What will Week 2 of the 2023 college football season bring for the ACC’s top 2024 NFL Draft prospects? While the Week 2 slate won’t quite match the action-packed Week 1 schedule that was, there are still quite a few teams with compelling tests on the horizon.
ACC Players To Watch in Week 2
Miami S Kamren Kinchens and DT Leonard Taylor III
The Miami Hurricanes lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-9 in September of the 2022 campaign. Now, with a re-loaded roster and newfound confidence, they’re eyeing revenge in a game stocked with 2024 NFL Draft talent.
Safety Kamren Kinchens and defensive tackle Leonard Taylor III are the Hurricanes’ highest-rated prospects, and they’ll each have tough tests in store. The Aggies’ interior line has an athletic, well-leveraged center in Bryce Foster and a heavy-handed, powerful guard in Layden Robinson.
Meanwhile, Kinchens’ coverage instincts and mobility will be challenged by Ainias Smith’s hyperactive athleticism, separation, freedom, and Moose Muhammad’s rare ability at the catch point.
The Aggies appear to have a more dynamic passing game this year with Conner Weigman at the helm. Kinchens’ playmaking range will be key in putting a lid on it.
Elsewhere, other prospect matchups bear noting as well. One of the more underrated ones is Aggies tackle Reuben Fatheree II against Hurricanes edge rusher Jahfari Harvey.
Harvey — who stands around 6’4″, 252 pounds — racked up 5.5 sacks and seven TFLs in 2022, and he kicked off the 2023 campaign with a sack in Week 1. He’s still fleshing out his pass-rushing arsenal to this day, but his blend of initial burst, bend, and hand strength is impressive.
He goes up against an equally impressive force in Fatheree, however, who’s a surprisingly light-footed athlete at 6’8″, 330 pounds, with good knee bend and active hands.
On the other side of the trenches, Miami’s Matthew Lee and Javion Cohen will go up against an energized nose tackle in McKinnley Jackson. And the Aggies will need all of their future NFL DBs — Tony Grimes, Tyreek Chappell, and Josh DeBerry — to slow down the 6’5″, 215-pound Colbie Young, who’s emerged as an explosive playmaking force.
A lot of words have been written about the Miami-Texas A&M matchup — all this to say: The encore should be much better than the 2022 contest, and it’ll be complete with dozens of total 2024 NFL Draft prospects.
Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson
The top individual prospect matchup in the ACC for the Week 2 slate belongs to Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson. Carson carries a Top 25 grade on my early 2024 NFL Draft board, and he’ll be going up against another early-round prospect in Vanderbilt WR Will Sheppard.
Sheppard’s Commodores played in Week 0, so they have two games under their belt. In both games, Sheppard had six catches, over 60 yards, and two scores. Through two contests, he’s up to 12 catches for 140 yards and four touchdowns. He’s a chain-mover who’s equally tough to slow down in the red zone with his surgical separation ability and catching instincts at 6’3″, 200 pounds.
Sheppard is unique with his fluidity as a route runner, and he’s explosive out of stems, too. But Carson is his most imposing adversary yet. At around 6’0″, 200 pounds, Carson has good play strength and exceptional proportional length. And with his frame, he shows off fleet-footed mobility, energetic corrective twitch, good closing burst, and stifling physicality.
Beyond having the athleticism, play pace, length, and physicality to envelop Sheppard, Carson also has great technique and tempo freedom. All the factors point to Carson holding his own, and if he can match Sheppard’s accelerative capacity and limit his production, it could be a big moment of stock solidification.
North Carolina QB Drake Maye
Drake Maye’s matchup with Appalachian State in Week 2 isn’t as enthralling as his debut against SEC competition. But seeing that he’s a potential No. 1 overall pick, eyes should be on Maye every week. He got off to a good start in Week 1, completing 75% of his passes and finding the end zone twice, and the film was even more impressive than the stat line.
The areas for emphasis for Maye in Week 2? More consistent situational ball placement. Both of his interceptions in Week 1, more or less, could be attributed to a lack of situational precision. Appalachian State has a ball-hawk FCS transfer in Tyrek Funderburk and a savvy veteran safety in Nick Ross — both of whom could make Maye pay if he’s off the mark in tight spots.
Florida State QB Jordan Travis
All told, Jordan Travis’ showing against LSU was superb. He completed 23 of 31 pass attempts for 342 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception while adding 38 yards and a fifth score on the ground.
That said, there were occasional lapses in mechanics and decision-making — particularly under pressure — including his interception. On that first-down play, Travis tried to force a throw to a screen that was already covered up when he should have simply thrown the ball away.
Travis, with Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson at his disposal, should have no trouble producing against Southern Miss, but those lapses in decision-making — especially when attacking vertically — could land Travis’ throws in the path of safety Jay Stanley, who’s coming off a two-INT, two-PBU 2023 debut.
When attacking downfield, Travis will need to be on time and vigilant. Stanley is one of the more opportunistic defenders in the nation, and he’s a legitimate 2024 NFL Draft sleeper.
Pittsburgh DBs M.J. Devonshire and A.J. Woods
Pittsburgh’s defense is always a unit to watch for under-the-radar 2024 NFL Draft talent, and this year at cornerback, the Panthers have two potential prospects in M.J. Devonshire and A.J. Woods. Woods, a feisty and fleet-footed cover man, had a pick and 13 deflections in 2022, while Devonshire used his speed and route recognition ability to secure three interceptions and two pick-sixes.
In Week 2, the Panthers’ CBs will have their work cut out. Cincinnati is coming off a hot Week 1 showing, in which Emory Jones torched the opposition to the tune of 345 yards and five scores.
Florida transfer Xzavier Henderson — a 6’3″, 200-pound long-striding rocket at WR — racked up 149 yards and a score on seven catches, and the Bearcats also have Aaron Turner — a 5’9″, 180-pound spark who gives some shades of Tre Tucker.
No doubt, the Bearcats will look to keep the pedal to the metal in Week 2. But if Devonshire and Woods have proven themselves to be one thing, it’s opportunistic and disruptive when the ball comes their way.
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