2016 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 9

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.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
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North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh; Thursday, Oct. 29, 7:00 PM ESPN

Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd has been steadily productive as a junior, but he could use some big games to help his draft stock. Boyd should be able to thrive against North Carolina. He has early round potential and needs to finish the season strongly to help his draft stock.

Ole Miss vs. Auburn; Saturday, Oct. 31, 12:00 PM ESPN

This game could have some nice draft matchups if some players come back from injury. Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams moves around, and he could be a nice challenge for Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Like Tunsil, Mississippi defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche could be a high first-rounder. Nkemdiche had a concussion against Memphis so his health status could come into play depending on how he handled the contact last Saturday against Texas A&M.

Auburn inside linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost could be challenged by Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. The Rebels also are supposed to have safety Tony Conner return to the field soon.

USC vs. California; Saturday, Oct. 31, 3:00 PM FOX

California quarterback Jared Goff lit up some weak teams early this year but had two rough games in losses to Utah and UCLA. He played better than his stats or the results indicate, but he still needs to play well against good competition.

Last year, USC had success against Goff and rattled him in a blowout win for the Trojans. He will see some special talent led by linebacker Su’a Cravens. Both Goff and Cravens could be first-rounders in the 2016 NFL Draft.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler is a weak-armed game-manager, but he could be a third-day prospect in the next draft.

Florida vs. Georgia; Saturday, Oct. 24, 3:30 PM CBS

There is a nice draft matchup in this game with Gators cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III going against Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell can test Hargreaves with size and speed. Another good matchup is in the trenches with Georgia left tackle John Theus seeing some tough edge rushers led by Gators defensive end Jonathan Bullard. Theus can struggle with speed rushers, and Florida has some fast edge rushers like Bryan Cox Jr. to challenge Theus. The best edge-rushing draft prospect in this game though plays for Georgia with Leonard Floyd. He could have a big game against a Florida line that was incapable of blocking LSU’s defensive end Lewis Neal. Fellow Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins and Gators middle linebacker Antonio Morrison are other pro prospects in this game. Florida junior wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has first-round talent, but he has struggled to get a lot of targets as he has been in-and-out of the doghouse with the new Gators coaching staff. Robinson needs some big games to close out this season.

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

This game has a draft matchup I’ve really been looking forward to. Texas Tech left tackle Le’Raven Clark is having an excellent season, and so is Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. If one of them is a clear winner, that could really help that winner to go in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Ogbah has been a consistent pass-rusher and will be the best test who Clark will see during the regular season. Likewise, Ogbah is going against the best left tackle in the Big XII, so this tape will be studied closely by evaluators.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky; Saturday, Oct. 24, 7:30 PM SECN

Other quarterback prospects get more hype and attention, but Kentucky junior signal-caller Patrick Towles is a talented sleeper prospect. He has played very well against some good SEC defenses and will see some more good talent against Tennessee. Cornerback Cam Sutton is an NFL prospect and has some good young edge rushers to put heat on Towles. If Towles can continue to overcome an inferior supporting cast to produce yards and points, don’t be surprised if his draft stature grows.

Notre Dame vs. Temple; Saturday, Oct. 31, 8:00 PM ABC

This game has two NFL linebacker prospects to watch. The best of them is Fighting Irish junior Jaylon Smith. He looks like a top-25 prospect if he enters the 2016 NFL Draft. Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich could make it into the second day of the draft. He’s not as athletic as Smith, but Matakevich has been producing a lot of splash plays this year. He’s a good football player who could be a value pick in the mid-rounds.

Offensively, Matakevich is going to tested by some future pros. Senior left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a potential top-20 pick. Matakevich blitzes off the edge some plays, and Stanley will be a tough test for him. Center Nick Martin also will be tasked with blocking Matakevich in the ground game. On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame junior wide receiver Will Fuller has been a breakout player this year. He is really sending his draft stock higher.

Another prospect to watch is Notre Dame defensive tackle Sheldon Day. He is an early rounder who has been playing well in 2015.

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