After witnessing some of the craziest games of the college football season last weekend, the NFL Draft landscape is becoming clearer. Which standouts from last week’s college football games helped themselves the most when it comes to their draft projection? You are about to find out.
During the college football season, I will have weekly “stock reports,” breaking down everything that transpired in the previous week of college action. We will look at players at any position that either helped or hurt their stock based upon that week’s performance, but we will give a more extensive look at players that play a position the Steelers will be in need of next offseason. Those positions may fluctuate as the Steelers’ 2021 season unfolds and we learn more about what this team truly needs to address in the offseason.
As it stands right now, cornerback, safety, guard, wide receiver, and quarterback seem to be the most likely needs. Thus, a noteworthy performance by a player at one of those positions is more likely to be recognized in these articles than an impressive showing by a player at a position the Steelers are already loaded at.
Here are the highest of highs and lowest of lows from the sixth full week of college action.
Jaquan Brisker / S / Penn State
Brisker has been making plays on a weekly basis for the Nittany Lions, but his performance this past week against a top-five team will make scouts take him more seriously. In Penn State’s 23-20 loss to Iowa, Brisker added 9 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass defended to his season totals. Known for his physicality against the run, Brisker brings a nice combination of size and toughness to the defense, and while he may not be a finished product in coverage, he has made impressive strides in that area of his game. Brisker may very well be one of the top five safeties in next year’s draft and could go inside the top fifty picks.
Jarrett Patterson / OL / Notre Dame
The Irish were ever so close to falling to Virginia Tech on Saturday, but the stellar play of the offensive line allowed Jack Coan to make enough plays to lead Notre Dame to a comeback victory. Patterson is one of the best centers in all of college football, and his on-field play is only confirming it before our very eyes. I love Patterson’s lateral mobility and consistent pad level, as these traits make him one of the most consistent run blockers in the nation. I have also been surprised by the amount of physicality he plays with. The man loves football and always has a team-first mindset, as evidenced by the effort he shows on a weekly basis. Tyler Linderbaum is still my top center in the 2022 class, but Patterson is closing the gap.
Jack Jones / CB / Arizona State
In case you were not aware, Jones was a five-star athlete coming out of high school who had committed to USC. After a breakout 2017 season, Jones’ was declared ineligible to participate in football for academic reasons. It did not end there, however. During the summer of 2018, Jones was arrested for burglary, and his football career was in jeopardy. To make a long story short, Jones transferred to Arizona State, got his life into some sort of order, and actually made the Dean’s List for the 2020 spring semester. He has matured greatly during his time at Arizona State, and he is now in the process of regaining his footage as a draft prospect.
Jones definitely helped his cause against Stanford last Saturday, accumulating four solo tackles, two passes defended, and one interception. There is no denying Jones’ talent, and the production was there in both 2017 and 2019. The biggest issue with him was all the drama off the field, and hopefully those issues are in the rearview mirror. It will be interesting to see how high his stock can rise before draft time.
Others who improved their stock
Grayson McCall / QB / Coastal Carolina (18-23, 365 YDS, 4 TD)
Drake London / WR / USC (16 REC, 162 YDS, 1 TD)
Isaiah Likely / TE / Coastal Carolina (8 REC, 232 YDS, 4 TD)
Jesse Luketa / EDGE / Penn State (5 TCKL, 2.5 TFL, 2 QB HUR)
Demani Richardson / S / Texas A&M (7 TCKL, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT)
B.J. Foster / S / Texas (8 TCKL, 1 TFL, 1 INT)
Spencer Rattler / QB / Oklahoma
Rattler was one of the Heisman favorites and consensus number one quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, but two months later, he could not be any further from that. While Rattler has shown a few flashes this season, he has failed to consistently play mistake-free football. Oklahoma came out of the Red River Showdown victorious, but it did not look optimistic for the Sooners early on. In fact, it looked bad enough for Lincoln Riley to bench Spencer Rattler in favor of freshman Caleb Williams.
The decision turned out to be a good one, as the play of Williams rejuvenated the offense and led Oklahoma to a 55-48 win over Texas. It will be interesting to see how their quarterback situation plays out in the coming weeks, but no matter what happens, Rattler has gone from the potential number one pick in the draft to a guy who may need to enter the transfer portal and hold off on the draft until 2023.
Malik Willis / QB / Liberty
Just one week after I was saying how Willis had made improvements as a passer, he showed us why he is not a lock to be the first quarterback off the board. Willis’ stock had been trending up the entire season, but this past week’s game against Middle Tennessee State was one of the worst of Willis’ career, as he completed 17 of 30 passes for 222 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Liberty still won in blowout fashion, but Willis made several key mistakes, exposing some areas that he is still raw in.
One concerning, but fixable, issue with Willis is his struggle to eye off the safety. I feel as if he looks his receivers down too long and gives the safeties too many opportunities to close in on the receiver and make a play on the ball. If he can be more unpredictable as a passer and get through his progressions quicker, he is going to be a special prospect. This game will bring his stock back down to earth, but keep very close tabs on Willis despite this poor performance.
C.J. Verdell / RB / Oregon
Verdell had enjoyed a solid start to the 2021 season, including a 160 yard game against Ohio State. Unfortunately, Verdell will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a leg injury against Stanford last week. Verdell was working his way toward becoming a potential day two pick at one point, but this injury likely drops him to late day three.
For an in-depth look at the biggest games and most notable prospects in action this weekend, check out Pittsblitz56’s College Game Day article, which can be seen each Saturday right here on BTSC.
Which prospects caught your eye this past week? Could any of them be in play for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!