Week 5 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Week 5 on the college schedule saw a number of terrific performances by next-level prospects despite being on the losing side of the scoreboard. We really saw some fine play from next-level defenders while another highly rated quarterback disappointed scouts. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 5.

Duke Ejiofor/DE/Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons suffered a devastating loss to Florida State in the games waning moments, yet despite the final score Ejiofor looked every bit the second-day prospect we pegged him to be in August. He was double- and sometimes triple-teamed by Seminoles blockers yet finished with eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack as well as a forced fumble and quarterback hurry. He’s an athletic pass rusher with quick change-of-direction skills and the ability to make plays in space. Ejiofor must improve his run-stopping strength, but that should come in time.  Expect to hear his name as a potential fast riser in the lead up to the 2018 draft.

Roquan Smith/LB/Georgia: The Bulldogs are 5-0 and the class of the SEC East. They have dominated opponents with defense, and the UGA linebackers have led the way. Smith is the leader of the linebacker unit and once again displayed next-level ability during Saturday's 41-0 victory over Tennessee. Smith led all defenders with 11 tackles, the third time in five games he led the Bulldogs in this category. Smith is a tough, smart linebacker who stacks well against the run. He shows a great head for the ball and makes plays in the box as well as out in space. Measuring right around 6-foot and 225 pounds, he’s a run-and-chase linebacker who’ll add value on special teams at the next level.

Javaris Davis/CB/Auburn: The Tigers line up five potential NFL prospects in their secondary, but none come with the upside and potential of Davis. The redshirt sophomore is a feisty corner with terrific ball skills. He aggressively defends the run while also showing the ability to shut down opposing receivers. His numbers during the blowout victory over Mississippi State included three tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. It’s getting to the point where opposing quarterbacks are purposely throwing away from Davis. Entering the season I stamped him as a third-round pick, but the argument can be made Davis is establishing himself as a top-60 selection.

Jordan Chunn/RB/Troy: The only thing more shocking than Troy’s victory over LSU in Death Valley was the way they accomplished it -- with 191 rushing yards by Chunn. The power back carried the ball 30 times, running through and over LSU defenders. Graded as a late seventh-round pick by many scouts, Chunn is a classic downhill ball carrier who will do well in a power running offense or as a short yardage back.

Davon Grayson/WR/East Carolina: It’s tough to claim any player on a 1-4 team is rising up draft boards, especially off a 30-point loss, but an exception must be made for Grayson. Against South Florida he caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown following a dominant 11-catch, 223-yard, three-score performance during the victory over UConn. Grayson looked like a mid-round pick off the 2015 film before being shelved last year with a back injury. He’s slowly rounding into form and looks every bit a fourth or fifth receiver for the next level.

Adam Breneman/TE/UMass: Breneman is another rising NFL prospect on a losing squad -- the Minutemen have played six games since late August and have lost them all. During those half-dozen games, Breneman caught 36 passes for 500 yards (13.9 yard average). Against Ohio this weekend he registered 12 catches, 131 receiving yards and two TDs. Scouts graded Breneman, who transferred to UMass from Penn State, as a low-level free agent entering the season. His lack of perceived speed is a concern, as most scouts pegged him as a 4.8s tight end. Despite preseason opinions, Breneman’s production this season is turning the tide in his favor.

Sleeper Prospect - KeeSean Johnson/WR/Fresno State: Entering the season, Bulldogs senior Da'Mari Scott was the receiver scouts graded yet it’s junior KeeSean Johnson making most of the noise during the early part of the campaign. In four games this season, Johnson has 26 receptions, 330 receiving yards and three TDs. His pass-catching numbers over the past three games have been impressive and include seven receptions against Nevada, four against Washington and eight against Alabama. Johnson is not a vertical receiver; rather he's a nice sized possession wideout with potential in a west coast or conventional offense.

Small School Prospect - Elijah Marks/WR/Northern Arizona: Scouts graded two receivers from the NAU program, Emmanuel Butler and Elijah Marks, entering the season. Butler, whose year was cut short after just two games with a shoulder injury, was graded as a mid-round prospect, yet Marks is considered by scouts as the better long-term prospect. The fleet-footed receiver, who reportedly times the 40 in the 4.3s, set a NAU record this weekend returning a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown against Northern Colorado. He finished the day with seven receptions, 106 receiving yards and a touchdown. Scouts really took notice of Marks during the season opener, when he recorded eight receptions for 140 yards against Arizona. His speed and game-breaking ability as well as the versatility to line up at receiver and return kicks will be very attractive to NFL general managers next April.

Sliders

Clayton Thorson/QB/Northwestern: Thorson is just the latest highly rated underclassman quarterback to disappoint this season. After being badly outplayed by Daniel Jones of Duke during the second game of the season, Thorson looked terrible in the early part of the Wildcats' loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.  Though he finished up strong as Northwestern tried to mount a furious comeback down by 21 points with 10 minutes left, Thorson ended the game with two interceptions and numerous poor throws. Most disturbing was his inability to accurately place throws and forcing receivers, some wide open, to adjust to errant passes which resulted in a loss of opportunity for yards after the catch or passes which went incomplete.

Oren Burks/LB/Vanderbilt: Burks was stamped as a potential third-round pick entering the season but hasn't really lived up to expectations. Burks has 37 tackles in five games but what struck me most over the past two games, losses to Florida and Alabama, is his inability to get off blocks. Burks makes the play when he has a free path to the ball carrier but once an opponent gets their hands on him, it’s game over.