Alabama and Arkansas. Georgia and Missouri. NC State and Clemson. The Power Five battles are here, and they’re all dense with 2023 NFL Draft talent on both sides. This week, what are some of the top 2023 NFL Draft prospect battles to watch?
2023 NFL Draft: Which prospect battles are worth keeping an eye on in Week 5?
Alabama OT Tyler Steen vs. Arkansas EDGE Drew Sanders
From a bird’s eye view, this is a very intriguing cosmetic clash. On one side, you have Tyler Steen, a prospect who came to Alabama to boost his stock. And on the other side, you have Drew Sanders — the current NCAA sack leader with six — who left Alabama to boost his stock after falling below Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner on the depth chart. At 6’5″, 230 pounds, Sanders is a freak athlete with the burst, bend, and length to stress tackles even without solid contact. At 6’5″, 316 pounds, Steen has the size and strength to subdue Sanders, but Sanders can be a major problem from wider alignments.
Auburn RB Tank Bigsby vs. LSU S Jay Ward
With tumult at the quarterback position, the Auburn Tigers are sure to rely heavily on running back Tank Bigsby. Even amidst offensive line woes, Bigsby has remained productive so far this year, with 281 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries. He’s a dense, efficient back who instinctively flows to holes and can work through contact. He’ll be a test in run support for LSU safety Jay Ward, who should return this week from injury. Ward was a menace in run support against Mississippi State, but the 6’1″, 180-pound safety will have to maintain solid tackling form against the heavier Bigsby.
Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson vs. Kansas S Kenny Logan Jr.
Kansas plays Iowa State this week in another bid to finally crack the Top 25. We know Jalon Daniels is going to pose a threat. And on the other side, the Cyclones may need to air it out to keep up. Xavier Hutchinson has been reliable in that sense for Iowa State. At 6’3″, 205 pounds, he’s good for chunk plays and chain-moving each week. He has enough burst to stack DBs but also converts in contested situations with smooth body control. Hutchinson, along with breakout WR Jaylin Noel, will test the range and playmaking prowess of Kenny Logan Jr.
Georgia OT Broderick Jones vs. Missouri EDGE Isaiah McGuire
If you’re looking for an underrated matchup between absolute heavyweights, this one is it. Everyone knows about Broderick Jones. He’s Georgia’s mauler of a left tackle — a former five-star with a long, strong 6’4″, 315-pound frame and eventual first-round upside. But less people know about Isaiah McGuire, Missouri’s 6’4″, 271-pound edge rusher with burst, twitch, bend, and awesome raw power. We don’t always see a lot of true drop-backs and pass rush reps with Georgia’s offensive system, but the pure traits on both sides of this matchup are too much to ignore.
Missouri OT Javon Foster vs. Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith
On the other side of the Georgia-Missouri matchup, there’s another battle to watch in the trenches. Assuming that Missouri will be playing from behind for most of this game and thus passing the ball more often, this will be a great test for both players. Javon Foster has the tools of an NFL tackle. He’s long and wide but also flashes good athleticism and can absorb rushes with his torso flexibility. Nolan Smith still hasn’t quite found his stride as a pass rusher. He has the athleticism, but he’ll need more rushing nuance against a monolith like Foster.
Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan vs. Michigan State OLB Jacoby Windmon
Last week, Jaelyn Duncan showed glimpses of growth in a tough matchup against Michigan’s edge rushing rotation. But there were also lapses in timing and discipline that hearkened back to his 2021 tape. Against Michigan State OLB Jacoby Windmon, who has 5.5 sacks already this year, Duncan must recalibrate. He has the size, athleticism, and raw strength to overwhelm Windmon. But Windmon is a slippery rusher at 6’2″, 250 pounds. He’s shown he can accelerate to the apex, bait linemen into extending, then surge inside with wicked ghost moves.
Mississippi State WR Caleb Ducking vs. Texas A&M CB Jaylon Jones
Caleb Ducking is one of the most unexpected risers to come out of the early 2022 campaign. A product of Holmes Community College in Mississippi, Ducking redshirted in 2020 and produced sparingly in 2021. But through four games in 2022, Ducking already has 21 catches for 258 yards and five touchdowns. A dual-sided big-play and red zone threat with his size, Ducking has been a revelation for Mississippi State’s air raid offense. His next test will be Jaylon Jones — a 6’2″, 205-pound cornerback with challenging length and early-round athletic traits.
Boston College WR Zay Flowers vs. Louisville CB Kei’Trel Clark
This is an All-Oliver Hodgkinson matchup in Week 5. If you know Oli, you know he’s a fan of Boston College’s Zay Flowers — and rightfully so. Flowers is an extremely dynamic receiver with explosiveness, deep speed, and the twitch to cut his stems with deadly quickness. But Kei’Trel Clark is also a favorite of Hodgkinson’s. Like Flowers, he’s undersized for his position, but he brings exceptional closing speed and sticky coverage ability. These two prospects match up well with one another. It’ll be exciting to see who comes out on top.
Florida State WR Johnny Wilson vs. Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson (+)
The emergence of Florida State’s passing offense this year has not been without its corresponding stars. Jordan Travis has certainly taken a step forward, but there’s also Johnny Wilson — the towering 6’7″, 235-pound redshirt sophomore with smooth athleticism and long-striding acceleration in space. With his sheer size, Wilson can naturally wall off defenders with his frame. If Caelen Carson returns from injury this week, this will be a redshirt sophomore matchup worth watching. At 6’0″, 195 pounds, Carson is visibly outmatched from a size perspective. But he’s feisty, physical, and explosive to the point.
Syracuse OT Matthew Bergeron vs. Wagner EDGE Titus Leo
Shrine Bowl Director Eric Galko spoke very favorably of Syracuse offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron in this week’s 2023 NFL Draft prospect roundup. Bergeron had phenomenal 2021 tape, and he’s picked up where he left off in 2022. He has excellent size for the tackle position, but he’s also very athletic, quick out of his stance, and incredibly controlled as a pass blocker.
Bergeron has already proven himself, but this is quietly an opportunity for Wagner EDGE Titus Leo. Leo was an FCS All-American in 2021, with seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Leo flashes eye-catching closing burst in the backfield at 6’4″, 245 pounds, and also has some bend and speed-to-power. This is a great barometer game for him. If he makes an impact against Bergeron, it’s a big deal.
Other prospect battles to watch in Week 4
- Georgia WR Ladd McConkey vs. Missouri CB Kris Abrams-Draine
- South Carolina OT Jaylen Nichols vs. South Carolina State EDGE Jeblonski Green
- Ole Miss OT Mason Brooks vs. Kentucky EDGE J.J. Weaver
- Purdue WR Charlie Jones vs. Minnesota CB Justin Walley
- Illinois OT Julian Pearl vs. Wisconsin OLB Nick Herbig
- Kansas OT Earl Bostick Jr. vs. Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV
- Ohio State TE Cade Stover vs. Rutgers S Avery Young
- NC State QB Devin Leary vs. Clemson DEF Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, Trenton Simpson
- Stanford OT Walter Rouse vs. Oregon DL D.J. Johnson, Brandon Dorlus
- Arizona State G LaDarius Henderson vs. USC DT Tuli Tuipulotu