You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Pac-12 Football: 5 Players Who Will Replace NFL Draft Early Entrants in 2023

Athlon Sports 1/26/2023 Mitchell Forde
© Provided by Athlon Sports

A look at the five most impactful early entrees to the 2023 NFL Draft from the Pac-12 and the players who could replace them this coming season.

Next season is shaping up to be a great one in the Pac-12, with key players from just about every team having made the decision to return to school for another season. But the conference will still be well-represented in this spring’s NFL draft, as well.

Related: College Football's NFL Draft Deadline Winners and Losers

While the proliferation of NIL has kept quite a few players in college football longer, several key players have opted to curtail their college careers early in order to pursue their NFL dream. In this piece, we take a look at the five most impactful early entrants to the NFL draft from the Pac-12, plus take an early stab at the players who will be asked to fill their shoes in 2023.

Replacements for NFL Draft Early Entrants by Conference: ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12SEC


Gone: Christian Gonzalez, CB

While Bo Nix got most of the headlines from Oregon’s transfer haul last offseason, Gonzalez (who transferred in from Colorado) was perhaps just as good, emerging as a true lockdown corner. The junior racked up 50 tackles and a team-high four interceptions in 2022. He was the highest-graded player on the Oregon defense according to Pro Football Focus. As a result, Gonzalez has been widely projected as a first-round pick in April’s draft.

In: Khyree Jackson

Dan Lanning struck gold in the portal a year ago, so why not try again? The Ducks landed a commitment from Jackson, who spent the past two seasons at Alabama, on Dec. 18. Jackson was stuck behind a lot of talent on the Crimson Tide depth chart, although he did appear in nine games last fall, starting one. Perhaps given the opportunity to start he can use a season at Oregon to vault himself into the NFL, as Gonzalez did.


Gone: Noah Sewell, LB

Sewell didn’t quite live up to the All-American expectations during his senior season, but he’ll still be difficult to replace after starting at middle linebacker for the majority of the past three seasons. Sewell racked up 114 tackles in 2021 and 55 last season. He was named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2020, to the all-conference first team in 2021, and to the second team this past season. He’ll be missed not only for his hard-hitting ability but his communication skills on the field.

In: Keith Brown

Brown made his lone start of the 2022 season in place of Sewell during Oregon’s win over North Carolina in the Holiday Bowl and responded by making a career-high seven tackles. The special teams stalwart saw regular action at linebacker as a sophomore and totaled 21 tackles on the year. He won’t be the only Duck linebacker asked to step up in place of Sewell, either. Jeffrey Bassa, who started nine games at the other inside linebacker spot in the team’s 3-4 scheme this season, could slide into Sewell’s spot. The team also added Iowa transfer Jestin Jacobs via the transfer portal, and he’ll likely have the opportunity to compete for a starting job.


Gone: Jordan Addison, WR

After winning the Biletnikoff Award at Pittsburgh in 2021, Addison was one of the most-hyped transfers in the country a year ago. While he didn’t quite replicate his numbers from his sophomore season, Addison quickly emerged as a key weapon for Caleb Williams and the USC offense. In 11 games, Addison caught 59 passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four 100-plus yard performances. Now, he’s off to the NFL, where he figures to have a good chance of being drafted in the first round.

In: Dorian Singer

How did Lincoln Riley replace the top-ranked wide receiver transfer in the country from 2021? By landing the No. 2 receiver transfer in 2022, per 247Sports. Singer will look to take Addison’s place in USC’s dynamic passing game after a breakout sophomore season at Arizona. Singer caught 66 passes for 1,105 yards and six scores. The Trojans know better than anyone what he’s capable of, as he exploded for seven catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns during the Wildcats’ loss to USC on Oct. 29. After ranking second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game last season, it would be easy to make the case that Singer should be the favorite to lead the league this year now that he’s catching passes from Williams.


Gone: Tuli Tuipulotu, DE

Tuipulotu not only led the Pac-12 in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss in 2022 (22.0), but he also ranked first nationally in the latter. No surprise, he earned first-team All-America honors as a result and also was named the conference's defensive player of the year. Having led USC in sacks during each of his sophomore and junior seasons, Tuipulotu will be difficult to replace.

In: Jack Sullivan

There should be several players given a chance to compete for Tuipulotu’s spot, but given that Sullivan is using his final season of eligibility to transfer from Purdue to USC, he has to feel pretty good about his chances of seeing the field. And for good reason. Sullivan was productive in each of the past two seasons for the Boilermakers. In 2022, he logged 38 tackles, including seven for a  loss and 5.5 sacks. He brings experience to the Trojan defensive line, too, having played in 45 games across the past four seasons.


Gone: Clark Phillips III, CB

Phillips will leave behind a massive void in the Ute secondary after starting 31 games during his three-year career. This season, he earned first-team All-America honors and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after tying for the conference lead with six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

In: Zemaiah Vaughn

Despite playing behind Phillips and another talented cornerback in JaTravis Broughton, Vaughn — a former walk-on — forced his way into the Utes’ regular defensive rotation in 2022. He appeared in all 14 of the team’s games, starting seven of them. While he didn’t log an interception, he broke up a team-high nine passes and totaled 25 tackles.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon