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Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Stock Report: New linebackers beginning to rise

Breaking down which NFL Draft prospects improved, or worsened, their stock during Week 9 of college football, and determining which players could make sense for the Steelers.

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We are officially 172 days away from the NFL Draft! That may seem like a long way into the future, but these next few months are going to fly by quickly, as we have now reached the halfway point in the NFL season and are soon approaching the home stretch of the college football season. With what is expected to be an unpredictable postseason, there will be plenty to pay attention to as we count down the days to what should be another great draft.

I am pleased to announce that the BTSC NFL Draft Big Board will be back this spring with three more BTSC members joining last year’s crew of myself, Ryland B., SNW, and NecksNation. So stay tuned to BTSC all spring for all the analysis you need leading up to the NFL Draft.

But until then, it is time to break down who is improving, or hurting, his draft stock by the week. Here are the highest of highs and lowest of lows from Week 9 of the college football season.

Stock Up

Zacoby McClain / LB / Auburn

McClain has surprisingly flown under the radar when it comes to NFL Draft hype, but he has come into his own over the past few weeks. Against a quality Ole Miss offense, McClain recorded 14 tackles, 10 solo tackles, and 2 sacks, displaying his versatility and instincts throughout the contest. He is coming off a game against Arkansas in which he made 9 tackles and defended 2 passes.

What I love about McClain is that he plays bigger than his size. He is only listed at about 220 pounds, but he can deliver a hit as good as anyone. Not only does he display good closing speed as a pass rusher, but he also does a great job dropping into zone coverage and making accurate reads. He gets pushed around by a good amount of lineman due to his lack of overall size and strength, so he will certainly have to add some weight. Nonetheless, there is a lot to like about McClain’s game.

Kenneth Walker / RB / Michigan State

I mentioned Walker in an article earlier this season, but he has now ascended to the point where we need to consider him a serious Heisman Trophy contender. Last Saturday against my beloved Wolverines, Walker ran the ball 23 times for 197 yards and a whopping 5 touchdowns. I realize that running back is not a position the Steelers will need to address early, but recognition is deserved for the season Walker is putting together. He has an incredibly good chance of being not only a first-round pick, but also the first running back off the board this April.

Logan Bonner / QB / Utah State

We have talked about a boatload of quarterbacks over the past few weeks, but I feel as if it is good to discuss as many players as possible at the position, especially when you consider the importance of who we select when we decide to take another quarterback. Bonner is not going to be taken early in the draft, but he has displayed some upside over the past couple weeks that could intrigue NFL teams in the later rounds. Last Saturday against Hawaii, Bonner feasted on the Rainbow Warriors’ defense, completing 21 of 30 pass attempts for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns.

After a rocky start to the season, Bonner has improved his decision making inside the pocket and is now averaging over 265 yards per game while holding a touchdown-to-interception ratio that is greater than 2-1. Bonner is a transfer from Arkansas State who possesses a good arm but almost no mobility whatsoever. There are times where he holds onto the ball just a split-second too long, but he has done a better job going through his reads inside the pocket ever since the BYU game, a game in which he struggled mightily. I do not see him as anything more than a day three pick, but he is yet another name who could work his way into the middle rounds with a good pre-draft process.

David Ojabo / EDGE / Michigan

Ojabo’s athleticism is no secret, but he did not exactly have much production to speak of until this season. However, 2021 has been a breakout campaign for the Wolverine pass rusher, as he has accumulated 7 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in 8 games this season. He has been making a big impact on the Michigan defense all season, but this past week’s game against Michigan State was what made people take notice. He recorded 2 sacks against the in-state rival, one of which was a strip sack.

Ojabo is extremely explosive off the edge and displays tremendous closing speed, and he has improved greatly in run support, setting the edge and maintaining good gap discipline on a consistent basis. His hand usage still needs to get better, but his development and growth from last year to this year is nothing short of amazing. There seems to be good depth when it comes to the 2022 edge rusher class, but Ojabo could easily find a way to sneak into round one if he can sustain this level of production the rest of the season.

Others who improved their stock:

Nicholas Petit-Frere / OT / Ohio State
Kyren Williams / RB / Notre Dame (22 CAR, 199 YDS, 1 TD)
Myjai Sanders / EDGE / Cincinnati (1 SCK, 1 FR)
Nakobe Dean / ILB / Georgia (7 TCKL, 1 PD, 1 QB HUR, 1 INT RET TD)
Quay Walker / ILB / Georgia (12 TCKL, 2 QB HUR)
Eric Garror / CB / Louisiana (1 PD, 1 INT)

Stock Down

Matt Corral / QB / Ole Miss

Corral has been a big riser for the majority of the season, and he had a chance to solidify his draft stock against a solid Auburn unit. However, Corral got banged up early on and struggled to get into a rhythm, completing just over 56% of his passes for 289 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He did rush for 1 touchdown.

Corral has learned to take fewer unnecessary risks with the football, but I still feel uneasy about him as a prospect because of the inconsistency. He has plenty of opportunities in the near future to overcome this subpar performance, but if the draft were today and the Steelers were to take Corral, I would definitely have some reservations.

Jayden Daniels / QB / Arizona State

I have to be honest. I had high expectations for Daniels this season, but it may have been a bit premature. Against a very average defense in Washington State, Daniels completed over 65% of his passes, but it was only good for 228 yards and 1 touchdown. He also threw 2 interceptions, making his final stat line quite underwhelming.

While I am still a believer in Daniels’ potential, I think he would be wise to return to school in 2022 and try to fix some of his issues as a pocket passer. If he can become quicker going through his progressions inside the pocket, he has a chance to become a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. However, the level he is currently performing at shows us that he is not yet ready for the NFL.

Drake London / WR / USC

London has arguably been the most productive and most consistent wide receiver in the FBS this season, but last Saturday against Arizona, London fractured his ankle and will miss the rest of the 2021 season. London will remain my top-ranked wide receiver despite the injury, but the possibility of him ascending into the top ten picks of the draft seems highly unlikely at this point in time.

Which players caught your eye last weekend? Are there any players flying under the radar that you believe are deserving of more recognition? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on everything NFL Draft, and stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and updates heading into Monday Night’s clash with the Chicago Bears.