Though Week 3 on the college football schedule did not include games which would impact the national rankings, it did include several entertaining contests. In the end, we saw several top performances by offensive linemen and wide receivers who will impact the NFL Draft next year, and some disappointing outings from two highly-rated defensive prospects. Here are the Risers & Sliders of Week 3.
Colton McKivitz, T West Virginia: McKivitz is an offensive tackle I have covered with glory since the summer of 2018, and he continues to impress me. During the Mountaineers victory over NC State, McKivitz proved why he will be effective at the next level. Moving to left tackle this season after manning the right side a year ago, McKivitz looked great in pass protection. Additionally, he was powerful as a run blocker and effectively blocked on the second level or in motion. Many scouts are down on McKivitz citing his subpar athleticism, but he is an outstanding blocker who can line up at several offensive line positions at the next level.
Logan Stenberg, G Kentucky: Stenberg is a tough, nasty blocker that’s continually improving his game. He helped hold the Florida Gators sackless during the Wildcats heartbreaking loss on Saturday night. He also helped pave the way for 140 rushing yards by the UK offense. Stenberg is a wide-bodied blocker who plays big boy football. He consistently thrashes opponents and, though not a blocker effective in motion, he has starting potential at the next level in the proper system.
Shaun Bradley, LB Temple: Offensively, Maryland running back Anthony McFarland was the star of the game, but Bradley did the most to help his team win. The stats included 8 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 1 PBU. The timeliness of Bradley’s tackles was critical. Late in the fourth quarter, as Maryland was driving towards the end zone to take the lead, Bradley made a huge tackle on McFarland on a fourth-and-goal to end the drive. I stated over the summer that I believe Bradley is the most underrated linebacker in the nation and a three-down defender in the NFL.
Justin Strnad, LB Wake Forest: Strnad is another three-down defender who does not get the next-level credit he deserves. He stood out in what was a wild victory over conference foe North Carolina, finishing with 15 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack while also breaking up a pass. He’s a terrific run-and-chase linebacker who shows great range and covers a lot of area on the field. Despite being graded as a late-round NFL Draft pick by scouts, I firmly believe Strnad has middle-round talent.
Darrell Stewart, WR Michigan State: Though only 17 points were scored in the game, 14 of which came late in the fourth quarter, the Arizona State vs. Michigan State contest was one of the most enjoyable of the weekend. Stewart stood out, making several terrific catches for the losing side. He finished with 9 receptions for 121 yards, and 5 of those catches resulted in first downs. Stewart is well built, possesses reliable hands, and shows a degree of versatility in his game. He can line up in the slot, on the flanks, or return punts. Despite being graded by scouts as a free agent, he will be good value in the late rounds of next April’s NFL draft.
Taysir Mack, WR Pittsburgh: Pitt lost a close game in what’s expected to be the end of the Penn State rivalry for the near future. The Panthers rushed for just 24 yards, and the offense relied on the passing game where Mack, a junior whom I graded as a 6th round prospect over the summer, really stood out. Mack led all pass-catchers with 12 receptions for 125 yards and came up big for the Panthers on several occasions. He projects well as a fourth receiver/return specialist in the NFL.
Sleeper Prospect- Hakeem Adeniji, T Kansas: Beating Boston College on the road was a major milestone for Kansas, given the miserable state of the football program in recent years. The Jayhawks shredded the usually dependable Boston College defense, and Adeniji did his part. Lining up at left tackle, he blocks with great fundamentals, instincts, and intensity. He also has excellent length and comes with growth potential. While I believe Adeniji’s best position at the next level is at right tackle, he’s better than the late-round grade handed to him by scouts. Adeniji should be a middle-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Small School Prospect- James Robinson, RB Illinois State: Graded as a potential early day three pick by scouts, Robinson lived up to expectations during the Redbirds victory over Eastern Illinois. He finished with 146 yards on 23 carries (6.3 yards per carry) and rushed for 3 TDs. Robinson possesses terrific running back size (5-feet-9.5 inches and 215 pounds), carries the ball with great vision and instincts, and shows the ability to break tackles and create extra yardage. His pass-catching skills and production have been inconsistent, but Robinson projects well as a situational runner at the next level.
Paulson Adebo, CB Stanford: One of the biggest head-to-head matchups between NFL prospects this weekend saw Adebo facing off against Gabriel Davis, the receiver from Central Florida. In the end, Davis won the showdown by a landslide. Adebo was playing back on his heels, looked intimidated, bit on double moves, and was beat badly several times. While some believe Adebo is a first-round talent, I believe that he is a size and speed prospect who needs a lot of work on his game.
AJ Epenesa, DE Iowa: Epenesa is another prospect who is highly graded outside the scouting community, but is someone I have concerns with. During the interstate rivalry against Iowa State, a back-and-forth affair which came down to the last minute, Epenesa finished the contest with just 1 tackle and 1 QB hurry against inferior competition. More telling was the fact that on the final two plays of the game, both obvious passing situations, Iowa coaches decided to drop Epenesa into coverage rather than having him rush the passer.
Tony Pauline is PFN’s lead NFL Draft analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline.