The 2021 NCAA National Champion Georgia Bulldogs had one of the most talented defenses in collegiate history. The defense was full of NFL caliber prospects, with multiple prospects on every level. Actually, the Bulldogs had more star power on defense than many NFL rosters.
There are numerous draft candidates from Georgia's defense which would be a great fit for the Steelers, but for this article we are going to focus on the inside linebacker position, where the Bulldogs unbelievably go three deep: Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker, and Channing Tindall. All three gentlemen are extremely talented, NFL caliber prospects, but Tindall is the best fit for the Steelers, in my opinion.
Nakobe Dean is the highest ranked of the three, and could very well be the first inside linebacker taken in the first round. He is stocky, fast, and explosive. He has elite sideline to sideline speed. His NFL comparison just so happens to be Devin Bush, pre-knee injury obviously. Although Dean is extremely talented, I don't consider him to be a good fit because the Steelers already have two similar players in the aforementioned Bush, and recent free agent acquisition Myles Jack. The Steelers don't need another Mack linebacker who's greatest attribute is his speed and mobility.
Quay Walker is an athletic run stopper, blessed with both speed and length. He is an exceptional tackler, rarely failing to bring down the ball carrier. Although Walker has solid straight line speed, he isn't exceptionally quick. This limits him in coverage, which may result in him being more of a two down player in the NFL. He has struggled at times to disengage from blockers, mainly due to his longer legs and high center of gravity. Even with those legitimate concerns, interest in Walker has peaked around the league in recent weeks. The heightened awareness figures to drive up his projected round, thus decreasing his draft value.
Channing Tindall appears to be the type of Buck linebacker the Steelers should be looking for in the draft. At 6'2" and 230 lbs., Tindall has adequate size for a Buck linebacker. Although he is slightly smaller than Walker, Tindall has a thicker build with a lower center of gravity.
Tindall is extremely fast, having run a 4.47 forty at the Combine, and explosive. He registered a unbelievable 42" vertical as well. He also possesses good quickness and lateral movement. This allows him to be solid in coverage, with probable improvement with more experience. His speed and mobility causes him to resemble a strong safety on occasion.
On top of his speed, Tindall also has heavy hands, which he utilizes to consistently disengage from blockers. He converts speed to power easily, allowing him to play stronger than his average size would suggest possible. His explosiveness and closing speed makes him an effective pass rusher.
Tindall hasn't come close to reaching his peak as a player, mainly because of his limited usage with the Bulldogs. He finished third on the team in tackles, in spite of a scarcity of opportunities. No shame in being part of a rotation with two of the most talented inside linebacker prospects in the class.
Overall, Tindall is a 22 years old prospect whose best football still lies ahead of him. As a Buck linebacker in the Steelers 3-4, he would bring a unique blend of speed and power that the Steelers have been missing in the interior. Although he is a powerful run stuffer, he would provide the type of pass coverage at the position that the Steelers have been searching for since forever.
There are other impressive Buck linebacker prospects in the class; like Darrian Beavers, Leo Chenal, and Chad Muma, to name a few; however, I feel Tindall could offer the best value at the position. He is projected to be a third or fourth round selection. Muma and Chenal will be long gone by then, and Beavers is nowhere near as explosive and athletic as Tindall.
There are two logical trains of thought about the Bulldogs three talented interior linebackers. Many openly question just how good the terrific trio actually are, after benefiting from the protection of the best collegiate defensive line in recent memory. The Bulldogs dominant defensive line keep the backend defenders clean and uncongested, readily able to flow to the ball.
Others question the limited usage and production of each, and how that effects their long-term potential. I look at it a little differently I guess. I believe it is a positive in the long run that that they haven't been overused, and still have plenty of tread on the old tires.
Nakobe Dean is pretty much a known commodity, a polished product. However, Quay Walker and Channing Tindall have just started to scratch the surface of their potential. Nobody knows what they can become in a favorable situation with the right franchise.
Considering the Steelers defensive minded coaches, their scheme creativity, and their ability to develop talent at the position, I believe that Channing Tindall could be a great value project for the Steelers in a middle round. A future reliable starter, and maybe much more.