For eligible prospects, college football is a stage to boost their 2023 NFL Draft stock. Thus, when matchups come around against fellow NFL draft hopefuls, the stakes rise on both sides. In Week 2, who are the top prospect battles to watch?
2023 NFL Draft Board: Top prospect battles in Week 2
The top prospect battles in the Week 2 slate are headlined by a first-round QB duel. But beyond that, there are more than a few clashes in the trenches to keep an eye on.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson vs. Kentucky QB Will Levis
Circle this matchup, then circle it three more times. This is the big-ticket duel of Week 2. Anthony Richardson and Will Levis might be the two most traits-rich quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft class, and they play each other this weekend.
Though they don’t play directly against one another, this battle will be watched closely by QB-needy teams. Can Richardson sustain growth after showing out against Utah with his near-generational physical talent? And can Levis cut down costly turnovers in a high-pressure environment? A good game from either QB is a step toward locking down first-round capital.
Texas RB Bijan Robinson vs. Alabama LB Henry To’o To’o
Alabama has a major edge in the trenches against Texas, but Bijan Robinson is the one running back in the nation who might be able to work around it. A micro-scientist in space, Robinson only needs the tiniest of lanes to work through a crease in the defense with his agility, anticipation, and play strength.
The margin for error is small for Robinson, who frequently works past the front line. That’s why Henry To’o To’o will have to be on point with his run fits. He has the burst, physicality, and instincts to clamp down on gaps, but one mistake could mean daylight.
Tennessee OT Darnell Wright vs. Pittsburgh EDGE John Morgan
Darnell Wright was a prospect I was very impressed by in the summer. Despite being 6’6″ and over 330 pounds, he moves well enough for his size. And the power element he brings is quantifiably elite. You don’t always see it on Tennessee’s quick-developing plays, but Wright’s upper-body torque and power capacity can be terrifying. Unfortunately, leverage issues have plagued Wright before, and they showed up in Week 1.
John Morgan is a very tough test for Wright. Morgan has natural leverage at 6’2″, 265 pounds, along with bend and a tireless motor. He wreaked havoc against West Virginia.
Pittsburgh OT Carter Warren vs. Tennessee EDGE Tyler Baron
When you look at Carter Warren’s breakout 2021 campaign and the relative dearth of talent in the 2023 NFL Draft tackle class, 2022 looks like a prime opportunity for Warren to rise up the board. However, Warren did get out to a sluggish start against West Virginia.
While his length and power are still visible strengths, he didn’t look quite as fluid or flexible in his pass sets and struggled at times in the run game. An edge rusher like Tyler Baron, who has all the necessary burst and strength packed in a 6’5″, 260-pound frame, could pose trouble.
BYU G Clark Barrington vs. Baylor DTs Siaki Ika, Gabe Hall, Jaxon Player
One of the few ranked matchups this coming week — Baylor vs. BYU — features a stacked trench battle between BYU’s offensive line and Baylor’s defensive line. The Cougars will have their hands full — particularly on the interior.
Connor Pay is a sound, mobile center, while Clark Barrington can generate movement with leg drive and torque. But they’ll face a Baylor interior line with multiple dominating forces. Siaki Ika is a bowling ball at nose tackle, while Gabe Hall and Jaxon Player provide explosiveness and violent rushers alongside him.
BYU OT Blake Freeland vs. Baylor EDGEs TJ Franklin, Garmon Randolph
Also worth watching in the Baylor vs. BYU battle is the face-off between BYU tackle Blake Freeland and Baylor edge rushers TJ Franklin and Garmon Randolph. Franklin provides more of a power element at 6’5″, 265. Randolph is lighter, but still has excellent length at 6’7″, as well as surprising burst and bend.
Both will test Freeland, a fantastic athlete in his own right at 6’8″, 307 pounds. Freeland has excellent length and very easy athleticism, able to recover like a tackle half his size. But leverage could be an issue for the taller Freeland. Franklin knows how to exploit it, and Randolph has the flexibility to dip below the apex.
USC WR Jordan Addison vs. Stanford CB Kyu Blu Kelly
Naturally, the defending Biletnikoff winner appears to have a slight edge on paper here. Jordan Addison isn’t a common first-round choice in mock drafts for no reason. Though he’s underweight, Addison’s an effortless route runner with high-level explosiveness, throttle control, and hip sink.
He’s incredibly difficult to stick to for defensive backs, and a player like Kyu Blu Kelly — who brings length at the cost of fluidity — could struggle to keep up. Nevertheless, Kelly plays low in his stance and has good corrective twitch. He’s an absolute playmaker when the ball comes his way.
Arizona State G LaDarius Henderson vs. Oklahoma State DT Tyler Lacy
LaDarius Henderson has the tools. He’s a long, dominating interior blocker with outrageous power and knock-back capacity in his hands. He also flashes eye-catching explosiveness off the line when attacking upfield.
What Henderson needs most, beyond his tools, is to prove himself against high-level collegiate competition. He may get his chance this week, squaring off against Oklahoma State lineman Tyler Lacy. Lacy is a consistent, high-motor rusher with alignment versatility. It’ll take a steady day from Henderson to hold him back.
Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks vs. Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
Virginia and Illinois aren’t the most talent-dense Power Five teams, but this contest does pit a potential Day 2 receiver against one of the hottest defensive backs in college football.
Devon Witherspoon is off to a torrid start in 2022, with a pick, three pass deflections, and a viral jarring hit to his name. The 6’1″, 180-pound CB has enticing short-area athleticism, length, and physicality as a defender, and he’ll need all of those tools to go up against Dontayvion Wicks. Wicks has the size to combat Witherspoon at 6’2″, 208 pounds. What’s more, he’s a natural separator who can also do damage as a RAC threat.
Houston OT Patrick Paul vs. Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
One of the most heavily anticipated 2023 NFL Draft prospects from summer scouting was Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson. Sporting a 6’6″, 275-pound frame with massive 36″ arms, Wilson is about as powerful as you can be as an edge rusher. His raw power is awe-inspiring when he gets his base underneath him, but he’ll be going up against another very large human in Houston’s Patrick Paul this week.
At 6’7″, Paul is long and wiry. He has the foot speed and play strength to absorb Wilson’s rushes if the latter isn’t technically sound. This is a prove-it game for whoever comes out on top.
Other prospect battles to watch in Week 2
- Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker vs. Pittsburgh QB Kedon Slovis
- Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. vs. Arkansas State EDGE Kivon Bennett
- Boston College WR Zay Flowers vs. Virginia Tech CB Dorian Strong
- Arkansas C Ricky Stromberg vs. South Carolina DT Zacch Pickens
- Kansas State G Cooper Beebe vs. Missouri DT Darius Robinson
- Miami (FL) QB Tyler Van Dyke vs. Southern Miss CB Eric Scott
- Charlotte WR Grant DuBose vs. Maryland CB Jakorian Bennett
- Old Dominion OT Nick Saldiveri vs. East Carolina EDGE Jeremy Lewis
- Syracuse RB Sean Tucker vs. UConn LB Jackson Mitchell
- SFA WR Xavier Gipson vs. Louisiana Tech DB BeeJay Williamson