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2023 NFL Draft: 3 Prospects to Watch Before Week 8

Here is another batch of interesting draft-eligible prospects to watch before Sunday.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers are facing what could be their fourth straight loss in Week 8 to the Buffalo Bills. If that happens, then general manager Brian Gutekunst may want to seriously consider being a seller at the trade deadline.

Even if the Packers don’t sell, the front office is already hard at work prepping for the 2023 NFL Draft. If the season were to end today, the Packers would have the 16th overall pick, their earliest draft pick since 2019, when they took star pass rusher Rashan Gary at #12.

With the high school regular season over (shoutout to the 7-2 freshmen Greyhounds), the big board has started to fill out with more prospects, and there are a few for Packers fans to keep an eye on before Week 8 kicks off.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

#2 Ohio State vs #13 Penn State, 12:00 PM ET on FOX

Wide receivers are going to be one of the biggest needs for the Packers once again in 2023, regardless of who is playing under center. Although the team took Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in last year’s draft, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are both set to be free agents, and the team could use an exciting presence in the slot.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba seemed like the de facto WR1 in the 2023 draft class, but a lingering hamstring injury has limited him all season. He’s expected to play on a snap count this Saturday against Penn State, but with his draft stock falling, the Packers could wind up with a steal if they were to land him and he stayed healthy at the pro level.

When turning on the 2021 tape, Smith-Njigba shows off as a smooth and elusive slot receiver prospect. He has very good foot quickness and lateral agility to create immediate separation off of his release, or make defenders miss after the catch. He has a good feel for when to set up defensive backs by changing speeds, along with finding the soft spots in zone coverage.

Currently listed at 6’0” and 197 pounds, the Ohio State receiver will likely measure in just under the team’s thresholds. However, with the playmaking ability that he can bring when healthy, Smith-Njigba could be a dynamic slot weapon in Green Bay.

Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

Florida vs #1 Georgia, 3:30 PM ET on CBS

As concerning as the EDGE depth might have been at the start of the season, rookie Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare is starting to show flashes of being a legitimate rotation player on the outside.

That being said, even three reliable EDGE players isn’t enough in today’s NFL, and the Packers could use another guy early to give the team two solid rotations of players on the edge.

Nolan Smith has been a part of some dominant Georgia Bulldogs defenses, but is continually overshadowed by the bigger names on his team. He’s only listed at 6’3” and 235 pounds, but Smith plays significantly bigger than his frame might suggest.

As a pass rusher, Smith is able to make quick movements to cut inside or throw blockers off balance. While his snap timing is inconsistent, the explosiveness shows up in a big way when Smith is looking to fly off of the ball, and he has steadily developed a couple of pass-rush moves.

Against the run, Smith is a surprisingly reliable edge defender despite his size. He does a great job of getting extended and using his play strength to shock and shed blockers, then engulfing ball carriers as a strong tackler. He’s also disciplined on zone reads, keeping his shoulders square to the line and shuffling down it rather than flying upfield.

The size will concern some scouts, but the tape is solid and he’s discipline as an edge defender would make him a very solid rotational player with upside for the Packers.

Tuli Tuipulotu, DL, USC

#10 USC vs Arizona, 7:00 PM ET on Pac-12 Network

Devonte Wyatt was supposed to be the first-round pick who helped Kenny Clark get the defensive line going. Instead, Wyatt is rarely seeing the field, and Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed aren’t making the kind of plays needed to stop the run.

Adding another defensive end would give the Packers a big boost, and USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu is someone who stands out even when trying to watch other prospects. At 6’4” and 290 pounds, the Trojans junior already has seven sacks in seven games, putting him on the radar for draft scouts everywhere.

Off of the snap, the USC prospect flies into gaps, using great lateral movement skills to take quick angle steps and get into the backfield in a flash. When taking on blockers, he keeps his pads low and gets extended before showing off some very good hand usage to work a move and get disengaged.

With that skill set, Tuipulotu generates pressure consistently cutting inside on twists and stunts. Offensive linemen have a hard time recognizing the concepts quickly enough, with the defensive end flying through the line and knifing around blockers to get to the quartebrack.

It’s a rare skill set for a defensive end or outside linebacker, and it feels like with his frame he might be a bit of a tweener. However, the Packers need talent, athleticism, and depth up front, making Tuipulotu an appealing prospect.