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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Houston vs. San Diego State; Saturday, Dec. 17, 3:30 PM ABC
Houston has draft talent to watch in the form of wide receiver Chance Allen, linebacker Steven Taylor and cornerback Brandon Wilson. Cougars quarterback Greg Ward will have to switch positions for the NFL. San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey has been a star in 2016 with an average of 6.1 yards per carry for 2,018 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also has 26 receptions for 205 yards.
West Virginia vs. Miami; Wednesday, Dec. 28, 5:30 PM ESPN
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has received mid-round grades from NFL evaluators, and this could be his last chance to impress scouts. It won’t be easy as Mountaineers cornerback Rasul Douglas is tied as the nation’s leader in interceptions with eight. Douglas could be an early round talent as he is a big press-man corner. West Virginia wide receiver Shelton Gibson is another early rounder. West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky and Miami cornerback Corn Elder are worth watching as well. Elder will play at the Senior Bowl as will Hurricanes guard Danny Isidora.
Texas A&M vs. Kansas State; Wednesday, Dec. 28, 9:00 PM ESPN
Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett will likely be playing in his final collegiate game. He has 8.5 sacks from his 10 games this year. If he gets 1.5 sacks against the Wildcats, that will give him double-digit sack seasons for all three of his years in college.
Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas; Thursday, Dec. 29, 5:30 PM ESPN
Virginia Tech has some offensive talent in tight end Bucky Hodges, wide receiver Isaiah Ford and fullback Sam Rogers. The first two could go on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, while Rogers, a play-maker despite his position, could be a mid-round pick. Arkansas’ offensive tackle Dan Skipper, edge rusher Deatrich Wise Jr. and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle are mid-round talents.
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado; Thursday, Dec. 29, 8:30 PM ESPN
Some have hyped Oklahoma State junior quarterback Mason Rudolph as a top quarterback prospect, and he is seeing a quality defense for the Big XII with Oklahoma. There should be a good draft matchup with Cowboys wide receiver James Washington going against Colorado seniors cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and safety Tedric Thompson. Thompson has played really well in 2016 with 10 passes broken up and five interceptions. Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and tight end Blake Jarwin are worth watching as well.
Stanford vs. North Carolina; Friday, Dec. 30, 2:00 PM ESPN
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Solomon Thomas were planning on entering the 2017 NFL Draft. Thomas will be needed to put heat on North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who some draft analysts are pushing as the top signal-caller for the 2017 NFL Draft. North Carolina cornerback Des Lawrence and defensive tackle Nazair Jones are prospects to watch.
Nebraksa vs. Tennessee; Friday, Dec. 30, 3:30 PM ESPN
Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is a future top-20 pick to watch. Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara could be a first- or second-round pick next April. Nebraska safety Nate Gerry is a mid-round talent who will need to step up to slow down Kamara.
Michigan vs. Florida State; Friday, Dec. 30, 8:30 PM ESPN
Michigan has early round defensive line prospects in Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley who will be tested by the Florida State rushing offense led by star running back Dalvin Cook. Cook is a devastating runner and future top-20 pick. Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers is highly hyped and will need to step up to help limit Cook.
Florida State defensive end Demarcus Walker is an early round talent to watch. Michigan tight end Jake Butt could be a second-day pick. Wolverines wide receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are worth watching, as is running back De’Veon Smith.
LSU vs. Louisville; Saturday, Dec. 31, 11:00 AM ABC
LSU running back Leonard Fournette will be playing in his final collegiate game before becoming a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft next April. The Tigers will need him to play well to help keep the Louisville offense on the sideline. LSU center Ethan Pocic, wide receiver Travin Dural and wide receiver Malachi Dupre are prospects to watch on that side of the ball as well. Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is mid-round prospect who has earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl. His teammate edge rusher Devonte Fields is an early round talent, but has serious off-the-field issues.
LSU safety Jamal Adams looks like a future top-20 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White could also sneak into the first round, while linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive tackle Davon Godhaux have early round talent. They will be challenged by the incredible Louisville offense led by 2018 NFL Draft prospect Lamar Jackson. Wide receivers James Quick and Jamari Staples are future NFL contributors, as is tight end Cole Hikutini.
Washington vs. Alabama; Saturday, Dec. 31, 3:00 PM ESPN
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is a future top-10 pick and has drawn comparisons to Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald. Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and left tackle Cam Robinson are also future first-rounders. Inside linebacker Reuben Foster and tight end O.J. Howard could also join them on Thursday night during the 2017 NFL Draft. Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson could be a second-day pick because he is always seems to come up with some big plays at critical times.
Washington has special talent as well. Junior wide receiver John Ross is a likely future first-round pick who will be a challenge for Humphrey. Huskies cornerback Sidney Jones has been excellent this season, and he will face off with Alabama stud receiver Calvin Ridley. Washington safety Budda Baker is an early round talent who will be challenged by the Crimson Tide’s rushing offense along with a great receiving tight end in Howard. This is an important tape for Baker in terms ofhis draft evaluation.
Ohio State vs. Clemson; Saturday, Dec. 31, 7:00 PM ESPN
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson generated a ton of hype by having huge performances in big games last season, and it is that time of year again. Sources from multiple teams have told WalterFootball.com that they have Watson graded in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Some other teams have him in the Round 2, while one has him as a potential early fourth-rounder. Watson needs some big performances to conclude his collegiate career to help improve his draft stock. This contest provides him a tremendous Ohio State secondary and defense to face off against.
Sources have graded Ohio State sophomore safety Malik Hooker as a top-10 talent if he enters the 2017 NFL Draft. Team sources also have high first-round grades on cornerback Marshon Lattimore. They will be assigned to limit Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett and wide receiver Mike Williams, respectively. Williams could be the top wide receiver for the 2017 NFL Draft and a Thursday night candidate. Tigers running back Wayne Gallman will also be a test for Hooker and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. McMillan is a second-day talent for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Clemson has defensive talent for the NFL as well in the form of cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and linebacker Ben Boulware. Ohio State wide receivers Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown are early round talents who will challenge Tankersley.
Florida vs. Iowa; Saturday, Jan. 2, 1:00 PM ABC
There are three good cornerback prospects in this game. Gators cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are future first-round picks who should do well against Iowa’s wide receivers. Iowa senior cornerback Desmond King is an early round prospect. Florida’s play-making sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway will be a challenge for King.
The Gators have a first-round defensive tackle in Caleb Brantley. He is a speedy, fast three-technique who has put together a tremendous season for Florida. Brantley could easily go in the top 20 next April.
Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis missed some time late in the regular season, but came back to play against Alabama. One has to think that Davis will do everything possible to play in his final collegiate game. Linebacker Alex Anzalone and safety Marcus Maye are out for the year.
Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin; Monday, Jan. 2, 1:00 PM ESPN
The Badgers have enjoyed a breakout season from outside linebacker T.J. Watt. He has has been an excellent edge rusher, yet has also done a good job of setting the edge in run defense. Watt’s pass rush is going to be needed to produce as Western Michigan has a potent passing attack led by wide receiver Corey Davis. Davis could be a second-day pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and is a tremendous weapon. Badgers junior left tackle Ryan Ramczyk is also a future early round pick to keep an eye on.
USC vs. Penn State; Monday, Jan. 2, 5:00 PM ESPN
Penn State’s draft prospects are for the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Trojans have players to watch for this draft. USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster could go in the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson will be tested by Penn State’s vertical passing attack. Jackson could be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. USC’s offensive tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner are worth watching as well.
Auburn vs. Oklahoma; Monday, Jan. 2, 8:30 PM ESPN
Auburn prospects to watch include defensive tackle Montravius Adams and safety Johnathan Ford. Oklahoma junior running back Samaje Perine could be a second-day pick if he enters the 2017 NFL Draft. Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook was knocked out of the last game with an injury, but he should have enough time to be back for his final collegiate game. Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas is another quality prospect to watch.
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