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Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Stock Report: Who made the biggest jump during Championship Week?

Taking a look at which prospects made the biggest jump after last week’s championship games.

NCAA Football: The American Athletic Conference Championship-Houston at Cincinnati Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

What a season it has been! We have discussed multitudes of NFL Draft prospects over the past 13 weeks, and we are just getting started. In just a few weeks, Ryland B., myself, SNW, and many others will be bringing back the BTSC Big Board for the second consecutive year, so stay tuned! However, until the majority of the bowl games are over, this will be the last stock report article you see.

Despite just a handful games being played last week, there were still many players who helped themselves during Championship Week, and we will dive into them below. While these articles were primarily based on players at positions the Steelers are in need of heading into next season, the team’s inconsistency throughout the season will keep fans guessing all offseason as to which direction they will go with their draft picks. At this point, nothing is off the table, as you could make an argument for just about any position being a need headed into next offseason. With that in mind, this final stock report is simply the players who I believe improved their stock the most during Championship Week.

If you have any thoughts as to who improved their draft stock last week, let me know in the comment section below. But without further adieu, here are the biggest risers after Championship Week in College Football.

Desmond Ridder / QB / Cincinnati

Ridder may not have put up the biggest numbers in Saturday’s win over Houston, but he played extremely smart football, and he was efficient in the passes he attempted. On only 17 pass attempts, Ridder threw for 190 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also rushed for 19 yards on 7 carries.

There is not much new when it comes to Ridder, but his decision to return for his senior season has paid off in a big way, as he is firmly a first-round prospect and potentially the first quarterback that will be selected this April. Ridder has an above-average arm and solid athleticism, and he has become more patient as a passer inside the pocket. He still gets a little panicked at times when his primary read is not open, but he is certainly a guy who Steelers fans will be talking about this spring. He has the chance to rise even higher if he can lead Cincinnati to an upset win over Alabama on New Year’s Eve.

Jerome Ford / RB / Cincinnati

Ford has been a key part of Cincinnati’s success on offense this season, and after his performance in the AAC Championship Game, he is beginning to get recognition. Last weekend against Houston, Ridder’s reliable mate in the backfield carried the ball 18 times for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 1 catch for 17 yards as a receiver.

Before Saturday, I never saw Ford display breakaway speed, but Ford was surprisingly explosive in the open field, and nobody for Houston had an answer for him. Ford is about 5’11”, 220 pounds, and he runs with a good pad level as well as the vision needed to maneuver through traffic inside the hashes. While Ford is not the biggest threat as a receiver, he will make you pay if you leave him wide open. Ford is now set to play his former team, Alabama, in the College Football Playoff Semifinals, where he will have a chance to solidify his status as a mid-round prospect.

SirVocea Dennis / ILB / Pittsburgh

Dennis is a relatively new name for me, but he caught the eyes of draft pundits on Saturday night against Wake Forest in the ACC Championship game, recording 12 tackles and 2 sacks. Dennis is listed at only 6’1”, 230 pounds, but he holds his own defending the run, making both the routine and difficult tackles.

What I also like about Dennis’ game is his explosiveness and blitzing ability. While he has sufficient speed in coverage, he does not drop into coverage as often as most linebackers, as Pittsburgh likes sending him on stunts and delayed blitzes in obvious passing situations. He is also not afraid to take on players that have a size advantage on him. With all of that in mind, Dennis is a player I could see the Steelers looking into if he indeed declares for the draft as an underclassman.

Jerreth Sterns / WR / Western Kentucky

Sterns was just a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but after transferring from Houston Baptist, he is now making plays for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and making a name for himself in NFL Draft circles. Western Kentucky was unable to defeat UTSA in the C-USA Championship game, but Sterns still had an impressive game, catching 10 passes for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Sterns is not the biggest receiver at 5’9”, 195 pounds, but he has been insanely productive in 2021, recording 137 receptions for 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns. Although Sterns may not have world-class speed, he displays great quickness in and out of cuts. He is also a fantastic route-runner who can consistently create separation. It is true that he has produced on both the inside and the outside, but in the NFL, he will likely be limited to the slot. Nonetheless, Sterns’ production and upside make him an intriguing name to follow as we get closer to the draft. In a deep pool of wide receivers, he may fall to day three, but he could go as high as the late second round with a strong showing at the combine.

Others who improved their stock:

Jameson Williams / WR / Alabama (7 REC, 184 YDS, 2 TD)
Sincere McCormick / RB / UTSA (36 CAR, 204 YDS, 3 TD)
Nakobe Dean / ILB / Geogia (5 TCKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD, 2 QB HUR)
Clarence Hicks / OLB / UTSA (4 TCKL, 2 SCK, 2 QB HUR)
Devin Lloyd / LB / Utah (7 TCKL, 1 INT RET TD)
Jalen Pitre / S / Baylor (7 TCKL, 6 SOLO TCKL, 2 TFL, 2 PD)
Joel Dublanko / ILB / Cincinnati (7 TCKL, 2 SCK, 1 INT)

It has been a great season thus far, and the best is still to come. Hopefully my Wolverines will make some noise in the college football playoff, but no matter what happens, I have thoroughly enjoyed the draft discussion throughout the college football season and am excited to see what is in store this spring. Again, the BTSC Big Board will be back in just a few weeks, and my first mock draft will be out in the early portions of January. So stay tuned to BTSC for all the draft analysis you need from now until April.

But which players caught your eye last week? Do you see any of them as potential fits for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!