2015 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – National Championship

Want to get to know the draft prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft? This weekly column breaks down the best matchups to watch on Saturday and what players to watch.

By Charlie Campbell.
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Oregon vs. Ohio State; Monday, Jan. 12, 8:30 PM ESPN

This will be the final collegiate game of the year and the last chance to see Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota before he’s taking snaps for a NFL team. Mariota will be tested by a tough Ohio State defensive line that can put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, Mariota will use his legs to scramble and extend plays by rolling out of the pocket, but NFL evaluators would prefer to see Mariota hang tough in the face of a rush and deliver some accurate passes downfield. The Buckeyes don’t have as much NFL talent in their secondary as Florida State did, and Mariota should see some openings to throw into.

Mariota has pushed Oregon to a conference championship and winning a playoff game, but lifting his team to National Championship will help his draft stock. The NFL evaluators want to see him put his team on his back and elevate them to a championship.

There will be a good battle in the trenches in front of Mariota. Oregon center Hroniss Grasu had an excellent game against Florida State, and he will be tested again by Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett. Bennett is a speed rusher who should be an early round selection next April. Both Grasu and Bennett could be second-day picks. Whoever gets the better of this matchup should help their respective draft stock.

Oregon left tackle Jake Fisher is going to see the toughest test of the year in Ohio State edge rusher Joey Bosa. Bosa is a future high first-round pick, while Fisher has had an impressive season. Fisher was the Ducks right tackle before injuries moved him to Mariota’s blind side before the season started. If Fisher handles Bosa, that could be a huge jolt to the former’s draft stock.

With Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu out with a knee injury, we miss out on a great prospect matchup between Ekpre-Olomu and Buckeyes speedster Devin Smith. Still, the Ducks have a quality secondary that will need to keep Smith from making big plays downfield. Smith has averaged 28 yards per reception this season with 12 touchdowns. He looks like a second-day pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but a big close to the season could cause some teams to consider him late in the first round.

Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead is said to be considering entering the 2015 NFL Draft and has a skill set that could make him a Thurday night pick. Armstead was quiet against Florida State aside from a couple of plays, so he could use a big game against Ohio State to help his draft stock.

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