The draft prospect matchups you need to be watching in Week 4
Three weeks are in the books, and we already have a number of players stepping up to be seen in the draft process. That’s the beauty of the season, as certain players make a move and they put themselves on the radar. This is the time of year that players need to prove that their three-week production is not due to a small sample size or lack of competition, so as we enter conference play and the meat of the schedule for most teams, the evaluation process will heat up as well.
Here are the one-on-one matchups I’ll be watching in Week 4:
1. Utah DE Hunter Dimick vs. USC OT Zach Banner
The last time we highlighted Banner for a matchup, things did not go well for him, as he nearly matched last year’s surrendered pressure totals in Week 1 versus Alabama. He has a chance at redemption this week, as he goes against red-hot edge-rusher Hunter Dimick from Utah. Dimick is coming off a 14-pressure performance against San Jose State that featured three sacks, two QB hits, and nine hurries on just 40 rushes. He now leads all edge rushers with his 23 pressures heading into Week 4, and all 104 of his pass-rush snaps have come off the left side — opposite where Banner will line up at right tackle — so this is a matchup to watch from start to finish.
As for Banner, he has settled in after the rough start against Alabama, allowing only one QB hit over the last two weeks. He’s also been strong in the run game, though his four penalties are tied for fourth in the nation among offensive tackles. This is an important game for Banner as he continues to undo some of the damage from his Week 1 performance against Alabama (which, in fairness to Banner, has a ridiculously talented and productive front seven).
2. Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie vs. Oregon wide receivers Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford
Our weekly look at a defensive back facing Oregon’s offense continues, and we also highlighted Awuzie earlier this week as a prospect on the rise. He’ll be challenged both outside (45 percent of his snaps this season) and in the slot (36 percent of snaps). Oregon’s receivers will bring a variety of challenging looks for Awuzie, from Stanford’s 6-foot-5 frame to Nelson’s 5-foot-9 frame and shiftiness in the slot. Throw in the general challenge that Oregon’s offense brings, from playing the run on the edge to tackling in space, and this is an important game for Awuzie in the evaluation process.
3. UConn CB Jamar Summers vs. Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo
Summers has been on our watch list since posting one of the nation’s top coverage grades last season, while Etta-Tawo has been a breakout performer this year in Syracuse’s new-look offense. Summers had eight interceptions and two passes defensed on only 55 targets last season, and he had his first interception and pass defensed last week against Virginia. He brings an intriguing 6-foot frame to the position, and Etta-Tawo will challenge him down the field, where he’s third in the nation in deep-ball catch rate at 60 percent and fourth in total deep yards with 225. Summers will play on both sides of the field, while Etta-Tawo has taken most of his snaps split out wide on the left, but there will be plenty of one-on-one reps between these two to evaluate.
4. Michigan CBs Chandler Stribling and Jeremy Clark vs. Penn State WR Chris Godwin
NFL teams seem to be looking for long cornerbacks, and Michigan boasts two options in the 6-foot-2 Stribling and 6-foot-4 Clark. Both players are off to strong starts in 2016, combining to allow seven catches on 20 targets, though they have given up 122 yards on those seven catches. They’ve played well while PFF All-American Jourdan Lewis has been out injured. (Check out this pass breakup by Clark below.)
As for Godwin, he was a big-play threat in Penn State’s offense last year and the Big Ten’s No. 5-graded receiver, averaging 16.0 yards per reception for a team-high 1,101 yards. He’s still Penn State’s top-graded receiver, though he’s averaging only 9.3 yards per reception on his 18 catches this season, as he hasn’t been used in the downfield game quite as often. We’ll see if QB Trace McSorley gives him more opportunities to make big plays this week.