Week 0 of the college football season started the season as we get into the NFL Draft. In this edition of Stock Up, Stock Down & Names to Watch, I will dig into the games I watched and prospects who made an impact or lagged behind. These are only taken from the games I watched for Draft Countdown, but we will discuss even more prospects on our Podcast. If you want to see where I think players are in terms of their overall stock, head over to my Rankings, and if you want more specifics, sent me a tweet @ShanePHallam
Storm Duck, CB, North Carolina
The UNC defense struggled mightily against Florida A&M this week, but Duck was the lone bright spot for the defense. His smooth back pedal and great coverage ability forced the Rattlers to look elsewhere. When Duck was targeted, he played great defense and made some tackles near the line of scrimmage. Though Duck’s strange name will be the focus of his draft stock, he can certainly play.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Our top rated Offensive Tackle for this draft, Skoronski may face more of an uphill climb than it seems. He isn’t a super athlete. His arms are short. But, he was absolutely dominant against Nebraska and showed why so many have him up high. Clean footwork and hand placement with a strong upper body led to numerous holes being opened for the Northwestern RBs. Though his future could be inside at Guard, handling legit players like Nebraska’s Ochaun Mathis pave the way for a bright NFL future for Skoronski.
Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
Though Downs left the game left with a knee injury, he picked up where he left off last season. Releasing cleanly on routes to do some damage after the catch on quick passes is his bread and butter. New UNC QB Drake Maye was able to get the ball in Downs’ hands often to tear up the Rattlers defense. If his knee injury isn’t too bad, Downs should flash why he is viewed by many as a first round pick in 2023.
Casey Thompson, QB, Nebraska
The former Texas QB had his fans going into this season for the Cornhuskers. Many thought Thompson could flash draftable ability and find his way into the NFL. Despite a few early flashes (including one crazy escape and throw) Thompson melted down late in the game and Nebraska couldn’t keep pace. He simply doesn’t have the chops to be an NFL back-up and it could be rough going for the Nebraska offense the rest of the season.
Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina
Grimes exited the game with an upper body injury very early, so there wasn’t much to see from him. A potential Top 50 selection, if Grimes can come back healthy, he can wipe any stock down an injury could give him. Heck, the poor play of the rest of the Tarheel defense after Grimes left could be a benefit to show how much he means to the squad. The next few weeks will be key for his draft stock, and with the uncertainty, UNC is only a 0.5 point favorite against Appalachian State this week.
Names To Know
Chase Brown, RB, Illinois
One of my favorite RBs of the 2023 class, Brown is a size/speed monster. He flashed NFL ability last season for the Illini and tore it up again on the ground against Wyoming. Illinois will be formidable all season in the run game due to Brown and a seasoned offensive line, so get to know his name. With continued Big Ten success along with great offseason workouts, Brown is a Top 100 possibility.
Northwestern RB duo (Evan Hull & Cam Porter)
Northwestern slashed Nebraska this week with help from their RBs in Hull and Porter. Both looked pretty formidable (with some help from their offensive lines) and explosive. Though neither has been thought of as a big time NFL player, that could change. Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best coaches in the country and will lean heavy on this run attack moving forward.
Xavier Smith, WR, Florida A&M
Though my disappointment was immense with Florida A&M LB Isaiah Land being ineligible for this game against North Carolina, one Rattler stood out on offense in Smith. The small shifty WR found openings throughout the game to take the ball and pick up some big yardage. Though he may never climb to be a draftable prospect, Smith may have an NFL future.
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