From an NFL Draft scouting perspective, here are 3 prospects with critical matchups this weekend:
Virginia S Quinn Blanding vs Indiana
Virginia safety Quin Blanding enters this contest with 37 starts against ACC competition under his belt. On tape, it’s apparent that the former five-star recruit has strong processing skills to properly diagnose plays and work himself into position. He is an excellent tackler and plays with a hot motor but never out of control.
While Blanding doesn’t offer exciting range, burst or athletic ability on the back-end, he overcomes that by making quick reads and taking sound angles to the football. The challenge that Indiana represents is one that will be revealing for Blanding.
Indiana’s offense plays FAST and QB Richard Lagow had a good performance last week against Ohio State. There were moments that Lagow showed the ability to move the Buckeyes DB’s with his eyes to create space and execute throws. Take this rep for example:
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) September 7, 2017
While Blanding’s ability to function in zone and cover ground will be tested, his one-on-one matchups with TE Ian Thomas will something to keep an eye on. A former top JUCO transfer, Thomas looked terrific last week against Ohio State. Listed at 6’5” and 248 pounds, Thomas hauled in 5 receptions for 53 yard with 2 touchdowns in week one. Showcasing an NFL skillset, Thomas had positive moments at the catch point and did well to position his frame.
This game will be a terrific showcase for Blanding as he looks to cement himself as one of the premier safeties in this class.
Auburn OT Braden Smith v Clemson
Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith is playing tackle in his senior season but I believe he has a natural fit at guard where his ability to uncoil quickly to uproot defensive lineman is accentuated. He has the body control and foot speed to protect interior gaps with the functional strength to maintain the proper depth of the pocket.
Like most Auburn offensive line prospects, Smith understands how to work angles and work his body positioning which he pairs perfectly with his power and aggressive nature. This combination leads to Smith opening up sizable lanes for his ball carriers.
Amid a 28 consecutive games started streak, Smith is building a strong resume to pair with his physical traits and on-field performance.
Against Clemson, Smith will face a considerable challenge from Clemson’s pass rushers, particularly against 6’5”, 265 pound RS Sophomore Clelin Ferrell. Director of Scouting Kyle Crabbs offered his take on Ferrell when previewing the Clemson prospects this summer:
“A superb athlete; Ferrell is a pretty special athlete. He really came into his own in 2016 and is poised for a monster season in 2017. His movement skills are rare for a player of his stature. Another year of experience should allow him to continue to learn how to optimize his traits.”
How Smith fares against Ferrell will be revealing in pegging his NFL role and if that is at tackle or guard.
Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown vs Ohio State
Discussions on who the best offensive tackle prospect is for 2018 are often centered around Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey but the Sooners have a stud at left tackle who belongs in that conversation.
Brown’s father, also named Orlando Brown, spent a decade in the NFL as an offensive lineman and the younger Brown has the skills to do the same.
Having started all 26 games since walking on campus, Brown earned All-American honors as a sophomore and was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year by the league’s coaches.
A massive man listed at 6 feet 8, 345 pounds, the left tackle is a dancing bear with a surprising amount of mobility. He’s as powerful as his frame suggests, making him an all-around force.
Brown has a bright future ahead of him given his physical traits, bloodlines and accomplishments to date.
Against Ohio State, Brown will see the best group of pass rushers he will face this season with the likes of Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. This is an important contest for Brown, those Buckeye’s pass rushers and the CFB playoff standings alike.