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 week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at potential Steelers draft targets to pay attention to during their respective games.
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 top prospects and games to keep an eye on this Saturday.
#5 Clemson vs. #21 Wake Forest — Noon ET on ABC
Clemson Spotlight: Jordan McFadden — OT (6’2”, 310 lbs); Sheridan Jones — CB (6’0”, 190 lbs)
Wake Forest Spotlight: Ryan Smenda, Jr. — LB (6’1”, 235 lbs); Christian Turner — RB (5’11”, 200 lbs)
Jordan McFadden had an opportunity to leave for the NFL in 2022, but he smartly chose to return for one more season. While he may lack the ideal length for the position, he is technically sound and rarely makes a big mistake. He has sufficient athleticism, and he has proven to be a difference-maker in the run game.
For Wake Forest, keep your eye on Ryan Smenda, Jr. I am not sure how well he will test athletically, but he is a well-rounded linebacker who has three-down ability. Not only does he move fluidly in coverage, but he also displays great awareness as a run defender, shooting gaps with excellent quickness. Running back Christian Turner, a Michigan transfer, is another guy to watch. He may not be the biggest back in the world, but he has good vision and hits the hole with pop.
#20 Florida vs. #11 Tennessee — 3:30 ET on CBS
Florida Spotlight: O’Cyrus Torrence — G (6’5”, 335 lbs); Brenton Cox, Jr. — EDGE (6’3”, 252 lbs)
Tennessee Spotlight: Omari Thomas — DT (6’4”, 320 lbs); Jeremy Banks — LB (6’1”, 224 lbs)
Torrence is a Louisiana transfer who could very well become the first interior lineman off the board. Tennessee has several talented pieces along the defensive line, but none are a challenge Torrence cannot handle single-handedly. Torrence looks the part of an NFL guard. He is big, athletic, and physical. He simply has not garnered the attention he deserves, as all eyes have been on quarterback Anthony Richardson.
For the Volunteers, give me the big Omari Thomas. For a massive guy on the defensive line, Thomas is fairly nimble and displays good overall awareness. Still, I would like to see him become a finisher rather than just a disrupter. Another guy to watch is Jeremy Banks, and if you are looking for a good NFL comparison, look no further than the Steelers’ own Mark Robinson. Banks is a former running back who displays top-notch instincts against the run and runs around like a missile on the field. Adding more weight to his frame will allow him to finish on more plays.
Wisconsin vs. #3 Ohio State — 7:30 ET on ABC
Wisconsin Spotlight: Joe Tippman — C (6’6”, 317 lbs), Jay Shaw — CB (5’11”, 190 lbs)
Ohio State Spotlight: Julian Fleming — WR (6’2”, 207 lbs), Taron Vincent (6’2”, 305 lbs)
Tippman has to be the perfect name for an offensive lineman. Regardless of name, Joe is a pretty good football player. While some interior lineman use their length as a crutch, Tippman does a nice job using it as a way to create leverage in the run game. If the Mason Cole experiment fails to work out, Tippman could be on the short list of prospects the Steelers target in the early rounds.
All eyes were expected to be on Jaxson Smith-Njigba in the Ohio State receiver room, but due to injury, he has yet to make a meaningful difference on offense. Fleming is still recovering from an injury of his own, but after catching two touchdown passes last week against Toledo, he is trending in the right direction. Fleming seems to be the healthier of the two hampered receivers, so expect Stroud to look his way often as the Buckeyes ease Smith-Njigba back into the fold.
Which NFL Draft prospects do you have your eye on this weekend? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stick around throughout the day in the comment section, discussing college football action as it occurs before our eyes all afternoon and evening!