Rutgers’ 2023 NFL Draft prospects highlighted by safeties Avery Young and Christian Izien

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights improved by two games in 2021 and earned a late-entry spot in the bowl rotation. Is it possible that Rutgers could take another step and send some talent to the 2023 NFL Draft in the process? Here’s a look at some of the Scarlet Knights’ top veterans and what they have to offer in 2022.

Rutgers’ 2023 NFL Draft Prospects

With his defensive background, Greg Schiano has quietly amassed an abundance of defensive talent on his Scarlet Knights roster. That’s where most of the prospective 2023 NFL Draft candidates reside, but there’s potential on both sides of the ball in Piscataway, New Jersey.

That Harris, WR

Looking for a fresh start after four years at Syracuse, Taj Harris transferred to Rutgers. In his time with the Orange, Harris put up over 2,000 total yards, standing out in 2020 with a stat line that included 58 catches, 733 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Rutgers isn’t known for its passing attack, but perhaps Harris can help change that by filling the void left in Bo Melton’s wake. With his speed and his ability at the catch point, Harris will be a reliable – and relied upon – target.

Aron Cruickshank, WR

Melton meant a lot to the Rutgers offense in 2021. Harris will help soften the blow of Melton’s departure as a transfer addition, but it’ll take more than that to reinvigorate the Rutgers passing attack. Aron Cruickshank is another player primed to help in that regard. At 5’10 ”, 170 pounds, Cruickshank is woefully undersized. However, he’s undeniably dynamic. A jittery threat with a track background and kick returning experience, he’ll be valuable for the Scarlet Knights in multiple phases.

Johnny Langan, TE

Interestingly enough, Johnny Langan began his career at Rutgers as a quarterback. It wasn’t until after he lost the starting job that he transitioned to a tight end, where he’s now becoming a major contributor. At 6’2 ″, 235 pounds, Langan is more in the H-back mold. But his athleticism and competitive toughness are traits that directly translate to tight end, and he’s also flashed great body control and catching ability downfield. With his versatility and steely resolve, he’ll be a major part of Rutgers’ production this year.

Hollin Pierce, OT

Now a redshirt sophomore, Hollin Pierce is unlikely to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. But when looking at Rutgers’ offensive line as a whole, he might be the most promising eventual draft prospect. Pierce started 12 games at right tackle as a freshman redshirt last season and had his moments of promise. He’s a massive spectacle at 6’8 ″, 330 pounds, but he shows good athleticism when matching rushers. Pad level is a major concern, but if he can keep refining his game, his ceiling is exciting.

Curtis Dunlap Jr., OG

Curtis Dunlap is one of the more intriguing names on Rutgers’ offensive line. Standing at 6’5 ″, 335 pounds, Dunlap is a former four-star recruit who started 12 games for the Minnesota Golden Gophers as a true sophomore in 2019. He was trending up fast before injuries derailed his momentum in 2020. Now, Dunlap is looking to finish his career on a high note with the Scarlet Knights. Provided that he’s fully healthy, he could earn a starting spot at guard and make an impact down the stretch.

Ifeanyi Maijeh, DT

Ifeanyi Maijeh was often mentioned in the same sentence as teammate Julius Turner as a 2022 prospect in the previous cycle. Now, Maijeh is back with another chance to boost his stock in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Maijeh has shown his pass-rushing chops before; at Temple in 2019, he logged 5 1/2 sacks and 10 1/2 tackles for loss. He’s undersized at 6’2 ″, 280 pounds, but he has the burst and lateral agility to be disruptive in the right role.

Mohamed Toure, EDGE

The Scarlet Knights will rely on veteran Mohamed Toure to generate much of their pass-rushing presence this season. While Toure is undersized at around 6’2 ″, 235 pounds, he shows a good burst off the line and can hit a nice second gear when closing on plays in the pocket. With nine sacks and 12 1/2 tackles for loss over the past two seasons, Toure is looking to put together his best season yet.

Tyreem Powell, LB

Being a redshirt sophomore, it’s relatively unlikely that Tyreem Powell hits the 2023 NFL Draft circuit. But for a program that’s delivered steady linebacker talent in the past, Powell is worth naming. He’s a rare physical specimen, standing at 6’5 ″, 235 pounds, and he’s expected to take on a bigger role this season. Powell flashed quite a few times last year. His best moment came against Indiana, when he dropped into coverage, read the QB’s eyes, and used his length to secure an interception.

Kessawn Abraham, CB

Kessawn Abraham broke out as a ball-hawk for the Rutgers secondary in 2021, putting up 10 pass deflections in a breakout campaign. The veteran isn’t going to wow anyone with his 5’10 ”, 185-pound frame, and that frame does impact his ability to provide reliable run support at times. But Abraham has shown he can make plays on the ball and generate momentum-changing plays. That’s very valuable in its own right.

Avery Young, S

Prior to the 2021 season, Young had accrued 30 starts at cornerback from 2018 to 2020. Then he made the switch to safety and started all 12 games alongside Izien. Young has been a staple for the Rutgers secondary since he stepped foot on campus, and that isn’t changing in 2022. He has good size and physicality but also flashes exceptional ball skills at the catch point. That, combined with his versatility in the secondary, should make him a worthy 2023 NFL Draft prospect down the stretch.

Christian Izien, S

Alongside Young, Christian Izien has been the glue of the Rutgers secondary for three seasons. Through that stretch, Izien has racked up 212 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 11 pass deflections. He’s shown he can make plays on the ball. But particularly in 2021, he displayed increased comfort roaming into the box and securing tackles downhill. With a strong frame, good athleticism, and solid instincts, Izien could command 2023 NFL Draft interest as a versatile defensive back.

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