2018 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 6

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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Louisville vs. N.C. State; Thursday, Oct. 5, 8:00 PM ESPN

A few weeks ago, N.C. State’s salty defense led the team to a road upset over Florida State, and the Wolfpack was led by defensive end Bradley Chubb. Chubb and the talented defensive line is going to have to have a big game to limit Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson, conversely, will be challenged by a front of future NFL competitors. Jackson needs to show poise and the ability to pass accurately from the pocket in the face of a rush. That was an issue for him in the loss to Clemson, so playing well against N.C. State is important for him as well. Chubb is a future first-round pick.

There are two other good prospects to watch. N.C. State tight end/H-back Jaylen Samuels is a receiving back for the NFL and is a dangerous weapon. Louisville edge rusher James Hearns is a potential second-day pick.

Penn State vs. Northwestern; Saturday, Oct. 7, 12:00 PM ABC

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has been dominating college football in 2017, and he would probably be the Heisman Trophy winner if the award was decided today. The Heisman Trophy is irrelevant to the NFL, but Barkley is still the top skill-position prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.

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. Penn State will be a tough test for Thorson.

Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda and Northwestern safety Godwin Igwebuike are other prospects to watch.

Ole Miss vs. Auburn; Saturday, Oct. 7, 12:00 PM SECN

In this game, there are two good cornerback prospects who are seeing some passing attacks that are starting to heat up. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a slow start to the season, but he has been improving of late. With some young receiving talent at his disposal, Stidham and Auburn will challenge Ole Miss cornerback Ken Webster. Some sources think Webster has first-round potential.

Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis is an early-rounder and will be seeing some passing talent with Mississippi quarterback Shea Patterson and wide receiver A.J. Brown. Both Patterson and Brown are prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Other prospects to watch in this game include Auburn guard Braden Smith and defensive tackle Dontavius Russell.

Clemson vs. Wake Forest; Saturday, Oct. 7, 12:00 PM ESPN2

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has been very good this year, and the dual-threat signal-caller is going to be a challenge for Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor. Ejiofor played well against Florida State last week.

Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins looks like a future first-round pick next April. 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. Bryant looks like a first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Other draft prospects to watch are Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain, Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph and Wake Forest tight end Cam Serigne.

Miami vs. Florida State; Saturday, Oct. 7, 3:30 PM ESPN

Florida State is loaded with NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball. One of the top prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft is Seminoles junior safety Derwin James. James is going to be challenged by a few talented Hurricanes, including sophomore wide receiver Ahmmon Richards and junior running back Mark Walton. Other Seminole draft prospects who will be needed to limit Walton include defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, defensive end Josh Sweat and linebacker Matthew Thomas. Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is another potential 2018 first-rounder, and he will see a tough test in Richards.

Offensively, Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate has been impressive this season.

LSU vs. Florida; Saturday, Oct. 7, 3:30 PM CBS

There is the potential for a good draft matchup in this game with LSU edge rusher Arden Key going against Florida left tackle Martez Ivey. Key is a future top-10 pick, so if Ivey can have success blocking him, that would be huge for Ivey’s draft stock.

Another matchup of future NFL players is LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark taking on Florida cornerback Duke Dawson. Chark has a size advantage over Dawson, and it will be interesting to see if Dawson can handle a big wideout in Chark.

LSU junior cornerback Kevin Toliver is going to see two young play-makers in Gators sophomore wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and freshman Kadarius Toney. Toliver showing the speed to handle those two would be helpful for the big corner.

Alabama vs. Texas A&M; Saturday, Oct. 7, 7:15 PM ESPN

There will be some good draft matchups in this game. The top one is Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk going against Alabama cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Tony Brown. Both of the Crimson Tide corners could be second-day picks, while Kirk is in the running to be the top receiver for the 2018 NFL Draft. Alabama free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a possible top-16 pick, and strong safety Ronnie Harrison could be a first-rounder as well. Those two safeties could be called on to help cover Kirk.

Texas A&M has an future NFL safety in Armani Watts. He will be needed to help limit Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who is a future first-rounder. Watts’ run defense will also be needed to help slow the Crimson Tide’s stable of talented running backs. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough could get selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne is a potential first-rounder. Linebackers Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton are prospects as well.

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