2018 NFL Draft Prospect Matchup Preview – Week 14

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.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

USC vs. Stanford; Friday, Dec. 1, 8:00 PM ABC

USC quarterback Sam Darnold has had a mixed 2017 season, but he remains one of the top signal-caller prospects and a likely high first-rounder if he enters the 2018 NFL Draft. Team sources and others in the media have reported that Darnold would like to return to USC next year. If he doesn’t play well in the Pac-12 Championship Game, that could push Darnold even more to returning to school.

Other USC prospects to watch include defensive tackle Rasheem Green, edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu, running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Deontay Burnett.

Stanford has a few good prospects for the NFL. Sources have told me they think that both running back Bryce Love and safety Justin Reid could be first-round picks if they enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Tight end Dalton Schultz has second-day potential as well.

Central Florida vs. Memphis; Saturday, Dec. 2, 12:00 PM ABC

Sources have told me that Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes has been receiving some second-round grades from scouts this fall. Hughes is going to see a real test as Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller could also be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Miller is a gritty receiver with quickness, route-running, hands, and dangerous run-after-the-catch skills. Hopefully, they will line up against each other.

Even if they don’t line up against each other, Hughes will be challenged by a NFL prospect at quarterback with Memphis’ Riley Ferguson. The senior Ferguson could use a good performance against undefeated Central Florida to help his draft grade.

TCU vs. Oklahoma; Saturday, Dec. 2, 12:00 PM ESPN

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has really risen in his draft grade this year, and some scouts say they see him as a stronger armed version of Jeff Garcia. I know a NFC general manager of a playoff team that liked him but had him pegged as a mid-rounder, like they did Pat Mahomes last year. Some other sources like Mayfield as a second-day pick for the 2018 NFL Draft, and there are some who believe Mayfield could be a first-rounder next April. Mayfield pushing his team to wins in the conference championship and playoffs could lead to him being a Thursday nigh pick.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown is an early-round talent to watch. Other prospects to watch are Sooners edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and cornerback Jordan Thomas. Okoronkwo is a possible mid-rounder, while Thomas could be a late pick or undrafted free agent. TCU running back Kyle Hicks has some admirers in the scouting community and is worth watching for the NFL.

Auburn vs. Georgia; Saturday, Dec. 2, 4:00 PM CBS

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson has been excellent to close out the season, putting up huge performances to beat Georgia and Alabama in order to lead the Tigers to win the SEC West. Johnson was injured against Alabama, so his status for this game is worth monitoring. Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham has really improved this season and is playing efficient football. Both Johnson and Stidham could get second-day consideration if they were to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

Once again, the Auburn duo will be seeing a tough defense with NFL talent. Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is a first- or second-rounder for the 2018 NFL Draft. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, safety Dominick Sanders and outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellmay are also NFL prospects to watch from the Bulldogs.

Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have played really well this year with a lot of success running behind left tackle Isaiah Wynn. That trio should all be selected in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. They sill see a tough Auburn defense with pro prospects in outside linebacker Jeff Holland and cornerback Carlton Davis.

Clemson vs. Miami; Saturday, Dec. 2, 8:00 PM ABC

If you want to watch future NFL defensive linemen, this is a game for you. Clemson’s starting defensive line is comprised of potential first-round picks. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive end Austin Bryant could be Thursday night picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Defensive tackle Demarcus Lawrence is a first-round candidate for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Miami defensive end Chad Thomas has an early-round skill set and flashes some tremendous talent. However, he is inconsistent. Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt has struggled this season and is going to be challenged by Thomas.

Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph, wide receiver Deon Cain and cornerback Mark Fields are other draft prospects to watch.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin; Saturday, Dec. 2, 8:00 PM FOX

There is some good talent in the trenches of this game with Ohio State center Billy Price and Wisconsin left tackle Michael Deiter. Both are early-rounders for the 2018 NFL Draft who are taking on some good defensive talent. If the junior Deiter has a big game, that could be huge for his draft stock. He is seeing three defensive ends who will be playing on Sundays in Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa. Hubbard has a first-round skill set. Lewis should get drafted on Day 2 or in the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, while Bosa could be an early-rounder after next season, when he is eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft. This game will be a big test for Deiter.

Other Ohio State defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and linebacker Jerome Baker are a potential picks next April, while Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is likely to go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Baker and Ward will be challenged by Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli. Fumagalli could be a second-day pick in 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.

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