2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

Now that we're past a bunch of the cupcake games, a few interesting matchups will take place today in college football.

And inside those games, we'll get to see some interesting matchups featuring several 2018 NFL draft prospects.

Before watching any of the big games tonight, familiarize yourself with the names below. One of them could help the Eagles in 2018 and beyond.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (7:30 p.m., ABC)

Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State, junior (6-1/225)
Simply put, Baker is a stud. As a sophomore, Baker recorded 86 tackles (9 1/2 for a loss), 3 1/2 sacks and two interceptions. Baker's biggest strength is his athleticism. He's all over the field and excels in coverage. He's the ideal 'backer for today's pass-friendly game. Today should be a fun test against Baker Mayfield and the Sooners' explosive offense. 

Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma, junior (6-5/254)
Andrews' numbers from 2016 won't blow you away, but he showed in Oklahoma's blowout win over UTEP why he's getting serious draft buzz. Andrews hauled in seven catches for 134 yards for a ridiculous 19.1 yards per catch. Andrews has flashed seriously ability to create after the catch and should be one of the first tight ends off the board come April.

No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 13 Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN)

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson, junior (6-1/190)
Cain is arguably the best receiving prospect in the 2018 draft class. Playing second fiddle to first-round pick Mike Williams last season, Cain posted 38 catches for 724 yards and nine touchdowns. Cain lacks the size of his former teammate Williams, but he is much more explosive. He only made two catches in the Tigers' lopsided win over Kent State, but one of them was a 61-yard touchdown. Clemson lost some serious weapons to the NFL in 2017 and Cain appears to be well on his way.

Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn, junior (6-1/203)
After being selected to the All-SEC freshman team, Davis struggled in his sophomore season. It's also been revealed that he was dealing with a series of nagging injuries all season. Davis seems to fit the NFL prototype with his tall frame and long arms. He's shown an ability to be physical and jam receivers at the line. Now that he's healthy, it'll be interesting to see what happens when Cain forces him to turn and run.

No. 14 Stanford vs. No. 6 USC (8:30 p.m., FOX)

Bryce Love Jr., RB, Stanford, junior (5-10/196)
(OK, so I'm cheating a little bit with this "matchup," but it should be a lot of fun to watch these two try to match each other with big plays.)

With Love in the fold, the Cardinal won't feel the loss of first-round pick Christian McCaffrey quite as much. Love is similar in stature and explosiveness to the now Carolina Panther. Splitting time last season, Love ran for 779 yards on just 112 carries (seven yards a carry). He looked unstoppable in Stanford's 62-7 win over Rice. Love carried the ball 13 times for 180 yards and a touchdown (I'll save you the math: that's an absurd 13.8 yards a carry). 

Ronald Jones Jr., RB, USC, junior (6-0/200)
Speaking of explosive, Jones might be the most explosive back in the class. Jones has rushed for 900 yards in each of his two seasons for the Trojans. He seems well on his way to topping that mark once again after rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns in USC's opening win against Western Michigan. Like Love, Jones is a bit undersized but he's a dangerous player in space. I'd like to see both players do a little more damage in the passing game. They're both capable, the numbers just aren't there as of yet.

Eagles working out Jordan Matthews

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Eagles working out Jordan Matthews

Jordan Matthews, who had the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons, worked out for the receiver-desperate Eagles Tuesday, six weeks after he was released by the Patriots, according to a league source.

As of mid-afternoon, the Eagles had not formally signed Matthews, but the source said Matthews left the workout hopeful a deal would get done.

Matthews caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns from 2014 through 2016 with the Eagles before being traded in the 2016 preseason to the Bills in the Ronald Darby deal.

Matthews managed only 25 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown in 10 games with the Bills before being released and joining the Patriots, who released him with an injury settlement just a few days into training camp after he suffered a hamstring injury during practice.

He’s been rehabbing ever since.

The Eagles have been desperate for receiver help following injuries to Mike Wallace and Mike Hollins and with Alshon Jeffery still trying to return after offseason shoulder surgery.

The Eagles released DeAndre Carter on Tuesday to make room for running back Josh Adams, which left them with only Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken healthy and available (see story).

Matthews this past spring, in an appearance with Sirius XM NFL Radio, accused the Eagles’ training staff of a “two really bad diagnoses” of knee and ankle injuries.

The Eagles have since replaced their entire training staff.

Re-signing Matthews makes sense since he has a history with Carson Wentz, who will make his first start of the season Sunday at the Linc against the Colts.

Wentz completed 73 passes for 804 yards and three TDs to Matthews in 2016, and only Zach Ertz (135) and Nelson Agholor (81) have caught more of Wentz’s passes in his two NFL seasons.

Matthews also has a history with Nick Foles. They played together here in 2014, Matthews’ rookie year, and Matthews had 30 catches for 278 yards and two TDs from Foles before he got hurt halfway through.

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Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

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Eagles have just 3 healthy receivers 5 days from kickoff

With a couple injuries in their running back room, the Eagles made a move on Tuesday, promoting Josh Adams from the practice squad to the active roster. That wasn’t much of a surprise. 

But the corresponding move was a little more of an eyebrow-raiser. 

Even though Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) doesn’t appear ready to return, even though Mack Hollins (groin) is on IR, and even though Mike Wallace fractured his fibula on Sunday and is out indefinitely, the Eagles waived DeAndre Carter. 

That leaves them with three healthy receivers just five days from Carson Wentz’s first game back:

Nelson Agholor

Kamar Aiken

Shelton Gibson 

Agholor is very good, so don’t say Wentz has no one to throw to. No. 13 had a breakout season last year and is off to a pretty good start in 2018, even without Jeffery on the field drawing attention. You don’t need to worry about Agholor, but these injuries are forcing him to play outside more than he did last season. 

But Aiken wasn’t even on the original 53-man roster as he healed from a hamstring injury. He played an incredible 62 snaps on Sunday, just a few days after being brought back. He caught five passes, the most he’s caught in a game since the regular season finale back in 2015. Aiken, 29, wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth guy on the depth chart, especially because he plays special teams. But with these three guys left, the 29-year-old is probably going to start against the Colts. 

And while Gibson, a fifth-round pick in 2017, had a great preseason, the Eagles seem hesitant to play him. He barely played in the opener and had 35 snaps without a catch on Sunday. Gibson has just two career catches, which both came at the end of the last regular season. 

So what the heck are the Eagles going to do? 

Head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Jeffery is still “week to week,” which means he isn’t ready to return. Help will eventually come when he’s back, but it won’t be this Sunday against the Colts. 

In Tampa, we saw the Eagles play Josh Perkins an awful lot, which is probably because of his background as a converted receiver. He did an OK job, catching four passes for 57 yards, but he dropped one. And are you really convinced Perkins is the answer? Yeah, probably not. 

The Eagles will likely use a lot more two-tight end sets and better make a more concerted effort to get rookie Dallas Goedert involved. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said they need to find a way. But in the past, we’ve seen that Pederson loves to run 11 personnel (Zebra) with three wideouts. They can’t do that right now, unless you want to see a lot of Aiken and Gibson on the field. 

There are three receivers on the practice squad, including Braxton Miller. But on Monday, Pederson said Miller hasn’t had time to learn the Eagles’ offense because he’s been on the scout team. 

The last possibility — the one fans are clamoring for, and understandably so — is to bring in a free agent receiver or acquire one through a trade. This seems relatively likely, based on numbers alone. It could just be bringing back Markus Wheaton. Or maybe they make a call about Jeremy Maclin or Jordan Matthews, someone who knows the offense. 

But they better act fast. The clock is ticking until the game on Sunday and the Eagles’ receiving corps is now a glaring weak spot. 

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