2018 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 8

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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Iowa vs. Northwestern; Saturday, Oct. 21, 12:00 PM ESPN2

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson is a popular prospect in the scouting community even though the national media hasn’t caught on to him yet. Thorson is being projected to the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft due to his good skill set and great intangibles. Just about every week, he is overmatched by playing a team with better talent, and that will be the case against Iowa. Linebacker Josey Jewell is the leader of the Hawkeyes’ defense and is a prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Louisville vs. Florida State; Saturday, Oct. 12, 12:00 PM ESPN

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is a potential first-round pick and franchise quarterback, as he has an elite arm with tremendous running ability. He also has a terrible supporting cast, and Louisville asks him to do everything. Jackson is going to see a defense packed with NFL talent, so this will be a tough test for him. Last year, Jackson embarrassed the Seminoles with a prolific outing, so the Seminoles will be out for revenge.

Florida State safety Derwin James is one of the best prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, and Jackson will challenge James with his big-play rushing ability as well as his arm. Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is another first-round talent in the Florida State secondary.

Other early-round prospects to watch from the Seminoles include defensive end Josh Sweat, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, linebacker Matthew Thomas and wide receiver Auden Tate.

Oklahoma State vs. Texas; Saturday, Oct. 21, 12:00 PM ABC

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph is a bit of a love/hate prospect in the scouting community. Some are high on his potential, while other teams project him to the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington will see a chippy Texas defense that has been improving over the course of this season.

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson is a great athlete who hasn’t played up to his potential, but Jefferson has been producing more consistently lately. He will be challenged by Rudolph and the Cowboys’ point-machine offense.

Tennessee vs. Alabama; Saturday, Oct. 21, 3:30 PM CBS

A draft matchup to watch is Tennessee wide receiver Marquez Callaway taking on Alabama cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Tony Brown. Both of the Crimson Tide corners could be second-day picks, while Callaway could be an early-rounder in his draft class. Alabama free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a possible top-16 pick for the 2018 NFL Draft, and strong safety Ronnie Harrison could be a first-rounder as well. Those two safeties could be called on to help cover Callaway while also defending Tennessee running back John Kelly. Kelly is having a strong junior year.

Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne is a potential first-rounder for the 2018 NFL Draft. Linebackers Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton are prospects as well. Tennessee tight end Ethan Wolf is worth evaluating for the 2018 NFL Draft as well.

LSU vs. Ole Miss; Saturday, Oct. 21, 7:15 PM ESPN

LSU defensive end Arden Key is one of the top prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, and he started coming on last week with a nice performance against Auburn.

Ole Miss cornerback Ken Webster is a first-round talent and could be one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Webster will be challenged by LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark, who just had a massive game against Auburn.

LSU cornerback Kevin Toliver is an early-round prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. He has had a disappointing season. Toliver is going to see some wide receiver talent and a big-armed quarterback in Shea Patterson.

Michigan vs. Penn State; Saturday, Oct. 21, 7:30 PM ABC

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has been the best player in college football this season, and he will see a tough defense with Michigan. Wolverines defensive lineman Maurice Hurst is a future early-round pick. However, he is undersized for a defensive tackle, so his ability to hold up in run defense against Barkley is going to be tested.

Other prospects to watch in this game include Michigan center Mason Cole, Michigan linebacker Mike McCray, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki and Penn State safety Marcus Allen.

USC vs. Notre Dame; Saturday, Oct. 21, 7:30 PM NBC

USC quarterback Sam Darnold has had a mildly disappointing season, struggling with interceptions, decision-making and confidence, plus pressing under huge expectations. Darnold still is a highly regarded quarterback prospect for the NFL, but he could use some big performances to help his chances of being the top quarterback for the 2018 NFL Draft.

There are a few good matchups to watch in the trenches. Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey will be seeing USC edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu. McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson are likely first-round picks next April. Nelson will see an improved player in USC defensive tackle Rasheem Green.

A really good draft matchup in this game is Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown going against USC cornerback Iman Marshall. Carrington has enjoyed a big season with the Utes, and Marshall could be the top corner he will see all season. Marshall has first-round potential, but has struggled this year. St. Brown has a superb skill set, but the limitations of Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush are holding St. Brown back.

USC running back Ronald Jones and USC wide receiver Deontay Burnett are second-day prospects to watch.

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