The 2022 season will be the beginning of a new era for Miami football. The Hurricanes will be led by new head coach Mario Cristobal, who as a player won two national championships with the school.
But even though the sidelines will look different, the field will have a lot of familiar faces. Miami was able to maintain some of its key players for the upcoming year, which should contribute to their return to the college rankings after finishing just 7-5 in 2021 and 5-3 in ACC play.
There are some Hurricanes with NFL Draft potential, but judging from recent history, it will be tough. Since David Njoku 2017, only two players from Miami have been selected in the first round, with both coming in 2021. In 2022, only one player was picked in the entire draft.
That being said, here are three Miami football prospects with hopes of breaking the mold and hearing their names on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
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Miami Football 2023 NFL Draft First-Round Prospects
3. TE Will Mallory
Will Mallory is returning to Miami football for a final season after receiving an extra year due to the pandemic, even though he had a pretty solid 2021 campaign.
In 12 games, all as a starter, Mallory served as the team's main tight end by catching 30 passes for 347 yards while scoring four touchdowns. Those scores ranked him third on the team. His best game came against the Hurricanes' in-state rival, the Florida State Seminoles, where he had season highs in catches with five and yards with 72, plus scoring once.
Mallory is good at getting extra yards following a catch, which is very useful against slower and heavier defenders. At 6-foot-5, he is also able to notice incoming threats. This and his 245-pound frame make Mallory a valuable blocker, assisting many of his teammates in the run game as well.
If Mallory can develop all his strengths a little bit more this upcoming year, he can get a real shot in the NFL Draft. Currently, the tight end should not be selected beyond the second round, but as he returns as a more experienced player and with the help of a NFL-caliber quarterback, Mallory can certainly climb the mocks and find himself at the end of the first round in 2023.
2. OL Zion Nelson
Zion Nelson was once projected as a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but after seeing how the season ended, he decided to go back to Miami for his senior year.
This seems to be the wiser decision for Nelson because he should be one of the leaders on the offensive line for the Hurricanes. Last season, he earned an All-ACC honorable mention after appearing and starting in all 12 games for Miami as a left tackle.
Pro Football Focus named Nelson as the fifth-best offensive tackle in the nation for 2022, and his yearly improvements are proof that there is still much of his game that can get even better.
During his first season, Nelson was relatively small and was part of the offensive line that allowed 10 sacks in a single game. For comparison, he is now 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds, and there were no sacks under his protection in the last seven games of 2021.
If Nelson keeps getting better, he can likely get a spot in the final picks of the first round. If not, he should be a lock in the second round.
1. QB Tyler Van Dyke
If there is one player from the Miami football team who is almost a lock to be picked in the first round, that player is Tyler Van Dyke. The quarterback's name is appearing in multiple mocks as a mid-to-late pick in the first round, and his 2021 season shows the hype is valid.
Last year, his first playing significant snaps, Van Dyke was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year. The quarterback finished the season with 2,931 yards for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions while completing 62.3% of his passes (202-for-324). He ended the season with six straight games with at least 300 passing yards and at least three touchdown in the air, becoming the first Power 5 quarterback with those numbers in a single season since Joe Burrow and his 2019 Heisman campaign in 2019 for the LSU Tigers.
At 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, Van Dyke is relatively big for a quarterback, yet extremely mobile. He is able to find gaps and make the ball fly through them.
The last time Miami football had a quarterback selected in the first round was in 1987, when Vinny Testaverde went No. 1 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If there is a year with real possibilities of ending that streak, it is 2023 with Tyler Van Dyke.