2023 NFL Draft: Trench Battles Headline Week 5 Matchups To Watch

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 04: Defensive end BJ Ojulari #18 of the LSU Tigers reacts after a tackle against the Florida State Seminoles at Caesars Superdome on September 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 04: Defensive end BJ Ojulari #18 of the LSU Tigers reacts after a tackle against the Florida State Seminoles at Caesars Superdome on September 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

A few high profile trench battles highlight 2023 NFL Draft prospect matchups to watch in week five of college football.

Week five of college football is finally bringing the high profile conference matchups, and that means we get to see more big time matchups for 2023 NFL Draft prospects. When we look at true “matchups”, it often should be players lining up against one another, face-to-face, for the length of the contest. Yes, a quarterback playing against a good secondary can still count, but it’s way more entertaining to divert your attention elsewhere.

Enter this week. There are several matchups to highlight, which will happen below, but some of the most fun are the battles between edge rushers and offensive tackles. It’s a true chess match, with tackles mixing up sets to confuse and stay ahead of rushers, and a great test for rushers to pull out all the counters they have. To quote The Hunger Games, it is truly “moves and countermoves”.

Without further ado, let’s dive in to look at the top matchups from a 2023 NFL Draft perspective this weekend.

Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee vs. B.J. Ojulari, EDGE, LSU

There might not be a better pass rusher in the 2023 NFL Draft than LSU’s B.J. Ojulari. Armed with an explosive first step, Ojulari maintains that explosiveness to threaten around the outside arc. His twitch and bend allow opportunities for inside moves and to flatten his route and get under his opponent at the top of his rush. His wicked rush against Evan Neal (and game as a whole) was great, as was his game against Charles Cross, where he converted speed to power to collapse the pocket.

Darnell Wright was a five star recruit in the class with Neal and Cross, but hasn’t lived up to expectation. He has imposing physicality and impressive grip strength, but has to improve his footwork to mirror rushers. Playing well against Ojulari could be something that elevates him in the eyes of scouts.

Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State vs. Jacoby Windmon, EDGE, Michigan State

Ah, the true matchup of the weekend. Michigan State’s Jacoby Windmon has been quite a surprise through four weeks, as he put up a ridiculous five-sack game against Western Michigan in the opener. He has six sacks on the season, along with 16 pressures and 13 stops, per PFF.

Windmon goes up against the premier tackle duo in the nation. Paris Johnson Jr. is getting top 15 hype for the 2023 NFL Draft, and it’s easy to see why. Johnson moved over to left tackle this fall from right guard, and the move has looked pretty seamless. He’s got the footwork, functional athleticism, and strong hand placement to gain and maintain leverage. Dawand Jones has looked more limber this season, and he’s certainly on the draft radar as well. Wherever Windmon aligns is going to be popcorn worthy in this one.

Blake Freeland, OT, BYU vs. Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

Blake Freeland is another tackle who could rise ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, and this is a resume game for him. Freeland’s height makes this a bit more difficult for him, as the low man often wins in a battle on the edge. This season, though, Freeland has been spectacular in pass protection, allowing just seven pressures in 190 opportunities.

Isaiah Foskey has the skill set to be a top 10 pick in the coming draft, mostly due to his unique athleticism for the position. He’s gotten reps at inside linebacker, most notably in 2021, and has the functional athleticism and change of direction skills make it possible for him to thrive in coverage. His length gives him the opportunity to sit and leverage at the point of attack in the run game, and he’s got a great hand swipe move at the top of his rush.

Jake Bobo, WR, UCLA vs. Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah

There aren’t many WR/CB matchups to watch this weekend, but the Pac 12 presents an interesting one. Jake Bobo is a Duke transfer who really stood out last weekend against Washington, catching six passes for 142 yards and two scores. He has the size (6’5″, 215 pounds) to win at the catch point, but is a smooth mover for his size as well. Clark Phillips III is one of the top man cover corners in the draft, and he hasn’t gotten a big test yet this year.

Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia vs. Derick Hall II, EDGE, Auburn

Derick Hall is one of the more underrated edge rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft, possessing the explosiveness and strength to win on all three downs as a true edge defender. He’s got a whopping 24 pressures this year along with five sacks and 16 hurries. Broderick Jones played in three games last season, but has taken over at left tackle in 2022. Jones is getting first round hype in mock drafts, so it’s a big “put up or shut up” week for him.

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern vs. Nate Herbig, LB, Wisconsin

Peter Skoronski is in that race for OT1 with Paris Johnson Jr. His football intelligence is off the charts, and while he isn’t the quickest player on the outside, he’s able to recover when he loses leverage. He can anchor really well when his hands get wide, and is a true mauler as a run blocker. Nate Herbig is a bit undersized rushing the passer, but he’s quick and very creative at finding ways to pressure the quarterback.