The race for the National Championship is on! Who will win it all? Will it be Alabama, Cincinnati, Georgia, or my beloved Michigan Wolverines? In just a few short hours, we will figure out which two teams will be duking it out on January 10th to claim the illustrious title of “National Champions.”
In both semifinal matchups, there are a plethora of talented NFL Draft prospects that fans should keep a close eye on. Today, we will take a quick look at the top ten prospects playing in these games while also looking at prospects outside the top ten that could be potential fits with the Steelers.
Here are my ten highest-ranked 2022 NFL Draft prospects playing in the upcoming College Football Playoff Semifinals.
1. Aidan Hutchinson | EDGE | Michigan | 6’5” | 270 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 1
Hutchinson is a powerful edge rusher whose stock has risen throughout the season. The talented pass-rusher has the size of a 4-3 defensive end but has played the EDGE in both 4-3 and 3-4 looks. Relentlessness, consistent productivity, and his ability to convert speed to power are the biggest reasons why he could be the number one overall pick this April.
2. Evan Neal | OT | Alabama | 6’6” | 360 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 4
I feel as if Neal may be best suited as a right tackle in the NFL, as he struggled against Auburn’s bendy EDGE rushers in the Iron Bowl. Nonetheless, he is the best tackle in this draft, and, unfortunately, he will be long gone by the time the Steelers are up to pick.
3. Jameson Williams | WR | Alabama | 6’2” | 188 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 7
Williams is the best deep threat in all of college football. After averaging over 20 yards per reception during the regular season, Williams will look to move his way up draft boards even further with a solid performance against Ahmad Gardner, one of the elite cornerbacks in all of college football.
4. David Ojabo | EDGE | Michigan | 6’5” | 250 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 9
Ojabo has ideal length and size to handle the edge, and I would expect him to get closer to the neighborhood of 260 pounds before the 2022 season rolls around. While I think he could succeed in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, his best fit is in a 3-4 where he can get out of his stance quickly and beat the tackle around the edge with his speed. Let’s see how well he performs against a talented Georgia offensive line.
5. Jordan Davis | DT | Georgia | 6’6” | 340 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 10
Only elite nose tackles are deserving to go inside the top ten, and Davis will have a chance to prove that he belongs in that category against a stout Michigan offensive line. Keep a close eye on whether or not he can get any push as a pass rusher despite being double-teamed almost every down.
6. Ahmad Gardner | CB | Cincinnati | 6’2” | 200 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 13
Talk about someone you can just put on an island one-on-one and never give a second thought about him getting torched over the top! Gardner is a true press-man corner who fights for position and uses his hands well right off the snap. The must-watch matchup in the Alabama vs. Cincinnati game has to be Jameson Williams going against Gardner. Whoever wins that matchup may determine who wins the game outright.
7. Desmond Ridder | QB | Cincinnati | 6’4” | 215 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 17
Ridder’s performance against Alabama may have more implications on the Steelers’ draft plans than anything else this week. Obviously, the Steelers could very well be in the market for a quarterback, and Ridder has the size and arm strength the Steelers like in their quarterbacks. Deep ball accuracy, however, has been all over the place. If he can consistently place balls deep downfield against Alabama, Ridder could become the consensus QB1 in this class.
8. Nakobe Dean | ILB | Georgia | 6’0” | 225 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 18
Sideline-to-sideline speed is something an inside linebacker in the modern day NFL needs to have. Dean not only has good speed, but he is a smart player who takes good tackling angles and is dangerous as a blitzer. The only thing Dean does not have is size, and that could be a real knock against him come draft time. If he wraps up the Michigan ball-carriers without a problem, however, perhaps those concerns will fade away.
9. Daxton Hill | S | Michigan | 6’0” | 192 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 28
There has been some uncertainty surrounding Hill’s status for this game, and the reasoning for a potential absence is unknown. An opt-out would make no sense and would seriously hurt his draft stock, as it would then raise concerns about his true dedication to the team. I can understand a bowl game that is relatively meaningless, but a chance to go to the National Championship game is a different story. Perhaps it is injury related. Nonetheless, if Hill does not play, his absence will be evident in the Michigan secondary.
10. Travon Walker | DE | Georgia | 6’5” | 275 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 35
Walker is a former five-star recruit who has the size and speed to dominate just about any offensive tackle. Unfortunately, the numbers have not always matched the talent, and while he took a big leap forward in his game this season, he still has not proven himself to be able to finish as a pass rusher. He will be up against a difficult matchup in Michigan tackle Andrew Stueber. This is yet another matchup to keep an eye on.
Other Names To Watch:
The following prospects are those who failed to make the top ten but play a position the Steelers could be in need of this offseason.
George Pickins | WR | Georgia | 6’3” | 200 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 39
Pickens suffered a torn ACL in the spring but is ready to play against Michigan after participating in the previous two games. Perhaps the Steelers look into him on day two considering the potential losses of James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
John Metchie | WR | Alabama | 6’0” | 195 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 42
Metchie fell off the radar when Jameson Williams became the number one receiver for the Tide, but Metchie has big-play ability of his own. He should see a lot of Cincinnati corner Coby Bryant in coverage.
Jordan Battle | S | Alabama | 6’1” | 210 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 55
Battle is the perfect combination of size, smarts, and speed. He does well when his eyes can be on the quarterback, but when he has to have his back to the ball, he struggles on occasion.
Andrew Stueber | OT | Michigan | 6’7” | 338 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 92
Stueber aligns at left tackle for Michigan but may be a better fit at right tackle in the NFL. His combination of length, power, and toughness make him an effective run-blocker.
Andrew Vastardis | C | Michigan | 6’3” | 294 lbs
Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 95
Vastardis is an older prospect and will never be an elite center, but he is consistently solid, and you always know what you are getting with him. He rarely gets pushed around in pass protection, and he plays with a good pad level and makes a difference in the run game despite his size. His sub-300 pound frame will scare some people off, but unlike Steelers center Kendrick Green, Vastardis has the frame to easily add more weight. If he holds his own against Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, some of those concerns may be put to bed. He could be a fantastic value pick in the middle rounds.
Which players will you be watching in the College Football Playoff Semifinals? Could any of them be potential fits with the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!