Want to get to know the draft prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft? This weekly column breaks down the best matchups to watch each week in college football.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Northwestern vs. Purdue; Thursday, Aug. 30, 8:00 PM ET ESPN
Northwestern has three prospects who made NFL teams' preseason watch list with first- through fourth-round potential for the 2019 NFL Draft. Those players are quarterback Clayton Thorson, cornerback Montre Hartage and outside linebacker Nate Hall. Thorson is the player who will have the most attention, in part because he tore up his right knee in the Wildcats' bowl game. Thorson is said to be looking sharp in practice, and he has early-round potential with a good combination of size, arm strength, and intangibles. Thorson needed to improve his mechanics, so it will be interesting to gauge his health and level of improvement.
Wildcats junior defensive end Joe Gaziano (6-4, 275) is another draft-eligible player to watch after he had nine sacks with four forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2017.
Utah State vs. Michigan State; Friday, Aug. 31, 7:00 PM BTN
Michigan State running back L.J. Scott is one of the most physicality gifted running backs in college football and an early-round talent. He has had fumbling issues, however, and needs to show that is a problem of the past in 2018. Giving proof that he has improved his ball security starts versus the Aggies. Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie has early-round potential, and some team sources are intrigued with Spartans junior quarterback Brian Lewerke.
Texas vs. Maryland; Saturday, Sept. 1, 12:00 PM ET FS1
Last year's version of this game revealed that Longhorns left tackle Connor Williams was an overrated prospect and Terrapins wide receive D.J. Moore was an underrated one. This year, there are more prospects to evaluate, including two offensive linemen with Texas tackle Calvin Anderson and Maryland guard Derwin Gray. Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson and cornerback Kris Boyd are other prospects who have early-round potential.
Washington vs. Auburn; Saturday, Sept. 1, 3:30 PM ET ABC
There will be some excellent draft matchups in this game. Washington left tackle Trey Adams is coming off a torn ACL and is the consensus top offensive line prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft entering this season. He is going to see some talented Auburn defensive linemen, including a possible early-round defensive end in Marlon Davidson and a potential top-10 talent in tackle Derrick Brown. Huskies right tackle Kaleb McGary also could go on the first two days of the draft, and he will see some fast Auburn edge rushers.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham has first-round potential for the 2019 NFL Draft, but he needs to show his strong finish from last year will carry over. He is going to see a Washington defense loaded with NFL talent. Defensive tackle Greg Gaines, cornerback Jordan Miller, safety Taylor Rapp and safety JoJo McIntosh all graded out as having first- through fourth-round potential by NFL advance scouts. Huskies running back Myles Gaskin is another prospect who could go in the top half of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Tennessee vs. West Virginia; Saturday, Sept. 1, 3:30 PM ET CBS
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is a NFL prospect with serious arm talent and is coming off an impressive first season starting for the Mountaineers. This year, he is going to see a lot of weak defenses in the Big XII, so he should put up some massive numbers again. Tennessee is a rebuilding program, but the Volunteers still have talent on their roster to challenge West Virginia. The speed and physicality of the Volunteers' defense could be a challenge for the Mountaineers compared to what they are used to going against in the Big XII. Thus, it will be interesting to see how Grier plays against Tennessee a few years after leading Florida to a miraculous comeback win over the Volunteers.
Other prospects to watch are West Virginia wide receiver David Sills and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste. Tennessee has some good prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft in offensive tackle/guard Tre Smith and wide receiver Marquez Callaway.
Washington State vs. Wyoming; Saturday, Sept. 1, 3:30 PM ET CBSSN
This is a bit confusing considering Wyoming versus New Mexico State led off our previews - down at the bottom -, but Wyoming played in "Week 0" against New Mexico State and was triumphant over the Aggies 29-7. While this is the second game for Wyoming, it is the first for Washington State. There is a really good draft matchup in this game with Wyoming defensive end Carl Granderson going against Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Both have early-round potential, so this tape will be studied closely by pro evaluators. Another prospect to watch is Wyoming junior defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame; Saturday, Sept. 1, 7:30 PM ABC
There will be a lot of NFL talent on display as these two historic programs renew their old rivalry. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is a pro prospect, and it will be interesting to see if Patterson has improved his passing talents after working with Jim Harbaugh. Wolverines defensive tackle Rashan Gary is a high first-round talent, and this could be the year in which he plays up to his skill set. Michigan linebacker Chase Winovich is another prospect to watch.
Notre Dame has a lot of players who received projections of having first- through fourth-round potential for the 2019 NFL Draft according to teams' watch list that sources shared with me. Those players include guard Alex Bars, wide receiver Chase Claypool, linebacker Te'von Coney, linebacker Daelin Hayes, cornerback Julian Love, tight end Alize Mack and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
Louisville vs. Alabama; Saturday, Sept. 1, 8:00 PM ET ABC
If Lamar Jackson were playing in this game, it would be epic. With Jackson playing for the Ravens, Louisville is a long-shot to knock off the defending National Champions.
Of course, Alabama is loaded with talent once again. Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis is a potential top-10 pick if he can duplicate or build upon what he did in 2017. Other pro prospects who have early-round potential include: defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, running back Damien Harris, guard Ross Piersbacher, offensive tackle Jonah Williams, linebacker Mack Wilson and cornerback Trevon Diggs. The Cardinals have two pro prospects to watch in guard Lukayus McNeil and wide receiver Jaylen Smith. McNeil could do wonders for his draft grade if he has a good showing against Davis and Buggs.
Miami vs. LSU; Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 PM ET ABC
Miami safety Jaquan Johnson, cornerback Michael Jackson, wide receiver Ahmmon Richards and defensive end Joe Jackson are prospects to watch in this game. Entering the season, Joe Jackson has first-round potential for the 2019 NFL Draft, according to some team sources, although others are not as enthusiastic. Jackson could use a strong start to the year to sway the doubters.
Defensively, LSU could have two of the top prospects at their positions for the 2019 NFL Draft. Junior linebacker Devin White could be the best linebacker in college football along with being the top linebacker prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. He was phenomenal in 2017, and some advance team scouts have compared him to Ray Lewis. Cornerback Greedy Williams was a ballhawk last year and the skinny cover corner will see a good test if Richards is healthy. The Tigers need a big year from both White and Williams.
Virginia Tech vs. Florida State; Monday, Sept. 3, 8:00 PM ET ESPN
Florida State is not as loaded with talent as it has been in recent years, but the Seminoles still have some prospects to watch in defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas, cornerback Levonta Taylor and edge defender Brian Burns. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Ricky Walker landed on teams' preseason watch list as a prospect who has the potential to end up being a first- through fourth-rounder in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Wyoming vs. New Mexico State; Saturday, Aug. 25, 10:00 PM ET ESPN2
While this game won't get national recognition, there are a few good prospects in this game. Wyoming defensive end Carl Granderson and New Mexico State outside linebacker Terrill Hanks both made NFL teams' watch list with a projection of first- through fourth-round potential. Another prospect to watch is Wyoming junior defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. Granderson and Ghaifan were very effective last year while also showing the upside to get better.
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