Scout's Eye: Week 1 Matchups

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The college football season kicks off a full schedule this weekend. Here are some of the better NFL prospect matchups to key on.

Florida State-Alabama

8 p.m. EST on ABC

The highlight of the first full Saturday on the college schedule features a game with national-title implications. It’s a contest that also includes at least 10 potential first and second-day prospects. Here are the key matchups.

Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden vs. Calvin Ridley

The much-hyped Derwin James returns after missing most of last season. The hard-hitting safety shows next-level range and flashes cover skills. Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden has terrific ball skills, but I’m concerned about his long speed.

Together they’ll try to stop Calvin Ridley, the next top-flight receiver from the Alabama program.

Ridley is not in the same category as former Tide wideouts Amari Cooper or Julio Jones, but he’s a receiver who runs good routes while showing dependable hands. He's not a receiver who stretches the field but should be able to separate from FSU defenders and have a lot of passes thrown in his direction.

Derrick Nnadi vs. Ross Pierschbacher

Derrick Nnadi is short, quick and very explosive. He plays with natural leverage and is tough to contain off the snap. Nnadi is much more than a lineman who occupies gaps, as he shows the ability to make plays on the ball behind the line of scrimmage or pursuing outside the box.

Ross Pierschbacher caught my eye last month while finish up the 'Bama film. He’s a tough, slug-it-out blocker who easily controls defender once he gets his hands on them.

Can Pierschbacher handle Nnadi's quickness? And can Nnadi get off Pierschbacher’s blocks?

Is this the coming out party for Josh Sweat?

Sweat, the highly rated high-school prospect, has the computer numbers of a first-round pick but late-round durability. He was relatively productive last season with 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks as well as 41 tackles.

Expectations for Sweat are high, both on the college level and in the scouting community. Alabama can be exploited off the edges offensively. This is a big opportunity on a national scale for Sweat to have his coming-out party.


12 p.m. EST on  BTN

Josh Allen, presently graded as our top quarterback prospect, gets thrown into the lion's den on the season’s first full weekend.

Iowa does not possess the most talented secondary Allen will face this season, as that will come against San Jose State on November 25. In fact the Hawkeyes lost three defensive backs to graduation, two of whom are presently in NFL camps.

But the Hawkeyes feature two draftable linebackers in Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann as well as a third, Bo Bower, who’ll be signed after the draft. All three are well-rounded three-down linebackers effective making plays up the field and in coverage.

Other Hawkeyes intend to make life difficult for Allen.

Anthony Nelson is a bigtime defensive end prospect who’ll be breathing down Allen’s neck while junior safety Brandon Snyder, someone we stamped as a fourth-round prospect, has a developing game.

Kinnick Stadium poses an intimidating challenge for Allen, who lost his top receivers and ball carriers to graduation and early entry into the draft.

The last time Allen was in this type of situation he struggled, throwing five interceptions against Nebraska last September. His game took off after that disaster.

There will be a lot of eye on Allen’s play in Iowa tomorrow, and he cannot afford a repeat performance.