Tuls' Takes: Top 2020 WR/CB Matchups of Week 8

Photo: USA TODAY Sports - Darren Yamashita

We are now at week eight of the 2019 college football season, which means we’re right in the thick of things in terms of watching excellent individual matchups between conference rivals. Specifically, there are a lot of wide receiver and cornerback battles this week that will have the full attention of NFL scouts and front offices. With that being said, here are the individual WR/CB matchups of prospects eligible for the 2020 NFL draft that I’m most excited for this weekend.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State vs Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

Brandon Aiyuk is one of “my guys” in this 2020 NFL draft class. He’s been one of college football’s breakout seniors, and he’s thriving as N’Keal Harry’s replacement at Arizona State. He has a complete game with his ability to stretch the field vertically with speed, win against man coverage with savvy route running, and take any given play to the house with his playmaking production after the catch. In fact, 65 percent of his yards this year are after the catch. Aiyuk has been absurdly good this season, asserting himself as one of the best senior wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. This week, he faces a good test in Utah’s Jaylon Johnson. Johnson has had an up-and-down season, but make no mistake, he has much talent as any cornerback in the PAC-12. He has the speed, quickness, and ball skills to lock down many top college wide receivers. In fact, he did just that to Oregon State wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins last week. This will surely be a battle between two top-100 picks next April.

Aaron Fuller, WR, Washington vs Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon

Fuller has been an explosive weapon both inside and out for the Huskies as Jacob Eason’s top option in the passing game. Lenoir, meanwhile, is an extremely talented cornerback who can also play both inside and out. So I expect these two to match up with each other often in this one. A major calling card of Fuller’s game is his ability to make explosive plays after the catch, but at the same time, one of Lenoir’s calling cards as a prospect is his incredible production and reliability as an open-field tackler. The NFL likes both of these players quite a bit, so this could also be a battle between two future top-100 picks.

KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State vs Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan

This looks to be a great matchup between two undersized prospects with excellent speed and playmaking ability. Both players are easily 4.3 athletes, so I hope we get to see these two matched up, whether it’s in the slot or on the outside. The question here, however, is if Hill will play in this game. He missed last week’s contest against Illinois, and his status against Penn Stats is up in the air. When healthy though, Hill is one of the most intriguing senior cornerback prospects in the country, and this would be a huge game to put on tape for scouts, if he’s able to suit up and go against one of the nation's best wide receivers in Hamler.

Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina vs CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

At 6’3, 216, South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards wins primarily on a physical brand of football, whether at the LOS, the catch point, or with the ball in his hands. In terms of size, Florida’s CJ Henderson matches up favorably at 6’1, 202, but the big question will be if he can match Edwards’ play strength in this game. Other than Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, I’d argue Henderson is the best pure cover corner in this 2020 class. But what holds him back is his inadequate play strength and utter lack of efficiency and reliability as a run defender. The strength of Edwards after the catch could significantly expose Henderson’s open-field tackling woes in this game. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for Henderson to show he’s making progress in the physical aspect of this game. The bottom line is that it’s a huge scouting test for Florida’s star cornerback.

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU vs Cam Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

This is long and athletic against long and athletic. Justin Jefferson, at 6'3, 192, has both the deep speed to win vertically as a route runner and the playmaking ability after the catch to make any given play a house call. That's what his tape shows and it is also reflected in the box score. If you count his last two games, against Florida and Utah State, and also the marquee matchup against Texas, Jefferson caught 28 passes for 441 yards and six touchdowns in those three contests. Quite simply, he may be the hottest wide receiver in the country right now. However, he faces a tough test against a unique cornerback in Cameron Dantzler, who stands at 6'2 with vines for arms. Very similar to Ahkello Witherspoon coming out of Colorado a few years ago, Dantzler has the speed and length to frustrate receivers at all levels of the field. Both Jefferson and Dantzler are two of the 2020 NFL Draft's biggest risers this season, and this should be a great matchup for scouts to go back and watch next spring.