by J. T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Each week during the 2023 college football season, Draft 412 will take a look at six players who helped their draft stock with solid performances. As the season progresses, Draft 412 will start to zoom in on first round talent.
Here is the six pack from this past week:
Washington - QB - Michael Penix Jr.
Michael Penix Jr., depending on the scouting reports, is on the fringe of the first round bubble. But this past week, he helped himself with a big game in his season debut, a 56-19 win over Boise State.
Penix Jr. hit receivers all over the field and with precise ball placement, ending the day 29-40 for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns. His deep balls had touch and he once again showed the ability to move and throw outside the pocket. Draft 412 will keep a close eye on Penix Jr. as the competition will get stiffer featuring 4 games against ranked opponents down the stretch.
Utah - Edge - Jonah Elliss
NFL Draftniks—please meet Jonah Elliss. Against the Florida Gators, Elliss had 4 tackles and 2 sacks in hot pursuit of Gators starting QB Graham Mertz all night. Elliss, a 6’2” 246 lb. edge rusher, was a game changer and impressed throughout the contest.
In 2022, he had 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, and Draft 412 thinks if he plays like he did in week 1, a double digit sack season is within his grasp.
Florida State - WR - Keon Coleman
Keon Coleman was not listed as one of Draft 412’s top receivers before the season, but that is about to change. The 6’4” transfer from Michigan State was a nightmare all game long for the LSU defensive backs. He finished the game with 9 receptions for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns and did it several different ways.
He has electric speed and knows how to use his frame to win 50/50 battles. With Jordan Travis throwing the ball, Keon Coleman should keep producing and become a household name by season’s end.
Colorado - QB - Shedeur Sanders
Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes stole the headlines in week one with their 45-42 win over #17 TCU. Deion’s son Shedeur Sanders followed “Prime Time” from Jackson State and in his first game, he proved some of the naysayers wrong, claiming his stats were a product of Jackson State and their quirky offense.
Sanders threw for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns, going 38-47 in the process against a Big XII defense. The 6’2” 215 lb. quarterback was accurate and showed pocket presence in their upset victory. Colorado and Sanders are worth watching the rest of the season to see if both are for real or if game one was just an aberration.
Duke - QB - Riley Leonard
If it wasn’t for Colorado, Duke may be the biggest story of week 1 after a 28-7 thrashing of #9 Clemson. Quarterback Riley Leonard may be a fast riser after his performance against a talented Clemson defense. Though his passing numbers may not have jumped off the statsheet (17-33, 175 yards, 0 touchdowns), he showed poise and mobility and had 98 yards on the ground, including a 44-yard touchdown run. The Tigers' defense is loaded with future NFL players and Leonard checked all boxes in the upset win.
Colorado - DB/WR - Travis Hunter
It only makes sense that Deion Sanders is coaching the best two-way player we have seen in some time in Travis Hunter. Considered by most as the #1 prospect in the country, Hunter committed to Florida State only to flip his commitment to play with Sanders at Jackson State. He followed Sanders to Colorado and in week one he played wide receiver and defensive back, playing a total of 144 snaps. He caught 11 passes for 119 yards and had an interception to go along with 3 tackles. After one week, he received PFF’s highest grade of any Power 5 cornerback. Though he is only a sophomore, Draft 412 will pay attention each week to Hunter, as he will be one of the most interesting draft prospects for 2025.