CFB Transfers with Most to Gain as 2024 NFL Draft Prospects
0 of 8
Quinn Harris/Getty Images
A change of scenery can propel a prospect up draft boards when placed in the right situation.
Players such as Christian Gonzalez, Dalton Kincaid, Will Levis, Julius Brents, Keion White and Jayden Reed bet on themselves and eventually became top-50 draft picks among the 2023 class after transferring schools.
Today’s movement between programs is astounding and, frankly, difficult to track, because so many athletes go to and fro.
Two weeks ago, Bleacher Report highlighted multiple first-round possibilities with plenty to prove during the 2024 draft cycle, including Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
The 21-year-old is an excellent example of a transfer student, whose decision to change schools could cause his stock to skyrocket if he thrives against better competition.
At the same time, Sanders is a junior and may stay in school an extra year to play under his father, Deion.
Others are looking to make an impression now—whether they’re also going against top competition for the first time, showing they’re capable of thriving in a different system, producing more at a different stop or just playing for a much better program.
Dozens of transfers could be named. For this article, one player among the specific positions has been identified based on what they can achieve this fall and how it could drastically impact their status for next April’s draft class.
QB Sam Hartman, Notre Dame
1 of 8
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Sam Hartman wasn’t considered a serious quarterback prospect during his five seasons with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons despite throwing for 12,967 yards and 110 touchdowns against ACC competition.
While questions will persist about his build (6’1″, 212 lbs) and medical evaluations, two major concerns can be stricken in his evaluation while serving as Notre Dame’s signal-caller.
The first involves the system in which Wake Forest employed him.
Hartman’s elongated play-action technique doesn’t translate to the next level. The Demon Deacons loved to overexaggerate the process, pull the ball at the last second and drive it deep. Instead, how the 24-year-old performs in a more traditional scheme should help enormously, especially if he continues to produce at a similar level.
Second, expectations are much different at Notre Dame than Wake Forest. The Fighting Irish expect to be in the national conversation. Significant talent can be found all around the QB position. If Hartman helps elevate his current squad, he’ll be viewed favorably during the evaluation period.
Other quarterbacks such as Sanders, Kentucky’s Devin Leary and Nebraska’s Jeff Sims could also experience big gains after transferring.
In this case, though, some of the major concerns about Hartman’s game can be quelled with one outstanding season in South Bend.
RB Carson Steele, UCLA
2 of 8
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Carson Steele led the MAC with 1,556 rushing yards last season. The first-team All-MAC performer was one of five running backs to eclipse 1,550 yards and average 5.4 or more yards per carry.
The 20-year-old chose to make the leap from a mid-major to a Pac-12 program when he joined the UCLA Bruins.
“He’s a downhill, physical runner,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly told reporters. ” … He’s got really good vision in the hole.”
Last season, the Bruins finished sixth overall in rushing offense (3.084) and first in average yards per carry (6.0).
Steele enters a ready-made situation for an experienced back to produce. The difference is the 233-pound ball-carrier will now do so under the national spotlight against a much better level of competition.
“He’s been outstanding. His work ethic is off the charts,” Kelly said, noting Steele’s dedication to weightlifting workouts. “He does back flips. … He’s always trying to get better.”
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the junior prospect can bench-press 450 pounds and squat 685. Another highly productive year at a higher-profile program should be Steele’s last at the collegiate level.
WR Adonai Mitchell, Texas
3 of 8
Set Number: X164345 TK1
The Georgia Bulldogs have a successful formula under head coach Kirby Smart, as evidenced by back-to-back national championship-winning seasons. However, the program’s current approach doesn’t necessarily highlight its talented wide receivers.
In two seasons with the Dawgs, Adonai Mitchell caught 38 passes for 560 yards and seven touchdowns. Instead, Georgia’s tight ends, specifically Brock Bowers, serve as the focal point of the offense’s passing game.
Mitchell has made the move from Georgia to the Texas Longhorns, where he’ll be in a wide receiver room that also features Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington. But the 6’4″, 196-pounder is a bigger target, who can go up and make plays while the ball is in the air.
“AD’s a dog,” Bowers told reporters at SEC media days. “He has unmatched athleticism. He can take one step and change directions. And he brings a work ethic that is really impressive. He just goes and goes.”
Since Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson are no longer in the Texas backfield, the Longhorns can really open up the passing offense with Quinn Ewers (or Arch Manning) pulling the trigger.
Mitchell should be thrust into a featured role, which will create significant buzz for the junior prospect.
TE Erick All, Iowa
4 of 8
Matthew Holst/Getty Images
If an NFL team wants a pro-ready tight end, Iowa is a good place to look.
Over the last 20 years, the Hawkeyes have produced Dallas Clark, Tony Moeaki, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant and Sam LaPorta. Erick All could be next.
All, 22, spent four seasons with the Michigan Wolverines and even earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021, but the senior prospect suffered a season-ending back injury last year.
More opportunity exists at Iowa, where the Hawkeyes regularly feature the tight end position. In fact, LaPorta left the program as its all-time leader among TEs in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns.
“We’re losing a top-notch tight end in Sam LaPorta, outstanding, and then you think about the way Luke Lachey is ascending, has ascended, so we go from I think having two really good tight ends to hopefully the same situation, and that’s certainly a good thing for us,” head coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters in December.
LaPorta and Lachey were the team’s top two receiving threats last year. The latter will account for some of the 58 lost catches the former made.
At the same time, the 6’5″, 250-pound All can emerge as a weapon, become a vital component to the offense and set himself up as an intriguing draft prospect.
OT LaDarius Henderson, Michigan
5 of 8
Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Maybe the best way for a collegiate offensive lineman to receive more recognition is by joining the Michigan Wolverines.
In fact, their offensive front has won back-to-back Joe Moore Awards as the nation’s best blocking unit. Last season, Olusegun Oluwatimi transferred in from the Virginia Cavaliers program and proceeded to win the Rimington and Outland Trophies.
Three transfers—Myles Hinton, Drake Nugent and LaDarius Henderson—could start for the Wolverines this fall. Though NFL scouts initially have their eye on Henderson.
“Henderson is a late-round offensive lineman who has repeatedly come up when discussing the Michigan roster with scouts,” ESPN’s Jordan Reid reported. “He is a scheme-diverse blocker who transferred from Arizona State, where he made 19 starts at guard and 10 at tackle.”
Neither of Michigan’s tackle spots has been settled, with Hinton and Henderson expected to win the right and left jobs, respectively.
If Henderson does become the Wolverines’ blindside protector and Jim Harbaugh’s lives up to expectations, his contributions will validate the current interest in him as a prospect.
If not, Michigan has two other transfers who can draw draft interest along the way.
DL Braden Fiske, Florida State
6 of 8
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
The Florida State Seminoles defensive line is loaded.
Jared Verse, who transferred in last offseason from Albany of the FCS, is considered a top-10 prospect and a preseason pick as the best edge-defender among the 2024 class. Fabien Lovett Sr. carried a draftable grade last year from the Bleacher Report Scouting Department. Patrick Payton recorded five sacks as a redshirt freshman.
Now, throw Western Michigan transfer Braden Fiske into the mix.
He is a 6’5″, 297-pound fifth-year senior, with 45 games of experience, including 30 career starts. The upperclassman set career highs last season with 12 tackles for loss and six sacks.
“I think Braden’s played a lot of football,” Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell told reporters. “We’ve seen him play a lot of football. But his movements, his understanding, his attention to detail, those things I like.”
With so many eyes expected to be on other Florida State defenders, disruptive performances from Fiske won’t go unnoticed. His combination of size, length and explosive upfield penetration will create opportunities for others. The hardest thing for a quarterback to do is complete passes when he can’t step up in the pocket.
Fiske should collapse the interior, with Verse and Payton screaming off the edges.
Edge Jordan Burch, Oregon
7 of 8
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Scouts and coaches don’t forget gifted players with significant natural talent.
Jordan Burch signed with the South Carolina Gamecocks as a 5-star recruit. He never hit his stride in his home state, though. Instead, he decided to traverse the continental United States and landed with the Oregon Ducks.
The Ducks plan to use him in the same manner as those who proceeded the edge-defender, Kayvon Thibodeaux and DJ Johnson. The junior prospect has the tools to thrive in Dan Lanning’s defensive scheme, but he presents a completely different body type.
Burch is a 6’6″, 295-pound defensive lineman. His size doesn’t take away from his explosivity. According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the elite recruit hit nearly 21 mph on the GPS, jumped 34 inches in the vertical, squatted 685 pounds and deadlifted 685 pounds. He’s one of college football’s true standout athletes.
As such, he’s comfortable with whatever Lanning’s coaching staff asks him to do.
“I can run. I get out in coverage. All of that is good,” Burch said, per Duck Territory’s Erik Skopil.
A fully realized Burch will turn into one of the draft class’ most sought-after prospects, because legitimate edge-defenders at his size are truly rare.
CB Zy Alexander, LSU
8 of 8
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Zy Alexander will anchor the LSU Tigers’ secondary as its CB1 to open the season.
A year ago at this time, the transfer student was preparing to play UL Lafayette in Southeastern Louisiana’s season opener. This year, he’s staring down Florida State’s talented group of wide receivers.
Alexander flourished at the FCS level as a three-year starter with All-American nominations. The junior transfer is long (6’2″) and has excellent ball skills (nine interceptions and 20 passes defended over the last two seasons). But his inclusion in the lineup turned out to be vital for LSU.
Alexander can show he’s leveling up for the competition. Florida State features the 6’7″ Johnny Wilson, senior Winston Wright Jr. and Keon Coleman, who was Michigan State’s leading receiver last season. They’re merely the first obstacle.
With the weapons found all over the SEC, Alexander will get the chance to stack performances week in and week out to stabilize the Tigers’ back end and establish himself as a legitimate cornerback prospect.