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NFL Draft: 10 prospects to watch during Conference Championship weekend

Keep an eye out for these guys this weekend

Oregon State v Oregon
Bo Nix
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

While the Las Vegas Raiders are on a bye week, there’s still some football to watch this weekend as the college football Conference Championships will be going on. That means several NFL Draft prospects will be on display and below are 10 players from the Power 5 conferences that Raiders fans should keep an eye on, listed in no particular order.

QB Bo Nix, Oregon

No. 10

Game: Pac 12 Championship (Allegiant Stadium), Friday 5:00 p.m. PT, ABC

NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 27th overall

Scouting report via Pro Football Network (full report)

Nix will be an older rookie in the 2024 class, but his positive growth will help offset concerns about his age. His ability to harness his physical gifts and aggressive mindset will again be tested throughout 2023, especially without offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, and again in the NFL if he has a weaker supporting cast. But the tools are there for Nix to be an above-average NFL starter.

QB Michael Penix, Washington

No. 9

Game: Pac 12 Championship (Allegiant Stadium), Friday 5:00 p.m. PT, ABC

NMDD rank: 25th overall

Scouting report via PFN (full)

Overcoming a slew of injuries that could have given him a career filled with “what ifs,” Penix finally fully realized his talent level in 2022. Washington’s offense provided him with an elite offensive line and set of receivers, allowing Penix to reach new heights. He led the country in passing yards in 2022, throwing only 22 passes fewer than he had in four years at Indiana.

Penix closely resembles Teddy Bridgewater, except he’s left-handed. Compared to NFL starters, Penix has a thinner frame that is not overly athletic and lacks good arm strength. But he plays to his strengths as well as anyone, mitigating the lack of velocity or creative juices that would expose the offense to mistakes.

QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Ohio State v Michigan
J.J. McCarthy
Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

No. 9

Game: Big 10 Championship, Saturday 5:00 p.m. PT, Fox

NMDD rank: 23rd overall

Scouting report via Athlon Sports (full)

McCarthy is blessed with some very good physical tools. He’s got a big arm with easy gas on the ball, he’s athletic, and he’s playing for a coach known for developing quarterbacks. There’s plenty to like in this regard. But there’s plenty of polish required for him to sniff his potential, too. He’s a developmental passer who would benefit from a lot of additional reps before being asked to start in the NFL.

CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

No. 1

Game: SEC Championship, Saturday 4:00 p.m. PT, CBS

NMDD rank: 6th overall

Scouting report via Bleacher Report (full)

A versatile defender, McKinstry has the skill set to play in multiple schemes in the NFL. One of the top cornerbacks coming out of high school, he has continued that trajectory once given the opportunity at Alabama.

He’s a fluid defender who plays with a smooth pedal and quick feet to get out of breaks. When driving on the ball, he’s able to drop his hips and has very good burst to drive on the ball. When in press man, he looks to match the release and get into phase without getting hands-on and rerouting the receiver.

OT J.C. Latham, Alabama

No. 65

Game: SEC Championship, Saturday 4:00 p.m. PT, CBS

NMDD rank: 10th overall

Scouting report via Bleacher Report (full)

Latham shows good athletic ability and range to get to spots and landmarks on time with active, light and effective independent hands to disrupt the timing of rushers before working his hands inside. Once latched, he uses his dominant play strength and a commanding anchor to tie defenders up and end reps quickly.

Latham is extremely physical when uncovered, providing jarring blows to adjacent defenders with solid ability to pick up and pass off basic line games and stunts. He is vulnerable to stopping his feet and/or getting drifting out of position against shifty rushers with adept stutters and hesitations. He does show loose hips to redirect, allowing him to recover and stay attached fairly well if initially beat, but he needs to improve his patience and discipline to not chase setup moves.

DT T’Vondre Sweat, Texas

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Texas at Baylor
T’Vondre Sweat
Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 93

Game: Big 12 Championship, Saturday 9:00 a.m. PT, ABC

NMDD rank: 53rd overall

Scouting report via Athlon Sports (full)

I’m not sure the ceiling for Sweat is going to create enough demand for him to be a highly coveted first-round prospect. That said, there’s an inherent value with today’s defensive trends that makes a player like Sweat a meaningful piece for an NFL defense. Forget about adding pass rush value; Sweat can help you change the numbers in the box and your ability to defend the run, while simultaneously allowing your defense to leverage against explosive plays.

OL Troy Fauntanu, Washington

No. 55

Game: Pac 12 Championship (Allegiant Stadium), Friday 5:00 p.m. PT, ABC

NMDD rank: 57th overall

Scouting report via Bleacher Report (full)

Fautanu is a dynamic run-blocker with the burst, quickness and power to cut off or cave in defenders on reach, scoop and angle-drive blocks, ricochet up to the second level and take out ‘backers, plus erase smaller targets on tosses, screens and counters. He brings a tone-setting demeanor with the coordination, body control and sustain skills to finish at a high level, with the ability to deliver jarring knockdowns and body blows once latched and/or on contact.

In pass protection, Fautanu is a charged-up, easy mover out of his stance and in his sets with a default aggressive, attacking mentality that he works to balance with flashes of tact and poise. He works in varied strikes and pass sets to keep rushers guessing with an understanding of how to maximize his length and keep defenders at his fingertips.

CB Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 04 Missouri at Georgia
Kamari Lassiter
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 3

Game: SEC Championship, Saturday 4:00 p.m. PT, CBS

NMDD rank: 34th overall

Scouting report via PFN (full)

Lassiter’s size and lack of high-end athleticism could land him in the Day 2 range despite clearly possessing Round 1 ability in spurts. With the rise of two-high defenses and his comfort in Cover 3, his ability to survive downfield isn’t really a significant question.

His schematic intelligence makes him a fit for most defenses at the next level. Despite being an intelligent and capable defender, his athletic limitations will likely keep him from elevating to the level of top-tier cornerbacks around the league.

DT Nazir Stackhouse, Georgia

No. 78

Game: SEC Championship, Saturday 4:00 p.m. PT, CBS

NMDD rank: 71st overall

Scouting report via Athlon Sports (full)

The good news is that Stackhouse is everything that you’d want in a nose tackle. The bad news is that Stackhouse is only everything you’d want in a nose tackle. There’s an undeniable value to his ability to plug up the A-gaps and help fortify the run defense, but the limitations on his ability to impact the pass put a ceiling on his NFL draft forecast and valuation.

DL Brandon Dorlus, Oregon

No. 3

Game: Pac 12 Championship (Allegiant Stadium), Friday 5:00 p.m. PT, ABC

NMDD rank: 74th overall

Scouting report via Athlon Sports (full)

Dorlus has the foundation to be a disruptive presence at the NFL level, and I love his versatility. Teams that play multiple fronts and are looking to remain ambiguous with their personnel and their fronts will see the most in him. If he’s able to convert more of his pressures into finished plays, he’ll tap into the next level of his resume as a defensive lineman.

Other names to look for:

  • DL Kris Jenkins, Michigan
  • CB Khyree Jackson, Oregon
  • DT Byron Murphy, Texas
  • S Javon Bullard, Georgia
  • iOL Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia
  • LB Smael Mondon Jr., Georgia
  • LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Georiga (considered week-to-week with broken forearm)
  • CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama
  • S Malachi Moore, Alabama
  • DT Braden Fiske, Florida State
  • QB Quinn Ewers, Texas
  • S Rod Moore, Michigan
  • LB Junior Colson, Michigan