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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Boston College vs. Boise State; Wednesday, Dec. 26, 1:30 PM ET ESPN
Boston College defensive end Zach Allen is putting together his second straight impressive season, and while he does not get the hype of other players, he could be one of the most well-rounded defensive lineman who goes in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. Boston College will need him to slow down Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien, who could be a late-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom is one of the top interior offensive line prospects. The Eagles also have safety prospects to watch in Will Harris and Lukas Denis.
Miami vs. Wisconsin; Thursday, Dec. 27, 5:15 PM ET ESPN
There will be some good draft matchups in this game with the talent on the Hurricanes’ defensive line taking on the Badgers’ blocking front. Wisconsin right tackle David Edwards received some media hype entering and during the season, but team sources have told me they are very disappointed in his play. He will see a future NFL contributor in defensive end Joe Jackson, who also has disappointed pro evaluators this year. Sources say both of them should go back to school next year.
The better prospects are on the inside, where Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter and Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis III could both go on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. This is an important tape for both of them.
There are some other prospects to watch including the trio of Wisconsin linebackers T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly and Andrew Van Ginkel. Miami safety Jaquan Johnson, Miami linebacker Shaq Quarterman and Miami cornerback Michael Jackson are worth watching as well.
Florida vs. Michigan; Saturday, Dec. 29, 12:00 PM ET ESPN
Both teams have talented defenses with NFL edge rushers, but the top one is skipping the bowl game. Michigan’s Rashan Gary is a likely top-20 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and has already announced he is entering the 2019 NFL Draft and not playing in the bowl game. The same result could happen with Florida defensive end Jachai Polite, a future first-round pick. WalterFootball.com was first to report that Polite is planning on entering the 2019 NFL Draft via NFL and Gators program sources. Aside from those two prospects, Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich and Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga could be second-day picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Gators senior CeCe Jefferson has late-round potential.
Multiple team sources have told WalterFootball.com that Gators right tackle Jawaan Taylor is their top-graded offensive lineman for the 2019 NFL Draft, if he decides to come out. Hopefully, Winovich will line up against Taylor to show a good draft matchup of future NFL players. Winovich may go against Florida left tackle Martez Ivey, who could be a third-day pick.
Florida linebackers Vosean Joseph and David Reese have second-day potential, and they will be challenged by Michigan running quarterback Shea Patterson. Gators slot cornerback/safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will test Patterson in coverage in the middle of the field.
Other prospects to watch include Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, Michigan running back Karan Higdon, Florida running back Jordan Scarlett and Florida running Lamichael Perine.
South Carolina vs. Virginia; Saturday, Dec. 29, 12:00 PM ET ABC
There could be a good draft matchup in this game with South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking on Virginia defensive back Juan Thornhill. It would help Thornhill’s draft grade to show that he can run with Samuel. South Carolina offensive tackle Dennis Daley is a mid-round prospect to watch.
Clemson vs. Notre Dame; Saturday, Dec. 29, 4:00 PM ET ESPN
The best prospects in this game come on Clemson’s defensive line with end Clelin Ferrell, tackle Dexter Lawrence and tackle Christian Wilkins. All three are likely first-round picks next April. Fellow end Austin Bryant could be a pick on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Tigers cornerback Trayvon Mullen is a mid-rounder, and linebacker Tre Lamar has early-round talent. Clemson’s defense will be challenged by a tough Notre Dame offensive line and other skill position talent for the NFL in running back Dexter Williams and wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Notre Dame has a tough front seven as well. Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery could be a first- or second-round pick next April, and he has put a lot of heat on quarterbacks this year. Tillery and some talented young edge rushers will test Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his ability to get the ball out quickly while remaining composed under pressure. Notre Dame linebacker Te’Von Coney and Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love are other prospects to watch. Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt is worth watching as well.
Oklahoma vs. Alabama; Saturday, Dec. 29, 8:00 PM ET ESPN
The top prospect in this game is Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. WalterFootball.com was first to report that NFL teams were viewing Williams as a high first-round talent, and he has dominated this season. Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis is a top-20 talent, while Alabama’s third tackle, Isaiah Buggs, could go in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. All three will be a huge test for Oklahoma. Sooners right tackle Cody Ford is very talented and could be the top guard prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Behind the Crimson Tide’s star-studded line are early-round prospects at linebacker in Mack Wilson and Anfernee Jennings. Things continue in the secondary too, with Alabama safety Deionte Thompson being the top safety prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. Thompson could be challenged downfield by Oklahoma speedster Marquise Brown, although Brown’s status is uncertain after suffering an injury against Texas in the Big XII Championship Game.
Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams gets a lot of media hype with high first-round projections, but team sources have not been as high on him and have him more in the back half of the first round. Alabama running back Damien Harris is one of the top tailback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft, and he could be a Thursday night selection next April. Crimson Tide tight end Irv Smith Jr. also could be a first-round pick if he decides to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.
Michigan State vs. Oregon; Monday, Dec. 31, FOX 3:00 PM ET
This could be the final game to evaluate Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is the top quarterback prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft and will be facing a defense with some NFL talent. Michigan State’s defensive end Kenny Willekes, safety Khari Willis and safety David Dowell should all compete on Sundays. They will all test Herbert’s composure and decision-making. Oregon defensive end Jalen Jelks had a disappointing season and could use a good tape to help him.
Mississippi State vs. Iowa; Tuesday, Jan. 1, 5:00 PM ET ESPN
This game has a good draft matchup of early-round talents going head-to-head with Iowa tight end Noah Fant taking on Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram. Fant is a receiving weapon who will test Abram, and if Abram shows well in coverage on Fant, that could really help the safety’s draft stock. Abram is one of the better safety prospects and could be a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
There are a bunch of NFL defensive linemen in this game as well. Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeff Simmons could be a top-20 pick if he declares for the 2019 NFL Draft and is a quick, athletic, and naturally strong defensive lineman. Teammate defensive end Montez Sweat also could go in the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft. Sweat is a fast speed rusher with length. His run defense should get tested by Iowa.
Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson will be worth watching as he should be competing on Sundays. Bulldogs center Elgton Jenkins is one of the top center prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft and is worth watching as well.
Ohio State vs. Washington; Tuesday, Jan. 1, 5:00 PM ET ESPN
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins could be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and will be taking one off the better defenses in college football. The Huskies are solidly coached by Jimmy Lake and have future NFL talent throughout their defense. Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell and running back Mike Weber are early-round talents to challenge those Huskies defenders. That group includes include Washington safety Taylor Rapp, safety JoJo McIntosh, cornerback Jordan Miller, cornerback Byron Murphy and defensive tackle Greg Gaines. Gaines will take on a future NFL center in Ohio State’s Michael Jordan.
On the other side of the ball, there will be good talent going head-to-head as well. Huskies right tackle Kaleb McGary could see the best edge rushers he will face all year with Ohio State, even without Nick Bosa. Buckeyes defensive tackle Dre’Mont should be a first-round pick next April.
Washington running back Myles Gaskin will challenge Ohio State. He led the Huskies to a road win over Washington State to get the Huskies into the conference championship, where they beat Utah. Other prospects to watch on the Ohio State defense include cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette.
Georgia vs. Texas; Tuesday, Jan. 1, 8:45 PM ET ESPN
There is a great draft matchup in this game of the runners-up in the SEC and Big XII. Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker could be the top cornerback in the 2019 NFL Draft and will be tested by Texas wide receivers Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. They both have early-round potential, and if they get the better of Baker, that would be huge for their draft grades. This will be an important tape for the draft grade of each of these players and will be watched all over the league this spring.
Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker is another good prospect to watch, and he is coming off an excellent game against Alabama in the SEC Championship. He has played well late in the year, showing an ability to rush off the edge.
Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu and cornerback Kris Boyd are mid-round prospects to watch as well. Omenihu has improved his grade late in the year, while Boyd is a bit of a love-hate prospect in the scouting community.
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