College football’s second full roster is in the books, and it’s time to see which players helped and hurt their NFL draft stock in this week’s Risers and Sliders. Last weekend saw some exciting finishes and upsets. He also saw a few skill position players who led their teams to thrilling victories increase their draft stock in the process. So that’s where this week’s list begins.
Big board lifts 2023
Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
I wrote enthusiastically about Cedric Tillman over the summer during my overview of volunteer perspectives. And if that pace continues, the primary receiver will take a big step up the draft boards. In Saturday’s overtime win over Pittsburgh, Tillman led all pass catchers with 9 receptions for 162 yards and scored a touchdown. He’s a fast big receiver, standing 6-foot-3 and over 210 pounds while clocking 4.4 seconds in the forty and playing even faster. If Tillman keeps up that pace, he’ll be selected earlier than former Tennessee wide receiver Alontae Taylor, the 49th selection in last April’s draft.
Cameroonian Peoples, RB, Appalachian State
Earlier this year, there were rumors that Cameron Peoples would enter the 2022 NFL Draft, but he decided to return for his senior season. He is now taking advantage of the opportunity this year. On Saturday, Peoples was a catalyst in Appalachia State’s upset victory over Texas A&M. The gritty running back finished with 112 yards on 19 carries and posted more rushing yards than the entire Texas A&M team. Peoples is a 225-pound ball carrier who charges hard with sneaky speed and a big burst. He hits hard and is hard to stop. His pass-grabbing ability leaves a lot to be desired, as Peoples has just seven career college receptions. Either way, his ability to pick up tough yardage or beat defenders in the open field could push him into day two of the draft next April.
Shaka Heyward, LB, Duke
The Blue Devils created something of an upset, hanging on to beat Northwestern 31-23. Duke was in control for the most part as Northwestern constantly played from behind. Shaka Heyward had a terrific game with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and three pass breakups. The productive three-year-old starter boasts a solid height at 6-foot-2.5, 230 pounds and exceptional football intelligence. He’s productive playing in space and will be a great late round pick who can make the roster as an eighth linebacker/special teams player.
Kenderick Duncan, S/OLB, Louisville
Over the past three years, Kenderick Duncan has been one of my favorite under-the-radar players, and he shone against Central Florida. In the Cardinals’ win, Duncan led all defensemen with 13 tackles. He’s a 215-pound safety with excellent coverage skills between the numbers. Duncan, listed as a fifth-round pick on my roster, can be used as a zone safety and can even be watched by an outside linebacker.
Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
The Razorbacks came out and hammered South Carolina, rolling on the Gamecocks defense for 295 yards en route to victory. Ricky Stromberg led the way for a lot of that, proving he’s a tough and smart blocker. Stromberg did a terrific job of opening up the middle of the line, sealing defenders out of action and protecting his mobile quarterback. He’s a big blocker on the pivot at 6-foot-3.5 and 315 pounds, but truth be told, a little stiff. I’ve had a draft grade on Stromberg the past two seasons and I think he has starting potential in a power gap offense.
Keondre Coburn, DT, TX
The Longhorns lost a heartbreaker to Alabama in the closing seconds, even though the UT defense held the Crimson Tide in check for most of the game. And for much of it, Keondre Coburn was the dominant force up front for Texas. His meager three tackles don’t tell the story, as Coburn was constantly double-teamed front and center of the tides. Coburn is an athletic lineman with enough motor skills to be considered at the technical three-pointer, but the size to hold his own on the nose. He needs to condition better, but Coburn is close to breaking through the third round.
Tyler Lacy, DL, Oklahoma State
Tyler Lacy is a player I gloated about over the summer, mentioning that I didn’t understand how scouts thought he was anything more than a late-round prospect. Obviously, Lacy isn’t happy with the levity either. He was unstoppable against Arizona State, posting five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. More than that, Lacy was a disruptive nuisance and had to be considered with every shot. Lacy is fast, super explosive and very intense. He easily moves his 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame around the field and comes with scheme versatility. Although I currently have a fifth year on Lacy, a big move up the drafting boards could be in sight.
Andre Carter, DE, Army
Army lost two close games early in the season, most recently coming up short against UTSA in overtime. Yet their top-tier prospect, a player who will be the best to come out of any military academy in decades, is off to a fast start. Andre Carter finished Saturday’s contest with four tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and a QB hit. Carter was able to accomplish his feats despite UTSA continuing to roll wards in his path to prevent him from disrupting the action. The eldest is a tall (6-foot-6) athletic defensive lineman with growth potential and is currently considered a second-day prospect. Expect Carter to be very active in the playoffs at the Senior or Shrine Bowl as well as the Combine.
Sleeping Hope: Andre Sam, S, Marshall
For the past two seasons, I’ve had Andre Sam as a potential late-round pick based on his play for McNeese State. In fact, I spoke with several scouts about his next-level potential in last year’s Shrine Bowl, but didn’t get great feedback. Sam has been transferred to Marshall and plays like he wants to silence the doubters.
He had a terrific outing in the Herds’ upset victory over Notre Dame at South Bend, totaling 10 tackles and breaking up a pass. Most impressive was how Sam led high school, stayed in the system, and showed great discipline – all while making plays. His 40-yard rush time will determine whether or not Sam is selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, but rest assured he will be at an NFL camp competing for a job next summer.
Little School Sleeper: Tim DeMorat, QB, Fordham
The Rams largely upset Tim DeMorat’s arm, beating CAA member Monmouth 52-49. DeMorat completed 34 of 51 passes for 452 yards with six touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions.
The previous week against Wagner, DeMorat had 386 passing yards and five touchdowns in a win. DeMorat is a good-sized, strong passer with the ability to make all the throws that have been overlooked in the Scouting community. He has the physical skills to compete for a job at camp next summer.
2023 Big Board Sliders
Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College
There’s a lot of love for Phil Jurkovec inside and outside the scouting community, with some believing the Boston College quarterback to be a second-day prospect. Think of me as someone who’s always been an unbeliever. While Jurkovec has the size, arm strength and athleticism to play on Sunday, his passing accuracy and placement leave a lot to be desired.
In Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech, the second in two weeks for Boston College, Jurkovec completed 16 of 29 passes for just 144 yards with both a touchdown and an interception. Jurkovec works open receivers too hard to come away with the reception, which ends in missed opportunity after missed opportunity for the offense.