Week 3 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The third week on the college football schedule saw another dominant performance by the Clemson defense and its talented front four. We also saw standout performances by two linebacker prospects as well as the continued momentum of Nick Fitzgerald’s draft grade. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 3.

Risers

Malik Jefferson/LB/Texas: Many labeled Jefferson as a first-round prospect entering the season, and he proved worthy of that grade against USC. The statistics for Jefferson read 11 tackles, two for loss, in the Longhorns' double-overtime loss to the Trojans, yet the numbers tell a fraction of the story. Pressured applied all evening by Jefferson helped contain the otherwise explosive Trojans offense. He had quarterback Sam Darnold playing back on his heels and looking for pass rushers as much as he was looking for pass receivers. In the end Darnold prevailed, but Jefferson’s complete performance against the Trojans forced scouts to take notice.

Micah Kiser/LB/Virginia: Kiser is a linebacker I enjoyed scouting in recent years despite some very poor seasons for his team. Though the Cavaliers were consistently outmatched, Kiser could be seen making plays sideline to sideline all game. The tide seems to be turning in his favor, and Kiser has received third-round grades in some areas of the scouting community. During this week's victory over UConn, the senior led the Cavaliers with 15 tackles, two for loss, and two sacks while also forcing a fumble. He’s an explosive linebacker who plays with top instincts and a non-stop motor. More of a two-down defender, he’ll be a demon in the inside of a 3-4 alignment.

Nick Fitzgerald/QB/Mississippi State: On the heels of our report last Tuesday that Fitzgerald is expected to enter the draft off a good season, the junior passer responded with a terrific performance against LSU. The quarterback threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 23 passing. He also added 88 yards rushing and two more scores during the 37-7 blowout victory. While the passing totals were nothing out of the ordinary, Fitzgerald’s decision making, ball security and pass selection were flawless. His ability to run with the ball is proof of the athleticism possessed by the big-armed signal caller and Fitzgerald is watching his draft stock take off.

Rashaad Penny/RB/San Diego State: Much has been written about Penny the past few weeks, and the praise thrown his way is justified. I chose to hold off until after the Stanford game, as it would be the Aztecs' biggest test this season, something we mentioned in our matchup preview. Penny helped carry the Aztecs to a passing grade finishing with 175 rushing yards on 32 carries (5.5 yard average) and a touchdown. He also added five receptions for 32 yards. Taking over as the primary ball carrier at SDSU, Penny has displayed the skills necessary to be a feature runner and three-down back on Sunday. Given middle-round grades entering the season, Penny is moving into the draft’s second day.

Anthony Miller/WR-RS/Memphis: Miller gave serious consideration on entering last April’s draft but decided to return to Memphis for another season. It looks as though he made the correct choice. The senior had a dominant performance against UCLA, catching nine passes for 185 yards (20.6 yard average) with two touchdowns. Miller has always been a bigtime performer and totaled 95 receptions, 1,434 receiving yards and 14 TDs last season. With Temple not on the schedule, the Bruins may just be the toughest secondary Miller faces during the regular season. Measuring 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, 40 times during predraft workouts will ultimately determine how high he’s selected next April.

Darren Carrington/WR/Utah: Carrington’s preseason woes were well-documented, as the receiver was forced to transfer from Oregon after being arrested and charged with a DUI in July. Thus far Carrington has been getting his revenge on the field. Three games into the season, he’s totaled 27 receptions while posting more than 100 yards receiving in each of those contests. Most recently he torched San Jose State, a team that lines up three NFL prospects in the secondary, for nine catches, 153 yards and three TDs. Graded as a last-day pick entering the season, Carrington has next level size (6-foot-2.5 inches and 200 pounds) and reliable hands and only needs to run well (under 4.5s) prior to the draft to get top-100 consideration, assuming there are no more character red flags.

Sleeper Prospect - Jeff Wilson/RB/North Texas: In the past 22 drafts UNT has had just a single player selected, but I expect that to change in 2018. Wilson, stamped as a middle-round choice entering the season, performed well against Iowa, whose run defense ranks in the top half of the Big Ten. His final numbers included 95 yards on 12 carries as well as five receptions. Wilson doesn’t fit as a true feature ball carrier at the next level but has enough ability to fill a role as a rotational running back.

Small School Prospect - Skyler Phillips/G/Idaho: When you think about NFL players from Idaho State, the name Jared Allen immediately comes to mind. Skyler Phillips could be the first Bengal since Allen to be selected in the draft, as the big blocker has been stamped as a fourth-round prospect by scouts. He’s a wide-bodied lineman with the power to remove defenders from the action as well as the girth to engulf them completely. His blocking helped pave the way for 218 rushing yards during last weekend's upset victory over Nevada. Phillips has the style and substance to line up as a first teamer in a power-running offense on Sundays.

Sliders

Josh Allen/QB/Wyoming: Time to man up. I’ve been on the Allen bandwagon since last December, long before the hype train began. I’ve stated numerous times I believe he’s the best quarterback prospect in the nation and will be a terrific pro. And while I haven't waivered on the latter, there’s no denying that his performances this year have not been good and have created questions that must be answered. Several factors that have been going against Allen this season are the graduation of three pass catchers responsible for 72 percent of his passing yardage from a year ago to the NFL, the early entry into the draft by Brian Hill -- who accounted for 58.5 percent -- of the Cowboys' rushing yardage a year ago and suspect play calling this year. But the bottom line is that Allen was not good against Iowa and was atrocious against Oregon. There’s plenty of season left and no reason to stamp final grades on any player at this point, but this much is certain -- Allen must quickly turn it around. For those keeping score, I was told New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan attended the game Oregon-Wyoming game.

Max Browne/QB/Pittsburgh: There was a time three years ago when many at USC felt Max Browne should’ve been lining up under center rather than Cody Kessler. When Browne got the call in 2016 he failed miserably, was replaced by Sam Darnold and eventually transferred to Pittsburgh. It’s déjà vu all over again in 2017, as Brown was benched during Saturday’s debacle against Oklahoma State thanks to an inability to move the Panthers offense. Browne just couldn’t make the passes, missed wide-open receivers and had senior Jester Weah wide open in the deep field waiting for a touchdown pass that never landed near him.