It's week ten of the 2019 college football season, y'all. I mean think about it, we're only two months away from it officially being NFL draft season with the all-star circuit set to kick off in January. We're starting to see the marquee college football matchups we've been waiting for all year, and with that, comes the most important individual matchups in regards to next-level projection. With that being said, here are the five head-to-head matchups between 2020 prospects that I believe NFL scouts will have their eyes on this weekend.
Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas is one of the top five prospects eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft, in my opinion, as he has established himself as the top pass protector in the country. But he faces his biggest test of the season, to this point, this weekend against Florida’s talented pair of pass rushers – Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. Both players have been plagued by injuries all year, but when they’re healthy, they are as dynamic as any pass rush duo in the country. This could be just another checkmark on Andrew Thomas’ nearly flawless resume, or it could be a statement game for either of these two explosive pass rushers in Greenard and Zuniga. To me, this is the top individual prospect matchup to watch in this big rivalry game.
This is a battle between two of the top seniors in the country at their respective positions, and a matchup we are likely to see in Mobile in a couple of months for the Senior Bowl. Adams is finally healthy, and he has been playing at an All-American level this season. Likewise, Bradlee Anae already has seven sacks on the year, coming off a three-sack performance against Arizona State. Both of these players will be drafted in the top 100 next April, and this matchup will undoubtedly be something that scouts point to and watch closely not just this weekend, but throughout the entire draft process with their respective evaluations.
Another Senior Bowl preview matchup! This one in particular will be incredibly fascinating because it is a battle of two contrasting styles on the line of scrimmage. Nick Harris, at 6’1, 302, relies on his foot quickness and fluidity to reach three techniques and get to the second level for his production, but his biggest struggles come against pure power and length. On the other hand, Utah’s Leki Fotu is an absolute powerhouse in the middle of the Utes’ defensive line. At 6’5, 335 lbs., he is one of the most difficult run-defending defensive linemen to block in the country because of how much power he plays with his hands and length. So the biggest question for Nick Harris will be if he can handle the length and size of Leki Fotu. If he cannot, this will be a matchup that scouts point back to with their doubts about Harris’ next-level projection.
ANOTHER SENIOR BOWL PREVIEW MATCHUP! I’m basically advertising for the event at this point. But this one-on-one battle between Wake Forest left tackle Justin Herron and NC State’s freakishly athletic edge rusher James Smith-Williams is the sneakiest 2020 prospect matchup of the week. James Smith-Williams has been hurt for most of the season, but when you just take a look at his physical profile – 6’4, 265 and runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash – he may be one of the most intriguing pass rushers in the entire country. When he’s healthy, his tape is really fun to watch because that explosion just pops on tape. On the other hand, the player he will see a lot of action against is Justin Herron, who may be the most underrated pass protector in college football. He comes from a basketball background, and you can see that with his smooth, easy footwork and movement skills in pass sets. So this should be a great matchup between two intriguing athletes who will probably face off against each other again in January.
It has not necessarily been a disappointing season for either Laviska Shenault or Darnay Holmes, but it has been more quiet than most expected for both. Both were considered fringe first-round picks before the season, but now, there is a legitimate chance Shenault and Holmes go back to school for one more year. At the same time, let’s also remember that Laviska Shenault just had his best game of the season with 9 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown against the USC Trojans. If he can string a couple more of those performances together, he will rekindle the stock he had in the preseason because he is truly a physical marvel with Dez Bryant-like playmaking ability and strength after the catch. On the other hand, UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes is one of the fastest players in the country, pound for pound, so it’s going to be hard to get over the top on him in man coverage. What I want to see most from Holmes is the physicality he showed on 2018 tape. That, to me, is the one thing that’s been missing from his game this year, and he has a great opportunity to show that against arguably the strongest wide receiver in the nation after the catch.