2016 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – National Championship

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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Oklahoma vs Clemson; Monday, Jan. 11, 8:30 PM ESPN

Clemson redshirt sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander will see an emerging star receiver in Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Alexander is a shorter cornerback, so it will help his draft stock to show he can match up against a receiver with the size and speed combination of Ridley. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Ridley looks like a high first-rounder for the 2018 NFL Draft, and as a freshman, he totaled 83 catches for 1,031 yards with seven touchdowns.

Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson has played well against the run and pass this year. He has 56 tackles with 23.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. Lawson injured his ankle early on and missed the majority of the Tigers win over Oklahoma, but Lawson says he’ll play against the Crimson Tide.

Clemson safety Jayron Kearse also has second-day potential if he enters the 2016 NFL Draft. Kearse (6-5, 220) is a huge safety, and it would help his draft stock if he can show well in coverage against Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard. Of course, Kearse’s tackling will be challenged by Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

The Alabama defensive front that features a lot of players for Sundays. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reggie Ragland are all early-round picks and future starters in the NFL. Those four will put a lot of pressure on Deshaun Watson as their run defense produces a lot of bad down-and-distance situations for quarterbacks.

Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy and has dominated the competition as a physical workhorse. Clemson has one of the better defenses that Henry has faced, and the Tigers should be capable of making it hard for Henry to find running lanes.

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