This week we see our first All-Star game of the year as the Hula Bowl takes place in Orlando. While the players that will be taking part in this game carry late-round or undrafted free agent grades, the event has turned out several high-quality pros including former Pro Football Hall of Famers Reggie White and Williams Roaf.
The game also featured seven players in last year’s game who ended up getting drafted including Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford who the Green Bay Packers took in the fifth round and Rutgers cornerback Christian Braswell who Jacksonville took in the sixth round.
This year’s group of prospects has several players who could be late-round draft picks. While only hardcore NFL Draft fans will know most of these players don’t be shocked if a few of them move up on the team’s draft boards if they have strong weeks this week.
Prospects to Watch in the Hula Bowl
Spencer Sanders, QB, Ole Miss: A player who made a poor choice to enter the transfer portal last year is Ole Miss quarterback Spencer Sanders. After putting up good numbers for Oklahoma Satte and being named All-Big 12 in 2021 and the 2019 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year he decided to move on to Ole Miss. This season though he spent most of it on the bench and only played in mop-up duty. Despite this, his athletic ability and strong arm should still be enough to get invited to an NFL camp.
Tayvion Robinson, WR, Kentucky: A player who went into the 2023 season with high expectations was Kentucky’s Tayvion Robinson, and this season he had an even better year catching 41 passes for 552 yards and four touchdowns. Despite this production, he is widely regarded as an undrafted free agent, which he hopes to change at the Hula Bowl.
Joshua Cephus, WR, UTSA: NFL scouts always pay close attention to big productive receivers and that is what UTSA’s Joshua Cephus is. He has back-to-back 900-yard receiving seasons including catching 89 passes for 1,151 yards and ten touchdowns this season. Coming in at 6-foot-3 he also has the size to create matchup problems.
Ryan Flournoy, WR, South Eastern Missouri State: A small school player to watch at the Hula Bowl is wide receiver Ryan Flournoy. Flournoy excelled at SEMO being named First-Team All-Ohio Valley Conference and also thrived at one of the best junior colleges in the nation Iowa Central averaging 17 yards a catch. What might be most impressive with him though is his testing numbers which include a 4.4 40-yard dash and 41-inch vertical jump.
Hayden Hatten, WR, Idaho: While there are plenty of prospects in the Hula Bowl who have put up good numbers, no player has been more productive than Idaho wide receiver Hayden Hatten. Hatten has posted back-to-back 1,200-yard receiving seasons and also has the school record with 33 touchdown receptions.
Eric Watts, DE, UConn: Going into the 2023 season UConn defensive end Eric Watts graded out as a sixth-round pick after picking up seven sacks in 2022. Unfortunately, he had a disappointing 2023 season though picking up just two sacks on the year. While his production may have dipped he still should get looks late in the NFL Draft or as an undrafted free agent. The main reason for this is that the 6-foot-5 277-pound defender plays with good strength and could be a good fit as a 3-4 defensive end.
Ron Stone Jr., DE, Washington State: One of the best defensive linemen in the Pac-12 over the past three seasons has been Washington State’s Ron Stone Jr. Stone was named first-team All-Pac 12 in 2021 and this season he picked up 11 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Mohamed Kamara, DE, Colorado State: A player who carries a draftable grade on my board and has a good shot at getting drafted is Colorado State’s Mohamed Kamara. Kamara was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year this year after getting to the quarterback 13 times and making 16 tackles for loss this year. He will likely find a role as a situational pass rusher in the NFL due to his explosiveness off the ball and the fact he can play either defensive end or outside linebacker at the next level.
"“I couldn’t be prouder of Mo. I think he’s grown as a player so much in these last two years, but I’m more proud of him as a leader. You talk about setting an example in practice and preparation and just being relentless with his effort and physicality.”"- Jay Norvell on Mohamed Kamara
Andre Carter, DE, Indiana: There is no doubt that the defensive end position is the most talented positions in this year’s Hula Bowl. Indiana’s Andre Carter is a good-sized defensive end who consistently won with power.
Jackson Mitchell, MLB, UConn: My highest-rated player taking part in this game is UConn linebacker Jackson Mitchell who currently carries a sixth-round grade. The reason he is my top prospect in the Hula Bowl is his nose for the ball. He has had three straight seasons with over 110 tackles, and in 2019 he led all true freshmen in tackles per game with an average of 6.5 tackles.
Nick Jackson, MLB, Iowa: Another linebacker who put up impressive numbers this and will be taking part in the Hula Bowl is Iowa linebacker Nick Jackson. Jackson has four straight seasons with over 100 tackles and was named the top transfer linebacker by Pro Football Focus. He also was twice named All-ACC second team during his time at Virginia.
Storm Duck, CB, Louisville: Another player who was hurt by transferring last offseason is Storm Duck. In 2022 he was named second-team All-ACC after picking off three passes and breaking up ten more at North Carolina. However, this season he transferred to Louisville and only started four games. While this down year will likely cause Duck to go undrafted look for some team to bring in the physical corner as an undrafted free agent.
Ryan Sanborn, P, Texas: Fresh off a strong Sugar Bowl, Texas punter Ryan Sanborn will likely put in one of the top performances of any player in the Hula Bowl. This season he averaged 45.7 per punt and 15 punts went at least 50 yards. It would not be a shock to see punters from this game drafted in consecutive years with Ethan Evans being drafted last year, and Sanborn possibly being picked in the 2024 NFL Draft.