Riders & Sliders: Week 1

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The first big weekend on the college football schedule saw several exciting contests which were high-scoring affairs. And as one would imagine, most of the impressive performances by next-level prospects came from skill players. Here are the Risers and Sliders for Week 1.

Risers

Simmie Cobbs Jr./WR/Indiana: Despite being on the losing side of the scoreboard, Cobbs won in the eyes of scouts with his performance against the always tough Ohio State Buckeyes. The junior, who played one game last season before being sidelined with a severe ankle injury, led all receivers in the game with 11 receptions, 149 yards and one score. The big-bodied wideout proved himself as a game-controlling receiver who consistently wins out for contested passes. And though the Buckeyes secondary has been depleted by graduation and early entry into the draft, they still line up Denzel Ward, a cornerback many feel has first-round potential. In July we noted Cobbs could stamp himself as a second-day pick with a big 2017 campaign and he’s well on his way.

Dante Pettis/WR-RS/Washington: The Huskies showed a lot of rust during the opening contest of 2017, pulling out a late victory over heavy underdog Rutgers. Pettis helped turn the tide of the game with a punt return for a touchdown and then made several important receptions late in the game to keep the chains moving. The strength of Rutgers defense is their two junior cornerbacks. Blessuan Austin is graded by scouts as a potential middle-round pick, while we stamped cohort Isaiah Wharton as a middle-round choice. Pettis got the better of both during the contest. He possesses the size and skill to line up as a slot receiver as well as the ability to be a team’s primary punt returner.

Calvin Ridley/WR/Alabama: We highlighted Ridley during our Week 1 Match-up Preview, and he did not disappoint. Though his numbers were rather ordinary -- seven receptions, 82 yards and one score -- Ridley accounted for 85 percent of 'Bama’s receiving yards. He also did it against the talented Seminoles secondary and, for the most part, had his way with Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden. What impressed me most was Ridley’s vertical speed and ability to separate downfield, besides beating FSU defenders on underneath routes. He’s established himself as one of the names to watch at the top of the receiver board moving forward.

Josh Jackson/CB/Iowa: Playing behind Desmond King (a fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers) and Greg Mabin (an undrafted free agent signed by the Buffalo Bills) rendered Jackson to limited action in 2016, but he made scouts take notice on Saturday. Jackson was outstanding in his new assignment as the Hawkeyes No. 1 corner, posting five tackles, breaking up one pass and intercepting another, which he returned 41 yards. This all came against Josh Allen, our top-rated quarterback prospect. Jackson has next-level size and proceeded to show next-level ball skills against Wyoming. It’s still early to stamp Jackson with a draft grade, but rest assured his name now appears on scouting sheets.

Skai Moore/LB/South Carolina: The Gamecocks' defensive performance against North Carolina State was less than stellar, as they gave up more than 500 yards, but it was a triumphant return for Moore. The senior linebacker almost entered the 2016 NFL Draft but returned for another season only to be sidelined after surgery to repair a herniated disk. He finished the game against N.C. State with eight tackles and a quarterback hurry, seemingly showing no effects from the back injury. Moore displayed his patented speed and ability to make plays sideline to sideline. If there are no medical red flags in the lead up to next April’s draft, Moore is positioning himself as a late-round choice.

Quenton Nelson/G/Notre Dame: Listed as a potential first-round pick and the top guard on a number of scouting lists, Nelson proved why he’s held in such high regard against Temple. The junior was dominant, opening up running lanes and helping pave the way for the Irish to amass 422 rushing yards. There will be tougher tests later this season, specifically an October 28 contest against North Carolina State and one against Stanford a month later to finish off the regular season, but Nelson is off to a great start.

Sleeper Prospect - Riley Neal/QB/Ball State: We initially sang Neal’s praises back in June, mentioning how much we liked his long-term potential. Against Illinois, which is likely to be his toughest test of the season, Neal played a mostly clean game and stayed away from major mistakes. His numbers were solid as Neal completed 21 of 34 passes for a modest 204 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Neal was able to move the team downfield and showed a command of the offense. I still grade him as a late-round pick but the ingredients are available for the junior to move up draft boards.

Small School Prospect - Chris Seisay/CB/Portland State: In 2014 as I was breaking down Oregon film, I noticed a redshirt freshman who flashed next-level ability. His name? Chris Seisay. Seisay’s game leveled off the following year, and the dismayed cornerback transferred to Portland State where he was moved to receiver. Returning to his former position this season, Seisay is back displaying next-level potential. During the opening two weeks, close losses to BYU and Oregon State, Seisay has played reasonably well posting six tackles and breaking up three passes. He has next-level length, measuring just under 6-foot-2, and enough ball skills to play on Sundays. Keep Seisay on your lists moving forward.

Sliders

Trey Adams/T/Washington: Adams was one of the higher-rated underclassmen graded by scouts entering 2017 and was stamped as a potential third-round prospect. I felt he was a possible late first-round pick off the 2016 film. Adams played like a last-day choice against Rutgers. He looked stiff and heavy-footed and was consistently exploited by Rutgers' speed rushers. While I never grade a player off a single game, Adams must quickly get back on track.

Brandon Harris/QB/North Carolina: After his sophomore season at LSU in 2015, Harris looked like he had the stuff to be a next-level quarterback. The following year he was pulled after the first game following a disappointing loss to Wisconsin. He didn’t even make it that far on Saturday, as Harris was pulled early after completing just seven of the 16 passes he threw, two which ended up as interceptions. Harris has the physical skills to play in the NFL but needs a huge amount of work on his game.