Five 2023 NFL Draft prospects with something to prove in Week 5

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 Drew Sanders against Alabama and what happens if Will Levis can take care of the ball against Ole Miss, but those guys are already getting first-round buzz.

What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, it was! I finally have a new name for the players I am highlighting in this column. 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 and still have a lot to prove. So rather than talk about the biggest prospect in the draft, let’s discuss some players with something to prove.

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.

If you missed out on Week 4 and want to get caught up on some stock watch for draft prospects, I wrote about my takeaways here.

Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State
Year: 5th-year senior
Opponent: at #16 Baylor (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX)

Sanders has definitely made a name for himself with his play to this point, but this is still a very deep quarterback class and he is nowhere near the conversation at the top of the draft. At least not yet. If Sanders has any hopes of pushing his stock into first-round territory, he needs to perform against Baylor. In three matchups against the Bears defense since Dave Aranda took over in Waco, Sanders has thrown nine interceptions. Seven of them came in two games last season. If he continues to struggle against Baylor’s defense, typically one of the best in the Big 12, it raises questions about how he will fare at the next level. This is a huge opportunity for Sanders to prove that he is making strides as a passer and deserves some NFL buzz.

Noah Daniels, CB, TCU
Year: 6th-year senior
Opponent: vs. #18 Oklahoma (Saturday at noon ET on ABC)

Daniels is a name that people have probably heard before, but I would argue he is one of the toughest evaluations in this entire draft. He is incredibly talented and plays like a top 50 player. Unfortunately, Saturday against Oklahoma will also be Daniels’ 12th game since 2018. He missed all of 2019 due to injury and was limited to a combined eight games over the past two seasons. Facing an Oklahoma offense that boasts one of the most potent passing attacks in the nation would only make it harder for scouts to ignore his apparent ability in favor of his injury history. Daniels needs to stay on the field and show he is capable of dominating the competition.

Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
Year: 4th-year senior
Opponent: vs. #15 Washington (Friday at 10:30 pm ET on ESPN)
How can a former five-star running back possibly be under the radar? I finally found a new name for these players I want to highlight. Charbonnet is a familiar name to many who have followed Big Ten or Pac-12 football over the past five years. He transferred to UCLA from Michigan before the 2021 season and has excelled with the Bruins. UCLA is one of the quietest 4-0 teams in the country and now Carbonnet will look to stamp their credentials, and his own, against a Washington defense allowing just 89 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry. This Huskies defense has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns through four games. If Charbonnet can perform against that stacked defensive front, he is going to be in the conversation for RB2 in this draft class, which is wide open behind Bijan Robinson.

Jacoby Windmon, EDGE, Michigan State
Year: 4th-year senior
Opponent: vs. Maryland (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FS1)

Talk about a coming out party. Entering the season, Windmon was a relatively unknown transfer from UNLV whose career-high in sacks to that point stood at 6.5 in a season. Fast forward to now, Windmon is drawing buzz everywhere, currently leading the nation in sacks with 5.5 quarterback takedowns through just four games. This is not a game that most would circle as a must-watch this weekend, but Windmon will get the opportunity to face Maryland offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan. Duncan definitely did not impress against Michigan, but he is widely regarded as a top 50 prospect and one of the five best offensive tackles in this draft class. I haven’t seen Windmon get a ton of love yet nationally. If he turns in another stellar performance, this time against an NFL-caliber tackle, his name will be flying up big boards everywhere.

D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson
Year: 3rd-year junior
Opponent: vs. #10 NC State (Saturday at 7:30 pm ET on ABC)
As if you needed another reason to watch this top-10 showdown in the ACC. Uiagalelei has had one of the most interesting careers in recent memory. Thought to be the successor to Trevor Lawrence, he dazzled in his one start against Notre Dame in 2020. Instead of picking up where he left off, Uiagalelei had a terrible year in 2021, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. At the beginning of the season, there were fans and analysts alike questioning whether or not freshman phenom Cade Klubnik deserved to start instead. Uiagaleli has quieted that chatter so far with 10 touchdown passes and just one interception so far this season. Suddenly, it feels like he might be a post-hype sleeper. His physical gifts are off the charts, but he still needs to improve his mechanics and show he can perform consistently. No better opportunity to prove himself than against an NC State defense allowing just 4.9 yards per attempt passing this year, the fourth-best mark in the country. This is a massive test for the true junior quarterback.

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