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Day 3 prospects that will outplay their draft selection: Bama’s Steen gaining momentum in NFL circles

Steen has been a full-time starter since transitioning from defensive tackle to offensive tackle in 2019.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With every team trying to find the best value throughout the NFL draft, some will luck out and find a diamond in the rough while many others will likely end up with a lump of coal.

For those teams looking for excellent value on day three, I touched on three players currently expected to come off the board on day three who could outplay their draft slot and end up being a bright spot on their team’s 2023 draft haul.

OT Tyler Steen, Alabama

The Crimson Tide churn out so many premium players every year of the draft that it’s sometimes odd to see a former Alabama player ranked and/or mocked to go sometime on day three. That’s the case with Steen who unfortunately isn’t quite following in the footsteps of past ‘Bama greats such as Jonah Williams and Jedrick Wills, but that’s mainly due to him being a one-year player at the program after starting out as a defensive lineman for Vanderbilt way back in 2018.

Still, Steen offers excellent size at 6’6 and 321 pounds with the same temperament and lengthy starting resume that you’d want for an SEC tackle. Before arriving in Tuscaloosa, Steen started every game for the Commodores after switching to the offensive side in 2019. He then started all 13 games for the Crimson Tide en route to earning Second-Team All-SEC honors in 2022.

Steen showed many at this year’s Senior Bowl that he’s a potential four-position player at the next level and that type of value won’t go unnoticed by teams. With that in mind, Steen actually has a chance to go on day two, but as I’m writing this up, Steen is still a consensus day three pick based on most current rankings.

EDGE Lonnie Phelps, Kansas

Phelps is just one of those guys who resembles the Energizer Bunny whenever he takes the field. His non-stop motor is a joy to watch and it certainly helps him overcome any perceived lack of length and size some scouts may consider him to have. Lance Zierlein’s NFL comp for Phelps is former Charger Uchenna Nwosu and I can definitely see it as they both stand around 6’2 and 245 pounds.

The former Jayhawk plays with an extremely aggressive temperament that seems to startle opposing linemen who aren’t expecting it. He attacks corners with ferocity and possesses the ideal bend and flexibility to shorten the corner around tackles. On top of his skills as a pass rusher, Phelps will immediately upgrade a club’s special teams unit should he not earn a starting job out of the gate.

In three seasons at Miami (Ohio) before transferring to Lawrence, Phelps had 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. In his final collegiate season, he posted 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks for a revitalized KU team in 2022.

If there’s anything that will hold Phelps back at the next level, it’s whether or not he can polish his hand usage and refine the smaller details that help separate the good from the great in the NFL.

RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse

I’m not sure if it’s a controversial statement, but I think the running back class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs will highlight the top of the draft for the position, but there’s quite a few names throughout the middle rounds that could very well come in an compete for a role as a rookie.

One guy with proven size and production that I feel isn’t getting enough attention is Sean Tucker out of Syracuse. He’s compact at 5’10 and 210 pounds and racked up over 3,000 yards of total offense and 27 touchdowns over his final two seasons for the Orange.

Due to a lingering injury, Tucker did not get the chance to workout at either the combine or at his school’s pro day. Still, just from watching the film, Tucker has more than enough speed, instincts, and contact balance to be an early contributor in a gap-heavy run scheme. Scouts aren’t too high on his pass protection ability which is a big reason why he’s being viewed as a late-round pick but there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t get coached up at the next level.