SIOUX FALLS — Another NFL Draft has come and gone, and South Dakota got to be a part of it once again.
Timber Lake native and South Dakota State tight end Tucker Kraft was taken in the third round by the Packers, while a handful of other local hopefuls were either signed to rookie free agent contracts or invited to rookie tryout camps.
There were 17 players on NFL rosters last year who were either from South Dakota or played college football here, and that number could grow in 2023.
And with area college teams entering 2023 with high expectations, there are no shortage of candidates to be on the radar of NFL teams as they prepare for the 2024 draft. Here’s an early look at the players in South Dakota most likely to be drawing interest from the pros next year.
Mason McCormick, SDSU, guard
The former Roosevelt standout has established himself as one of the most dominant and physical interior lineman at the FCS level, and had NFL teams kicking the tires on him before he decided to take advantage of his COVID year and return for an extra season in 2023. With another year of moving the pile in front of Isaiah Davis and Mark Gronowski, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound McCormick could find himself on every team’s draft board.
Garret Greenfield, SDSU, tackle
A smart, athletic and really big dude at 6-6, 310, Greenfield first earned his way into the starting lineup at right tackle, and moved over to the left side last year as the Jacks won the national championship. Like McCormick, he’s returning for his ‘super’ senior season, and will have plenty of scouts keeping their eyes on him throughout the season.
Isaiah Davis, SDSU, running back
A bona fide superstar in the backfield, Davis has run wild in two national championship games and enters his fourth year with 2,970 career rushing yards. He was good enough to earn a co-starring role with Pierre Strong (now a New England Patriot) as an underclassman, then rushed for 1,451 yards last year as the full-time starter.
He could still play two more seasons due to the pandemic, but if he has another big year he could, like Strong did, decide four years is enough and make himself eligible for the draft.
Jaxon and Jadon Janke, SDSU, wide receiver
The identical twins are nearly identical players, both top-flight FCS receivers who can go up and get it, make contested catches in traffic, beat the defense deep and pick up tough yards after the catch. And at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, they’ve both built themselves into big and physical football players.
Zach Heins, SDSU, tight end
Can the Sioux Falls Washington product continue the trend that is making South Dakota State into Tight End U? He’s got the size at 6-7 and 260 pounds, and has proven himself to be almost unstoppable in the red zone — he has 10 touchdown catches in the last two seasons. Heins got a chance to be the starter last year while Kraft was out injured, and if he can develop more versatility downfield and be a 40- to 50-catch guy in 2023, he could join Kraft and Dallas Goedert in the league.
Blake Peterson, SDSU, defensive end
The Beresford native has two years of eligibility, but he transferred to SDSU from Iowa State in part to improve his chances of getting more attention from pro scouts. A big year could convince him to make the jump.
Adam Bock, SDSU, linebacker
He’s undersized at 6-1, 215, but few linebackers in FCS have been more consistently productive than Bock, who will enter his fourth year as the starting Mike for the Jacks in 2023.
Erbes has been as steady and reliable as any blocker in the FCS in his career, having started 39 straight games without missing one — the first 12 at right tackle and the last 27 at right guard. At 6-5, 330 pounds, he has size to potential play anywhere on the line, which could make it easy for him to work his way into the pro ranks as a utility man.
Stephen Hillis, USD, linebacker
The Valley’s leading tackler last year also had four sacks and six pass breakups to earn first-team all-conference honors in his first year as a starter. At 6-1, 235, he has good size and could be attractive to NFL teams with another good season.
Myles Harden, USD, cornerback
Harden still has two years of eligibility and has been limited to six games in each of the last seasons due to injury, but if he can stay healthy he’s one the best cover men in the Valley, and could be tempted to come out with enough attention from scouts.
Blake Larson, Augustana, offensive line
The former Brandon Valley standout has been all-NSIC first team each of the last two seasons and was an honorable mention All-American last year. He’s got great size at 6-7, 310, with surprisingly quick feet and agility that makes him an effective run blocker as well as a bookend pass blocker.
Dewaylon Ingram, Northern State, wide receiver
A big (6-3) and speedy target, Ingram caught 68 passes for 1,161 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2021 but did not play last year. He’s back and among the top Division II draft prospects in the nation. He played at Sam Houston State prior to NSU.
Ian Marshall, Northern State, defensive tackle
Undersized as an interior lineman at 6-1, 270, Marshall nontheless notched 14 sacks last year for the Wolves, who were his fifth different college football home. He played briefly at Oklahoma State before making his way to Aberdeen, and is hopeful another big season can result in an NFL opportunity.
Others to keep an eye on: DyShawn Gales, SDSU (CB), Jason Freeman, SDSU (LB), Brock Mogensen, USD (LB), Brendan Webb, USD (DL)
Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014. Email Matt at email@example.com.