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PFF Draft Watch: Players to focus on in this week's key matchups

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: Defensive Back Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after a play during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on September 23, 2017 in Tallahassee, Florida. NC State defeated Florida State 27 to 21. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

As conference play heats up across the country, competition steps up and those top draft-eligible players start making bigger cases for their names to be called in April. With that, we turn our attention weekly to specific games to watch, as both sides of the ball will feature some top-name players to watch out for this season and into the NFL draft.

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Miami Hurricanes @ Florida State Seminoles

Year in, year out, this game brings with it a plethora of names that could be heard in the ensuing year's NFL draft, and the 2017 edition of FSU-UM is no different.

When Miami is on offense:

  • Offensive linemen Kc McDermott and Tyree St. Louis have dominated so far for the Hurricanes. The duo is tied for third among all ACC tackles with their 98.5 pass blocking efficiency mark. They've combined to allow just four total QB pressures on a combined 204 pass block snaps.
  • RB Mark Walton had lofty expectations for this season, a year after forcing 36 missed tackles on the ground, and he hasn't disappointed so far in Miami's first three games. He opened the season with a four-forced missed tackle game against Bethune-Cookman and has followed that up with back-to-back strong games in both the run game and receiving game.
  • FSU DI Derrick Nnadi currently fields the ACC's top run stop percentage among interior defenders – averaging a run stop on 12.0 percent of his run snaps. He's registered just one QB hurry so far this season however, so to increase his draft stock, will look to increase his pass-rush productivity mark of just 0.9.
  • Florida State's secondary consists of two of arguably the biggest names in college football this season in Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden. James is the do-it-all safety for the Seminoles has graded positively in all three facets of the game, pass-rush, pass coverage and run defense. James has racked up seven defensive stops, three quarterback pressures and has allowed just 20 yards on five receptions into his coverage. McFadden, the nation's returning leader in interceptions from a season ago, had arguably his best game of the season against Wake Forest a week ago, allowing four receptions on 10 targets and two pass breakups for a passer rating of just 54.6 into his coverage.

When Florida State is on offense:

  • Florida State WR Auden Tate has been true freshman James Blackman's favorite target this season, and at 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, it's no wonder why. Tate has hauled in a touchdown reception in every game this season and already eclipsed the halfway mark of his season totals from 2016 with 13 receptions, 226 yards and those three touchdowns. Despite two interceptions thrown his way in the season opener from Deondre Francois, Tate still fields a 98.5 passer rating when targeted.
  • Hurricanes edge rusher Chad Thomas has already registered 12 QB pressures this season, on just 93 pass-rush attempts. He has brought down four stops for the Miami defensive front and has yet to miss a tackle this season, after missing nine total tackles a year ago.
  • Jaquan Johnson has been a solid performer this season for the Hurricanes back end, allowing just five receptions on eight targeted passes his way for just a mere 41 yards. He has also accrued three defensive stops and like Thomas, has not missed a tackle this season, on 13 total attempts.
Subscribe to PFF Edge to read our feature matchups on the Penn State @ Northwestern, Alabama @ Texas A&M and Washington State @ Oregon games.


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