2019 NFL Draft Prospect Matchups | Georgia vs. South Carolina


Oh happy day, the NFL is back! Last night, we had the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles battle it out for the first game of the season. Even though their seasons are just beginning, NFL Draft season has been underway for a while now. I’ve spent much of the summer previewing and putting pre-season prospect lists together.

I’ll continue to compile those lists, but week one of the college football season is already in the books. Entering week two, there are some very intriguing matchups that will have draft stock implications for some prospects. Stanford and USC will be an interesting matchup on Saturday night; it’ll feature players like Bobby Okereke and Bryce Love.

During the day, we’ll see Duke and Northwestern battle it out. Quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Clayton Thorson will try to outplay each other for bragging rights and to improve their quarterback rankings. While all of these games have intriguing matchups, there’s one game that’s more central on my radar than the others. The one game that has a prospect matchup that will steal the weekend is between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Deebo Samuel vs. Deandre Baker. Let’s dive into some film and preview this highly anticipated matchup.

Deandre Baker, CB from Georgia 

One of the top cornerbacks destined for the 2019 NFL Draft is Deandre Baker from Georgia. Having a top defensive prospect bound for the NFL Draft is something that the Bulldogs are accustomed to. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch Roquan Smith, or just check where he was drafted last year. When you watch Baker, you’ll notice plenty of strengths in his game. Before we get into the strengths, let’s take a look at one area where he’ll have to become more consistent.

On the play below, you’ll notice Baker on the bottom of the screen. Georgia has a single-high safety look, but Baker is playing in man coverage. You’ll quickly notice that his backpedal is short, almost nonexistent. He quickly sinks his hips and opens toward the sidelines. In the process, he’s flat footed and all of his weight is carrying to his heels rather than the balls of his feet (toes). Baker is fully preparing for the receiver to go vertical up the field following the outside release, but with how quickly he opens to the sideline, he opens the door for the receiver to work his way back inside and secure the catch.

This play isn’t all bad, though. Baker does a nice job recovering, flips his hips back inside, and is right there for the tackle. Flipping his hips and having the speed to recover on routes where he loses some ground is another asset in his game.

Instinctive and Athletic with Good Ball Skills 

Like I’ve mentioned, Baker does a nice job flipping his hips and has the ability to go stride for stride with a receiver. Below is a thread that I’ve put together on Baker and throughout the season, I’ll add more plays to it. My favorite thing about him is how he’s always reading the quarterback and how efficient he is at doing it.

When going through the process of reading the quarterback and his eyes, Baker’s got the athletic ability to react and close on the receiver or the football. On the first play below, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Baker is matched up with a receiver that’s running a vertical route. Even though he lets the receiver run behind him, he reacts so quickly to the out route underneath. He’s closing in on the receiver faster than his actual reaction to the route. It’s almost like he knows what the quarterback is going to do before the quarterback actually does it. Saying that he’s an instinctive player is an understatement.

Another strength for Baker is his ball skills. He has a knack for finding the ball when it’s in the air, and when he does, there’s a chance he’s coming away with an interception or a pass deflection. On the play above, Baker flips his hips and goes step for step with the receiver. Even though I’ve mentioned that, take a look at his ball skills. He finds the ball while it’s in the air and makes a great play on it. He has a knack for knowing where the ball is at all times and when the ball is thrown in his area, there’s a good chance that he’s going to make the play on it before the receiver does.

In 2017, Deandre Baker had 44 tackles, three interceptions, and nine pass deflections. The senior cornerback took a step forward, but this year, he’s expected to take his game to another level entirely. With week two on tap, Deandre Baker will get a tough matchup against Deebo Samuel. Let’s take a look at what Samuel brings to the table.

Deebo Samuel, WR from South Carolina 

One of my favorite players in the 2019 NFL Draft is Deebo Samuel from South Carolina. I want to focus on what he did last week. It was his first week back after breaking his leg last year, which limited him to only three games in 2017. The senior receiver stepped back on the field and made an immediate impact.

More often than not, Samuel plays special teams, and there’s a reason South Carolina takes any opportunity to get Samuel the ball. Put the ball in his hands, and there’s a strong chance he’ll get to the end zone. When evaluating prospects, versatility and athletic ability are always important assets.

Samuel checks the boxes in those two categories, and when comparing him to other receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft, he reigns supreme. On the play above, you’ll see Samuel utilized as the man in motion. With this jet sweep, Samuel turns upfield where he has blockers in front of him. He runs hard and is stronger than people give him credit for. Running through a tackler and keeping his feet to gain additional yardage is always a positive.

On Saturday, we’ll see Deandre Baker cover Deebo Samuel from a variety of spots, from the slot or man-to-man on the outside. If Baker follows Samuel in motion, he’d better be prepared to fight off blocks and tackle Samuel right away. These jet sweeps could happen a handful of times throughout the game between Georgia and South Carolina.

The Quick Passing Game 

You won’t see Samuel run a ton of routes in the intermediate areas of the field. However, in the short areas of the field Samuel thrives. With how quick Samuel is in and out of the breaks of his routes, we’ll see plenty of quick passes thrown his way. Georgia will rely on how instinctive Deandre Baker is and on his closing speed to mitigate Samuel’s explosiveness. Watching these two 2019 NFL Draft prospects battle on Saturday is going to be interesting and incredibly fun, from a scouting perspective.

More often than not, Samuel is going to beat press coverage with a jab step outside and then an inside release. This can force cornerbacks to flip their hips toward the sidelines and attempt to run vertically up the field. Like we saw earlier with Deandre Baker, it can definitely happen to the best of them.

It’s Samuel’s bread and butter because of how quick he releases inside. On the play above, you can see him doing just that. Once he gets that separation inside, the ball is thrown and he secures the catch. South Carolina gets him the ball in the short areas of the field so he can create after the catch. When Samuel isn’t running slant routes, there are designed screens thrown his way and he’s a great target on quick hitch routes.

Not only does Samuel have a role in the quick passing game, he’s also a threat in the red zone. Take a look at him running a fade route and securing the pass with one hand. It’ll be a lot tougher with Deandre Baker in his face, but it’s clear that Samuel has good enough body control to make a play for the ball regardless of the cornerback matched up against him.

During week one, Samuel finished the game against Coastal Carolina with 7 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. This week, he matches up against one of the top cornerbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft, Deandre Baker. This matchup is going to be fun, it’s going to be physical, and we’re going to see two players solidify themselves in their respective prospect rankings.

These two players are who they are. They can certainly get better, but odds are, that won’t happen on Saturday. The only way it does is if Baker shuts Samuel down to a stat line of zero or Samuel explodes for a career day. If either one of those things were to happen, then we’d have to refocus on what went wrong or what went right and find out where the prospect actually stands. As for now, both of these players are great, and it’s going to be a fun one to watch. If there’s any matchup you need to watch on Saturday, this is the one.

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.