COLUMBIA — The countdown to the 2023 NFL Draft has officially started.

Eligible college prospects for next year’s event, to be held April 27-29 at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, have one final season to make themselves as attractive to NFL teams and executives as possible following the close of the 2022 Draft Saturday night.

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South Carolina, after having three players selected in the NFL Draft this year, could be in position to have one of its largest draft classes in 2023 in recent memory. South Carolina’s largest class was nine in 1954, when the draft lasted 30 rounds. Since the draft was reduced to seven rounds in 1994, the Gamecocks’ largest classes were seven in 2009 and 2013.

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Which Gamecocks stand the best chance to hear their names called next year? Let’s take a look:

Spencer Rattler

If there’s one certainty regarding the team’s draft picture for 2023 is that Rattler, the Oklahoma transfer, will be the first USC quarterback drafted since Todd Ellis in 1990. It has to be mentioned that Rattler does have one more year of college eligibility, if he chooses to use it, but all signs point to the former top-rated high school quarterback recruit to play for the Gamecocks for one year before moving on to the NFL.

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Rattler hasn’t taken an official snap yet at South Carolina, but his talent precedes him. He can make all of the throws and works well out of the pocket. How he improves under center will be what scouts will be paying attention to most in 2022.

Cam Smith

Before deciding to return for his fourth year with the Gamecocks, Smith was already one of the top cornerbacks in college football. But he returned for another year with a purpose for improving and becoming a complete defensive back.

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Smith played nickelback this spring and had one of the best springs of any USC player, according to coach Shane Beamer. The 6-foot, 185-pounder displayed physicality and better recognition of formations. The move looks to be fruitful for Smith and his draft prospects next year.

Zacch Pickens

The Anderson native and former five-star defensive tackle already had some NFL teams interested in him had he entered the draft this season. But Pickens ultimately decided to return to the Gamecocks.

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Pickens had a great season last year, with a team-high four sacks and 38 total tackles. But he admitted he wasn’t completely happy with his technique and pass rush. Improving in those areas will improve his draft stock. 

Jaheim Bell

For his size at 6-3, 230, there are few college football players as athletic as Bell. South Carolina offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield half-joked early this spring that he created a new position, “wide back,” for the offense to take full advantage of Bell’s endless skill set.

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South Carolina’s bowl game victory over North Carolina was the coming out party for Bell and how he could lead the offense, showcasing all of his talents. He caught five passes for 159 yards with two touchdowns.  He also averaged 7 yards per rush in the game. Bell will be one of the most intriguing draft prospects next season.

Jordan Burch

No player has come into USC in the past few years with more hype or belief than Burch, the hometown hero from Hammond School in Columbia. He was rated the No. 8 prospect overall in 2020.

Burch concedes he hasn’t quite lived up to that hype. Three years into his college career, the 6-6, 268-pound edge rusher hasn’t been a full-time starter, though he’s slated to be in 2022. How he performs as the first option at defensive end could immensely bolster his standing with NFL scouts.

Devonni Reed

Nothing proves Reed’s ability nor how much folks in the NFL will be watching him at USC this season than the amount of interest he garnered when he hit the transfer portal out of Central Michigan after last season. South Carolina was just one of many suitors for Reed’s services at safety, where he became the leader of the Chippewas’ defense.

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During his time at CMU, he played his best against the team’s best competition, the LSUs, Kentuckys and Missouris of the world. Reed isn’t the biggest safety at 6-0, 195, but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in instinct, physicality and the ability to score – he has returned multiple turnovers for touchdowns. h

Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his work for all things Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN. Got questions regarding South Carolina athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at bdiaz@gannett.com.

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Which South Carolina football players could be picked in 2023 NFL Draft? – Greenville News
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