2017 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 5

Want to get to know the draft prospects for the 2017 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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Stanford vs Washington; Friday, Sept. 30, 9:00 PM ESPN

There is a lot of hype around the Washington program and the Cardinal will provide a serious test. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is a potential first-round pick who is an electric play-maker. Washington cornerback Sidney Jones is an early round prospect who will need to help defend against McCaffrey and speed receiver Michael Rector. Rector was just shut down by UCLA, so he will be looking for a bounce-back performance. As a runner and receiver, McCaffrey will also be a great test for Washington junior safety Budda Baker.

Utah vs. California; Saturday, Sept. 31, 6:00 PM Pac-12

Some like the pro potential of California quarterback Davis Webb, and he will see one of the top defenses in the Pac-12 with the Utes. Utah safety Marcus Williams is an early round prospect who is a dangerous ballhawking threat. The Utes have some NFL talent on their defensive line with end Hunter Dimick and tackle Lowell Lotulelei to pressure Webb. This is an important tape for Webb to impress NFL evaluators as Jared Goff had a five-interception game against Utah’s defense last year.

Tennessee vs. Georgia; Saturday, Sept. 31, 3:30 PM CBS

The Volunteers have a lot of defensive prospects for the NFL. Defensive end Derek Barnett and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin are going to get tested by Georgia power back Nick Chubb. Chubb has played well thi year, but could use a big game against a quality defense. He left last week’s game early with an injury, and needs to bounce back to avoid durability concerns. Another matchup to keep an eye on is Georgia wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie against Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton. Sutton missed last week’s game against Florida. Other prospects to watch are Tennessee running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara going against Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter and safety Dominick Sanders.

North Carolina vs. Florida State; Saturday, Sept. 31, 3:30 PM ESPN

Florida State junior running back Dalvin Cook got his season righted against South Florida after a slow start, and the Tar Heels have some defensive talent to test him. Seminoles junior wide receiver Travis Rudolph will see some quality cornerbacks with North Carolina in Dres Lawrence.

Florida State defensive end Demarcus Walker is a possible first- or second-round pick, and he will harass North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Another prospect to watch is Seminoles junior left tackle Roderick Johnson. He has been a big disappointment this season and needs to start playing better to help his draft stock.

Louisville vs. Clemson; Saturday, Sept. 31, 8:00 PM ABC

This is a huge game for the draft evaluation of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson has been less than stellar to open the 2016 season, but he will need to be his best self for Clemson to beat Louisville. The Cardinals have a point-machine offense with a quality defense, so Watson won’t be in position to miss open receivers like he did last Thursday against Georgia Tech. Wide receiver Mike Williams is a potential first-rounder, and Watson needs to get him more involved. Junior running back Wayne Gallman is also a potential second-day prospect. This is a big game for Louisville edge rusher Devonte Fields, and he needs to step up the pass rush on Watson.

There is a nice matchup with Louisville wide receiver James Quick going against Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley. Tankersley could be a future first-round pick. Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins is enjoying an excellent season, and his teammate linebacker Ben Boulware is another prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson is a prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.

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