2018 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 13

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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Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State; Thursday, Nov. 23, 7:30 PM ESPN

This contest has a good draft matchup with Rebels cornerback Ken Webster going against Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Webster is one of the top cornerbacks for the 2018 NFL Draft, while Fitzgerald could develop into an early-rounder.

Another really good draft matchup in this game is with Mississippi State left tackle Martinas Rankin taking on Ole Miss edge rusher Marquis Haynes. Both of them have limitations that could make them mid-rounders in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rankin has a lack of strength, while Haynes is undersized. After some development, Rankin could end up be starter in the NFL, and Haynes could stick in the NFL as a designated pass-rusher, filling a key role for a defense.

Missouri vs. Arkansas; Friday, Nov. 24, 2:30 PM CBS

Missouri edge rusher Marcel Frazier could use a strong finish to the season to help his grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. This is going to be the last collegiate game for Arkansas center Frank Ragnow. He was invited to the Senior Bowl, so he could help himself in Mobile.

South Florida vs. Central Florida; Friday, Nov. 24, 3:30 PM ABC

There are a few prospects to watch in this game. Central Florida junior cornerback Mike Hughes has received some second-round grades, according to team sources. He will see a good college offense from the Bulls. South Florida has two defensive line prospects who some sources like and others don’t at all. The two Bulls are defensive tackle Bruce Hector and defensive end Mike Love. Both players could use good performances to close out the season.

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia; Friday, Nov. 24, 8:00 PM ESPN

There are a few defensive prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft in this rivalry game. Virginia Tech brothers linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Terrell Edmunds are both early-round talents for the 2018 NFL Draft. Virginia defensive tackle Andrew Brown could join them on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sources say that they had Cavaliers safety Quin Blanding as a third-day pick, but some in the draft media have Blanding going early in the 2018 NFL Draft. Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert has also created some late buzz this season.

Ohio State vs. Michigan; Saturday, Nov. 25, 12:00 PM FOX

There is a good battle in the trenches of this game with Ohio State center Billy Price taking on Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. Both are early-rounders, so whoever gets the better of their reps against the other will help his draft stock.

Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard and Ohio State defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones are both early-round talents who will have their run defense challenged. Ohio State Linebacker Jerome Baker is a potential mid-rounder, while Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is likely to go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Buckeyes have a first- or second-round pick in wide receiver Parris Campbell, but they have struggled to get him the ball this season with the passing limitations of quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Louisville vs. Kentucky; Saturday, Nov. 25, 12:00 PM SECN

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is a one-man team who is going to be tested by a SEC defense with some pro talent. Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen is a dangerous edge rusher who can put a lot of heat on the quarterback. Allen also contributes as a run defender who will be challenged by an elite dual-threat quarterback. Sources from multiple teams have told me they think he could go late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity is a pro prospect, and it will be good to see how he performs going against the best quarterback he will face all season.

Florida State vs. Florida; Saturday, Nov. 25, 12:00 PM ESPN

There are a few defensive backs in this game who will be playing on Sundays. The top prospect is Florida State safety Derwin James, who will probably be a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. James could help himself by showing more coverage and ball skills in his final collegiate games. Seminoles cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is a likely early-round talent, too, but he has had a disappointing season and could use a good game against Florida. Gators cornerback Duke Dawson is a potential second-day pick who could be a starting nickel in the NFL.

Gators left tackle Martez Ivey has struggled this season, and he is going to see two NFL-caliber edge rushers in Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. Ivey needs to play better to close out this season and help his draft stock, but he definitely should return to Florida for next year. Sweat has an early-round skill set, but he faces a lot of medical concerns from NFL teams.

Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate is another prospect to watch. While the Seminoles struggle to get him the ball, Tate is a huge wideout who presents mismatch problems.

Others prospects to watch are Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi. Nnadi is a 4-3 nose tackle who could go on Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Florida defensive tackle/end Taven Bryan is an early-round talent who should have his way with Florida State’s weak offensive line.

Alabama vs. Auburn; Saturday, Nov. 25, 3:30 PM CBS

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has improved over the course of the season, but he will see a huge test in the Iron Bowl while taking on a defense loaded with pro talent. Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne is a potential first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft. Linebackers Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton are prospects for the NFL as well. Alabama free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a likely top-10 pick for the 2018 NFL Draft, while strong safety Ronnie Harrison could be a first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft as well. Cornerback Anthony Averett could be a second-day pick, and third cornerback Tony Brown has a pro skill set as well. If Stidham can pass the ball well against this defense, that could significantly help his draft grade.

There is a great draft matchup on the other side of the ball, too. Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley is one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. He will see a first-round cornerback prospect in Carlton Davis. If Davis can cover up Ridley, that could send Davis’ draft stock soaring.

Other prospects to watch include Auburn edge rusher Jeff Holland and guard Braden Smith. Alabama running back Damien Harris could be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Texas A&M vs. LSU; Saturday, Nov. 25, 7:30 PM SECN

This contest has an excellent draft matchup with Tigers cornerback Donte Jackson going against Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk. Jackson is one of the top cornerbacks for the 2018 NFL Draft, while Kirk is an early-round receiver in his own right. Kirk’s deep speed should be negated by the ultra-fast Jackson. However, Kirk could pose problems for LSU cornerback Kevin Toliver. Toliver, a big corner, has had issues defending against deep speed this year. It will be interesting to see what Kirk does in this game against this secondary.

One of the elite prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft is LSU defensive end Arden Key. He should have his way with a weak Texas A&M offensive line. Adding some more sacks to his total could help Key.

Other prospects to watch are Texas A&M safety Armani Watts and LSU running back Derrius Guice. Watts is a mid-rounder who could be a starter in the NFL, while Guice looks like a second-day prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame vs. Stanford; Saturday, Nov. 25, 8:00 PM ABC

This game features two running backs for the NFL with Stanford’s Bryce Love and Notre Dame’s Josh Adams. The ultra-fast Love could easily be a first-round pick if he enters the 2018 NFL Draft, while the big, physical Adams could be a second-day pick during the 2018 NFL Draft.

The best prospect in this game is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. Sources from around the league say that Nelson is one of the elite prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Fighting Irish left tackle Mike McGlinchey is another future first-rounder and NFL starter. Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is a NFL prospect who could help himself if he can manage some wins against McGlinchey or Nelson. It would be surprising if Phillips did well against Nelson, as the Notre Dame guard has dominated every opponent this season. Nelson is thought of as one of the best guard prospects for the NFL this century.

Another matchup to watch is Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown going against Stanford cornerback Quenton Meeks. Sources say that Meeks hasn’t played well this season and should return for his senior year. He could help himself by covering St. Brown well.

This contest also has two future NFL tight ends. Stanford’s Dalton Schultz could be a second-day pick. Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe has played well enough to have a shot at the next level.

Washington State vs. Washington; Saturday, Nov. 25, 8:00 PM FOX

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk could be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he will see a tough defense in this contest. Some sources think that Washington nose tackle Vita Vea could be a top-20 pick next April, and he is a load at the point of attack. Other prospects to watch in this game are Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis, running back Myles Gaskin and running back Lavon Coleman. Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard has a pro skill set and has impressed some evaluators this year.

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