Scouting Georgia vs. TCU: The top NFL draft prospects to watch

It doesn’t take a pro scout to tell you that the Georgia Bulldogs and TCU Horned Frogs are competing for a national title in large part because their respective rosters are absolutely packed with top-tier talent.

Head coaches Kirby Smart and Sonny Dykes are master coaches, but they (and others) also deserve credit as recruiters, as this year’s title game serves as a reminder that it takes exceptional talent to win the FBS championship.

The defending champion and standout Bulldogs boast the flashiest roster, filled with five-star recruits from around the country. But make no mistake, both teams will have players selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. And it’s not just about quality, it’s about quantity. It takes two hands to count the number of legitimate NFL prospects starting for Georgia and TCU.

Can TCU threaten Georgia in a championship game?

Can TCU threaten Georgia in a championship game?

Here’s a breakdown of the big game, from a scout’s perspective:

Who is Georgia’s best prospect and why?

The easy answer to that question would seem to be junior defensive tackle Jalen Carter, a projected top-three pick in the draft, but I wouldn’t know based on how he played against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl. Although he was declared 100 percent healthy before the game, the ankle injury that had been plaguing Carter appeared to be affecting him. The powerful 6-foot-3, 310-pounder was credited with just one tackle (plus one pass breakup) and frankly became a non-factor for the quality blocking of the state’s talented offensive line from Ohio as well as smart. play calling to keep the action away from Carter, a consensus All-American.

When Carter is healthy, however, he can overwhelm opponents with his power and quickness, wreaking havoc on the interior at a much higher rate than his stats suggest (30 tackles, including seven for losses and three sacks). Even a season ago, Carter, then a 20-year-old true sophomore, was viewed by many scouts as a better prospect than either of his teammates Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt, both of whom were drafted in the first round. round last spring. . Carter projects similarly to the Titans’ Jeffery Simmons, who has been named a Pro Bowler in two of his first four seasons in the NFL.

Who is TCU’s best prospect and why?

In his own way, TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston is as intimidating as Carter, the Bulldogs’ destructive defensive tackle. At 6-foot-4 and 193 pounds, Johnston dominates most defensive backs, and also possesses the elusiveness and acceleration of a much smaller man, overwhelming opponents with his unique combination of size and speed. Michigan did a good job of containing Johnston early in its Fiesta Bowl semifinal game, but his 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the deciding score. He finished with six catches for 163 yards in the TCU win.

After stellar crops the past two years, the 2023 receiver class lacks a bit of luster, with Johnston arguably the best of the bunch. The matchup between Johnston and Georgia’s equally gifted (but also inconsistent) draft-eligible corner Kelee Ringo is one that scouts are eagerly awaiting.

TCU vs. Georgia: David vs. Goliath

TCU vs. Georgia: David vs. Goliath

What is the outlook after the semi-finals?

TCU defensive lineman Dylan Horton has enjoyed quite the postseason, with two sacks against Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, then four more against Michigan to bring his season total to 10. The redshirt senior The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder also had 14 tackles for loss and 47 total stops. This comes after last year’s “breakout” campaign in which New Mexico’s lone starter recorded 51 tackles, including nine for loss and four sacks in his first full year in Waco.

While Horton’s four sacks against Michigan’s award-winning offensive line were certainly impressive, his best plays weren’t limited to “just” sacks. After all, it was Horton who found Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy on third-and-goal on Michigan’s opening drive, setting up the Wolverines’ unfortunate fourth-down double-pass failure that seemed to throw this game away . kilter for corn and blue.

Horton was a rag doll on the right side of Michigan’s offensive line in both the run and pass game and showed impressive quickness, lateral agility and poise inside on acrobatics to generate pressure.

Which Georgia player needs the most to impress?

The aforementioned Ringo could use a rebound after being hit on multiple occasions last week by Ohio State. Despite already boasting a prototypical 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, last year’s title game hero hasn’t stepped up to the consistency scouts hoped to see in his second season as a starter. Although a second-quarter touchdown run by Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison, Jr. was the first score Ringo has allowed this season, the pass interference penalty assessed in the third quarter ( also against Harrison) was the 10th sanction given this year to the youngster. corner

Which TCU player needs the most to impress?

While TCU quarterback Max Duggan got the last laugh in beating Michigan and helping his team advance to the championship game, the Wolverines might have killed themselves a touch in their draft in the semifinal, holding Davey O’Brien Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist. season-low completion rate of 48.3% and becoming the first team all season to intercept him twice. Duggan, of course, also threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, leading his team to victory. There are plenty of scouts in love with Duggan’s intangibles and dual-threat ability, but those who felt his breakout 2022 campaign was significantly enhanced by Dykes’ explosive offense weren’t at all surprised that he struggled against the michigan defense Georgia has even more bite than Michigan, which means all eyes will be on Duggan.

Can Max Duggan lead an upset for the Bulldogs?

Can Max Duggan lead an upset for the Bulldogs?

What are the favorite sleepers of Georgia scouts?

Scouts tend to look for prospects with all the tools, while coaches tend to prefer the more polished players. With their five-star recruiting class, the Bulldogs have plenty of prospects that will pique the interest of scouts, with 6-foot-7, 265-pound junior tight end Darnell Washington perhaps the most intriguing. Seemingly born to play in the NFL, Washington is very close to presidential in the way he stands head and shoulders above opponents, with the frame and brawn of a 10-year veteran.

While Washington certainly looks like a future NFL draft pick, three of Georgia’s top players — redshirt senior quarterback Stetson Bennett (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), wide receiver from redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey (6-foot, 185). ) and redshirt senior safety Christopher Smith (5-foot-11, 190) possess significantly less imposing frames and still rank highly among scouts. Bennett looks more like an NFL player’s accountant than one himself, but his anticipation, accuracy and instincts have turned critics into believers over the past two seasons. Likewise, what McConkey may lack in size he makes up for with sharp routes and soft hands. Smith, meanwhile, led the Bulldogs with three interceptions this season, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s quick for a safety, attacks downhill and shows loose hips and light feet to handle deep coverage assignments. All three will eventually play in the NFL, with Washington, which is questionable for the championship after suffering an injury against Ohio State, easily the top-rated of the bunch.

Who are scouts’ favorite sleepers for TCU?

Given that he just won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and is the nephew of TCU and San Diego Chargers legend LaDainian Tomlinson, it’s hard to list Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson in this space as he almost he is not a stranger. . But regardless of how well he’s played this season (including against Michigan) and what his bloodlines might be, NFL teams will have a hard time investing a top-100 pick on a cornerback who’s expected to measure up less 5-foot-8. Regardless of what he ends up measuring, Hodges-Tomlinson plays big and possesses excellent agility, balance and acceleration for shadow receivers.

A prospect on the other side of the spectrum for the Horned Frogs is former Texas wideout Jared Wiley, who at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds has a frame almost as imposing as his Georgia counterpart, Washington .

Wiley runs very well for a big man and has become a key weapon down the seam, setting career highs in catches (22), receiving yards (231) and touchdowns (four). In a strong tight end class, Wiley’s unpolished game could still have him available on Day 3, where he could finally prove a steal.

Can Brock Bowers and Georgia dominate TCU?

Can Brock Bowers and Georgia dominate TCU?

Are there any scouts for a particular matchup they’ll be watching?

With all this discussion of future NFL draft picks at tight ends, it’s too late in this article to mention Georgia’s Brock Bowers, who was just named the John Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in college football.

However, Bowers isn’t just the best at the position this season. It might be for the best that I have ever seen at university level. And folks, I’ve been evaluating prospects for over 25 years. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound true sophomore would be a top-10 pick if eligible for this year’s draft. His body control and acceleration remind me of San Francisco star George Kittle, and the scary part is that Bowers might have even better hands than the 49ers’ four-time Pro Bowler.

Scouts know Bowers is ineligible for the 2023 NFL draft, but that won’t stop them from watching him. He is so good.

When TCU has the football, scouts might be just as excited about the battle at the line of scrimmage. As mentioned above, Georgia’s top prospect is Carter, a virtual wrecking ball of a defensive tackle. TCU has two of the best blockers in the country in left guard Steve Avila and center Alan Ali, who will be responsible for slowing down the front of Carter and Georgia.

At 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds, Avila is a bowling ball himself. The former centre-back comes off the ball low and strong and doesn’t back down from anyone. Ali, a graduate transfer from Southern Methodist, is also well-built at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds. Ali doesn’t exactly float like a butterfly like the great boxer with the same last name, but he’s surprisingly agile, having previously started at guard and even left tackle at SMU.

As such, even in a title game full of future pros, that tape story along the line of scrimmage will be the one that draws the most attention from scouts.

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Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. He has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated,, USA Today, Yahoo, and, among others. He also works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.

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