NCAA football is back, and 2022 NFL Draft Prospects are already making a difference. Which players are improving their draft stock? Which players do Steelers fans need to take note of? You are about to find out.
The first major weekend of college football is in the books, and we have already witnessed many impressive individual performances. On the flip side, we also saw a few players who struggled to find any sort of success. How does this affect the Steelers and the entire 2022 NFL Draft landscape? You are about to find out.
During the college football season, I will have weekly “stock reports,” breaking down everything that transpired in the previous week of college action. We will look at players at any position that either helped or hurt their stock based upon that week’s performance, but we will give a more extensive look at players that play a position the Steelers will be in need of next offseason. Those positions may fluctuate as the Steelers’ 2021 season unfolds and we learn more about what this team truly needs to address in the offseason.
As it stands right now, cornerback, guard, wide receiver, and quarterback seem to be the most likely needs. Thus, a noteworthy performance by a player at one of those positions is more likely to be recognized in these articles than an impressive showing by a player at a position the Steelers are already loaded at.
Here are the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the first full week of college action.
Jermaine Waller / CB / Virginia Tech
Waller was on the draft radar before last week, but the hype is going to get real very soon, as he finished the first game of his 2021 campaign with 7 tackles, 3 solo tackles, and 1 pass defended. He nearly came away with an interception as well. Waller not only displayed good ball awareness, but he also showed the ability to get good position against receivers on the perimeter. He plays an aggressive style of football and is not afraid to put his hands on opposing receivers, and he does a pretty good job avoiding penalties. If he can continue his ascendance, he could be in the first round conversation by the time we get to April.
Desmond Ridder / QB / Cincinnati
It was only Miami of Ohio, but Ridder looked incredibly sharp, throwing darts up and down the field. On the day, Ridder went 20 of 25 for 295 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Not only did he display the huge arm that we knew he possessed, but he also showed more pocket awareness and poise as a passer than what we saw out of him for the majority of last season. It was not a game one should put too much stock into considering the team he was playing, but with Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell making several key mistakes in their respective games, Ridder slightly closed the gap between him and the consensus top two quarterbacks.
Devin Lloyd / LB / Utah
Lloyd was a wrecking ball against Weber State, recording 12 total tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. The linebacker class in next year’s draft has a lot of question marks, but Lloyd has a chance to rise up boards over the next couple months. He is outstanding against the run, as he is always in attack mode. He may not be the fastest linebacker, but he can hold his own when dropping into zone coverage. His only issue is when he is forced to cover athletic tight ends or running backs in man coverage. He also has some pass-rushing upside, but he is still raw in that department. That aspect of his game should improve in time. Lloyd reminds me a lot of Darius Leonard when he came out of college, and it would not surprise me if Lloyd went just as high, if not higher, than Leonard did.
Zach Charbonnet / RB / UCLA
Charbonnet transferred to UCLA after getting buried on Michigan’s depth chart, and it looks as if the move has paid off. Charbonnet made his presence felt in Week 0 against Hawaii, rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns on only six carries, but he did not stop there. In UCLA’s upset over LSU on Saturday, Charbonnet ran the ball 11 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. Talent was never an issue at Michigan, as he was expected to be the best running back Michigan had recruited in several years. However, the coaching staff did not do a good job finding ways to get him involved. Charbonnet’s lack of usage resulted in him ultimately transferring, and so far, it is working out for him. He was not a hot commodity two weeks ago, but his early-season emergence has put him on the map. If his success continues, he could be a sneaky mid-round pick.
Trey McBride / TE / Colorado State
The Rams did not get off to the start I imagine they had hoped for, losing to South Dakota State 42-23. However, star tight end Trey McBride continued to add to his NFL Draft resume, hauling in 13 catches for 116 yards. McBride uses his physicality to create separation on smaller defenders, and he rarely drops a pass. He will be going up against poor competition most weeks, but keep an eye on this name. He is projected by most as a third or fourth round pick at best, but if he tests well at the combine, I could see him going as high as round two.
Others who improved their stock
Sam Howell / QB / North Carolina
Friday night was not a night you want to remember if you were Sam Howell, completing only 17 of 32 passes for 208 yards along with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Much of the issue was inconsistent play along the offensive line, but Howell looked completely lost at times. His lack of chemistry with his receivers was evident, and the continual pressure applied by the defense prevented him from being able to easily read coverages. One game will not destroy Howell’s stock, but you have to wonder if he will be the same player without Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter at his disposal.
Justin Ross / WR / Clemson
After struggling with spinal injuries, Ross finally returned to the field Saturday. However, he struggled to run routes the correct depth, and his connection with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was lackluster. Ross finished the game catching only four of eight targets for a measly 26 yards. It will take time for Ross to shake all the rust off and get back into football shape, but he definitely did not look like the same player we saw two years ago. The talent is there, but until he can get back to where he was in 2019, his stock is going to continue to go the wrong direction.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa / DL / Notre Dame
Tagovailoa-Amosa is a veteran on Notre Dame’s defensive line who, in 2021, is being used more often as an edge rusher than in previous years. The Irish thought they could move him around and have success with it, but his week one performance should have Notre Dame fans wondering if the team made a mistake deciding to move him up and down the line. Tagovailoa-Amosa only recorded one tackle, and their entire defensive line was weak against the run for the majority of the game, allowing Florida state to rush for 264 yards. Some people saw Tagovailoa-Amosa as a potential day two pick, but his first game of the 2021 season did not help his cause.
Who to watch in Week 2
Keep an eye on Oregon vs. Ohio State. Consensus number one overall prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux suffered an ankle injury in week one, and he may not be healthy enough to play. Whether he plays or not, I am curious to see if Oregon can make this a game, as Zach Harrison and Haskell Garrett could give Oregon fits up front. Harrison could be a top 10-15 pick with a productive season.
Washington vs. Michigan is another one to watch. Washington edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui will look to boost his draft stock against a Michigan team that has some question marks along the offensive line. As for Michigan, Daxton Hill is one of the most explosive safeties in college football. Let’s see if he can force a turnover or two against a Washington offense that struggled mightily in their Week 1 loss to Montana.
For a breakdown of the biggest college games each week, check out Pittsblitz56’s College Game Day article on Saturdays, as he breaks down which players to watch for in the coming day of college action.
Which players caught your eye this weekend? Did you see a standout player that could make sense for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and updates surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as we approach the kickoff of the 2021 NFL Season!