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2013 NFL Draft Prospect Watch: Week 3

The third week of the college football season brings some excellent prospect matchups to watch beginning with an SEC slugfest between Alabama and Arkansas that could feature up to fifteen or more potential NFL draft picks including a number of possible first round selections. That will be followed by a fantastic and extremely physical head to head battle between Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o and Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell, both of which could be taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Best Head to Head Matchup to Watch: Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o vs. Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell @ Spartan Stadium

More often than not Notre Dame and Michigan State are great games and this year should be no different as both teams rank among the top 20 in the nation. The spotlight matchup to watch in this game and this weekend will be the leader of Notre Dame’s defense, ILB Manti Te’o as he tries to shut down Michigan State’s stud running back Le’Veon Bell.  This should be one of the more physical head to head battles between two draft eligible prospects all year as Te’o and Bell will line up across from one another and repeatedly meet somewhere in between all game long. Both players are earning first round buzz. Te’o ranks among the fifteen best prospects available for the 2013 NFL Draft and actually could have been a first round pick in this year’s past draft before choosing to return to Notre Dame for his senior season. He’s an intense, attacking defender with the speed and range to cover and make plays sideline to sideline. Extremely productive, experienced and with a high football I.Q., he projects as an immediate starter at the next level. In perhaps his toughest test of the season, Te’o will be tasked with stopping the Spartans’ star ball-carrier, Le’Veon Bell. A massive running back at 6’2, 245lbs, Bell is definitely a power back that has the size and ability to run over defenders, but also possesses the speed and footwork to make oncoming tacklers miss. He has displayed a good pair of hands out of the backfield as well (35 rec. for 267yds in 2011). A productive backup the past two seasons, Bell is now the star attraction on Michigan State’s offense and began this season with a breakout performance (44 carries for 210yds/6 catches for 55yds) against Boise State that has thrown his name into early Heisman Trophy discussions. While it’s still early in the season he seems to have emerged from a group of four or five backs as the second best option behind Marcus Lattimore and as a possible late first round selection. There are a number of other draft eligible prospects worth watching in this game too like Michigan State’s DE William Gholston (first-round) and CB Johnny Adams (Second/Third-round) as well as Notre Dame’s TE Tyler Eifert (second-round).

Best Game to Watch for Prospects: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks @ Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

This should have been the first real game of the year type matchup, but Arkansas’ loss to lowly Louisiana-Monroe last weekend and historical drop out of the rankings along with an injury to QB Tyler Wilson has taken some of the luster out of this matchup. Regardless this game will still feature upwards of fifteen potential 2103 draft picks between both teams. Now Alabama was featured in my Week One column, but since then a couple of their prospects have made moves on various draft boards. Most notably CB Dee Milliner has skyrocketed up the ranks into first round discussions and may now be considered the top corner available after his strong play in the first two weeks along with North Carolina State’s David Amerson looking highly overrated. Milliner is a big corner that in limited playing time has shown solid coverage skills along with good instincts and balls skills. He’s not the only one to move up draft boards as scouts have started to take more notice of QB A.J McCarron, who has looked pretty good so far this season, although he’ll be in tough to move up too far with such a good crop of quarterbacks available. It’s not all good news as RB Eddie Lacy, who some were wondering if he could make a push this season with more carries and a great year to be the third consecutive Crimson Tide running back to be selected in the first round probably won’t make that move now with freshman T.J. Yeldon looking like he’s going to be getting the bulk of the work for Alabama. That’s a shame given that he would be rushing behind three potential first round offensive linemen in OG Chance Warmack, OL Barrett Jones and RT D.J. Fluker, who give Alabama the best offensive line in the nation. For more on these three and the rest of Alabama’s top prospects check back to my Week One column.

It’s no secret that Arkansas’s main attraction is QB Tyler Wilson. The Razorbacks’ signal-caller came into this season as a potential top ten pick and Matt Barkley’s biggest competition for the top spot among quarterbacks. Wilson is certainly still in those discussions, but a concussion suffered last week could set him back and will cause him to miss at least this week’s game. Wilson possesses a strong, accurate arm along with excellent poise and toughness in the pocket. His return to full health will be closely watched by scouts throughout the rest of the season. Another Arkansas prospect whose return to full health is being closely monitored is RB Knile Davis, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle right before the start of last season. Davis looked incredible in 2010 drawing comparisons to former Razorback and current Raider RB Darren McFadden. Blessed with many of the same skills as McFadden, Davis is a physical freak built to be a feature back. He’s yet to really show that he’s fully recovered with a pair of oh-hum games to begin the year and will need to start putting together a few breakout performances to work his way back up to anywhere close to where he was at the end of 2010. Following Wilson and Davis are a group of potential mid-round selections to keep an eye on in interior offensive linemen OG Alvin Bailey and OC Travis Swanson along with WR Cobi Hamilton and OLB Alonzo Highsmith.

Written By: Mark Scott

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