t had a touchback since COVID hit and many of his punts are put down inside the 20-yard line. Four punters were selected in this year’s NFL Draft, and teams tend to stick with punters, but Korsak is a weapon any team would love to have. He even worked to improve his traditional punting skills during spring training.
MOCK DRAFT STATUS: There is much speculation as to whether the perennial Ray Guy Award finalist’s punting translates to the NFL level. He began experimenting with different techniques last spring, and once he’s mastered it, there’s no limit to Korsak and his NFL draft chances.
Wide receivers Sean Ryan and Shameen Jones….
Ryan is a stronger receiver who has made the most of his opportunities as he can widen the field. A big year on the field could get him into the conversation. The same goes for Jones, who is a dependable veteran.
TE Matt Alaimo and DL Mayan Ahanotu
Alaimo has improved his blocking and has good hands to be a solid, balanced tight end. Tons of defenders are drafted each year, and if Ahanotu can reassert himself in the Big Ten, he could turn heads.
Offensive linemen Willie Tyler III, Reggie Sutton and Curtis Dunlap
These guys, like Ahanotu and Alaimo, still have time in college after this year, but all three could start on offense once the season gets underway. Tyler and Dunlap are new to Rutgers but have already made their names in spring training. Sutton must prove he is perfectly sane before being mentioned in any NFL sham drafts. Also, let’s not forget that he sustained a serious knee injury last year and may not even be 100% fit for the 2022 season.