American Football

Brooke’s Bullies: The Toughest Prospects in 2023 NFL Draft

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 19 Illinois at Michigan
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Let’s highlight the toughest prospects in this year’s draft class.

The 2023 NFL Draft may not have the upper-echelon talent that other classes have had in years past, but it features some of the most physically dominant prospects in recent years.

Brooke’s Bullies looks to highlight and recognize the players, regardless of size, who exemplify competitive toughness at their respective positions. This can be players who lay the lumber on defense, block opponents into the dirt, or generally showcase a mentality that makes them a bully on the field.

The second annual edition of Brooke’s Bullies features prospects in all shapes and sizes, including a few who could be legitimate targets for the Packers in the 2023 draft.

Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

When coming up with this year’s list of Brooke’s Bullies, Devon Witherspoon was the first prospect who came to mind.

Witherspoon wasn’t a household name coming into the 2022 season, but that changed in a hurry with his incredibly aggressive mentality. Some of his biggest hits took Twitter by storm, including this one against the Indiana Hoosiers.

These are the kinds of plays that Witherspoon made with regularity last season. He finished the year with 33 solo tackles, three interceptions, and 14 pass breakups while earning consensus All-American honors.

Witherspoon’s instinctive play style combined with his aggressive mentality allows him to generate plenty of splash plays. His movement skills make him a sticky coverage corner as well, and in the right system he could become a future star in the NFL.

Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

Brock Bowers was the splashy playmaker at tight end for the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs. However, it’s Darnell Washington who was asked to do all of the dirty work, and that’s where he was able to show off his bullying abilities.

Coming in at a towering 6’7” and 264 pounds, Washington was essentially a sixth offensive lineman when on the field. His size, strength, and willingness as a blocker allows him to pave the way for the running game, driving defenders out of position and springing Georgia’s running backs loose.

Along with being a dominant player in the trenches, Washington has the athleticism and contact balance to be a formidable weapon in the passing game. Once Washington has the ball in his hands, he can be extremely difficult for defenders to bring down.

There is debate about whether Washington is the best tight end in this class compared to Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer or Utah’s Dalton Kincaid. However, no one comes close to him as a blocker at the position.

Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Allstate Sugar Bowl
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Size isn’t everything when it comes to being a bully. While Washington dominates through sheer size and strength, Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn earns his spot on Brooke’s Bullies through determination and willpower.

Vaughn came in as one of the most historically small players in NFL Scouting Combine history, measuring in at just 5’5” and 179 pounds. That size didn’t stop him from being one of the most productive backs in the nation over the last three seasons, however, as he racked up 3,808 yards from scrimmage and 34 total touchdowns in 27 games.

Along with excellent vision and burst, Vaughn is absolutely fearless when it comes to trying to block for his teammates.

There are so many running backs who are significantly bigger than Vaughn but aren’t nearly as aggressive when it comes to throwing their body into blocks. That unselfishness, despite being a premier playmaker for the Wildcats, is why Vaughn has earned his spot on this year’s Brooke’s Bullies.

Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Linebackers have to be physically tough, but the modern-day inside linebacker doesn’t have the same skill set that it used to. Clemson’s Trenton Simpson is the ultimate example of this, playing almost a slot/hybrid role focusing on coverage and pass rush with some run-stopping duties mixed in.

Iowa’s Jack Campbell is not one of those modern ILB prospects. The 6’5”, 249-pound linebacker brings and old-school mentality to the position and has the athletic traits to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL.

While there were questions about Campbell’s athleticism heading into the NFL Scouting Combine, he answered all of them on his way to posting an outrageous 9.98 Relative Athletic Score.

Given the lack of top-tier talent at the position, there’s now a very good chance that Campbell is the first ILB taken off the board come draft weekend.

Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

There are a lot of deserving EDGE defenders that could have made Brooke’s Bullies. However, when you consider how much his stock rose and the dominant physicality that he played with all year, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson more than earned his spot on this list.

The 6’6”, 271-pound defensive lineman played all over the line for the Red Raiders. From playing inside to kicked out in a wide-9 alignment, Wilson was a versatile chess piece who racked up 27.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks over the last two seasons.

Discipline will be the biggest thing that Wilson needs to work on at the next level, sometimes getting out of position or flying too far upfield to give up major rushing lanes.

Still, you can’t teach Wilson’s size and athletic profile, which will make him one of the top picks in this year’s draft class.

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