Conference play officially kicks off this weekend with the Week 4 college football slate. Here are some of the top 2023 NFL Draft prospect battles you should be keeping tabs on as more and more future NFL players clash with one another.
2023 NFL Draft: Which prospect battles are worth keeping an eye on in Week 4?
Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison vs. Kansas State EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
From a 2023 NFL Draft prospect standpoint, this might be the most exciting matchup of the week. Both Anton Harrison and Felix Anudike-Uzomah are prospects at high-value positions, with early-round upside at their current trajectories.
Harrison is a complete tackle prospect at 6’5″, 315 pounds, with athleticism and power. But his most marketable trait is his violent extension capacity, quick hand replacement, and adaptability. Only technicians can generate pressure on Harrison, but that’s what Anudike-Uzomah is blossoming into. He’s explosive, relentless, and can stack counters with devastating zeal.
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker vs. Florida S Rashad Torrence II, Trey Dean III
Hendon Hooker was, statistically, an incredibly efficient passer in 2021. That’s carried over to 2022. Through three games, Hooker has completed 69.4% of his passes for 844 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He engineered blowouts against Ball State and Akron, and held strong against a ferocious Pitt defense in Week 2.
There are still questions about Hooker — most notably his age and his dependence on an unorthodox offense. But Hooker has athleticism and a live arm. Against a Florida secondary with two fast-flowing safeties in Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean III, he’ll have a chance to prove himself.
Tennessee OT Darnell Wright vs. Florida EDGE Brenton Cox Jr.
Hooker’s performance will draw the most eyes this weekend against Florida, especially among the Shrine Bowl staff. But there’s more talent to keep tabs on across the two fronts.
Tennessee has a former five-star recruit at right tackle in Darnell Wright, who’s at times inspired awe with his elite power capacity, torque, and displacement capacity at contact. He’s a massive spectacle on the right side, with high-end knockback power and grip strength. But he struggles with leverage at times, and Brenton Cox Jr. — a raging bull with quick twitch and a ruthless motor — could take advantage.
SMU WR Rashee Rice vs. TCU CB Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
Rashee Rice has caught the eye of the Shrine Bowl and other evaluators alike with his explosive start to the 2022 season. He’s been on a dominant tear and will be eager to keep it going against TCU.
However, Rice draws a second consecutive NFL draft prospect matchup with TCU cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Rice has Hodges-Tomlinson beat comfortably in the size department, with superior height, length, and frame density. But Hodges-Tomlinson plays larger than his frame and has the explosiveness and short-area agility to be a gnat in coverage. This will be a true test of Rice’s separation ability.
Penn State OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu vs. Central Michigan EDGE Thomas Incoom
The book is out on Olumuyiwa Fashanu by now. He’s a near-elite physical talent with an early first-round ceiling, and he’s one of the biggest risers in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle thus far. He had a barometer game last week against Auburn’s Derick Hall and was very good.
Now, in an interesting twist, Fashanu has become the barometer for Central Michigan EDGE Thomas Incoom. Incoom is a long, burly edge rusher at 6’4″, 265 pounds, with 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on the year thus far. His power element and strong hands are undeniable on tape. But can he be disruptive against a talent like Fashanu?
Texas OT Christian Jones vs. Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson
The Texas offensive line fared better than expected against a stacked Alabama front in Week 2. It wasn’t a perfect outing for right tackle Christian Jones, but the 6’6″, 333-pound blocker did have some nice reps. His chief selling point is his size, length, and power, and he also has the strength to keep defenders within his frame when latched.
But if Jones wants to become a factor in the 2023 NFL Draft tackle class, he’ll have to keep stacking upward this week against Tyree Wilson. Wilson is coming off a dominant outing and has the elite power capacity and high-end athleticism to give Jones fits on the edge.
Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. vs. Wisconsin EDGE Nick Herbig
At this point, Fashanu and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. are two of the favorites to be first-round offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft. Johnson has been an accepted candidate for a while, dating back to the summer months. And so far, he’s impressed at his new left tackle spot.
Johnson has size, athleticism, and violence at the point of attack. On the surface, an undersized edge rusher like Nick Herbig wouldn’t pose an incredibly large threat. But Herbig, despite his 6’2″, 227-pound frame, already has four sacks and five TFLs in 2022. His speed, bend, and active hands could give Johnson a lot to handle.
Ole Miss G Nick Broeker vs. Tulsa DL Anthony Goodlow
Nick Broeker made the switch from tackle to left guard this year, giving NFL teams a first-hand look at how he’ll project in his likely NFL role. Broeker doesn’t have the length or strength coveted in tackles, but he’s a smooth athlete who’s shown he can cover ground as a run blocker and hold his own in pass protection.
Tulsa’s Anthony Goodlow — an alignment-versatile defender with impressive rotational freedom, power, and a tireless motor — presents a challenge for Broeker. And conversely, Goodlow can use this game to drive his stock up.
Chattanooga G McClendon Curtis vs. Illinois DT Jer’Zhan Newton
This one is on Thursday night, so you may have to watch back after reading this. But keep an eye on Chattanooga offensive guard McClendon Curtis, as he goes up against Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton.
This will be the toughest test of the season for Curtis, a 6’6″, 325-pound interior blocker with menacing power at the point of attack. Curtis likely won’t go as high as his teammate Cole Strange did, but he offers intriguing tools for NFL evaluators. Holding his own against a quicker, well-leveraged Jer’Zhan Newton — who has two sacks and 2.5 TFLs already this year — would be great for Curtis’ stock.
Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks vs. Syracuse CB Garrett Williams
The Virginia offense, and by extension Dontayvion Wicks himself, has taken a step back this year. But Wicks is coming off his best game of the season, with a four-catch, 85-yard outing against Old Dominion. There’s reason to believe that Wicks is hitting his stride, and it comes at an opportune time.
This week, Wicks faces off against fellow 2023 NFL Draft prospect Garrett Williams. Williams fought and found himself with good positioning often against Charlie Jones in Week 3, but still gave up almost 200 yards. Williams will need to recalibrate at the catch point, and Wicks’ length gives him a tough test.
Other prospect battles to watch in Week 4
- Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan vs. Michigan EDGEs Jaylen Harrell, Braiden McGregor
- Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson vs. Baylor CB Mark Milton
- Missouri OT Javon Foster vs. Auburn EDGE Derick Hall
- Bowling Green WR Odieu Hiliaire vs. Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes
- Kansas OT Earl Bostick Jr. vs. Duke EDGE R.J. Oben
- USF OTs Donovan Jennings, Demontrey Jacobs vs. Louisville EDGE YaYa Diaby
- Washington State OT Jarrett Kingston vs. Oregon EDGE DJ Johnson
- Old Dominion WR Ali Jennings III vs. Arkansas State CB Leon Jones
- Oregon State G Brandon Kipper vs. USC DT Tuli Tuipulotu
- Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman vs. Clemson LB Trenton Simpson