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 3 of college football!
Jaxson Kirkland | OT | Washington | 6’6”, 340 lbs
I was highly critical of Kirkland coming into the season, but after Saturday’s performance against the Spartans, I may need to re-evaluate. Kirkland was faced against a solid Michigan State pass rush, and he allowed not only zero sacks, but also zero pressures.
While some project Kirkland as a guard at the next level, I see him trying to remain at tackle. It all boils down to consistency. He has an impressive combination of power, technique, and athleticism. Footwork, however, is all over the place, and he will need to become more consistent in that area if he wants to hear his name called on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Nonetheless, it was a great week for Kirkland, who has now re-entered the first-round conversation.
Zion Nelson | OT | Miami | 6’5”, 316 lbs
Nelson is in the same exact boat as Kirkland. He was once a projected first-round pick in 2022 who struggled last season and smartly chose to return to school. So far, that decision is paying off big dividends, as we are beginning to see his stock rise once again. On a week where there were no must-see matchups in college football, much attention was given to one of the only top-25 showdowns: Miami vs. Texas A&M. While coming in a losing effort, Nelson was strong in every facet of the game, allowing zero sacks and having a huge part in Miami’s running game that recorded 175 yards on the ground.
Nelson underwent surgery in July to remove what he called “floating cartilage,” but he has returned to form and looks as good as ever. Much like Kirkland, consistency will be the difference-maker, whether good or bad. Regardless, when Nelson has everything together as he did on Saturday, he is a fun player to watch.
Others Who Improved Their Stock
YaYa Diaby | EDGE | Louisville | 6’3”, 270 lbs | 6 TCKL, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 SCK
Griffin Hebert | WR/TE | Louisiana Tech | 6’2”, 223 lbs | 5 REC, 122 YDS
Mohamed Ibrahim | RB | Minnesota | 5’9”, 210 lbs | 23 CAR, 202 YDS, 3 TD
Al Walcott | S | Baylor | 6’2”, 219 lbs | 9 TCKL, 2 TFL
Dax Hollifield | ILB | Virginia Tech | 6’1”, 245 lbs | 8 TCKL, 1.5 TFL, 1 SCK
Ayinde Eley | LB | Georgia Tech | 6’3”, 233 lbs | 12 TCKL, 3 TFL, 1 SCK
Ben Kopenski | EDGE | Oklahoma State | 6’1”, 255 lbs | 4 TCKL, 2 SCK, 2 QB HUR
Which players impressed you this weekend? Do you think Zion Nelson or Jaxson Kirkland could be in play for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!