Jake Haener, Kendre Miller among potential 2023 NFL Draft steals

Who is going to be this year’s version of Brock Purdy?

That’s the million-dollar question NFL general managers are trying to figure out heading into this month’s NFL Draft. 

Purdy is just one example on a long list of recent late-round draft selections who have outperformed expectations and attached themselves to the label “draft steal.”

On Monday’s airing of “The Joel Klatt Show,” FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt shared a list of players he believes could be the top steals in this year’s draft.

Let’s get to it!

Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State

Career stats: 68.2% completion percentage, 9,120 passing yards, 68 touchdowns, 18 interceptions

Klatt on Haener: “He’s being overlooked a little bit right now because he doesn’t have the top-end arm that you’re gonna want to see maybe at the top of the draft, but let me tell you, you overlook this guy at your own peril. He does have toughness, competitiveness, he’s a great leader, he’s very instinctual in the way that he processes information on the field. He understands the system very well, he gets the ball out very quickly, he’s accurate with the ball, and he can throw on the run.

“When you watch this guy play, and in particular in games where you think Fresno State is overmatched, he generally plays his best football. This is the type of guy that comes in, and immediately the coaches love him in an NFL locker room because he’s gonna learn the system, he’s gonna keep his mouth shut, he’s not a distraction, and he’s just gonna get to work. He can operate the system and do everything that you need to. He anticipates well and understands information and process it very quickly from the pocket, and so for those reasons, he’s gonna stick. 

“I just think Jake Haener is going to be a steal at the quarterback position. I don’t know exactly when he’s gonna get drafted, but someone in that fifth or maybe sixth round is gonna take a flyer on Jake Haener. It’s not going to surprise me a bit if he has to go onto the football field at some point next year and potentially plays, and I think he’s gonna do a nice job.”

Kendre Miller, RB, TCU

Career stats: 361 carries, 2,410 rushing yards, 26 rushing touchdowns, 29 receptions, 229 receiving yards, one receiving TD

Klatt on Miller: “I love watching his film. The coaching staff at TCU loved his work ethic, and he was a team-first guy. Everything about him screamed, he’s gonna be a really good player at the next level, and yet he hasn’t gotten the hype I thought he was going to get, and the reason for that is he doesn’t have that burst … that eye-opening home run ability.

“When you turn on the tape, you see high productivity. He has great instincts and feel for how to move the ball down the field. He runs very physical, and it’s very rare that the first defender brings him down. 

“The dude produces … he’s big. He’s the type of guy that can come in there and play right away.”

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Joel Klatt reveals his top quarterback and running back NFL Draft steals.

Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue

Career stats: 149 receptions, 2,079 receiving yards, 18 receiving touchdowns

Klatt on Jones: “Charlie Jones made maybe one of the best decisions ever in terms of a transferring player and creating value for himself this last year, transferring from Iowa to Purdue. He and Aidan O’Connell were a great connection for Purdue. He led the nation in catches. He’s a really good player. What I love about his game is that he’s got this ability to understand how to pace and tempo his route in order to create spacing. I think that’s a real instinctual thing for a wide receiver, and he’s got that and just kind of understands it.

“I think he adds value not only as a wide receiver, but as a return man as well. While he’s not blazing fast, he still ran a sub-4.5 in the 40. It’s not that he’s slow, there’s just this misconception that maybe he doesn’t have those special attributes that other players have at that position. But guess what? You put him on the field, and he is going to produce because he’s got the instincts and the intellect to process information and to go out there and make catches.”

Olu Oluwatimi, OL, Michigan

Klatt on Oluwatimi: “He transferred in from Virginia, and he was the QB of [Michigan’s] offensive line. They didn’t miss a beat … they got even better at running the football. A lot of that was due to Olu Oluwatimi. Everybody speaks glowingly about [Oluwatimi]. He’s smart, he works hard, he’s talented. Is he going to blow you out of the water with his physical ability, his pancake blocks or his amazing strength that’s gonna make him a first-rounder? No, but what does that mean? That you’ve got a fabulous football player that will be overlooked early, and you’re going to find value with him in the middle of the draft.”

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Joel Klatt shares his wide receiver and offensive line NFL Draft steals.

Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

Career stats: 153 receptions, 1,786 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns

Klatt on LaPorta: “He’s going to be a draft steal. He might be overlooked and not selected with the other top tight ends because he doesn’t have that burst speed, but guess what? He gets open, he’s highly productive, he’s got great hands, and he can do a lot of things in the passing game. Iowa’s offense was not good, and yet if you’re an opposing defense, you knew that if they needed a play, they were going to Sam LaPorta. And he was still highly productive, even being the focal point of the defensive game plan. He’s a smart player and I think this guy is gonna be a really good value pick.”

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Joel Klatt reveals his top NFL Draft steals at the tight end position.

BJ Ojulari, DE, LSU

Career stats: 128 tackles, 25.5 TFL, 16.5 sacks

Klatt on Ojulari: “He’s a really good player. Can he be inconsistent against the run at times? Yes, that’s why he’s not one of the top edge rushers in the draft. But if you’re not one of the top edge rushers, there is going to be value where he is selected. Because he is disruptive … he can get to the quarterback. He can bend … he’s explosive. 

“He’s probably gonna fall into the second round just because of the number of edge rushers there are in the draft. It’s a deep draft at that position, and here he is … this is the type of guy I think is going to be disruptive early in his career, getting production probably even on third down at the NFL level. He’s a guy that I really love as a draft steal because of the depth at that position.”

Jordan Battle, DB, Alabama

Career stats: 252 tackles, 6.5 TFL, one sack, six interceptions, three touchdowns

Klatt on Battle: “Battle is a guy that I really love watching on tape. You fall even more in love with him when you talk with people around the program or coaching staffs that have played against Alabama. I don’t think he has the natural ability that maybe some of the Bama defensive backs have in the past, but he does have great instincts, he’s highly intelligent, he can play center field, he has good ball skills, and I think it’s his intelligence that’s gonna make him such a good, productive player early in his career.”

Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State

Career stats: 153 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 10 interceptions, one touchdown

Klatt on Brown: “He’s an excellent player with tremendous ball skills. He had 11 interceptions over the last two years. He was involved in so many takeaways. He’s a guy that has worked for it his entire life. He’s a bit undersized, so he’s going to be overlooked at the top of the draft. He was the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in their win over Utah. 

“I think this is the type of player that goes to a team and immediately starts. They are going to love him in the locker room. He is the type of guy that I think can be relied on right away in his NFL career.”

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Joel Klatt shares his top edge and safety NFL Draft steals.

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