2018 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 5

Want to get to know the draft prospects for the 2018 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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USC vs. Washington State; Friday, Sept. 29, 10:30 PM FOX

Two quarterback prospects are going head-to-head in this contest. USC’s Sam Darnold is the favorite to be the top quarterback prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft, and he will need to produce some points as Washington State has a potent offense led by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk could be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Trojans could field the most talented defense he will play all season. USC cornerback Iman Marshall is an early-round prospect. His teammate defensive end Porter Gustin is too, but Gustin has been banged up this year, so his status could be in doubt. USC running back Ronald Jones II and wide receiver Deontay Burnett are prospects to watch as well.

Northwestern vs. Wisconsin; Saturday, Sept. 30, 12:00 PM ABC

Some league sources are really high on Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson. They told WalterFootball.com that they believe Thorson will grade out as a second-round pick but has first-round potential because of his big size, strong arm, pocket passing, athleticism, intelligence, and excellent intangibles. Wisconsin has one of the tougher defenses in the Big Ten, led by linebacker T.J. Edwards. Duke’s defense gave Thorson problems weeks ago, so he could use a good performance against a tough stop unit. Another good prospect to watch in this game is Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli.

Florida State vs. Wake Forest; Saturday, Sept. 30, 3:30 PM ABC

Last week, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb dominated Florida State, so Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor should be licking his chops after watching the tape of that game. Ejiofor has played well this year and is an early-round prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. He could have some reps against Florida State offensive tackle Brock Ruble, who could end up grading out as an early-rounder, too. Seminoles wide receiver Auden Tate is a rare size/speed athlete who have impressed team sources, but he was injured last week against the Wolfpack.

Florida State safety Derwin James is one of the top prospects at any position. Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is also a potential first-rounder. The Seminoles’ defense has other early-round prospects to watch in defensive end Josh Sweat, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and linebacker Matthew Thomas – provided Thomas returns from injury.

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

Georgia has a lot NFL talent on its defense, led by defensive tackle Trenton Thompson. Thompson could be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft if he would consistently play up to his skill set. Linebacker Roquan Smith has been superb this year and could be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Other Georgia linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy were very good against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs’ defensive talent will be challenged by Tennessee junior running back John Kelly, who tore up a talented Florida defense. Kelly isn’t the only backfield prospect in this game as Georgia runners Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will probably get drafted higher than Kelly.

Iowa vs. Michigan State; Saturday, Sept. 30, 4:00 PM FOX

This game will feature two future NFL running backs going head-to-head. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott could be an early-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he will be taking on a salty Iowa defense led by linebacker prospect Josey Jewell. Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley has been running really well this year. Wadley is a tough back with speed, shiftiness and athleticism. Both Scott and Wadley could be second-day picks next April during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech; Saturday, Sept. 30, 8:00 PM ABC

There will be a lot of defensive line talent on display in this game. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins looks like a future first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a great athlete who is back at his natural position after injuries forced him to defensive end in 2016. Clemson defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and defensive end Austin Bryant have been excellent to start the 2018 season, and each of them is a potential early-round pick.

There will be some really good draft matchups going head to head on the other side of the ball. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has been very good this year, and the dual-threat signal-caller is going to be a challenge for Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Terrell Edmunds. Both of the Edmunds brothers are future early-round picks.

Another matchup to watch in this game is Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain going against Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander. Cain will probably be an early-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and Alexander is big corner who is a gritty player.

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