We’re surging through the second half of the 2022 college football season, with more 2023 NFL Draft prospect matchups on tap in Week 9. With games like Tennessee-Kentucky, Georgia-Florida, and Ohio State-Penn State coming up, which prospect battles dominate the approaching slate?
Week 9 NFL Draft Prospect Battles To Watch
Kentucky QB Will Levis vs. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker
It’s important not to gravitate toward QB wins as an evaluator, but there is some stock in seeing who comes out on top here. Levis has a slight raw talent advantage, but he’s struggled to sustain drives and drag his team forward when needed this year. Hooker, meanwhile, has been a true conveyor belt of yards and touchdowns, and his ability to operate with maximum risk-reward efficiency is nearly unmatched.
Comparing Hooker to Stroud or Young, age is certainly a differentiating factor. But against Levis, who’s just one year younger than Hooker, it becomes less of an issue.
Both QBs are talented prospects who’ll be relatively over-aged. Thus, looking at it through that lens, which one is a better operator in the pocket? Right now, it’s Hooker by a fairly comfortable margin. But by keeping up with Hooker and beating him head-to-head, Levis could change the perception.
You can watch this 2023 NFL Draft prospect battle, and many others listed below, live this weekend with a free trial of fuboTV.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson vs. Georgia S Christopher Smith
If we had to make a discernment now, we’d lean toward Anthony Richardson returning to school in 2023. But there’s still time for the Florida QB to show linear progression in the latter stages of the 2022 season. And kicking off that progression against a talented Georgia defense would be a great way to go about it.
Richardson won’t have Jalen Carter lined up across from him, but he will face the challenge of throwing against a secondary with several early-round talents — including the severely underrated Christopher Smith, whose versatility, game IQ, and playmaking ability make him a threat in multiple spots.
Penn State OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu vs. Ohio State EDGE Zach Harrison
It’s been a quiet year for Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison, who came into the 2022 campaign with some projected early-round hype. That hype has since cooled, but perhaps Harrison is in the early stages of making a return. He was fantastic in a limited sample against Iowa this past week, earning a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection.
At 6’6″, 271 pounds, Harrison has an elite combination of linear explosiveness and length — traits that culminate in awesome power capacity. This week, if he can continue to produce against Olumuyiwa Fashanu — a tackle with top-end traits refined beyond his years — it could be a catalyzing moment for Harrison.
Ohio State WRs Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming vs. Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
Few cornerbacks have been more productive across the 2022 campaign than Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. Porter has 11 pass deflections to this point and has been a nightmare for quarterbacks to throw against. However, Porter hasn’t faced a test like the Ohio State passing attack. Stroud is putting together an unbelievable redshirt sophomore season, and the Buckeyes are second in the nation in points per game.
To make matters even more daunting for Porter, Jaxon Smith-Njigba might be returning from injury this week. Even if he doesn’t, Ohio State has top-tier 2024 prospects Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, along with junior Julian Fleming, who’s emerged as a big-play threat for Ryan Day’s squad.
It’s safe to say Porter will have his hands full. But this could be a massive money-making game for him if he can hold his own and maybe even impact the final score.
Syracuse OT Matthew Bergeron vs. Notre Dame EDGE Isaiah Foskey
Pour one out for Matthew Bergeron. The Syracuse OT is entering the second leg of one of the more brutal stretches for any tackle prospect this season. Last week, he played against Myles Murphy of Clemson — a top-10 2023 NFL Draft talent. This week, he goes up against Isaiah Foskey of Notre Dame — another edge rusher with early first-round ability.
Like Murphy, Foskey brings a heightened degree of power and functional strength to the fold, but Foskey will also challenge Bergeron with his burst, twitch, and refined hand usage. This is a chance for Bergeron to show growth, after an up-and-down showing against Murphy.
Michigan State WR Jayden Reed vs. Michigan CB DJ Turner
The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game might not be as close this year, but this clash is always worth watching for the history alone — and it doesn’t hurt that there’s an incredibly intriguing 2023 NFL Draft prospect matchup on tap.
Senior WR Jayden Reed — who’s looked out of sorts at times this year — is on a hot streak, with 20 catches for 245 yards and three scores over the past three contests. Reed’s body control at times inspires awe, but he’ll need to be on top of his separation game to find space against DJ Turner — a fleet-footed, explosive defender with the recovery speed to erase gaps.
Boston College WR Zay Flowers vs. UConn CB Tre Wortham
While Boston College’s passing offense has struggled at times this year, wide receiver Zay Flowers has not. He’s embarking on a career-defining season at an important time, using his dynamic athleticism and rare catching instincts to vault himself up 2023 NFL Draft boards.
On the surface, UConn looks like a team he should be able to dominate. But the Huskies have an under-the-radar CB in Tre Wortham. At 6’1″, 202 pounds, Wortham has a size advantage on Flowers, and he’s shown to use his feet first and squeeze WRs with physicality. Over the past two weeks, Wortham has two picks and two deflections, proving his ability to win at the catch point. There’s incentive for Wortham to prove himself here.
Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks vs. Miami (FL) CB Tyrique Stevenson
This is a clash between two 2023 NFL Draft prospects who were lauded in the preseason months, but have stagnated a bit since. Tyrique Stevenson is coming off one of his better games, to be fair, and has flashed added playmaking ability on top of his natural traits.
Dontayvion Wicks is also stringing together a nice streak of production, though focus drops remain a growing concern. Both of these prospects are explosive, amped-up athletes with excellent proportional length, so the victor in this matchup will have to win with technique, smooth execution, and increased physicality.
Oklahoma State OT Caleb Etienne vs. Kansas State EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah
Coming from the JUCO ranks, Caleb Etienne has developed into a quality starting left tackle for Oklahoma State in 2022. In fact, his efforts culminated in a PFN Team of the Week mention a couple of weeks ago.
At 6’7″, 325 pounds, Etienne has a massive frame with exceptional length and density, and he naturally has the strength and power to wrestle opponents into submission. But if there’s one edge rusher in CFB who simply refuses to submit, it’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Anudike-Uzomah’s hot motor and ability to string moves together will put a lot of pressure on the much larger Etienne.
Ole Miss RB Zach Evans, WR Jonathan Mingo vs. Texas A&M S Antonio Johnson
Antonio Johnson hasn’t quite built on his strong 2021 season in 2022, but the Aggies’ defensive back remains one of the most exciting safety prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s an extremely explosive, elastic athlete at 6’3″, 200 pounds, with range in space and terse physicality coming downhill.
That dual-phase ability will be tested against Ole Miss, as Lane Kiffin’s Rebels have dynamic threats in the run and pass game. Jonathan Mingo is a dynamic downfield athlete with RAC ability and a working release package, while Zach Evans is a long-striding glider who can send safeties lurching with his attack angles.
Other Prospect Battles To Watch in Week 9
- BYU OT Blake Freeland vs. East Carolina EDGE Jeremy Lewis
- FIU WR Tyrese Chambers vs. Louisiana Tech CB Myles Brooks
- Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison vs. Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV
- Oklahoma WR Marvin Mims vs. Iowa State CB Anthony Johnson Jr.
- Nebraska WR Trey Palmer vs. Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
- South Alabama WR Jalen Wayne vs. Arkansas State CB Leon Jones
- SMU WR Rashee Rice vs. Tulsa S Kendarin Ray
- North Carolina WR Josh Downs vs. Pitt DBs M.J. Devonshire, Erick Hallett II
- Kansas State G Cooper Beebe vs. Oklahoma State DL Tyler Lacy
- Baylor OT Connor Galvin vs. Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson