2020 NFL Draft Spotlight: LSU-Alabama loaded with future first round picks

NCAA Football, NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft spotlight is firmly set on the Alabama-LSU matchup on Saturday.

All eyes in the college football world will be on the game of the year, with the No. 2 LSU Tigers heading to No. 3 Alabama for what should be a great atmosphere. When it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft, this is where everyone will tune in as well.

The number of potential first round picks in this game is spectacular. LSU has three big names in the first round conversation, while Alabama could potentially have six or seven. Right now, LSU and Alabama combine to have seven players in my top 20 and 11 total in my top 30. It would be unheard of to see double-digit first round picks in a single matchup, but here we are.

There are other games on the slate this week with draft prospects to watch, but this game has matchups all over the place to watch. Let’s get into the spotlight this week!

LSU vs. Alabama

The biggest hype surrounding this game will come from quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow. Most mock drafts right now have these two going in the top five to quarterback-needy teams, specifically the Bengals and Dolphins.

When it comes to their performances on Saturday, here’s what we’re looking for. For Tua, it’s important to see how he responds to pressure from LSU. I expect them to send extra players on the rush at times in this game, which is something Tua struggled with against LSU and Georgia last year. That pressure affected his decision-making and led to turnovers. Tua is taking more of what the defense gives him, so processing the field a bit quicker will be huge for him in this game.

For Burrow, it’s about continuing to show poise and reading the field well. Burrow took some shots two weeks ago against Florida but responded by keying scoring drives in the second half. He stands and delivers against pressure without losing that accuracy that is best in the country this year (especially 20+ yards down the field). If he can keep up making smart reads and identifying matchups he likes, he will have a good day. One more thing to note with Burrow is while his deep ball is very accurate, he sometimes leaves too much air under it. Against better defensive backs, he may need to drive the ball a bit more while still keeping that nice arc on the ball.

The big matchup to watch in this one is Alabama’s wide receivers against the LSU defensive backs. The trio of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and DeVonta Smith is the best in college football. This week, they go up against a secondary featuring Kristian Fulton, Grant Delpit, and sensational freshman Derek Stingley.

Ruggs has the speed to take the top off of any defense, and that speed will test Fulton if he indeed lines up on him. Fulton mirrors well in coverage but he has struggled down the field at times with timing his jumps and sticking with his guy. With Ruggs’ ability to high point the ball as well, this will be a big test for Fulton.

Jeudy and Smith work more in the intermediate area of the field. Both are very good route runners who can create separation in a variety of ways. They don’t often line up against press coverage, but that may be something they see on Saturday. Seeing how they handle press will be fun.

As for Delpit, the explosiveness of this group is going to require someone to help out and make plays down the field. Delpit has the range and ball skills to make plays, but he will need to trust his instincts this week. He’s had a “meh” season overall, but this is his chance to make a big splash in the biggest game of the year.

Don’t forget that matchup on the other side of the ball. LSU receiver Justin Jefferson is a talented and productive wide receiver that should be getting more love for the 2020 NFL Draft. He will line up against Trevon Diggs, a converted wide receiver who is new to the position but is excelling this year for Alabama.

There are a couple of matchups to watch in the trenches this week as well. LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is an exciting speed rusher with tons of upside. He needs to develop more counters to become more effective in the NFL. Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills will get the responsibility to keep Tua clean and go up against Chaisson. Wills has great footwork and balance, so I expect him to fare pretty well against Chaisson. Leatherwood vs. Chaisson will be a good battle. While Leatherwood has had a good season, handling a rusher with the speed of Chaisson will be good experience for him. Also, seeing how LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry deals with Alabama’s athletic interior rusher Raekwon Davis will be a fun watch.

Who else should you keep an eye on in this game? Alabama edge rushers Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings bring different skill sets to the table, but they are effective in their roles. I expect Lewis to feast with his array of ways to affect the quarterback.

Around the nation

Iowa and Wisconsin meet in a huge game in the Big Ten West, and there are some prospect matchups to watch in this one. Iowa edge rusher A.J. Epenesa hasn’t had a super year, but he has a lot of exciting tools. He will line up against Wisconsin tackle Cole Van Lanen, who struggled against Chase Young a few weeks back. On the flip side, Wisconsin’s Zack Baun has some intrigue off the edge, but he will get a tough test against both Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. Also, don’t forget about Jonathan Taylor in this one.

Florida and Vanderbilt is another game to watch because of prospect matchups. Senior bowl attendees Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Jared Pinkney will get tough tests this week. Florida’s defensive front, led by Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, could make running lanes difficult to find. Also, can Pinkney reverse his falling stock? This is a great week to start.

In the Big 12, Baylor’s Denzel Mims, who gets forgotten in the deep receiver class, will line up against TCU’s big, physical, athletic corner Jeff Gladney.

Stanford and Colorado meet this week, and this will be an elite wide receiver/corner matchup. Laviska Shenault and Paulson Adebo meet in what should be a very physical battle. Can Shenault create separation on Adebo, or will it be an epic battle at the catch point all afternoon? Either way, tune in.

Also, two risers in the receiver class, USC’s Michael Pittman and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, meet on the same field Saturday. There could be big plays all afternoon in that one.

Next: Best college football QB’s of the 21st century

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