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NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in College Football Week 3

The college football season continues to roll on, and the narrative of Week 2 was a handful of ranked teams being upset and USC’s Clay Helton being fired following the Trojans’ loss to Stanford. There has been a lot of movement near the top of the rankings, with Oregon and Iowa jumping into the top five of the AP Poll.

This week only features a few matchups between ranked opponents. Let’s take a look at some games for college football Week 3 that feature some of the top draft-eligible prospects for 2022.

college football rankings alabama
Credit: Michael Woods/AP Photo

College Football Games to Watch for NFL Scouting

Game of the Week: Alabama at Florida

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida, Saturday, September 18, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on CBS

Alabama Football:

The Crimson Tide are routinely one of the most talented teams in the country, and 2021 is no exception. Every spring, they slide future NFL players into their vacant holes left by the previous class of star prospects.

On offense, there are a ton of talented pass catchers to watch against an outstanding Florida secondary. John Metchie is a versatile wide receiver that has taken a team-first approach up to this point in his career.

He’s the wide receiver version of Kenyon Drake coming out of Alabama in that he has learned to succeed at some of the less-flashy parts of playing the position. Metchie leads a group that includes one of my top tight ends in Jahleel Billingsley, breakout candidate Jameson Williams, and a pair of under-the-radar prospects in slot receiver Slade Bolden and tight end Cameron Latu.

This offensive line will also have some athletic front-seven defenders to combat. Evan Neal is a massive tackle with incredible athleticism that’s trying to prove he’s capable of handling the blindside. He may be the top offensive lineman in the country, while players like Chris Owens and Emil Ekiyor are also candidates to be drafted in 2022.

Defensively, Phidarian Mathis is the breakout candidate of the defensive line that includes run-stuffers like D.J. Dale and LaBryan Ray. Linebacker Christian Harris is the top linebacker on the preseason big board, while his running mate, Henry To’o To’o is one of the more underrated defenders in the country.

Jordan Battle is a hard-hitting defender that could be the top box safety in this class, and cornerback Josh Jobe is trying to boost his stock in his second season as a full-time starter. In all, this defense should have an easier task against an offense that is still rounding into shape.

Florida Football:

The Alabama defense has looked stout thus far, and the Gators’ offense should pale in comparison when it comes to talent. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing if the Florida defense can match their effort against that star-studded Crimson Tide offense.

Kaiir Elam may be the top draft prospect in this contest, and I hope he sees time against all of those top pass-catchers. He’s a tall, physical corner with the ability to make a young, inexperienced quarterback like Bryce Young pay if he gets careless with the football.

Another defensive back that is worth keeping an eye on is Trey Dean. Dean impressed me as a freshman when he stepped in for the injured C.J. Henderson and performed admirably. Since then, he’s played a variety of roles.

He’s a long-armed athlete that could be valuable as a versatile defensive back. He can play corner or safety and may fit best in the slot.

Edge rusher Brenton Cox is also a very intriguing player. A former five-star recruit, Cox fits best as an outside linebacker that lines up on the line of scrimmage. He has incredible arm length and shows an explosive first step that helps him get after the quarterback.

He should see some time lined up across from Neal on Saturday. He’s got the juice off the edge to test the massive tackle, while Neal’s size and power should give scouts a good look at Cox’s ability to hold up against stronger players.

Inside linebacker Ventrell Miller will also get a chance to prove he can be a disruptive presence for the Gators. He’s a rangy linebacker that plays with a lot of intensity. Whether it’s dropping into coverage, blitzing up the middle, or helping to limit Alabama’s ground attack, Florida needs him to have a big game.

My two cents on the college football game:

Alabama is the top team in college football for a good reason. They are capable of dominating an opponent on both sides of the ball. While the Gators are equipped to give teams problems with their defense, I’m just not sure the offense can sustain success against a team like the Crimson Tide.

Both defenses should have their share of success early but look for Alabama’s offense to eventually gain their rhythm while Florida struggles to extend drives. The Crimson Tide will likely pull away in the second half for another big win.

Matchup of the Week: Cincinnati at Indiana

Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana, Saturday, September 18, 11 a.m. (CT) on ESPN

Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana, Fifth-year Senior, 6’2″, 205:

Fryfogle was a big play waiting to happen a year ago, averaging 19.5 yards a grab on his way to All-American honors. He’s a receiver with good size and a sturdy frame that isn’t going to blow us away with his athletic testing.

Still, he’s strong at the catch point, helping him bring down contested catches routinely. What Fryfogle needs to prove is that he can gain enough separation at the line and at the top of his routes to be able to put that sturdy frame between the ball and the defender.

More athletic players, like Garner, will stick to his hip and fight to win position when the ball is on the way. Therefore, Fryfogle is up for a big test in this one. If he can keep from allowing Gardner to blanket every step he takes, it will help convince NFL scouts that he’s got enough athleticism to be an effective possession option in the league.

Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati, Third-Year Junior, 6’3”, 200:

Gardner has been a special player since showing up at Cincinnati. He’s a tall, confident corner with terrific athleticism that’s helped him get his hands on a lot of passes in his two years.

However, his footwork in his transitions needs to get more precise, and he’s got somewhat of a slim build that bigger receivers could take advantage of in the NFL. That’s why Fryfogle should test him.

He’s a physical player that bodies out a lot of corners to substitute for his lack of ability to separate. I want to see how Gardner matches up against a strong player like this.

There’s no doubt that Gardner can stay with Fryfogle step for step, but can he keep from getting outmuscled at the catch-point? If Gardner can shut down Fryfogle, he takes away Indiana’s top playmaker.

My two cents on the college football game:

Cincinnati is the real deal, but this has “trap game” written all over it. After the Bearcats take on Indiana, they have a week off before facing Notre Dame, the top opponent on their schedule.

Indiana may not be ranked, but they are a talented team with the ability to beat anyone that doesn’t show up on their game. A year ago, they upset Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin and nearly beat Ohio State.

Still, Cincinnati has a high-powered offense, while Indiana needs Fryfogle to make his presence felt to keep up. If Gardner is up to the task, the Bearcats likely run away with this one in the second half. However, Fryfogle has a history of showing up big in games like this, and he’s going to come ready to fuel an upset effort.

college football nfl draft prospects Abraham Lucas
Credit: Young Kwak/AP Photo

Player of the Week: Washington State’s Abraham Lucas vs. USC

Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington, Saturday, September 18, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on FOX

Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State, Fifth-Year Senior, 6’7”, 319:

This should be an exciting matchup considering USC just decided to fire their head coach. Still, I expect the Trojans to come out fired up after being beaten soundly last week against Stanford.

If that’s the case, every player for Washington State needs to be on their game, including Lucas at right tackle. He’s one of the more polished pass protectors in the country and certainly has the size to be a difficult obstacle to get around.

Todd Orlando loves to move his players around on the front seven, but I’m hoping to see Lucas matched up with the Trojans’ top pass rusher, Drake Jackson, quite a bit. Jackson is one of the most explosive pass rushers in college football when lined up on the edge, and that will test Lucas.

A year ago, he had little issues with Jackson, although I was disappointed with how often the two lined up against each other. If Lucas is going to have trouble at the NFL level, it’s going to be against speed rushers like Jackson.

Hopefully, the two square off more often on Saturday, allowing scouts to gauge how good Lucas is against speed. With a good showing, Lucas’ reputation in pass protection will continue to soar.

My two cents on the college football game:

The Cougars are going to have a tough time with a highly focused USC squad across the field. The Trojans are talented on both sides of the ball, and the fallout of what transpired over the past week should put their pride on the line in this one.

If they come up unfocused, Washington State has a strong chance to drop USC to 0-2 in conference play. However, I’d be shocked if that’s the case. That was an embarrassing loss to Stanford, and I’d be willing to bet the Cougars will pay the price.


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