2014 NFL Draft Watch: Week 4

Posted by Brad On September – 19 – 2013

"Tajh Boyd"

Joshua S. Kelly – USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Clemson at North Carolina State Thursday 7:30 PM on ESPN

The Thursday night contest appears to be a dramatic mismatch – and it probably is. That said, the Wolf Pack has some NFL talent on their roster, making this a solid matchup for draft fans. The best part of this contest will be when Clemson is on offense matching up against a fairly solid NC State secondary. They are big in the backend as Tajh Boyd will be looking for another signature performance in 2013.

What we’ll be watching:

Sammy Watkins vs. Dontae Johnson

I want this matchup early and often during this Thursday night contest. Dontae Johnson is waiting to burst onto the scene among the draft community. This could be the contest that the bubble bursts on whether he’s legit or not.

Sammy Watkins is back to his old self after a down season – in relation to his monster freshman season. Watkins is a tough matchup for anyone with his agility. What we haven’t seen is someone physical and fast try to manhandle him at the line of scrimmage. It’s my hope that Johnson take the challenge to see what both these guys are truly made of.

A QB Duo

Tajh Boyd was spectacular against Georgia and didn’t get much of a challenge from South Carolina State. The NC State defense has been solid in two games that they were expected to be. They have the personnel to be a problem for any passing game. Featuring two monster sized corners in the 6-foot-2 Johnson and 6-foot-1, 205 pounder Juston Burris.

On the other end of this QB battle will be former Colorado State QB Pete Thomas. Much was expected of Thomas in his first season as a starter for NC State. He’s yet to live up to the hype against two lesser opponents. Thomas, a junior, has NFL tools but his problems with turnovers have plagued him throughout his career. Thomas has a shot on a national stage to show off his ability or risk falling further into obscurity.

GAME PREDICTION: Clemson 38, NC State 24

Utah State at USC 3:30 PM on ABC

I’m a Chuckie fan. Chuckie Keeton is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the college game as I have an careful draft eye on him. Keeton faces his toughest test in USC. The Trojans are a mess on offense but the defense is solid with a whole host of NFL Draft prospects.

What we’ll be watching:

Chuckie Keeton versus the USC D

"Chuckie Keeton"

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not hip to Chuckie Keeton – you haven’t been paying attention much. I can remember a time this summer when John Middlekauff was bursting at the seams about Keeton and now I see why. I had chalked up Keeton as a good college QB that would play out his time at Utah State and maybe a backup in the league. After three games – 12 TD’s to 1 INT I’m willing to move off that stance – with one caveat. I want to see Keeton operate against top competition. This week’s test against USC should provide some good evaluation tape as Keeton matches up against a solid SC defense.

When Utah State is on offense take a watch on center Tyler Larson. Larson is one of the top centers in the collegiate game and he will be asked to block two solid interior players in Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams. Woods is likely to line up over Larson for much of the day and will give the senior center his best test of the year.

Involving Marqise Lee

It’s no fault of his own but Marqise Lee isn’t having the year he had hoped for. NFL talent evaluators will take coaching and quarterback play into consideration into play when they look at Lee this offseason. Lee caught two passes for 90 yards and a score last week against Boston College. That’s two touches for your most dynamic offensive player. Without jumping on the Lane Kiffin is terrible bandwagon (which he is) Lee has to overcome all the negatives and show that he’s a special player.

Utah State’s pass defense has been solid this season but they haven’t faced much competition. This could be a week that the Trojans need to manufacture ways to get Lee the ball in space – no, not just bubble screens Lane.

GAME PREDICTION: Utah State 24, USC 16

No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford 7:00 PM on FOX

Looking for the game of the week – here it is. I don’t want to discredit ASU vs. Stanford but week four’s slate of games leaves a bit to be desired coming off Alabama/A&M week. That said, this game promises to have serious implications in the Pac-12.

What we’ll be watching:

Stanford’s NFL D prospects vs. Arizona State’s O

The Wisconsin defense did a nice job keeping Taylor Kelly in check. Kelly didn’t find the endzone and threw a pick – and at times looked a bit confused with what the defense was giving him. Kelly can expect that plus some with Stanford’s star studded defense. RB Marion Grice found the endzone at a high rate (4 rushing TD’s) and has proven he’s one of the best pass catching backs in the country through ASU’s two contests. A sleeper to watch for ASU on offense is redshirt sophomore receiver Jaelen Strong. The JUCO transfer has gotten off to a hot start and has significant chemistry with Kelly.

The Stanford defense is chock full of NFL talent. Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson get much of the attention – in the NFL Draft community – but Josh Mauro may be the better NFL prospect of this DE trio. Mauro has been very solid moving around the Stanford defensive line this season and is a guy we’ll be watching on Saturday. Stanford’s foursome of linebackers may be the best in the country. Trent Murphy can bring it off the edge and rising junior James Vaughters could be his equal on the opposite side. With Shayne Skov and A.J. Tarpley manning the inside linebacker spots. Skov looks back in full health this season and Tarpley is a constant around the ball. This Stanford secondary can give teams fits – led by free safety Ed Reynolds. Reynolds knack for making plays on the ball should have him hearing his name called whenever he enters the draft. Reynolds has 17 tackles and a pick in two games this season – picking up where he left off in 2012.

Waiting for Will Sutton’s 2013 breakout game

"Will Sutton"

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Will Sutton came into the season bulked up for NFL talent evaluators. The question being asked now is whether that bulk has contributed to Sutton’s sack-less start to the season. I’ve watched both ASU games and came away thinking Sutton’s still has the first step quickness but doesn’t seem to close as well as he did in 2012 – maybe a factor of the weight gain.

I fully expected Sutton to put his stamp on the Wisconsin game as he was matched up against Wisky’s interior OL – a group that isn’t particularly fleet footed. Sutton broke through the line several times but couldn’t finish. A great game against a very good Stanford OL could make us forget the first two games of the 2013 season. The best matchup in this game will be Sutton versus LG David Yankey. Yankey has moved back inside to his more natural LG position and has fared well in Stanford’s first two contests. The Stanford OL is probably tops in the Pac-12 and one of the very best in the country with loads of NFL talent sprinkling it’s depth chart. One guy to watch is senior RG Kevin Danser. Yankey gets most of the love but Danser has some NFL qualities about his game.

GAME PREDICTION: Stanford 24, Arizona State 20

Auburn at No. 6 LSU 7:45 PM on ESPN

Maybe 1B in the game of the week category gives us a surprisingly good SEC matchup. Auburn is off to a surprising 3-0 start as they meet up with the undefeated LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge. LSU is coming off a week one impressive win over TCU and back-to-back snoozers against UAB and Kent State. Tiger Stadium will be rocking for this one in what is sure to be a great SEC matchup.

What we’ll be watching:

The quarterbacks

Much of Auburn’s early success could be tied to the quarterback play of dual-threat junior signal caller Nick Marshall. Marshall has slowly emerged into a threat at the quarterback position. It was a slow burn incorporating Marshall’s full skill set into the offense but the Mississippi State game in week three may have given us an indication of what he’s capable of. The undersized passer is just scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. While he won’t be entering the 2014 NFL Draft, he’s a name to watch for 2015.

"Zach Mettenberger"

US Presswire

On the other side of this quarterback duo is Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger has me eating a healthy portion of crow after rating him my 17th overall quarterback this spring. Mettenberger’s improvement this season has him as a darkhorse Heisman candidate on a very good team. Cam Cameron’s presence has done wonders for Mettenberger’s mechanics – his delivery looks much more compact and his throwing base is a world better. In 2012, Mettenberger struggled with accuracy issues, mostly caused by poor footwork/base. 2013 has brought about a cleaner version of a talented passer showing very tangible results – 9 TD’s to 0 INT’s.

If Auburn’s top corner, Chris Davis, can’t go in this one it could be a very big day for Mettenberger. Davis will be lined up as the boundary corner drawing any one of Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry. Beckham and Landry have been making a case for being one of the top receiving duo’s in the country this season and Auburn will be hurting if Davis isn’t in the lineup.

If Mettenberger can continue on his current pace through the rigorous SEC it’s feasible that he could be in the conversation as the top senior quarterback.

LSU’s secondary

The strength of his defensive unit may be in the secondary. While the defensive line is strong – especially in the middle with Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson – it’s the secondary that I’ll be watching closely in this contest.

Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills are young but solid on the corners. The strength of this secondary may lie with the backend where Craig Loston and Ronald Martin reside. All four of these guys are future NFL draft picks with Loston, Martin, and Collins eligible this year. Mills has a bright NFL future and could be a first round pick as early as 2015. Collins and Loston didn’t play last week against Kent State but I don’t either to miss this contest.

The LSU secondary will be tested by Marshall’s top two targets in Quan Bray and Sammie Coates. Bray is a jitterbug with big play ability while the sophomore Coates provides size and physicality to the receiving corps. The obvious advantage goes to LSU in this matchup but they are banged up and we could see a lot of Micah Eugene and Tre’Davious White.