2023 NFL Draft: Week 0 Prospects to Watch

Sep 3, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) runs a play during the first quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) runs a play during the first quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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2023 NFL Draft: Six potential prospects to watch this Saturday as college football makes its long-awaited return.

College football is back this weekend. It’s been over seven months since the Georgia Bulldogs were crowned king of the college football world, and the 2022 season begins with 11 games on Saturday. There’s a game in Dublin, Ireland, and a game in Honolulu, Hawaii, and many more in between.

The NFL regular season doesn’t start for another two weeks (Sept. 8), but the evaluation process for the 2023 NFL Draft will commence on Saturday. There’s only one conference showdown on the slate this weekend, pitting Northwestern against Nebraska. Both teams will begin their campaigns by trying to make some noise in the Big Ten West division.

The games I’m examining may be light on first-round prospects, but you’ll likely see one of them if you tune in to the Northwestern-Nebraska game on Saturday morning. I’ll cover that contest and a couple others in this article. Let’s get to it.

Nebraska vs. Northwestern 12:30 PM ET FOX

*Note: This game is being played in Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland*

Austin Peay and Western Kentucky will technically kick off a half-hour before this, but this game is the de facto start of the college football season. It will be 5:30 PM local time on the Emerald Isle and the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a projected temperature of 67 degrees. This will be only the seventh game played in Ireland in the history of college football, and it features a battle in the trenches worth tuning in for.

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Peter Skoronski is probably the best prospect I’ll cover in this article. He’s got it all. He’s big at 6’4”, 315 pounds and he’s got a tremendous pedigree. Skoronski was a five-star prospect and selected the Wildcats over other schools like Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. If that wasn’t enough, he’s got a good bloodline too: Skoronski is the grandson of former Packers Hall of Famer and championship-winning captain Bob Skoronski.

Ever since Peter Skoronski got to Evanston, he’s been on a positive trajectory upward. In 2020, he filled in for tackle Rashawn Slater who elected to sit out the year due to COVID-19 concerns. Slater was selected by the Chargers with the 13th pick of the 2021 NFL draft. Skoronski immediately began making his case as the next great Northwestern tackle, making second team All-Big Ten as a true freshman that year.

In 2021, Peter Skoronski was even better, getting named to the All-Big Ten first team and helping to pave the way for running back Evan Hull’s 1,000-yard season. Expectations are high for Skoronski this season, as he was named to ESPN’s pre-season All-American team at tackle.

Skill wise, Peter Skoronski has the total package, and it’s why he has a good chance of going in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Skoronski is a terrific pass blocker, as he uses his hands well, plays with good leverage, and has shown a solid anchor. He held his own against Michigan’s David Ojabo last year, and he’ll have his work cut out for him in this contest against the next player on this list.

 Ochaun Mathis, DE, Nebraska

The matchup of the weekend is Nebraska’s Ochaun Mathis (pronounced Oh-Shawn) against Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. Mathis is a transfer from TCU, where he was named second team All-Big 12 in 2020 and 2021. The 2020 campaign was Mathis’s best season, as he led the Big 12 in sacks (eight in 10 games) and posted 12.5 tackles for loss.

Mathis has the size (6’5”, 260 pounds) and athleticism to be an effective edge rusher at the next level. He also has long arms, which can be a big advantage when going against offensive linemen. He’s a fluid and flexible player that has shown explosiveness in the open field. Teams will be intrigued by Mathis’ physical tools and his high ceiling. If he has a good season in Lincoln, he could find himself being selected on day two of the 2023 NFL Draft.

2023 NFL Draft: Prospect Watch for Week 0 Games

As far as how he matches up with Peter Skoronski, Ochaun Mathis could give the Northwestern tackle some problems. One of the knocks against Skoronski is that his arms aren’t very long. Teams are often gun shy about tackles with short arms because it puts them at an immediate disadvantage in pass-blocking situations. As we touched on above, Mathis has long arms.

Despite that, Mathis could stand to bulk up a bit to allow him to play stronger against the run. Skoronski is a powerful player himself and should win his share of plays against Mathis in this matchup. In short, this battle will be length (Mathis) vs. strength (Skoronski) and it could ultimately could go a long way toward determining where both of these players go in the 2023 NFL Draft.