2016 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 8

Want to get to know the draft prospects for the 2016 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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California vs. UCLA; Thursday, Oct. 22, 9:00 PM ESPN

California quarterback Jared Goff had a strong start to the season and has become the consensus top-rated quarterback prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff’s fast start hit a bump against Utah when he threw four interceptions against a tough Utes defense. Goff will see another quality stop unit against the Bruins. UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark is an early-round prospect to keep an eye on. Goff needs to show that he can light up good teams and not just produce against weak opponents. Goff also needs to show that he can avoid getting rattled by a good pass rush.

Auburn vs. Arkansas; Saturday, Oct. 24, 12:00 PM SECN

There is a nice draft matchup in the trenches of this game. Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams has an early-round skill set, and he will see some future NFL offensive linemen with left tackle Denver Kirkland and guard Sebastian Tretola. Auburn will need Adams to fill his gap as the Razorbacks have a tough running back in Alex Collins. Collins could be a second-day talent in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Another great matchup will be with Arkansas junior tight end Hunter Henry going against Auburn inside linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Henry could be the best tight end in the 2016 NFL Draft. If McKinzy and Frost want to be considered three-down starting material in the NFL, they need to show some coverage skills against a receiving tight end like Henry.

Kansas State vs. Texas; Saturday, Oct. 24, 12:00 PM FS1

This game also has some potential trench warfare for the NFL with Texas defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway and Kansas State left tackle Cody Whitehair. The Longhorns like to move Ridgeway around. He is a strong and quick defensive lineman. Whitehair is a good blocker, but can struggle with powerful defensive linemen. If these two line up against each other and Whitehair has success against Ridgeway, that could ease those doubts about Whitehair. He should be a guard in the NFL.

Tennessee vs. Alabama; Saturday, Oct. 24, 3:30 PM CBS

The Volunteers have a talented rushing attack with quarterback Josh Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. They will test an Alabama front seven that is stocked with NFL talent. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reggie Ragland all have early-round potential. They should be able to contain the Tennessee ground game.

On the other side of the ball, Volunteers junior cornerback Cameron Sutton will be called on to stop Crimson Tide freshman speedster Calvin Ridley. Sutton’s deep speed will be tested by Ridley.

Other prospects to watch in this game are Alabama junior running back Derrick Henry and junior tight end O.J. Howard. Henry is a downhill physical runner who has the size and quickness to be a workhorse back in the NFL. Howard is talented, but the Crimson Tide don’t target him enough.

Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma; Saturday, Oct. 24, 3:30 PM ABC

Red Raiders left tackle LeRaven Clark is going to have his edge protection tested by Sooners speedy linebacker Eric Striker. If Clark can shut down a small, fast edge rusher like Striker, that could go a long ways to helping his chances of being viewed as a left tackle for the NFL. Clark has had a strong collegiate career and is playing very well in 2015. Meanwhile, Striker is a tweener for the NFL, but he is a dynamic pass-rusher off the edge. Showing he can do that against a future pro lineman like Clark could help Striker’s hopes of being drafted in the early rounds as a situational rusher.

Utah vs USC; Saturday, Oct. 24, 7:30 PM FOX

The Utes have one of the best running back prospects for the NFL with Devontae Booker. He will be a tough test for Trojans outside linebacker Su’A Cravens. If Cravens can show well against Booker, that will help solidify the view of Cravens as a linebacker rather than a strong safety.

USC senior quarterback Cody Kessler has had a bit of a disappointing season from a draft perspective. However if he plays well against a tough Utah defense that was up to the task of containing Jared Goff, that could be a big bounce-back performance for Kessler.

Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss; Saturday, Oct. 24, 7:00 PM ESPN

This game has the potential for one of the most studied tapes for the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts. Rebels junior left tackle Laremy Tunsil will be making his season debut after being held out because of a questionable NCAA investigation. Tunsil won’t get a cupcake to get warmed up against as he will take on the best pass-rusher in college football with Aggies superstar sophomore Myles Garrett. Tunsil and Garrett have the potential to be No. 1-overall picks in their respective draft classes, so this tape will be viewed by every NFL team repeatedly if they have a lot of plays against each other. How much playing time Tunsil will get and if he is in playing shape are unknowns heading into Saturday. Hopefully, Tunsil and Garrett have a lot of plays going head-to-head.

The status for Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is up in the air after he suffered a concussion against Memphis last Saturday. Nkemdiche has a huge athletic skill set with size and speed. However, the junior hasn’t been productive when it comes to sacks and sources say that’s because he’s not a natural pass-rusher. Nkemdiche can help change that perception if he can get some sacks going against the Aggies talented offensive line led by junior right tackle Germain Ifedi and senior center Mike Matthews. Both Aggies should be on NFL rosters and Ifedi could be a quick starter. Hopefully, Nkemdiche is able to make a quick recovery.

The Rebels have missed safety Tony Conner, who has missed time with an injury. If he returns, he will be challenged by a good receiving corps led by Ricky Seals-Jones and Josh Reynolds. Both wideouts have draft potential. Another prospect to watch in this game is Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. The Aggies have some a tough sophomore safety in Armonti Watts who will challenge Engram.

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