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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Clemson vs. Alabama; Monday, Jan. 9, 8:00 PM ESPN
In Tampa, Florida, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will see his biggest test of the season with a defense comprised of future NFL competitors and multiple first-round picks. Watson generated a ton of hype by having huge performances in big games in 2015, including his National Championship loss to Alabama, and now he gets a rematch. 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 second round, while one has him as a potential early fourth-rounder. Watson needs some big performances to conclude his collegiate career to give his draft stock a boost. This contest provides him a tremendous defense to face off against.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is a future top-10 pick and has drawn comparisons to Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald. Allen is very consistent and will cause Watson a lot of problems. Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams, cornerback Marlon Humphrey and inside linebacker Reuben Foster are all future first-round picks as well. Clemson, however, has good players to challenge those defenders.
Humphrey will be tested by Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams, a first-round pick next April. Foster will be tasked to limit Clemson junior running back Wayne Gallman, a potential second-day pick who just ran well on Ohio State’s talented defense. Tim Williams is seeing a draft prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft in sophomore left tackle Mitch Hyatt. Thus, there is a ton of good draft matchups with Clemson’s offense taking on Alabama’s defense.
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. That was just the case again with his defensive touchdown in the playoff win over Washington.
The other side of the ball has plenty of talent as well. Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and tight end O.J. Howard are also future first-rounders. The Tigers also have defensive talent for the NFL in the form of cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and linebacker Ben Boulware. Tankersley will see a dangerous wide receiver in Crimson Tide sophomore Calvin Ridley. Against Ohio State, Tankersley played well and snatched an interception. All of Clemson’s defenders will need to perform well in run defense as the Crimson Tide’s second-half rushing attack has been lethal this season.
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