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Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Stock Report: Lamar Jackson protégé breaks out at QB

Could the Steelers take a chance on a dual-threat quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft? Let’s see which prospects improved their stock in Week 12.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

With only one full week to go in the college football season, many NFL Draft prospects will either be making or breaking their resume this weekend. But which players showed out last weekend and have made their case to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft? You are about to find out.

From this week on, the remainder of the NFL Draft stock reports will feature only players who improved their draft stock, because we want to begin to zero in on prospects who could actually be legitimate come draft time. As of right now, the Steelers biggest needs next offseason are expected to be quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, and offensive line. We will continue to look at players that play other positions, but the vast majority of prospects we dive into will be those who play a position the Steelers will be in need of next year.

If you have thoughts on who is deserving of more praise from the NFL Draft community, be sure to share them in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the players who improved their draft stock the most in Week 12.

Stock Up

Malik Cunningham / QB / Louisville

To be perfectly honest, I am not the biggest fan of Cunningham. He has a slender frame, he shows almost no patience inside the pocket, and his accuracy is sporadic. Nonetheless, good performances deserve to be recognized, and Cunningham lit it up last week against Duke, completing 18 of 25 passes for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns while running the ball 11 times for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns.

A big issue with Cunningham coming into the season was creating costly turnovers, yet it has not been a major problem in 2021, as he has only thrown 5 interceptions through 11 games. He owns a 10:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the past four games, and his confidence as a passer inside the pocket is growing every week. We all know how electric Cunningham can be in the open field as a runner, but his inconsistency throwing the ball has capped his draft stock. However, if this success continues, we may need to go back and reconsider his potential as an NFL quarterback.

Lamar Jackson will never be a top-notch passer in the NFL, but he has become good enough to thrive as a passer while being his usual dynamic self as a runner. I am not calling Cunningham the next Lamar Jackson, but if he can become an average passer while being a little more consistent inside the pocket, he has the chance to make it at the next level. If he plays well in Week 13 against Kentucky and follows that up with a solid bowl game performance, he could be a serious riser and a wild-card first-round prospect come April.

Andrew Booth, Jr. / CB / Clemson

When I was preparing an article about Booth this summer, I loved what I saw on his 2020 tape, but he has been somewhat quiet this season. The splash plays just have not been there for Booth to take advantage of. But do not be fooled. He has been very sound in coverage for most of the season, and there have been several spurts where quarterbacks simply avoided throwing in his direction. Last week against Wake Forest, Booth reminded people why he deserves to be a top-fifteen pick, recording his first interception of the season while also defending two passes.

Booth has all the athletic traits you want in a lockdown corner. He is still a work in progress in zone coverage, but his ability to match up against the opposing team’s top receiver and follow him around the field man-to-man is as good as any cornerback's in all of college football. If a team is willing to be patient with him and work with the raw talent he possesses, he could be a special player down the road. He is currently my second-highest rated cornerback in the 2022 class behind only Derek Stingley, Jr.

Quentin Lake / S / UCLA

Lake was one of my day three sleepers in the 2021 draft class, but he decided to return to school in an attempt to improve his draft stock. It is expected to be a strong class of safeties, but Quentin, the son of former Steeler Carnell Lake, is playing like a legitimate draft prospect himself. In UCLA’s blowout win against USC, Lake recorded 7 total tackles, 5 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 pass defended, and 1 interception.

Lake is primarily a free safety who brings good athleticism and instincts to the table. He has become much stronger against the run, and his tackling angles have also improved. When he is unafraid to lower his shoulder, get dirty, and make a big-boy tackle, he can deliver a nice blow for a player his size. Overall, there is not much to complain about Lake, especially when you consider that you will only need to spend a mid-round pick at maximum to acquire him. Playing in a weak conference and playing games late at night may be partially why he is getting hyped so little, but don’t overthink it. Lake is a good football player who should definitely make an impact in the NFL, whether it be as a starter or as a backup.

Henry To’oTo’o / ILB / Alabama

To’oTo’o is not the biggest linebacker, but he is a good athlete and has proven that he can win battles with athleticism alone. Arkansas had no answer for the young man last week, as he was able to rack up 13 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss.

To’oTo’o will likely be a weak-side linebacker in the NFL, but I would still like to see him add a few pounds to his frame and hopefully become stronger in run support. While being undersized can be a problem, you cannot ignore his quickness and his ability to slip blocks and get into the backfield. He has also been incredibly solid in coverage for the Tide this season, blanketing tight ends and running backs one-on-one on a regular basis. Opponents will only be bigger and stronger at the next level, but if To'oTo'o can add weight himself, he has a legitimate chance of being a big-time player in the NFL for years to come.

Jameson Williams / WR / Alabama

Coming into the season, John Metchie was expected to be the Alabama receiver we would be talking about right now. However, Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams has taken college football by storm, and he continued his breakout campaign last week against Arkansas, recording 190 yards and 3 touchdowns on 8 receptions.

Williams has a tremendous amount of athletic upside, but unlike most receivers with his profile, he actually displays quick feet and outstanding route-running ability. While not the strongest receiver in the world, Williams still displays toughness in contested catch situations and controls his body nicely when targeted near the sideline. Personally, I do not see the Steelers taking a wide receiver in the first round, but Williams would definitely be intriguing if he happened to fall to the Steelers.

Other players who improved their stock

Tyler Linderbaum / C / Iowa (0 sacks allowed; top center prospect in years)
Devin Leary / QB / NC State (17-24, 303 YDS, 2 TD)
Charlie Kolar / TE / Iowa State (12 REC, 162 YDS, 1 TD)
Bryant Koback / RB / Toledo (21 CAR, 203 YDS, 4 TD)
Romeo Doubs / WR / Nevada (11 REC, 159 YDS, 2 TD)
Wan’Dale Robinson (8 REC, 181 YDS)
Clarence Hicks / LB / UAB (3 TCKL, 2 SCK, 3 TFL)
Beanie Bishop / CB / Western Kentucky (7 TCKL, 3 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT)
Al Walcott / CB / Baylor (1 TCKL, 1 PD, 1 INT)
Gabe Hall / DT / Baylor (4 TCKL, 2 SCK, 3 TFL, 1 QB HUR)
Carson Wells / EDGE / Colorado (7 SOLO TCKL, 2 SCK, 3 TFL, 2 PD, 2 QB HUR

Who to Watch in Week 13

No matter which team you are a fan of, no game on rivalry weekend is bigger than The Game, which is quite possibly the fiercest and greatest rivalry in American sports. I am not expecting the outcome to be any different than the first five with Jim Harbaugh as the head coach, but if the home crowd can rattle young C.J. Stroud, and if Cade McNamara can stretch the defense early on, there is always a chance my Wolverines could pull off the miraculous upset.

If my wish comes true, it will also be because potential top-ten picks Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo get into the backfield early and often. For Ohio State, I am curious to see how well the left side of the offensive line performs against Ojabo. The Steelers are still in need of help along the offensive line, and left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere could be a viable option for the Steelers in round one. If Petit-Frere and guard Thayer Munford can protect C.J. Stroud’s blind side on Saturday, Steelers fans should take notice considering the potential need at both tackle and guard.

Which NFL Draft prospects deserve more recognition heading into the final full week of the regular season? Do you think Malik Cunningham can succeed at the NFL level? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on these prospects and all things NFL Draft!