Risers & Sliders - Week 6

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

There were no upsets at the top of the national rankings this weekend, but there were a lot of great performances by next-level prospects. There were so many outstanding performances that I struggled over which players to include and left a few worthy prospects off the list. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 6, a week which is linebacker-heavy.

Zach Gentry/TE/Michigan: I’ve been waiting for Gentry to have a breakout game, and it finally happened this weekend against Maryland. Gentry finished the contest with seven receptions for 112 yards, but stats tell just a fraction of the story. Gentry was the focus of the Maryland defense on a number of occasions, which opened up opportunities for teammates. The massive tight end also dominated his blocking assignments. Though he has a thin body of work, Gentry presently grades within the top five at the tight end position.

Jachai Polite/Edge/Florida: Polite is consistently improving on the field and has become a constant nuisance for opponents. The Gators' upset victory over LSU may have been his finest performance to date, as Polite finished with two sacks and two tackles for loss, forced one fumble and also broke up a pass. He’s a natural pass rusher with a large degree of athleticism and a burst in his game. He needs to improve his playing strength and step up his run defense, but Polite’s ability to disrupt the action will be very attractive to NFL teams.

Daniel Wise/DT/Kansas: The Jayhawks kept the game close but eventually succumbed to West Virginia in a 16-point loss. Despite this, Wise had a monster game which included five tackles (3.5 for loss) and two sacks against the usually reliable Moutaineers offensive line. Wise was unstoppable most of the game and beat blockers off the snap, showed explosion to the action with a great closing burst and easily moved laterally in pursuit of ball carriers. He’s a terrific three-technique prospect who could end up as a second-day pick.

Jalen Hurd/WR/Baylor: After all the drama of 2017, one has to be impressed with Hurd’s play this season. The versatile skill player finished with 11 receptions for 135 yards against a Kansas State secondary which lines up four next-level prospects. Hurd also added 56 rushing yards with one touchdown on eight carries. He’s been very productive in every game this season, and while there will be a lot of debate as to where he lines up on Sunday, there’s no denying Hurd will be playing in the NFL.

Germaine Pratt/LB/North Carolina State: Pratt entered the season with early third-day grades, and he’s lived up to expectations. During the conference victory over Boston College, the senior finished with a team leading 13 tackles and also added one sack, one forced fumble and one hurry. For the season, Pratt leads the Wolfpack with 49 tackles in five games, almost double his nearest teammate. Pratt has next-level computer numbers and measures 6-foot-2.5 and 240 pounds as well as timing 4.6 in the 40, a speed which he plays to. While he must improve his play against the pass, Pratt has the makings of a starting 3-4 inside linebacker.

Sleeper Prospect - Kyahva Tezino/LB/San Diego State: The junior is not often mentioned outside of scouting circles, but NFL evaluators are familiar with Tezino and are impressed by his game. The junior is a fiery, intense linebacker who sells out to make plays. In an all-important road win over conference foe Boise State, Tezino posted seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a strip sack which SDSU capitalized on. Tezino leads the Aztecs in all tackling categories this season with 39 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He lacks classic measurables but is very much the run-and-chase linebacker many teams are looking for.

Small-School Prospect - Matt Kaskey/T/Dartmouth: Possibly the best offensive lineman from the Ivy League, Kaskey is mammoth. He tips the scales at over 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds and plays to his size. He’s an overwhelming force and annihilates opponents once engaged in a block. What makes Kaskey so intriguing is the agility he shows on the field. He’s quick and fluid out to the second level, does a terrific job out-positioning linebackers in motion and, despite his size, does not lumber around the field. Kaskey may not get drafted, but he’ll be a terrific developmental right tackle prospect on some team’s practice squad.

Sliders

Jaylen Smith/WR/Louisville: Smith had been playing uninspired football up until the Florida State game in Week 5, which I hoped would knock him out of his funk. Unfortunately he returned to his pedestrian ways against Georgia Tech and finished with three receptions for 42 yards. In the opener against Alabama, Smith tallied just one catch and posted just two receptions a week later against Illinois State. We graded Smith as a potential late third-round prospect entering the season, while scouts stamped him as a fifth round pick. He’s playing more like a free agent.