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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Michigan vs. Michigan State; Saturday, Oct. 20, 12:00 PM ET FOX
Michigan State running back L.J. Scot has an early-round skill set, but injuries have held him back all year. He has to get back on the field and be productive to have any hope of going in the first few rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. Running backs with durability issues can slide, so Scott must get on the field. If he does, he will see a tough Wolverines defense led by their future NFL defensive ends Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich. Gary could be a top-20 pick next April, while Winovich has been superb this year and could be an early-round selection as well.
Michigan State’s defense was ripped up by Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson a few weeks ago, so it will be interesting to see how Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson plays versus the Spartans. Patterson has had a disappointing first half of the season and needs to close out the season well to help his draft grade for either the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft.
Auburn vs. Ole Miss; Saturday, Oct. 20, 12:00 PM ET ESPN
Even though these teams have had some disappointing games, there is some good NFL talent going head-to-head. Auburn cornerback Jamel Dean will be seeing the top receiver prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft in the Rebels’ A.J. Brown. Aside from Brown, Ole Miss wideouts Damarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf are NFL prospects at receiver. Dean could use a good tape that shows he can run with and prevent separation from the Ole Miss trio.
Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little could be high first-rounders. Brown could be a top-five selection next April, while Little has been inconsistent over the past two seasons and has more fluidity in his draft stock. Both are tremendous talents for the next level with great skill sets. Auburn has some dangerous edge rushers to challenge Little.
Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham is having a very disappointing season and needs to turn it around immediately to be in contention as an early-round pick for the 2019 NFL Draft. With the way that Stidham is playing, he should return to Auburn for next year.
N.C. State vs. Clemson; Saturday, Oct. 20, 3:30 PM ET
N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley is in the running to be the second- or third-rated quarterback prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, and this will be a huge tape for him as he is seeing a defense loaded with NFL talent. It will be interesting to see if Finley can throw the ball accurately, hold up under intense pass pressure, and lead his offense to points. His top receiver, Kelvin Harmon, is a pro prospect as well, and Harmon will be challenged by a potential first-round cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
What will make this game so tough for Finley is Clemson’s defensive line. The Tigers have three potential first-round picks with defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, edge pass-rusher Clelin Ferrell, and versatile tackle Christian Wilkins. The fourth member of the starting unit, Austin Bryant, could be a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar is another defender with first-round talent.
Other prospects to watch include Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt and N.C. State linebacker Germaine Pratt.
Colorado vs. Washington; Saturday, Oct. 20, 3:30 PM ET
Colorado junior quarterback Steven Montez could develop into a pro prospect, but scouts tell me that Montez needs a lot of work and is streaky. It would help him to impress versus the best defense in the Pac-12 and one of the better defenses in the nation. Montez will be taking on a defense with lots of NFL talent. Huskies defensive tackle Greg Gaines, safety Taylor Rapp, safety JoJo McIntosh, cornerback Jordan Miller and cornerback Byron Murphy are all pro prospects who could be early-round picks. If the Colorado duo plays well against Washington, that will really help bother members’ draft grades.
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies have a talented running back in Myles Gaskin, who could be an early-round selection. Washington right tackle Kaleb McGary is another prospect to watch.
Mississippi State vs. LSU; Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:00 PM ET ESPN
LSU inside linebacker Devin White could be the top inside linebacker for the 2019 NFL Draft, and he is going to love this game in which he will see a lot of runs up the middle by the Bulldogs’ talented sophomore running back Kylin Hill and running quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. White is a tremendous run defender and could produce a huge tackle total in this game.
LSU cornerback Greedy Williams should have an easy matchup in this game, because Fitzgerald has really struggled to pass accurately this year, and as a result, Mississippi State does not throw the ball very often. Still, Williams is worth watching due to being in the running to be the top cornerback prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Along with White and Williams, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons could be a top-20 pick next April. Bulldogs edge rusher Montez Sweat also has early-round potential, as he has been one of the top sack producers in the SEC over the past two years. Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram could be a second-round pick and might be one of the top safety prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Oregon vs. Washington State; Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 PM ET FOX
This game has the potential for a good draft matchup between Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard going against Oregon edge rusher Jalen Jelks. Dillard could be a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He is a good athlete with quickness and agility on the edge. Dillard has the potential to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. Jelks will probably go higher than Dillard as a first- or second-rounder, so it would really help Dillard to shut down Jelks. Hopefully, Jelks lines up against Dillard and not the right tackle.
This will be an interesting game to evaluate Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is the top quarterback prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, and he could easily be forced into a shoot out against Mike Leach’s high-scoring offense. Herbert will see a vulnerable defense, so he needs to produce and not play down to competition.
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