SMU 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports Include Rashee Rice, Jaylon Thomas, and Isaac Slade-Matautia

The previous three NFL Drafts have seen five SMU prospects selected, but will any of their 2023 draft prospects join them? Ahead of the event in Kansas City, we have the scouting reports for the nine SMU players that have declared for the 2023 NFL Draft.

SMU 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports

Brandon Crossley, S

Strengths: Athletic safety who flashes ability. Stays with coverage assignments and quickly locates the ball. Flows well to the action and works hard to make plays. Quick flipping his hips in coverage, has a closing burst, and fires to the ball out of his plant. Effective facing the action and tracks the pass in the air. Hard-nosed run defender.

Weaknesses: Comes with decent, yet not great size. Marginally productive throughout his college career. Never showed great improvement.

Overall: Crossley is an outstanding athlete whose game never really exploded. He possesses a large amount of upside and would be best backed off the line of scrimmage or in zone coverage. Yet, Crossley is a long way from being NFL-ready.

DeVere Levelston, DL

Strengths: Nice-sized defensive end who flashes athleticism. Bends his knees, plays with leverage, and bends off the edge. Keeps his feet moving, works his hands throughout the action, and fires off the snap with an explosive first step. Displays good change-of-direction ability and chases the action hard.

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Weaknesses: Marginally productive and doesn’t make many plays. Lacks long speed. Must develop more moves with his hands.

Overall: Levelston possesses nice length as well as growth potential, but he really needs to develop a more complete game to make it out of camp this summer.

Elijah Chatman, DT

Strengths: Powerful interior defensive lineman who flashes next-level ability. Fires off the snap, plays with terrific pad level, and displays good movement skills. Easily changes direction, moves well in lateral pursuit, and is fluid if asked to twist or stunt. Intense and plays through the whistle. Consistently focused on by opponents in the middle of the field.

Weaknesses: Lacks height and growth potential. More of a gap occupier than a playmaker. Poor pass rusher.

Overall: Chatman is an athletic freak who has shown improvement in his game the past three seasons, yet he’s a 3-technique prospect with minimal versatility.

Isaac Slade-Matautia, LB

Strengths: Tough run-defending linebacker who flashed dominance at points in his college career. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands to protect himself, and plays heads-up football. Remains disciplined with assignments, takes proper angles, and works hard. Displays an outstanding head for the game, quickly locates the ball, and chases the action hard. Fires upfield and sells out on the blitz.

Weaknesses: Lacks great speed in pursuit and cannot cut off the corners. Plays like an average athlete. Will struggle in coverage against tight ends or running backs.

Overall: Slade-Matautia looked like a potential star in the making early in his college career at Oregon, but then he watched his game level off. He’s primarily a two-down run defender who lacks the size and speed for the next level.

Jaylon Thomas, OL

Strengths: Four-year starter who played all five offensive line positions for SMU. Bends his knees, blocks with leverage, and fires into blocks. Explosive at the point, keeps his feet moving, and stays square. Can slide in space, is very effective in pass protection, and works well with linemates. Displays good lateral range and shows the ability to adjust. Quick to the second level and can take out linebackers.

Weaknesses: Ineffective pulling across the line of scrimmage. Lacks overall blocking balance. Occasionally gets pushed back into the pocket.

Overall: Thomas was a terrific college lineman who must improve his finishing strength, but he’ll have a place at the next level as an inexpensive utility backup.

Want more information on Thomas? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Jaylon Thomas, OT, SMU | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Jimmy Phillips Jr., LB

Strengths: Athletic run-and-chase LB with ability in coverage. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands to protect himself, and shows outstanding speed in pursuit. Quickly gets to the sidelines, gets depth on pass drops, and covers a lot of area on the field. Instinctive and displays an excellent head for the ball. Hard hitter who remains disciplined with assignments and wraps up tackling.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

Weaknesses: Undersized and slow through the trash. Easily blocked by a single opponent. Does not come with much growth potential.

Overall: Phillips was a productive run defender at SMU the past two seasons and also made a lot of plays in coverage. He’s a traditional weakside linebacker who will have an opportunity on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.

Nelson Paul, EDGE

Strengths: Hard-charging college defensive end who projects to linebacker. Flashes athleticism, easily changes direction, and moves well to every area of the field. Stays on his feet, effectively uses his hands, and possesses a closing burst. Makes plays laterally in pursuit, gets depth on pass drops, and quickly gets to the flanks.

Weaknesses: Only had a single season of real production on the college level. Size and speed are not next-level caliber.

Overall: Paul was a flash defender who finally put it all together last season as a senior. He offers possibilities standing over tackle in a 3-4 alignment and comes with a special-teams mentality.

Nick Roberts, S

Strengths: Underrated safety who began his career at South Florida. Effective as a run defender and in coverage. Diagnoses plays, shows good awareness, and works well with teammates in the secondary. Shows ability in zone coverage, has a burst to the ball, and fires up the field aggressively to defend the run. Wraps up tackling and makes a lot of plays when the ball is in the air.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t show great lateral speed and is late getting to the flanks. Comes with average size.

Overall: Roberts was very productive in his first two years at USF before transferring to SMU and turning in a solid campaign in 2022. He offers potential as a fourth safety who can play in dime packages as well as line up on special teams.

Rashee Rice, WR

Strengths: Playmaking receiver whose game took off last season. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, shows a tremendous burst, and immediately gets to top speed. Shows outstanding awareness and does a great job following the QB across the field. Display soft hands and pulls the ball from the air. Makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception downfield with defenders draped on him.

Plays with outstanding quickness and extends his hands to make the reception away from his frame. Tracks the pass in the air and gets vertical to grab the ball. Consistent hands catcher who displays terrific eye/hand coordination. Gives effort blocking downfield and gets solid results.

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Weaknesses: Has a thin build and struggles in battles. Must improve his route running. Not sharp into breaks and is all over the place with his footwork. Out-positioned by bigger cornerbacks. Lacks a true second gear. Has past off-the-field issues that must be checked out.

Overall: Rice really watched his game take off last season after becoming the primary target for SMU, and he was the go-to guy opponents could not stop. He possesses nice length and next-level speed, as well as long arms. Rice comes with tremendous upside, and if he completes his game and his background checks out, he offers potential as a second wideout.

Want more information on Rice? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU | NFL Draft Scouting Report

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