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 seventh full week of college action.
David Bell / WR / Purdue
The Hawkeyes were without Riley Moss against Purdue last week, and it proved to be costly for the second-ranked team in the country. David Bell has been one of the best receivers in the Big Ten this season, and no Iowa defender could contain him, as he caught 11 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. Bell suffered a concussion against Notre Dame last month, but he has rebounded nicely and is boosting his draft stock each week.
At 6’2”, 205, Bell brings a nice blend of size and athleticism. If he can play as well in the second half of the season as he did in the first half of the season, he could easily become a day two pick in a draft class that is once again loaded at the receiver position.
Tyler Linderbaum / C / Iowa
Last week I told you about Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson, but there is another center in the 2022 class that I like even more. That guy is none other than Tyler Linderbaum. Linderbaum could have declared for the 2021 draft but smartly chose to wait until 2022, and he has played lights out every week this season. He is only listed at 290 pounds, but he has the frame to add as much weight as NFL teams want him to add. By the time we get to the scouting combine, I expect him to have added at least ten to fifteen pounds.
Linderbaum is an incredibly fluid mover, and he displays a consistently good pad level. If he can add that extra weight and become slightly more powerful as a run blocker, we may be looking at the best center prospect in recent memory. I realize that the Steelers have invested in Kendrick Green as their center of the future, but if they think Green can succeed at guard (which was what he primarily played in college), they may want to consider Linderbaum if the value becomes too good to pass up.
Jalen Pitre / S / Baylor
Another under-the-radar safety, Pitre has been a major part in Baylor’s 2021 success, displaying consistency not only in coverage, but also as a run defender and occasional blitzer. Against a ranked BYU team, Pitre was all over the field, racking up 9 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery.
Pitre may be slightly smaller than what the Steelers prefer in their strong safety, but his strengths fit what the Steelers like to run on defense. He is an incredibly smart defender who is at his best when his eyes are on the quarterback and he can rely on his instincts to jump routes and create turnovers. While he is not great blitzing up the middle, he has been very effective when blitzing off the edge, and whether he is playing the run or the pass, he shows tremendous effort as a tackler. If the Steelers let Terrell Edmunds walk in free agency and pass on a safety early on in the draft, I would not be surprised if they took a long look at Pitre. He is certainly someone to keep an eye on as we head into the second half of the season.
Others who improved their stock in Week 7
Jalen Tolbert / WR / South Alabama (11 REC, 174 YDS, 1 TD)
Adetomiwa Adebawore / DE / Northwestern (7 SOLO TACK, 1 SCK, 4 QB HUR)
Tyrion Davis-Price / RB / LSU (36 CAR, 287 YDS, 3 TD)
Jerome Ford / RB / Cincinnati (20 CAR, 189 YDS, 4 TD)
Brenton Cox, Jr. / EDGE / Florida
It looked as if Cox was going to have a breakout season after his five-sack game against Tennessee in Week 4, but Cox has failed to record a sack since then, and he was pretty much non-existent in Florida’s loss to LSU last week. Cox is one of the most athletically gifted players in the 2022 draft class, but consistency has been a major issue for him. While he still grades out as a solid run defender, he will need to become more consistent as a pass rusher in the second half of the season if he wants any chance at being selected inside the top fifty picks.
Bubba Bolden / S / Miami
Bolden is another highly-touted prospect who is loaded with talent but has failed to turn in consistent production. Bolden has recorded 15 tackles over the past two weeks, but he has been quite inconsistent in coverage and has been completely silent when it comes to creating turnovers. He has forced zero turnovers this season and has not defended a pass since Week 2 against Appalachian State. He will have a chance to regain his footage this week against a good North Carolina State team, but I do not see Bolden as a top 100 prospect at this point.
Week 8 Preview
The Steelers fan base has already fallen in love with quarterback Kenny Pickett, but he has not played any scary defenses up to this point. On Saturday, however, he will face a Clemson team that is allowing only 12.5 points per game to opposing offenses. If Pickett can play at a high level once again this week, I can guarantee that the fan base’s love for the guy will only grow. I am still not sold on his overall upside, but he has definitely put himself in the early day two conversation. You can see Pittsburgh and Clemson face off at 3:30 ET on ESPN.
Defensive backs will be the emphasis in the Oregon vs. UCLA game, as Mykael Wright and Verone McKinley III have been consistent playmakers for the tenth-ranked Ducks. For UCLA, Quentin Lake is a guy I was high on last season before he decided to return to school. The son of former Steeler Carnell Lake, Quentin was a truly underrated safety last season, improving his ball skills and becoming more instinctually sound. You can catch this game at 3:30 ET on ABC.
Kedon Slovis has been somewhat streaky as a passer, but a consistent performance against Notre Dame in primetime could put him back in the first round conversation. It will not be an easy task avoiding turnovers though, as Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has been an absolute animal this season, recording three interceptions and four passes defended while also defending the run at an elite level. Hamilton will almost certainly be a top-ten pick next April. You can see this game on NBC at 7:30 ET.
For a full breakdown of what to expect in the coming week of college football action, check out Pittsblitz56’s College Game Day article right here on BTSC each Saturday.
Which prospects caught your eye this past weekend? Which players do you have your eye on this week? Could any of them be potential fits for our beloved Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!