Week 6 of the college football season kicks off on Wednesday, meaning an extra special early edition of 2023 NFL draft prospects to watch this week. As we near the halfway point of the season, which players should you be watching out for as they continue to ascend towards April?
Rashee Rice and Frank Harris Lead NFL Draft Prospects To Watch in Week 6
As always in this 2023 NFL Draft prospect watch, we’ve tried to provide a good mix of offensive and defensive prospects spread out across the hours of action while shining some light on the sleepers in the class rather than repeatedly highlighting the established superstars.
Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
Which wide receiver wearing No. 11 leads all college football pass catchers in yards per game following Week 5 of the CFB season? No, it’s not highly touted Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. With 141.3 yards per game after a series of sensational performances, SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice leads the nation and all potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects.
Rice will face a stern test this week in the rearranged matchup with UCF that should kick off Week 6 in electric and exciting fashion. The Golden Knights’ pass defense ranks 14th in the nation, having only allowed 169.8 yards per game and three total passing touchdowns so far this year. However, they’ve yet to face a threat like Rice — the player, not the C-USA program.
Rice is a smooth-as-silk route runner who can create easy separation with twitchy, deceitful movements. He also has the speed and elusiveness to add after-the-catch yardage. His career-high 16.6 yards per catch speaks to his big-play ability. Meanwhile, Rice’s 6’2″, 203-pound frame gives him an advantage at the catch point where he’s made a number of eye-popping grabs either above or through his opponent.
Anthony Grant, RB, Nebraska
While Nebraska has suffered a torrid start to the season that resulted in the departure of head coach Scott Frost, running back Anthony Grant is thriving in his return to the Power Five level. After featuring predominantly on special teams during his early career at Florida State, the Georgia native spent two seasons at the JUCO level with New Mexico Military Institute where he tallied 2,459 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.
Grant has been equally as productive during his first five games in Lincoln. With 600 rushing yards, he’s already outstripped the Cornhuskers’ leading rusher from their previous two campaigns. Averaging 5.3 yards per carry and over 20 rushes per game, Grant is set to become the first Nebraska RB to amass 1,000 yards since Devine Ozigbo in 2018.
But enough of the numbers, why should you actually watch Grant when Nebraska takes on Rutgers on Friday?
The 5’11”, 200-pound RB is an absolute beast, that’s why. No other running back in the nation has more missed tackles forced. He’s able to achieve this with a dizzying combination of physicality, contact balance, and elusiveness. Grant keeps grinding away even against the most ferocious and physical opposition. The Nebraska RB is tooled to the teeth with the tricks of the trade, stiff arms, spin moves, and jump cuts witnessed week in, week out.
Quindell Johnson, S, Memphis
After an opening day defeat to Mississippi State, Memphis has quietly torn apart the rest of their opponents on their way to a 4-1 start. The defensive effort has been led by impactful safety Quindell Johnson.
Considered one of Memphis’ top draft prospects prior to the season, Johnson has lived up to expectations. He leads the team in tackles and has also snagged multiple interceptions for the third time in his career.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
The 6’1″, 195-pound safety showcases excellent ball skills that he uses to be a dangerous threat at the catch point. Additionally, Johnson hits like a hammer when he comes downhill from the defensive backfield.
With impressive speed and agility that help him to be an enforcer in multiple phases of defense, Johnson should firmly be on the NFL draft radar. His Friday night matchup against Houston will be one of the toughest tests of his season.
Omari Thomas, DT, Tennessee
As the Tennessee Volunteers elevate themselves into the “best of the rest” spot behind Alabama and Georgia in the SEC, it’s becoming rapidly apparent that they will have several prospects that should hear their name called in April.
Much has been made of Hendon Hooker‘s emergence as a potential QB3 in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Byron Young has been making a name for himself on the defensive front with a share of the sack lead. But dig a little beneath the box score, and you’ll find a defensive brute who is quietly the beating heart of the Vols front.
He’s not put up much in the way of production so far this fall, but defensive tackle Omari Thomas has been a key cog — particularly in the ground game. The 6’4″, 320-pound behemoth possesses a potent blend of power and explosion. Additionally, Thomas has the length to regularly shed blocks and impact passing lanes.
Josh Wallace, CB, Massachusetts
Although the University of Massachusetts hasn’t seen a lot of on-field success in recent years, the program has made a habit of providing NFL draft prospects. The last class ended a three-year streak of successive draft selections, but there’s every chance they could return to draft relevance next April with Josh Wallace.
The senior cornerback is one of three players from the program on the Shrine Bowl 1000 Watchlist and has the opportunity to impress against a Liberty team with several highly-rated wide receivers.
Wallace had an extremely productive season as a junior, tallying a team-high 12 pass breakups and 53 tackles. He’s started 2022 in the same vein, with 25 tackles, five pass breakups, and a second career interception through five games.
A former star at a powerhouse high school basketball program, the athleticism that helped Wallace prevail at basketball is evident in the way he plays the CB position. He’s fluid, showcases an impressive backpedal, and can elevate himself to make a play at the catch point.
Frank Harris, QB, UTSA
Meep meep! Watch out, UTSA Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris is coming through as a legitimate contender to the assumed second tier of quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. While Tyler Van Dyke, Devin Leary, and Anthony Richardson‘s campaigns have raised more questions than answers, Harris has been a remarkably consistent leader of the UTSA offense.
Heading into college football Week 6, Harris has thrown for 1,724 yards with a career-high average of 9.1 yards per attempt and is currently third in the nation with 344.8 average passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the dynamic dual-threat has tallied 193 rushing yards and found the end zone four times on the ground. A week 6 matchup against C-USA rivals Western Kentucky should provide Harris ample opportunity to add to his résumé.
Listed at 6’0″ and 205 pounds, there may be some size concerns from the NFL over the UTSA quarterback. However, Harris has many endearing traits that should earn him attention, and ultimately, a selection next April.
The left-handed QB throws a beautiful pass and puts the ball in the basket downfield. He’s accurate and routinely makes good decisions. As a runner, Harris combines elusiveness and toughness to be a difficult proposition to halt.
Trevor Downing, C, Iowa State
Other than a surprise loss to Tulane in Week 3, Kansas State has been one of the most impressive teams in the country this season. While Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn have the offense humming, the defense has been incredibly ferocious. Led by one of the top pass-rush prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft — Felix Anudike-Uzomah — the Wildcats have tallied a sensational 37 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Facing them is an unenviable task, but it also presents the opportunity for draft stock elevation.
In another life, Trevor Downing could have been playing for Kansas State. Instead, he faces off against them on Saturday looking to solidify his NFL draft stock. The Cyclones guard earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season as the ultimate bounce back to an injury-shortened 2020 campaign.
The 6’5″, 305-pound interior lineman made the switch from guard to center for this season, and has been in imperious form as a roadblock for Jirehl Brock and pass protector for Hunter Dekkers. He’s a strong and versatile presence at the heart of the offensive line, with high football intelligence and competitive toughness that sees him work to finish plays with dangerous intent. His experience at both guard spots and at center adds extra value to his 2023 NFL Draft profile.
Tuli Tuipulotu, DT, USC
Under Lincoln Riley, the USC Trojans’ offense has been outstanding. In the hands of the famed quarterback whisperer — and with Caleb Williams the phenomenal talent he’s whispering too — that’s no surprise.
What has been a surprise about the Trojans’ 5-0 start to the 2022 college football campaign is how impressive they’ve been defensively. That starts with the big men up front, and they don’t make much more of a bigger impact than 6’4″, 290-pound defensive tackle Tuli Tuipulotu.
The junior DT — who is the younger brother of former Trojan turned Philadelphia Eagle Marlon Tuipulotu — has been in devastating form early in the season. He leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks, with a forced fumble thrown in for good measure.
The USC defensive lineman combines an explosive first step, speed, and strength to be a disruptive force as a pass rusher and against the run. He plays with a red-hot motor that will test the Washington State offensive line this week.
Jack Browning, P/K, San Diego State
There’s not much of a harder sell in college football Week 6 than two underperforming teams kicking off at 10:30 p.m. ET time. However, there are legitimate draft prospects on show when Hawaii travels to Snapdragon Stadium (incidentally the coolest stadium name in all of sports) to face San Diego State.
Of those, multi-use special-teams weapon Jack Browning has the potential to place himself in consideration for selection next April. Browning was a one-year starter at Grossman College before transferring to the Aztecs ahead of the 2021 season. He saw little action last fall but did score on a fake-punt attempt against the same opponent he faces this week.
This season, Browning’s comfortably been one of San Diego State’s best players, accounting for more points than anyone else on the team. As we witnessed last season with Penn State’s Jordan Stout, multi-use specialists who can punt and kick field goals are highly valued.
Browning is yet to miss a kick this year, nailing 11 extra-point attempts and six field goals. He’s also averaged 43.9 yards a punt with a 64-yard long while dropping almost half his punt attempts inside the 20. The San Diego State special-teams weapon adds kickoff duty to his résumé too, providing maximum versatility.
Rejzohn Wright, CB, Oregon State
The very last game of college football Week 6 gives us the opportunity to get eyes on several 2023 NFL Draft prospects. Oregon State and Stanford have a blend of players on both sides of the ball, but the matchup between Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee and Beavers cornerback Rejzohn Wright has the potential to be electric.
Can Wright become the latest member of his family to hear his name called in the draft following brother Nahshon’s selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 2021?
At this point, Rejzohn is arguably the better — and more highly-rated — prospect of the two brothers. With NFL size at 6’2″ and 191 pounds, Wright also possesses impressive length to impact the catch point. He showcases good speed to go toe-to-toe with some of the best pass catchers that college football has to offer. The Oregon State cornerback also plays with that disturbing physicality that often straddles the line between legal and not. Wright has already matched his career interception total in just five games this fall.
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