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Early look at CU Buffs in 2023 NFL Draft

Colorado looks to start new streak after not having a player picked in 2022

DENVER, CO - September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Terrance Lang pressures Texas A&M's Zach Calzada during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver.  (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
DENVER, CO – September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Terrance Lang pressures Texas A&M’s Zach Calzada during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Since 1938, there have been 276 former Colorado football players selected in the NFL Draft.

Last weekend, however, there were none, as the Buffaloes were shut out of the draft for the first time since 2016. Although the Buffs’ five-year streak of draft picks is over, there is a chance to start a new streak next year.

Several Buffs will need to step up their games this fall to improve their draft stock, but here’s a look at CU’s potential draft candidates for 2023. This list includes seniors, as well as some juniors, as anyone three years removed from high school is eligible to enter the draft.

The list is in order of draft potential (purely opinion and speculation, of course):

1. DE Terrance Lang, Sr.: At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, Lang has always had the prototypical NFL body. He’s got the skills, too, but needs more production. He said this spring his main objective is to produce more impact plays. He has 9.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in his career. If he has a highly productive senior year, he could be high on the NFL radar.

Tight end Brady Russell of the Colorado Buffaloes catches a pass for a first down against linebacker Ale Kaho #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA Football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

2. TE Brady Russell, Sr.: Once a walk-on, he’s now one of the most important weapons for the Buffs and one of the better tight ends in the Pac-12. Last season, Russell led the Buffs with 25 catches and 307 receiving yards. NFL teams love good tight ends, with 19 drafted last weekend – eight more than in 2021. Russell has displayed his receiving and blocking skills. Taking his game a step forward this year could raise his stock.

3. WR RJ Sneed II, Sr.: This was the year of the receiver, with 28 drafted overall, including six in the first round. Sneed’s former Baylor teammate, Tyquan Thornton, was a second-round pick. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Sneed has not only been productive (133 career catches at Baylor) but has already been a leader in his four months at CU. With a big year for the Buffs this fall, Sneed could land in the draft.

4. OLB Guy Thomas, Sr.: Somewhat of a late bloomer, Thomas is entering his sixth season of college football. It wasn’t until last year that the former Nebraska Cornhusker and junior college transfer found a key role in the rotation. Thomas was productive through seven games last year (36 tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss) before a foot injury. He’s got NFL size at 6-4, 235 and a big year could open some eyes.

5. OL Tommy Brown, Jr.: He has yet to play a snap in Boulder and hasn’t been a starter during his college career yet. He is, however, a big man (6-7, 330) who is projected to be a key part of the Buffs’ line this year, most likely at guard. If he’s as good as hoped and puts together an impressive year, he could put himself in the conversation for the 2023 draft.

Running back Alex Fontenot #8 of the Colorado Buffaloes runs for first down against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA Football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Others to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order):

WR Daniel Arias, Sr.: He’s a speedy, 6-4 and 210 pounds. At this point, he lacks production, but with a big year he could be a draft prospect.

LB Robert Barnes, Sr.: Former Oklahoma transfer played his best football towards the end of 2021 and now has a bigger role this year. Needs a great year to get on the radar, but the skills are there.

LB Josh Chandler-Semedo, Sr.: Just committed last week, but he was highly productive at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers in tackles last year. He has 260 career stops.

OL Frank Fillip, Jr.: Playing a full, healthy year could be huge for his future. Fillip has NFL size (6-7, 295) but has to play better overall and keep QBs protected.

RB Alex Fontenot, Sr.: CU has had some very good running backs go undrafted, including Phillip Lindsay in 2018, because there are so many good, productive backs in the country. There were 22 drafted this year, but Fontenot needs a big year to get noticed.

RB Ramon Jefferson, Sr.: Like Fontenot, he has an uphill battle because of the depth of the position nationally, but at 5-10, 215, he’s a different type of back than CU has had. An FCS All-American, if he’s a big-time producer at CU, he could be a draft pick.

S Isaiah Lewis, Sr.: Now entering his third season as a starter, Lewis has been fairly reliable. He needs to put together his best year, though, to give himself a shot at the NFL.

OL Casey Roddick, Jr.: Like Brown and Fillip, Roddick has NFL size (6-4, 325) but has to find a way to raise his game in order to get seriously noticed by scouts.

DT Jalen Sami, Jr.: The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder has been a solid run-stuffer for the Buffs for the past few years. He was better in 2021 than he was in 2020. If he’s even better this year, he could get on the draft boards.

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