INDIANAPOLIS -- For a city affectionately known as "Naptown," there always seems to be something going on in Indianapolis. This week virtually everyone in the professional football world is in town for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts.
Many of the prospects who are participants here for the combine hail from major colleges and universities, so they are sort of used to the bright lights of a big stadium and the bright lights of a big stage. That's not necessarily the case for a few of the participants, whose week here in Indy ends up being bigger than their Power Five counterparts.
I'm talking about the prospects who hail from the small college ranks, which are FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA programs. These are the guys who were the big fish in the small pond, and now get to jump in the ocean with the rest of the big fish. And while nothing trumps "the tape", performing well here at the combine gives pro scouts the chance to see if they measure up both physically and athletically to the prospects who are of a higher subdivision. Answering those questions this week could put the focus back where it should belong for these prospects, and that's on the 4-5 years of stellar play they put out there on the field.
Here are a few of the small-college prospects to keep an eye on this week at the combine. I wanted to focus more so on a few of the guys we hadn't seen just yet on the all-star game circuit
Hunter Luepke, FB, North Dakota State
Luepke has been on my radar since the FCS spring season in 2021.
What really stands out to me about his game is his versatility. And when you watch him perform this week during positional drills, I want to notice his footwork, fluidity and ability to catch the football down the field. He's got a lot of the tools necessary to be a 4-minute offense back, as well as a traditional fullback. Because I'm a football junkie, and not because he wears the same number, his game reminds me a lot of former 49ers great Tom Rathman.
Noah Gindorff, TE, North Dakota State
Gindorff is a really good athlete who consistently finds himself in advantageous situations on the field. He's a do-it-all type of a guy, who can block and catch, play inside or out as a flex option. The mission for him this week is to show how much he can hold his own on the perimeter in terms of route-running, because in my opinion, that's where he has a little bit more room to grow and enhance his game.
Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
Kraft is one of the better blocking tight ends in the class. He's more along the lines of your meat-and-potatoes-type receiver, so this week is going to be huge for him to show that he can be more than just an outlet- or underneath-type option. I am interested to see him work during the pass-catching drills mostly, but I also want to see how many times he throws up 225 pounds on the bench press.
Caleb Murphy, DL, Ferris State
Now Murphy was one of the players we spotlighted at the East-West Shrine Bowl as one of the standouts because of his athleticism. Back in January, I saw him play more off the ball and in coverage, which was something completely different than he did at Ferris State. He didn't look out of place at all. In fact, he looked like he'd been doing it for quite some time. It'll be key to see which drill or drills he gets put through this week in Indy, as it'll give you some insight to how the league views his skill set moving forward.