2017 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 8

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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Miami vs. Virginia Tech; Thursday, Oct. 20, 7:00 PM ESPN

The Hokies are going to test Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. Virginia Tech consistently fields secondary talent, and the program features some quality defensive backs this year. Cornerback Brandon Facyson is a potential Day 3 pick who is worth watching. Sophomore cornerback Adonis Alexander is an early round prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft and will challenge Kaaya.

Kaaya has had underwhelming games against North Carolina and Florida State, so he needs a bounce-back performance. Miami wide receiver Stacy Coley will probably get drafted next April in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he will need to show well for the Hurricanes. Kaaya has also had issues looking at the pass rush when under pressure, and seeing how he handles that is worth monitoring.

Virginia Tech has some offensive prospects to watch in fullback Sam Rogers and tight end Bucky Hodges. Rogers could be the top-rated fullback for the 2017 NFL Draft as he can hurt defenses as a receiver, runner and blocker.

Illinois vs. Michigan; Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 PM ABC

Michigan should roll the Illini, but Illinois has two edge rushers for the 2017 NFL Draft in Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips. Smoot is the higher-rated consensus prospect, but WalterFootball.com knows some teams that have Phillips graded higher for the 2017 NFL Draft. Those Illini will see a good the Wolverines’ offensive line, but unfortunately left tackle prospect Grant Newsome is out for the year.

Michigan has a lot of talent for the 2017 NFL Draft led by safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Peppers is a highly hyped prospect who sources say would best as hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL. He doesn’t have any interceptions in his collegiate career, and he could help himself by showing better coverage skills. Lewis should go on the first two days of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Wolverines have offensive prospects to watch in running back De’Veon Smith and wide receiver Jehu Chesson.

Texas A&M vs. Alabama; Saturday, Oct. 22, 3:30 PM CBS

This game has some special front-seven defensive prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the top prospect, overall, for the 2017 NFL Draft, and Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen is a potential top-10 pick. Allen is the top interior defensive line prospect, and Garrett is the best edge rusher, but both are pass-rushing forces. Alabama defensive end Tim Williams and outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, who put a lot of heat on the quarterback, are other early rounders for the Crimson Tide.

This will be a huge game for Garrett going against Alabama’s Cam Robinson. Robinson is a potential high first-rounder, so if Robinson gets the better of this matchup, he could see a major boost in his draft stock.

Alabama senior linebacker Reuben Foster will be tested by the Texas A&M stable of talented backs and running quarterback Trevor Knight.

This contest also has first-round defensive back talent. Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey is a high first-rounder, while Alabama safety Eddie Jackson could be selected on Day 2. They will see some good wide receivers, including Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk. Kirk could be a high first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he will be a tough test for Humphrey.

Texas A&M safeties Justin Evans and Armani Watts could go in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft next April. Evans and Watts are going to be tested by Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, one of the best tight ends in college football.

Ole Miss vs. LSU; Saturday, Oct. 22, 7:00 PM ESPN

LSU running back Leonard Fournette has been missing time with an ankle injury, but one can be sure that the Tigers will do everything possible to get him on the field as they will need Fournette to have a shot at beating Ole Miss. Fournette hasn’t played since Sept. 24.

There is an excellent draft matchup in this game with Rebels senior Evan Engram going against LSU safety Jamal Adams. Adams has been quiet this year, and NFL teams will be interested in seeing how he handles Engram in pass coverage. Engram is a dangerous receiving weapon who is a mismatch weapon for the NFL. Tigers cornerback Tre’Davious White is another early round prospect who could be called on to help defend against Engram. There are two edge rushers for the 2017 NFL Draft in this game with Ole Miss’ Marquis Haynes and LSU’s Lewis Neal. LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux is another possible first-rounder.

The Tigers need to get after Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, a strong-armed gunslinger who can light up the scoreboard. Kelly is a potential second-day pick for the 2017 NFL Draft. LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith is a prospect to watch who will be challenged by Kelly running with the ball and the Rebels’ running backs.

The Tigers have two wide receiver prospects for the NFL in Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. Both are talented players who have been hurt by LSU’s quarterbacks struggling over the past few seasons.

Houston vs SMU; Saturday, Oct. 22, 7:00 PM ESPN2

SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton is one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, and Houston should provide one of the best talent challenges this season. Cougars senior cornerback Brandon Wilson had an electric start to the season against Oklahoma, but has missed time with an ankle injury. It will be great to see him try to cover Sutton. Houston has a wide receiver prospect of its own in Chance Allen. Both Wilson and Allen are on the Senior Bowl watchlist.

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