by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics.
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:
Oklahoma- QB- Dillon Gabriel
The former UCF quarterback had a decent year in Norman last year with 3,168 yards and 25 touchdowns, and the 5th-year senior is off to an even better start in 2023. This past week against Tulane, he went 28-31 for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns. He threw an interception but completed 90.3% of his passes.
On the year Gabriel has thrown for 905 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with his 1 interception, completing 82.5% of his passes and leads all Big 12 quarterbacks in QBR.
Gabriel is only 6’0” tall and though he has had a stellar college career at UCF (and now at Oklahoma), his ceiling will most likely be a late round draft pick or a UDFA who can hook on as a possible backup for an NFL team.
Kansas- RB- Devin Neal
Devin Neal, coming off a 1,090 yard season for the Jayhawks, is quickly establishing himself as one of the best running backs in the Big 12. This week against Nevada, he had 89 yards on 17 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. He also caught a pass for 59 yards, demonstrating an ability to be productive in the passing game. So far this season, Neal has run the ball 40 times for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns. The 5’11” junior is starting to ascend up draft boards and has a chance to be a rotational back in a running back committee in the NFL.
LSU- WR- Malik Nabers
Draft 412 knew it would only be a matter of time before fans and draftniks alike would have something to cheer about with Malik Nabers. Nabers hauled in 13 passes this past week, for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns against Mississippi State.
In 3 games this season, Nabers already has 24 catches for 393 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is one of the best receivers eligible for the 2024 draft class, and if not for Marvin Harrison Jr. of Ohio State, he could be the #1 wide receiver off the board. The 6’0” receiver can do it all, with the ability to beat an opponent in zone, one-on-one or over the top.
North Carolina- WR- Nate McCollum
Nate McCollum, a transfer from Georgia Tech, never had a chance to put up huge numbers in his 3 years as a Yellow Jackets receiver. After only hauling in 1 pass in his first two games, Drake Maye hooked up with him 15 times for 165 yards and a touchdown vs. Minnesota.
The diminutive McCollum (5’9”) is a quick cutting pass receiver who excels in catch and run situations and will need to show NFL scouts consistency in his play to be considered amongst the many draftable receivers coming out in 2024. Draft 412 looks forward to watching McCollum this week at Acrisure Stadium against the Pitt Panthers.
Illinois- DL- Jer’Zhan Newton
Illinois took on Penn State this past weekend and there were more than a handful of future NFL players on the field. But one that stood out amongst them all was Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton. Though Newton didn’t record a sack, he was in the backfield on every play causing quarterback Drew Allar to scramble or hurry. Newton ended the game with 6 tackles and 7 pressures and was given a 89.8 PFF grade against a quality Penn State offensive line. Newton has potential first round ability.
South Florida- CB- Daquan Evans
What is a good way to get yourself on the radar of NFL scouts? How about 3 sacks against the Alabama Crimson tide?
Daquan Evans had a masterful game on Saturday as USF pushed Alabama to the brink but lost in a close battle. He was all over the field, adding 8 tackles and 7 quarterback pressures.
The cornerback who lost most of his 2022 season due to injuries is now a prospect to watch in 2023. He had a big 2020 season for USF picking off 3 passes and returning one for a touchdown while chipping in 28 tackles. The 5th-year senior will have Draft 412 scouting him the rest of the season to see how he grades out for the 2024 draft.