UCLA vs. Stanford: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Meeting of Pac-12 Elite

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UCLA vs. Stanford: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Meeting of Pac-12 Elite
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the No. 9 UCLA Bruins will travel to play the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal in one of the biggest games of the year. Both teams are contending for the Pac-12 Championship and each have lingering national title aspirations.

All eyes should be on this game for the short-term ramifications, but there's a long-term impact that cannot be ignored. Both Stanford and UCLA have multiple players that are considered to be respected prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.

Which NFL prospects should you be watching in this meeting between California's elite football programs?

Here's a look at who they are and what this game means.

 

Anthony Barr, UCLA Bruins

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Outside Linebacker

Class: Senior

Draft Stock: Top 10

2013 Season Statistics

5 GP; 26 TKL, 18 Solo, 10.0 TFL, 4.0 SACK, 3 FF, 2 FR

When it comes to rushing the passer, there are few players in the country who come close to the skill level of UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. The former running back is a freak athlete with Pro Bowl potential at the next level.

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This week, he'll have the opportunity to make his mark against one of the best offensive lines in the country.

Barr is 6'4" and 248 pounds, and has registered at least one sack in three consecutive games. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had the UCLA star going No. 4 overall in his 2014 NFL mock draft, and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN ranked Barr as the No. 7 player in the nation.

It's not hard to see why.

Barr has the power and finesse moves to explode off of the edge and shine in a 3-4 defense at the next level. He'll be tasked with going up against a Stanford squad that has a strong run game and reliable linemen.

If we know anything about Barr, it's that he excels under pressure. Keep an eye on him this weekend—he's the best pass rusher not named Jadeveon Clowney.


 

Trent Murphy, Stanford Cardinal

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Outside Linebacker

Class: RS Senior

Draft Stock: Early Second Round

2013 Season Statistics

6 GP; 22 TKL, 12 Solo, 8.0 TFL, 5.0 SACK, 1 INT

The Cardinal have one of the top defensive units in the nation, arguably the best in the Pac-12. At the heart of their success is a group of linebackers that do an excellent job both against the run and the pass.

When it comes to rushing the passer, Trent Murphy is the name to know.

Murphy has 5.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss through six games, including 3.0 over his past two outings. The redshirt senior stands at 6'6" and 261 pounds, and knows how to use his size to disrupt plays.

His draft stock seems to be improving with every passing week. Against UCLA, Murphy has the opportunity to become a first round prospect.

Murphy will be tasked with applying pressure to one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the entire country. If he's able to make plays, scouts will inevitably take note of his physical gifts translating into strong production.

Murphy isn't a superstar, but he has the upside to be a quality linebacker at the next level.

 

Shaquelle Evans, UCLA Bruins

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Wide Receiver

Class: RS Senior

Draft Stock: Fourth Round

2013 Season Statistics

5 GP; 20 REC, 289 YDS, 4 TD

Shaquelle Evans isn't the most productive wide receiver in the nation, but he's a very solid player. With an NFL-type body and the ability to go up and get the football, Evans could be the next player to go from quality collegiate receiver to NFL stud.

If he's ever going to showcase his abilities, a meeting with Stanford would be the perfect time to do it.

Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, and has 20 receptions for 289 yards and four scores in 2013. In his most recent outing, Evans had six catches for 68 yards and a score.

Evans now has receiving touchdowns in four of his first five games.

Going up against a Stanford defense that hasn't allowed a single team to score more than 28 points, Evans will have trouble finding the big play. If he's able to post solid numbers as a possession receiver, helping UCLA to move the chains, scouts will reward him.

There's undeniable upside here, and against Stanford, it will be on display.

 

Shayne Skov, Stanford Cardinal

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Position: Inside Linebacker

Class: RS Senior

Draft Stock: Late First Round

2013 Season Statistics

6 GP; 52 TKL, 24 Solo, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 SACK

If there's one position that doesn't get enough respect during the NFL draft, it'd have to be inside linebacker. Players at the position aren't often sack machines or turnover-creating performers, and thus the numbers have become difficult to read.

Let the NFL success of second-year players Vontaze Burfict and Luke Kuechly make one thing clear: inside linebacker is still a vital position.

This year, one of the players who could rise up the ranks and emerge as a future NFL leader is Shayne Skov of Stanford. Through six appearances in 2013, Skov has 52 tackles, including 6.0 for loss and 2.5 sacks.

At 6'3" and 245 pounds, Skov has the size, athleticism and nose for the ball that any head coach would love to have.

Skov is a team captain, and GoStanford.com reports that he's on the watch list for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Butkus and Rotary Lombardi awards. If Skov is able to contain Brett Hundley and Jordon James, he would confirm his status as a first round draft choice.

Either way, Skov will catch the eye of many general managers and scouts across the NFL.

 

Brett Hundley, UCLA Bruins

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Position: Quarterback

Class: RS Sophomore

Draft Stock: Top 15

2013 Season Statistics

5 GP; 109-160, 68.1 CMP%, 1,469 YDS, 12 TD, 4 INT; 61 ATT, 260 YDS, 3 TD

When it comes to playmakers, not many have as much upside as Brett Hundley of UCLA. The redshirt sophomore quarterback is one of the most dynamic players in an offense-heavy Pac-12, using both his arm and legs to make plays.

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Against Stanford, Hundley will receive the national spotlight as he looks to rival Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel as the top quarterbacks in 2014.

Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN Insider has Hundley as the No. 15 player and No. 2 quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report previously ranked Hundley as the No. 23 overall prospect and No. 4 quarterback.

There's good reason to believe the hype surrounding the Bruins' field general.

Hundley currently has 1,469 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions on a completion percentage of 68.1. He's also rushed for 260 yards and three scores, using his 6'3" and 222-pound frame to tear through opposing defenses and disrupt front sevens.

Hundley could be a franchise player at the next level. We'll see how ready he is for that burden of expectation against Stanford.

 

David Yankey, Stanford Cardinal

Position: Offensive Lineman

Class: Senior

Draft Stock: Fourth Round

David Yankey is your prototypical Stanford Cardinal offensive lineman, possessing positional versatility and a powerful frame. Whether he's lining up at guard or tackle, Yankey knows how to pull his weight as a pass and run protector.

Yankey will need to be at his best against Barr and UCLA's ferocious pass rush.

Yankey has played a major role in players such as Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson rushing the football at a high level. He's opened up rushing lanes against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, and has protected well for quarterback Kevin Hogan.

This game will test how well he can perform against an NFL-caliber pass rusher in Barr.

Yankey is currently a late-first to middle round prospect, but much will change between now and the the 2014 draft. Offensive linemen are often tough to gauge this early in the season, but Yankey has proven to be physically gifted and fundamentally developing.

Keep an eye on how well he performs as a pass and run protector against UCLA.

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