Week 2 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The second full week on the college football schedule saw a number of upsets as well as some spectacular games. It also saw several highly rated prospects live up to expectations and improve their draft stock. Here, with a decidedly Trojan flavor, are the Risers & Sliders for Week 2.

Risers

Christian Wilkins/DL/Clemson: The Clemson junior proved why some scouts believe he is the top draft-eligible prospect in the nation. Wilkins looked explosive and athletic and made a lot of plays in the victory over Auburn. In many instances, rather than making plays on the ball, he occupied blockers which allowed teammates to make the stop. Wilkins' stat line was impressive: 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He made plays behind the line of scrimmage and in pursuit and looked natural lining up at defensive tackle, something we mentioned back in July. Wilkins looked winded on occasion, but that was a result of the non-stop motor he displayed. The remainder of the schedule features offensive lines Wilkins should manhandle, and opponents best beware.

Sam Darnold/QB/USC: While the Trojans offensive line and running game made Darnold’s life easy, there’s no denying the redshirt sophomore turned in an eye-opening performance. As we highlighted Friday, the Stanford secondary was going to be Darnold’s toughest test of the regular season and he passed it with flying colors. Darnold did throw two picks but for the most part stayed away from bad passes and poor decisions. He was accurate and did a great job throwing receivers free throughout the game. What impressed me the most was the way Darnold worked the middle of the field early in the game, exploiting the weakness of the Stanford defense and staying away from its strength at cornerback. Later in the game he challenged the flanks and found success.

Baker Mayfield/QB/Oklahoma: Mayfield entered the lion’s den in Columbus, Ohio, but came out king of the jungle. The Sooner quarterback looked poised, efficient and under control as he shredded the Buckeye defense for 386 yards passing and three touchdown strikes. Mayfield’s accuracy and efficiency as well as his ability to stay away from errant throws or poor decisions was more than impressive. Despite playing against the best defensive line in the country, one which lines up five prospects I’ve graded as top 100 selections, Mayfield connected on 27 of 35 passes and did not have an interception. I raved about Mayfield during our Oklahoma preview in early August but mentioned the obvious: at just under 6-foot-1, he’ll be downgraded on several team’s draft boards. Regardless, he has next-level tools and will be a steal after the draft’s second day.

Royce Freeman/RB/Oregon: The Nebraska defensive line was expected to be one of the strengths of the team's defense, yet Freeman mercilessly shredded them. The senior pounded the Blackshirts for 153 yards on 29 carries (5.3 yard average), punching the ball into the end zone twice. And while Freeman still shows himself to be a one-dimensional interior back, watching him against Nebraska makes me believe Freeman could play in a zone-running scheme.

Uchenna Nwosu/LB/USC: The senior linebacker is someone I’ve enjoyed watching the past three years and while Nwosu may not be the fastest athlete, he is a good football player. He was a force against Stanford, making several outstanding plays in pursuit while also looking strong on the blitz. In my opinion Nwosu is severely underrated in the scouting community, as most feel he’s a last-round pick. We’ve stamped him as a fifth-round prospect, and in many ways he reminds me of former Trojan Devon Kennard, a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants in 2014 who is now entering his fourth season in the league.

Jaylen Smith/WR/Louisville: While many were understandably infatuated with the performance of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, his top receiver showed tremendous next-level ability. Smith finished with nine catches for 183 yards and one touchdown and did much of that damage against North Carolina's M.J. Stewart, rated by several scouts as the top senior cornerback prospect in the nation. Smith showed deep speed, reliable hands and overall pass-catching skills. Coming into the season we graded the junior, who measures around 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, as a sixth-round prospect but he’s obviously out to prove us wrong.

Chris Brown/G/USC: With apologies to Chris Brown, we did not even grade the guard during our USC preview, but there was good reason. Brown, a redshirt junior, started just three games the prior two years before moving in with the first team on a full-time basis this season. Brown announced his arrival with a dominant performance, setting the tone early by making several important blocks to spring running back Ronald Jones, who also performed brilliantly. Brown also stood out in pass protection, allowing quarterback Sam Darnold to patiently sit in the pocket. Brown has next-level size and showed plenty of NFL blocking skills.

Small School Prospect - Dallas Goedert/TE/South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits have a pair of pass catchers highly rated in the scouting community, but two games into the season it’s Goedert that’s come out on top. The senior put up gaudy numbers during the victory over Montana State, catching 11 passes for 132 yards. Goedert offers next-level size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds), speed (4.7s 40) and pass-catching skills. He’s a complete player for the next level with a three-down game. Expect Goedert to make an appearance in one of the all-important postseason All-Star games next January.

Sliders

Jaylon Ferguson/DE/Louisiana Tech: There is talk in some scouting sectors of Ferguson deserving first-round mention. As a sophomore in 2016, the athletic defender posted 16 tackles for loss as well as 14.5 sacks. The prior year his numbers included 15 tackles for loss. Against Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State on Saturday, the numbers were just four tackles and one quarterback hurry. Ferguson had some success getting upfield pressure when stunting or gaming up front, but anytime Rankin got his hands on him it was game over.

M.J. Stewart/CB/North Carolina: Stewart was victimized numerous times during the Tar Heels' loss to Louisville, including getting burnt on 75-yard touchdown pass to Louisville receiver Jaylen Smith. On that pass, Stewart was slow out of his transition and lost badly in a foot race against Smith. It must be noted that Stewart was graded by a number of scouts as the top senior cornerback prospect in the nation.