Five under-the-radar 2023 NFL Draft prospects to watch in Week 3

Week 1 featured a ton of wild finishes. Week 2 followed with three top 10 teams going down. Who knows what Week 3 is going to have in store, especially with some great clashes between 2023 NFL draft prospects on the docket.

If you missed out on Week 2 and want to get caught up on some stock watch for draft prospects, I wrote about my takeaways here.

Unfortunately, like every week, some of the games we want to watch are going to be at the same time, so break out the tablet or set your DVR if you want to watch all of the amazing action from this weekend.

Each week, I like to highlight a few of the draft-eligible players I am most excited to watch this weekend. Sure, I am looking forward to seeing C.J. Stroud against a Toledo team he struggled with in 2021 and Tyler Van Dyke against a really talented Texas A&M defense, but those are the types of prospects most people already know to watch anyway.

What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. Many of these players fans of college football have likely heard of. However, these are not the guys you will likely see in a first-round mock draft at this point. So rather than just tell people to watch the games they already know to turn on, let’s take a look at some players who might not be household names yet, but could very well be Top 100 players at the end of the season.

Aidan O’Connell, QB, Purdue
Year: 6th-year senior
Opponent: at Syracuse (Saturday at 12 pm ET on ESPN2)

One of the more seasoned passers in this class, O’Connell is, like many others, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility thanks to COVID. The former walk-on has pushed himself into the NFL conversation in a deep quarterback class. He put up big numbers to open the season against Penn State, but completed just north of 50 percent of his passes. He torched Indiana State a week ago, but now he needs to show he can be more efficient against Power 5 competition. Syracuse’s defense made life miserable for Malik Cunningham already this season. This is a sneaky good chance for O’Connell to prove himself.

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
Year: 4th-year junior
Opponent: at #25 Oregon (Saturday at 3:30 pm on FOX)

There are few offensive linemen in this draft class who are as experienced as Freeland. He took over at right tackle in 2019 as a true freshman and started the final seven games of the year. He worked his way over to the left side by 2021 and started all 13 games. Saturday will be the 31st start of his collegiate career. He is massive at 6’8″ and has a track and field background. That combination of size and athleticism is enticing. He should get a good test from an Oregon defense loaded with NFL talent. I’m hoping he will get a good number of snaps against Brandon Dolrus. That should be a really fun matchup to watch.

Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn
Year: 3rd-year junior
Opponent: vs. #24 Penn State (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on CBS)
Meet the latest Auburn running back to catch the attention of NFL scouts. Bigsby is an incredibly elusive runner who is a menace in the open field. His change of direction is impressive. He has put up solid numbers so far, but he will get a big step up in competition this weekend when Penn State comes to visit. The Nittany Lions have a much tougher defense than Mercer or San Jose State. This is the type of game where he will need to stand out and show he can be a threat on the ground and in the passing game. Penn State has held opponents to just 80 yards per game rushing so far.

Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
Year: 3rd-year sophomore
Opponent: at #24 Texas A&M (Saturday at 9 pm ET on ESPN)

I am cheating a little bit with this one. Most mock drafts you read will not have Mesidor as a first-round prospect. Mine do though. I put on Mesidor’s tape over the summer. I was actually watching Oklahoma vs. West Virginia (Mesidor transferred to Miami this year) to check out the Sooners’ offensive line. Mesidor ended up being the guy I was watching more than anyone else by the end of the game. With the Hurricanes, he got his season off to a great start against Bethune Cookman, with a sack and a batted pass at the line that led to a pick-six. He missed last week’s game against Southern Miss, but now he is back and ready for the huge stage that will come with playing Texas A&M. My guess is he will be on everyone’s radar by Sunday morning.

Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
Year: 5th-year senior
Opponent: at #7 USC (Saturday at 10:30 pm on FOX)

This is shaping up to be a really interesting quarterback class. One of the players still looking to crash the party is Haener. He started his career at Washington before transferring to Fresno State in 2019. He hasn’t lit the world on fire so far this year, but his completion percentage has taken a big jump so far this season, up to 74.7 from 67.1 from a year ago. After facing Cal Poly and Oregon State to open the season, USC will be a much bigger test. The Trojans defense is far from elite, but a nationally televised game against a top-10 opponent is the perfect stage for Haener to prove himself. He needs a big performance to prove to scouts that he is ready to be an NFL quarterback. He will be 24-years-old by the time the 2023 NFL draft rolls around, so he will not have as much leeway as some younger prospects.

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