Sometimes noon games can be a snooze fest — for the lack of high-profile competition or due to the fact that some people are still just waking up when the contests begin. But every now and then, at least from an NFL Draft perspective, we’ll get a treat of a matchup hidden in the form of an early game.
This Saturday, the matchup I was looking forward to most in the noon slate was Kansas State’s offensive line versus Mississippi State’s defensive line.
During Bill Synder’s modern era, the Kansas State Wildcats have sprinkled in some nice NFL Draft prospects over the years, but this year they’re actually loaded in one particular area: the offensive line. Right tackle Dalton Risner, left tackle Scott Frantz and center Adam Holtorf all have NFL potential. Their opening game last week against South Dakota State wasn’t exactly tip-top competition, but this week they went up against one of the better defensive lines in the country in the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Interior defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and edge defender Montez Sweat are the big names on the Bulldogs’ defensive line. Simmons is a giant 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle who plays the run like an anchor and can collapse the pocket like a bulldozer. As a compliment to Simmons’ interior pressure, Sweat’s 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame gives most offensive tackles fits at the college level due to his length, speed and savviness for pass rushing off the edge.
I was curious to see how the Bulldogs were going to deploy Sweat against Kansas State. He’s traditionally facing right tackles, but on Kansas State, their right tackle (Risner) is their best offensive lineman. Early on, Mississippi State chose to switch it up and give Sweat some matchups against Frantz on the left side.
For the most part, Sweat was winning that matchup, often beating Frantz around the edge with quickness and good hands off the snap. Frantz has good fundamentals, and he did show that against Sweat some, but getting depth in his pass set isn’t as fast for Frantz as it is for Risner, and Sweat took advantage of that on a handful of plays.
But when Sweat did rotate back to his normal spot at left defensive end, Risner was a blanket against him, totally neutralizing Sweat in the first half. Risner moves so well for a man his size. He was able to shuffle and slide in front of Sweat’s speed rushes and never really gave him any kind of realistic angle to the quarterback.
Where Sweat had moderate success against KSU’s tackles, Simmons had even more success on the interior. It’s just so hard to block Simmons because of how strong he is. When he’s engaging with interior offensive linemen, even Holtorf, it’s just a matter of time before Simmons pushes the man in front of him straight into the depths of the pocket. Simmons also gets his hands up actively when the quarterback throws the ball and came up with a few disruptions in that way.
It would have been something if we could have seen the two best players on each team, Simmons and Risner, go head-to-head against each other, but neither player moves around much for their respective team. Despite that fact, what makes both prospects alluring for the NFL is that they’re versatile. Simmons has the size to play anywhere from a 0-tech nose position to a 3-4 defensive end. As for Risner, he plays on the right side right now, but he could be a top guard and even left tackle in the NFL with how well he moves and how consistent he is when locking down some of the best pass rushers he’s faced.
Both Simmons and Risner are getting first round hype right now — I had both of them going Top 15 in my latest mock draft — and both of them certainly lived up to that billing when their trenches went up against each other on Saturday.