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SEC: 4 key matchups for 2020 NFL Draft prospects

NFL Draft
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There is a multitude of pivotal, talent-laden matchups on the SEC schedule for the 2019 season. For purposes of this exercise, I will only be including games that include SEC teams only. Out of conference games such as Florida-Miami and Auburn-Oregon are off the table for now, even if they do present some exciting in-game prospect potential. The idea here is to discuss some of the bigger games on the SEC docket. In terms of draft hopefuls and talent on the field, four matchups stand above the rest. I invite you to familiarize yourselves with the group of skill offered by the SEC in these slugfests mentioned below.

Key SEC matchups for NFL Draft Prospects

Alabama @ Auburn (Week 14, Iron Bowl)

This game is the belle of the ball in the SEC West for the 2019 college season. Auburn versus Alabama is a heated grudge match in the state of Alabama, that has gone back and forth the past few years. The Iron Bowl is also annually one of the more prominent talent-draws in the conference. In terms of the 2020 NFL Draft, there are three potential top-5 picks in this game alone. Players such as Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Tua Tagovailoa and Auburn’s Derrick Brown figure to give each other fits in November and will see each other at the Combine in February. Brown will undoubtedly be the top defensive lineman selected in the draft, and the Alabama duo will be among the first chosen at their positions as well.

Other Auburn players such as defensive lineman Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson join Brown to form one of the more formidable lines in all of college football. Coe should join Brown in the first round, while Davidson could be in consideration as early as the third round. Auburn offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho flirted with the NFL before returning to man the blindside for the Tigers this season. He was an all-conference first-team selection as a long and athletic prospect that should land comfortably within the top 75 prospects in the 2020 draft. Aside from the likely players mentioned above, Alabama boasts many players that should be appearing in the first three frames of the NFL Draft.

Receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle are talented pass catchers mentioned in my top-25 article earlier this month. Other players mentioned in the top group are Alex Leatherwood, Terrell Lewis, Trevon Diggs, and Dylan Moses. Another talented prospect for the Tide is safety Xavier McKinney. The junior safety is a swiss-army knife of production for the Tide, as he registered three sacks, two picks, and 73 tackles in his first season as a starter. The game should go down to the wire and will need each of these talented individuals to take home the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy in 2019.

Georgia vs. Florida (Week 10, in Jacksonville)

A matchup billed annually as “The Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is sure to carry some intrigue for SEC and college football fans. The headliners in this matchup appear on Georgia’s offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jake Fromm has been a star for the Bulldogs since his freshman season. Protecting Fromm will be the best tackle in college football, Andrew Thomas. Another player who recently appeared on my NFL Draft players to watch in the SEC in 2019 is running back D’Andre Swift. The talented back is the best of the bunch in the SEC and could work his way into a top 15 selection. There are other players on Georgia’s offense that are potential draft picks.

When it comes to the secondary, Florida’s top cover man C.J. Henderson will be vying for the top cornerback spot in the 2020 draft. Henderson has ideal size for the position and will be entrusted to lock down the opposition’s top receiving talent weekly. Quarterback Feleipe Franks has been a polarizing player for the SEC and Gator fans alike. However, he is a sizable and mobile prospect with an excellent arm that can make all the throws. Franks will need to improve on his decision-making in the clutch and his mechanics in the pocket. He made significant strides in that area in 2018 and appeared to gain confidence as the season wore on.

The most telling aspects of Franks’ game revolves around his success when dealing with pressure. He was infinitely better than his counterpart Fromm in 2018. Heading into their matchup in 2018, Franks was head and shoulders above the Georgia quarterback.

If Franks continues to play with that type of confidence and poise, he could be considered as early as the 3rd round.

LSU @ Alabama (Week 11)

While this game is not a traditional rivalry, it is a matchup of two SEC West talent powerhouses. LSU and Alabama produce two of the largest pools of NFL prospects annually, and 2019 is no different. The two schools produced 13 total draft picks in 2018 alone. And if we look at this year’s Week 11 battle, there could be five players selected within the first 10-15 picks of the draft. Apparent names like Alabama’s Tagovailoa and Jeudy will be among that group, as will LSU’s dynamic safety Grant Delpit. You can read more about Delpit in my player profile released just last week.

Delpit isn’t the only player in the LSU secondary this season. Cornerback Kristian Fulton played exceptionally well paired with Greedy Williams last season and is set to take over the number one job this year. He is an outstanding player in his own right and could be among those considered as a top-20 selection. Fulton is a great athlete who sat out the 2017 season and returned last season to grade out with extremely positive marks in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out at an elite 89.3.

While Greedy received much of the hype last season, Fulton may have been the better, more consistent player overall. He has excellent speed and is also not afraid to get physical with ball carriers. Like many LSU cover men before him, he is a pure technician and will shine again in 2019.

South Carolina @ Texas A&M (Week 12)

The battle for the James Bonham trophy is a new one that began when the SEC expanded back in 2014. The lack of history between the two teams has no bearing on the emotion and ability showcased between these two proud schools. That great talent and newfound hatred will be on display in Week 12 at Kyle Field. The 12th man won’t be the only difference-maker in that stadium, as the Aggies will roll out one of the more talented, all-around quarterbacks in college football. Kellen Mond scored 29 total touchdowns for A&M last season in a breakout sophomore campaign. The junior had his best passing performance against the Gamecocks in 2018, tossing for a total of 353 yards.

His top target is massive 6’5″ junior receiver Kendrick Rogers. The junior scored four touchdowns and flashed some big-time ability for the Aggies. As the prime target in 2019 with great size, he should hear his name called towards the beginning of the third day. Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike is a big-bodied, nose tackle that also appears primed for the 3rd-4th round area with another productive season. Madubuike was part of a three-headed monster on the defensive line in 2018, along with draft picks Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke. He will get a chance to shine in College Station this season as the top dog on this defense.

The Gamecocks appear as the underdog in this game, but it’s not for lack of talent. The headliner is senior receiver Bryan Edwards. He is a reliable pass-catcher who has excellent hands, as evidenced by his 163 career catches. He is a great possession receiver who steps out of Deebo Samuel’s shadow to show off his real ability as a prospect. He is arguably the top senior receiver in this class who could hear his name as early as round two on draft day. Another player that could join Edwards on day two is the massive junior lineman Javon Kinlaw. His size and mobility could make him attractive to both 4-3 and 3-4 teams. That versatility will give him a significant edge on game day as well as draft day.

Wild season in the SEC

While these matchups will undoubtedly be worth keeping an eye on, it promises to be another wild season in the SEC. The battle between the East and the West figures to be fierce once again, as this is one of the better SEC classes of NFL Draft prospects in the last few years. Honorable mention goes to Mississippi State at Auburn, while Tennessee and Vanderbilt could be another game worthy of fan and draftnik attention alike. Keep a close eye on these games during the 2019 season, as they could shape the landscape of college football and the NFL Draft.

Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the SEC and NFL Draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.

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