The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this past week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at draft prospects who improved their stock based on their performance.
Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis, especially early in the season.
Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.
As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the highest of highs from Week 6 of college football!
Israel Abanikanda | RB | Pittsburgh | 5’11”, 215 lbs
I certainly do not expect running back to be near the top of the list of Steeler needs in 2023, but record-breakers deserve recognition regardless. On Saturday against Virginia Tech, nothing could go wrong for Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda, who broke Tony Dorsett’s single-game rushing record at Pitt with 320 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns on 36 carries.
Abanikanda does not look like a big back when you see him on TV, but he is well-built at 5’11”, 215 lbs, and he runs with great vision. After a performance as good as this one, numerous NFL scouts will have their eyes peeled on Abanikanda the rest of the season. If this success continues at a more reasonable pace, expect his name to be called on Day 2 of the draft.
Quentin Johnson | WR | TCU | 6’3”, 215 lbs
Johnson has been on my radar for quite some time now, and I feel as if he deserves to be in the WR1 conversation for the 2023 draft. On Saturday, he continued his outstanding season by catching 14 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson’s combination of size and speed will catch the eye of any avid fan, but his game is more complete than your normal athletic freak at wide receiver. He is a willing blocker, a natural catcher of the ball, and a solid route-runner for a big guy. His next matchup will provide a great opportunity to boost his stock even more, as the Horned Frogs host the eighth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday afternoon.
Jon Gaines II | G | UCLA | 6’4”, 300 lbs
I mentioned Gaines in last the Week 6 preview article last week, and he lived up to every expectation anyone could have possibly had for him. Gaines made some big-time blocks in the run game, aiding in UCLA’s 200-plus rushing yard performance against Utah. He also helped keep quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson clean inside the pocket, displaying good footwork and technique in his pass sets.
Gaines could afford putting on a few pounds, but he moves well and seems to have a great understanding of the game. Guards typically slide in the draft due to positional value as well as scarcity, but this could benefit the Steelers, who may be ready to move on from Kevin Dotson. Gaines could make make his case to be a Day 2 selection, but it would not be shocking if he slips to Day 3.
Others Who Improved Their Stock
Michael Mayer | TE | Notre Dame | 6’4”, 265 lbs | 11 REC, 118 YDS, 2 TD
Byron Young | EDGE | Tennessee | 6’3”, 245 lbs | 5 TCKL, 2.5 SCK
Andrei Iosivas | WR | Princeton | 6’2”, 200 lbs | 10 REC, 150 YDS
Jakorian Bennett | CB | Maryland | 5’11”, 195 lbs | 3 TCKL, 3 PD, 1 INT
Zach Charbonnet | RB | UCLA | 6’1”, 220 lbs | 22 CAR, 198 YDS, 1 TD
Tonka Hemingway | DL | South Carolina | 6’3”, 298 lbs | 4 TCKL, 1.5 SCK, 2 FUM REC
Colby Reeder | LB | Iowa State | 6’4”, 242 lbs | 5 TCKL, 1 SCK, 2 FUM REC
Will McDonald IV | EDGE | Iowa State | 6’3”, 236 lbs | 4 TCKL, 2 SCK
Josh DeBerry | CB | Boston College | 5’11”, 177 lbs | 5 TCKL, 2 PD, 1 INT
Drake Thomas | ILB | North Carolina State | 6’0”, 230 lbs | 14 TCKL, 7 SOLO, 2 TFL, 2 PD
Durell Nchami | EDGE | Maryland | 6’4”, 260 lbs | 4 TCKL, 3 TFL, 2 SCK, 1 FF
Trea Shropshire | WR | UAB | 6’3”, 195 lbs | 6 REC, 193 YDS, 1 TD
What are your thoughts on the aforementioned prospects? Do you think any of them could make sense for the Steelers? Which draft prospects caught your eye this weekend? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!