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Steelers 2021 NFL Draft and College Game Day Open Thread

Let’s take a look at Week 15 of the college of the college football season.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, I want to thank Andrew for taking time out of his schedule and filling in for me.

Welcome to Week 15 of the college football season! Today’s action features a good balance of rivalry games and top 25 matchups. We were supposed to get the first ever December version of “The Game” today, but Michigan was forced to cancel due to positive coronavirus tests inside the program. A top 25 AAC matchup between Cincinnati and Tulsa has also been cancelled. That said, there are still a ton of intriguing matchups today, one of which is today’s featured game, North Carolina and Miami.

We will begin with the Tar Heels. Sam Howell is not eligible to enter the draft until next year, but he may be losing most of his supporting cast in this year’s draft. Running back Javonte Williams has become one of the top backs in the class, running for 904 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. Not only is he averaging 6.7 yards per carry, but he is also averaging 13.3 yards per reception. He has good lower body strength and great burst, and he is rarely brought down on first contact. Williams is likely a day two pick at this point, and with James Conner’s future unsolidified, this may be a prospect that Steelers fans should become familiarized with.

His backfield teammate Michael Carter may not be a three-down player in the NFL, but he has run for nearly 2,000 yards over the past two seasons. He is difficult to bring down in the open field. Wide receiver Dyami Brown struggles with the occasional drop, but he is quick and explosive after the catch, and he isn’t afraid of working the middle of the field. In a normal draft, he would probably be a day two pick, but the excellent depth at the receiver position could cause him to slip to the early portions of day three. Dazz Newsome is another playmaker on this offense that could hear his name called this April. He may be limited to the slot in the NFL, but he knows how to separate from defenders and get open.

North Carolina’s primary prospect on defense is linebacker Chazz Surratt, a former quarterback who is still learning the position. He is very fluid in coverage and has the ability to come on the blitz as well. He generally tackles well, and he has impressive closing speed, but he does need to improve on getting off of blocks. Overall, he is a high-upside prospect who could fit today’s NFL perfectly with his coverage ability and high IQ. He is currently a projected day two pick, but a good combine performance could put him in the late first round conversation.

For the Hurricanes, quarterback D’Eriq King has taken this team to another level offensively, throwing for over 2,300 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions this season. He reminds me of Kyler Murray in that he sees the field incredibly well for an undersized quarterback. He also has the same quick feet and escapability that Murray has. Although he may be the biggest wild card at the quarterback position, I believe that in the right system he could develop into a starter down the line. Some team will find it worthwhile to grab him in the middle rounds of the draft and see if they can utilize his skill set. His top receiving entity is tight end Brevin Jordan. He is built similar to Evan Engram of the Giants, but he shows more willingness as a blocker than Engram. I currently have him as the third best tight end in the class and a likely day two pick.

On defense, Miami is led by stud edge rushers Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips. Roche needs to bulk up, but his explosiveness and hand usage make him one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the country. While Alex Highsmith has impressed as a rookie, the Steelers will have a serious lack of depth if Bud Dupree leaves via free agency. Roche is considered by most draft pundits as a borderline first round pick. If Kevin Colbert feels that a pass rusher is an early round need, Roche could be in play for the Steelers at the end of the first round. Jaelan Phillips was a former five-star recruit who has been hampered by injuries throughout his collegiate career, but he has all the physical tools needed to dominate. He is probably best suited as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.

Highlighted Game: No. 17 North Carolina at No. 10 Miami — 3:30 on ABC

Highlighted Prospects

Javonte Williams — No. 25 RB North Carolina 5’10” 220lbs

Chazz Surratt — No. 21 ILB North Carolina 6’2” 225lbs

Brevin Jordan — No. 9 TE Miami 6’3” 245lbs

Quincy Roche — No. 2 EDGE Miami 6’3” 245lbs

Other Notable Games

No. 9 Georgia at No. 25 Missouri — Noon on SEC Network

Georgia could have as many as eight players drafted just on the defensive side of the ball. All of their cornerbacks are legit draft prospects, and that may be an area of need for the Steelers this offseason, but I would focus more on edge rusher Azeez Ojulari and nose tackle Jordan Davis. Davis is an excellent run defender and has some pass rushing ability as well, and Ojulari has the best bend of any edge rusher in the class. On offense, center Trey Hill is a mauler who can play anywhere on the interior of the line. For Missouri, linebacker Nick Bolton is a punishing tackler and blitzer who could be a top 50 pick come April.

Navy at Army — 3:00 on CBS

Navy leads the all-time series 61-52-7. There are no legit draft prospects to keep an eye on in this game, but it is one of the greatest rivalries the game has to offer. It deserves to make the list of notable games even without any draft prospects.

No. 15 USC at UCLA — 7:30 on ABC

Trojans offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker has shot up draft boards over the past month due to his stellar play at left tackle this season. He is one of the most versatile linemen in the class, although his athleticism is not going to blow anyone away. A strong finish to the year could cement his status as a late first round pick. Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is a potential top 50 pick who displays good hands, body control, and athleticism. For UCLA, safety Quentin Lake and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa both have athletic upside and could be in play on day three

Which games and prospects are you watching today? Was there a player that was not mentioned in the article that you think Steelers fans should focus on? Be sure to give your thoughts on today’s action throughout the day in the comment section below!

Enjoy the football and GO STEELERS!!!