After a week filled with games that came down to the wire, the NFL Draft landscape is beginning to take shape. Which standouts from this past week’s college football games could be in play for the Steelers? It is time 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, 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 fourth full week of college action.
Kenny Pickett / QB / Pittsburgh
Pickett’s stock has been trending up for the past couple weeks, but his performance on Saturday is only going to move him up higher. Granted, it was against New Hampshire, but Pickett completed 24 of 28 passes for 403 yards and 5 touchdowns, spreading the ball out to 12 different receivers. Pickett has had many ups and downs during his time at Pitt, but the senior quarterback is putting together a stellar 2021 campaign. He will look to boost his stock even more on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Treylon Burks / WR / Arkansas
I was really excited about Burks’ potential coming into the season, but after his performance on Saturday, I am even more excited about his overall ceiling as a prospect. Against a solid Texas A&M defense, Burks earned a tough 167 yards on 6 catches, one of which went for a touchdown. I love Burks’ awareness as a receiver. When his quarterback creates time and gets outside the pocket, he runs back toward the ball and gives his quarterback a better opportunity to hit him downfield. He still struggles with the occasional drop, but his combination of size and athleticism cannot be taught. I currently have him projected as first-round pick and a top 25 prospect in my rankings.
Faion Hicks / CB / Wisconsin
There were not a ton of bright spots for Wisconsin on Saturday, but Hicks was one of them. He was targeted early and often against Notre Dame, but he held up quite well overall, recording five solo tackles, one quarterback hurry, and four passes defended. Hicks brings a good blend of size and experience to Wisconsin’s secondary, and his instincts have improved in time. He is not a well-known commodity at this stage, but a strong performance on what was otherwise a poor performance by Wisconsin’s defense will definitely stand out going forward.
Xavier Henderson / S / Michigan State
On a team loaded with transfers, an experienced presence is always comforting for a head coach. Michigan State safety Xavier Henderson has been the glue of Mel Tucker’s team this season, and he was all over the field in Saturday’s overtime win against Nebraska, recording 17 tackles and one tackle for loss. Henderson is not the greatest athlete in the world, but he is physical against the run and savvy in coverage. There are many intriguing safeties in the 2022 class, but I think Henderson is still worthy of a day two selection.
Others who improved their stock
Forrest Rhyne / ILB / Villanova (11 TCKL, 1.5 SCK, 2.5 TFL)
Andrew Parchment / WR / Florida State (I predict a future Reynolds Wrap endorsement; 6 REC, 86 YDS, 1 TD)
Emeka Emezie / WR / North Carolina State (14 REC, 116 YDS, 1 TD)
Zion Johnson / G / Boston College
Baylon Spector / LB / Clemson (19 TCKL, 1 QB HUR, 1 PD)
Xavier Thomas / EDGE / Clemson (5 TCKL, 2 SCK)
Tyler Shough / QB / Texas Tech
Shough had high expectations when he became the starting quarterback at Oregon, but after Anthony Brown began to take reps away from him, he decided to transfer to Texas Tech in hopes of regaining his footage as a draft prospect. Unfortunately for him, he will likely to be out until November with a broken collarbone. Shough was off to a decent start, but he has still failed to live up to his potential. Barring any major improvement in performance at the end of the season, he would probably be wise to return to school and enter the draft in 2023.
Jalen Green / DB / Mississippi State
Green is an athletic defensive back that transferred from Texas and has now converted to safety. He made a major impact the first few weeks of the season, but there were several instances where he looked completely lost on the field against LSU. There were a couple plays where his failure to pick up a receiver resulted in a big gain, and when he was in zone, he looked very non-committal in coverage, second-guessing himself on multiple occasions. There is a lot of talent to work with when it comes to Green, but he is still raw and finding his way as a prospect.
Adrian Frye / CB / Texas Tech
Nobody on Texas Tech’s defense truly had a good game on Saturday, but Frye hurt his draft stock more than anyone else. He was beginning to trend upward after recording an interception against Houston in Week 1, but he has done very little since. He recorded six tackles in Saturday’s loss to Texas, but that was primarily because he was giving up catches to the Texas receivers before he recorded the tackles. Frye is still without a pass defended this season, and considering the amount of times he has been targeted, that is not a good sign. Frye had a chance to become one of the first Big 12 defenders off the board this April, but a lack of positive production has now made him a projected day-three afterthought.
Who to watch in Week 5
Matt Corral’s inconsistency has irritated me to no end, but he has looked impressive in the early portion of the 2021 season. If he performs well against Alabama on Saturday, I may need to go back and re-evaluate him as a potential fit with the Steelers. A big game this week will drive his stock through the roof. You can catch the Ole Miss vs. Alabama matchup at 3:30 ET on CBS.
The game of the week could very well be Arkansas vs. Georgia, which airs on ESPN at 12:00 ET. With Tyson Alualu likely out of the picture after the 2022 season, it is time to begin looking at nose tackles, and Georgia’s Jordan Davis is an absolute beast. I loved him as a prospect last year before he decided to return to school, and I love him even more this year. He has improved as a pass rusher and is now a true three-down lineman, even at 335 pounds. He would be an excellent fit in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme.
This week is going to be big for quarterbacks, as Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder will also have a chance to help his cause when he goes up against Notre Dame at 2:30 on NBC. He has shown growth as a passer this season, and many Steelers fans now consider him to be the most popular fit for the Steelers in round one. Cornerback Ahmad Gardner is another first-round prospect who Steelers fans should become familiar with.
For a breakdown on the biggest games and prospects to watch on Saturday, be sure to check out Pittsblitz56’s College Game Day article, which can be found right here on BTSC on Saturday.
Which prospects caught your eye in Week 4? Of the players listed above, which ones could make sense for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below!