Top draft prospect matchups for Week 1
We did it.
The summer is winding down, Sharknado XIV has come and gone, and it’s finally college football game week. The schedule makers have rewarded our patience with an incredible slate of Week 1 games, perhaps giving us a glimpse of the future of college football when four super conferences may dominate the sport with these types of matchups being churned out weekly. With great team matchups come great individual matchups, particularly when it comes to the NFL draft.
Here’s a look at the top one-one-one matchups to keep an eye on this week, especially as it pertains to the draft.
Alabama OLB Tim Williams vs USC RT Zach Banner
The matchup of the week features one of the nation’s most productive pass rushers against one of the top pass blocking tackles. Williams lined up on the left side 115 of his 147 rushes last season (73.2 percent), so he and Banner will have plenty of one-on-one battles. It will be a matchup of speed versus power and length as Williams’ quick burst allows him to get on tackles quickly before turning the corner or countering inside. Banner has a long, 6-foot-8 frame that is excellent at keeping rushers at bay but the challenge will be keeping Williams from bending right around him on the way to the quarterback.
USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Two potential first round picks will lock up in the secondary as Smith-Schuster’s big play ability will challenge Alabama on the back end. Humphrey had issues giving up big plays of his own, and Smith-Schuster’s after-the-catch skills will pressure Humphrey to make the open field tackle after he missed 10 of his 52 attempts last season. Look for Humphrey to use his 6-1 frame to disrupt Smith-Schuster at the line of scrimmage while challenging him at the catch point on downfield throws where Smith-Schuster has had some trouble in the past.
Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes vs Florida State LT Roderick Johnson
Lost but not forgotten in a sea of potential first-round edge rushers in the SEC, Haynes can get after the quarterback with his speed off the edge. He wasn’t as productive last year as a sophomore, but the skills are there. Johnson has the look of a future first-round pick though he hasn’t played up to that level just yet. This is a great opportunity to live up to his hype against one of the better edge rushers in the nation. Johnson should have the edge in the run game as he blocks well on the move in Florida State’s zone-heavy scheme, but Haynes has the ability to turn the corner on him a few times in what could lead to game-changing plays for Ole Miss. Haynes does move around quite a bit in Ole Miss’ defense, but he should be lined up against Johnson on about half of his rushes.
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook vs Ole Miss S Tony Conner
There’s no more dangerous running back in be open field than Cook, but Conner will have a chance to slow him down Labor Day night. Coming of injury that limited him to 163 snaps a year ago, Conner plays strong safety and over the slot, so he should have a number of plays where he’ll be the eighth defender in the box against Cook. If he can make the open field tackle – something he struggled with in 2014 when he missed 14 out of 75 opportunities – and contain Cook, Ole Miss will stay in the game defensively. However, few running backs turn well-blocked plays into touchdowns than Cook, and if he gets the better of Conner, Florida State’s offense will be off to the races.
Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett vs UCLA LT Conor McDermott
The nation’s top-rated edge rusher goes against one of the top tackles as Garrett looks to continue his dominance and lock up top-five status in the draft. He’s been one of the nation’s top pass rushers the last two years though we’re looking to see more power and play making in the run game. His speed will challenge McDermott who is a solid pass blocker but struggles making the backside zone blocks in UCLA’s scheme. It’s strength against strength as both players are better in the pass game, and McDermott will likely have over 30 head-to-head battles with Garrett who rushed from the right side on all 306 pass rushes last season. If McDermott holds up this weekend, it will go a long way toward increasing his draft stock.