Week 1 of the college football season has come and gone, and the Week 2 slate brings plenty more exciting action between some of the top teams in the country. In this column, I break down the top matchups between NFL Draft prospects in the 2023 class. You can find a recap of last week’s matchups at the bottom of the page.
I want to mention that there are two excellent quarterback matchups that deserve your full attention from a scouting perspective. Caleb Williams and Tanner McKee match up in what figures to be an absolute shootout while Anthony Richardson and Will Levis face off in an SEC rematch. I didn’t include them in the actual list as they aren’t true one-on-one matchups we can learn from, but they should be very exciting nonetheless.
OG Clark Barrington (BYU) vs DT Siaki Ika (Baylor)
Siaki Ika isn’t quite a well known name on the national stage yet, but I expect that to change very soon. Ika has absurd quickness and burst off the ball for a 350-pound defensive lineman, and he could push Jalen Carter when it’s all said and done as the best interior defensive line prospect in this class.
Become familiar with #Baylor NT Siaki Ika #62.
Verified 6-4, 354 pounds with nimble feet and natural power. LSU transfer. He looked like Vita Vea on the Ole Miss tape.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 9, 2022
BYU has one of the best offensive lines in the country – they ranked ninth on Athlon’s list. Left tackle Blake Freeland and left guard Clark Barrington are the two NFL draft prospects to keep a close eye on, and they can elevate their stock against a standout Baylor defensive line. I give Ika and the Bears the edge here, but the battle in the trenches should be fun to watch.
RB Bijan Robinson (Texas) vs Alabama run defense
Bijan Robinson is such a uniquely gifted talent at running back, and it feels like a lock that he will break the current streak of no first-round players at his position. Robinson registered an absurd 71 yards on just ten carries (55 yards after contact) and three catches for 40 yards last week.
10 carries for Bijan Robinson week 1
71 total yards – 55 of those after contact (@PFF)
Not a lot of 220+lb RBs have the stop/start or change of direction he does pic.twitter.com/0qY6HcVDi4
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 7, 2022
This week, Robinson faces one of the best run defenses in the NFL in Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished last season with the third-best run defense in the country by EPA, and they return a ton of front seven talent. Will Anderson Jr. is the headliner, but Alabama has talented run defenders at all three levels. I’m excited to see how Robinson handles himself in the toughest test of his season.
OT Javon Foster (Missouri) vs. ED Felix Anudike-Uzomah (Kansas State)
So far, so good for Javon Foster. Louisiana Tech doesn’t have any draftable talent, but Foster deserves credit for playing a perfect game per PFF – he didn’t allow a single pressure on 32 pass-blocking snaps. Foster isn’t considered a Day 1 or 2 prospect right now, but in a weak tackle class, he could be a big riser if he continues to produce at a high level in the SEC.
This week, Foster faces one of the toughest tests of his season. Felix Anudike-Uzomah possesses a ton of the traits teams look for in a speed edge rusher with elite speed, burst, and agility. South Dakota had no answers for him last week as Anudike-Uzomah dominated across the board with three pressures, four run stops, and a forced fumble.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah defeats the double team for the sack pic.twitter.com/8V8Y2uPUzV
— Clint The K-State Fan (@Thekstatefan2) September 7, 2022
WR Jadon Haselwood (Arkansas) vs. CB Cam Smith (South Carolina)
I had concerns about Jadon Haselwood last week as he had been limited by an injury in practice, but he scored a touchdown and finished with 42 yards in an otherwise lackluster performance against Cincinnati. This week, he will face one of his toughest matchups of the season against Cam Smith, an elite cornerback prospect.
Cam Smith lacks top-end athletic traits, but he’s an incredibly crafty and intelligent player in coverage, and he plays with great confidence and physicality. Smith is currently listed as my second-ranked cornerback in this class. He allowed just 184 yards in coverage all of last season, and if he’s that productive again, he could finish as CB1.
TE Jaheim Bell (South Carolina) vs. S Jalen Catalon (Arkansas)
The South Carolina vs Arkansas matchup features two high-profile draft matchups. Jaheim Bell is coming off an intriguing game where he had more carries (seven for 39 yards) than receptions (four for 18 yards). The coaches had talked up Bell’s versatility all offseason with his combination of size, speed, and physicality, and the early returns were promising.
Regardless of where Bell lines up this week, Jalen Catalon will have his eyes on him. Catalon is an All American safety and one of the top prospects at his position, but he suffered a shoulder injury and his status for this week is up in the air. If he plays, keep an eye on his coverage versatility and excellent anticipation to make plays on the ball.
Week 1 Prospect Matchup Recap
OTs Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones (Ohio State) vs. Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame)
Notre Dame had an excellent defensive game overall, but I was surprised that Isaiah Foskey wasn’t more of a factor. PFF logged him with just one pressure on 20 pass-rush snaps. Johnson Jr. and Jones also paved the way for 172 rushing yards. The edge went to the Ohio State offensive tackles.
DT Jalen Carter (Georgia) vs. IOL T.J. Bass (Oregon)
I predicted this game could get ugly, and boy did it ever. However, Jalen Carter wasn’t a huge part of it as he finished with just two pressures and an underwhelming 66.6 PFF grade overall. T.J. Bass didn’t equip himself very well against the Georgia front, however, and he allowed three pressures overall. Carter earned the big-time highlight below, albeit not against Bass.
TE Arik Gilbert (Georgia) vs. LB Noah Sewell (Oregon)
Arik Gilbert disappointingly finished without a catch, although Georgia didn’t need him with their offense firing on all cylinders. Going forward, will Gilbert play more than 13 snaps a week? It will be difficult for him to improve on his draft stock if he’s not on the field. Georgia’s receivers led the way in the passing game, as Darnell Washington and Brock Bowers only combined for 71 yards.
Noah Sewell was predictably washed out in this game. He finished with just one pressure and two tackles per PFF. However, he wasn’t necessarily a liability in coverage as he allowed just two one catch on 27 coverage snaps. That’s a win, but we didn’t learn much here.
OT Robert Scott Jr. (Florida State) vs. ED B.J. Ojulari (LSU)
B.J. Ojulari was a menace on Sunday night, and his efforts along with the rest of the LSU front seven was the driving force behind their ability to keep the game close throughout. Ojulari finished with seven total pressures, two sacks, and four QB hits per PFF. Robert Scott Jr. was only responsible for two allowed pressures per PFF, but he struggled throughout, and he has to play better to boost his draft stock.
QB Anthony Richardson (Florida) vs. Utah defense
Man oh man. The Anthony Richardson hype train has left the station. Richardson wasn’t terribly impressive as a passer – he finished with a 69.6% completion rate and 165 yards – but his rushing is going to be a problem for college defenses. He finished with 104 yards on just 9 attempts (8.7 YPC) and three touchdowns.
Anthony Richardson is an absolute STUD. pic.twitter.com/nlqzHjkVEi
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 4, 2022
We didn’t see Richardson challenge the Utah secondary with just one passing attempt 20+ yards downfield, but he completed seven of his nine passes at the 10-20-yard level. The Utah defense clearly missed Devin Lloyd, and they have some work to do to get their front seven back into fighting shape.
TE Luke Musgrave (Oregon State) vs. S J.L. Skinner (Boise State)
I was very impressed with Luke Musgrave on Saturday night as he finished with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. The Beavers didn’t use Musgrave as a blocker very much, but he allowed one pressure on just two pass-blocking snaps per PFF. His blocking productivity will ultimately dictate a large chunk of his draft stock.
J.L. Skinner had an interception in the game, and he allowed just two catches for 24 yards in coverage, earning a 51.4 passer rating against per PFF. Skinner also showcased his physicality in the box safety role as he finished with 12 total tackles and two big run stops. I was impressed with both players.
— NFL DraftID (@MockDraftMonday) September 4, 2022