Following the slate of games on Saturday, we will be highlighting several college football prospects and their respective performances as well as how they could be viewed going forward into the 2022 NFL Draft specifically by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (Friday)
The Utes jumped out quickly on the Ducks Friday night in the PAC-12 Championship game, finishing the night with a convincing 38-10 victory. The defense was stingy all night long and was highlighted by star LB Devin Lloyd. Lloyd recorded seven total stops (5 solo), a PBU, and an INT returned for a TD. I will pat myself on the back for calling this one prior to the game in an article previewing the matchups, highlighting Lloyd as the guy to watch. He played chase in the run game well and showed off his playmaking ability yet again jumping a pass over the middle and took it to the house for the score.
Lloyd has put together a fantastic senior season combining his length and size with the athleticism and versatility to be a coveted off-ball linebacker come April. His frame and style of play reminded me initially of All-Pro LB Fred Warner coming out of BYU and many draft analysts have since jumped on that train as well. Making splashes on primetime to win the PAC-12 combined with his likely good testing numbers will make Lloyd a favorite to be the first LB drafted.
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
I have had a small love affair with Jameson Williams as a prospect since his first game for the Crimson Tide against the Miami Hurricanes earlier this season, quickly recognizing the guy’s blazing speed and ability to take the top off the defense. Williams has since become one of the most dominant receivers in college football and brought in seven receptions on ten targets for 184 yards (26.2 YPR) and two TDs to help the Tide upset the Georgia Bulldogs 41-24 for the SEC Championship. Williams caught a crosser over the middle that he simply ran away from everyone else for the score and later ran an impressive stutter-and-go route to get behind the defense for the long bomb TD.
Williams is the definition of “Oh s***” speed at the WR position, built in a similar mold as former Steelers WR Mike Wallace or DeSean Jackson that defenses must respect or he’ll make them pay. However, Williams is a nuanced route runner over the middle of the field and is also a quality gunner on special teams. The dreams of stealing Williams in Day Two of the draft are likely over as he has likely locked himself into first round conversation after a stellar 2021 campaign.
Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bearcats look to secure the first CFP berth for a Group of 5 conference school in the playoff’s history with a 35-20 win over the Houston Cougars. While QB Desmond Ridder had an efficient day at the office, it was RB Jerome Ford who stole the spotlight in this one. Ford had 18 carries for 187 yards (10.4 YPC) and two TDs with a 79-yard long on the day. The former-Alabama transfer gashed the Cougar defense on the ground in this one, running hard in-between the tackles as well as showed off deceptive speed and burst in the open field, ripping off long runs including a near 80-yard house call. Ford has feature back size and should garner attention as potential draft value.
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines decimated the Iowa Hawkeyes in Indianapolis Saturday night to the tune of a 42-3 beatdown for the Big Ten Title. EDGE Aidan Hutchinson was just as disruptive as you would hope he would be against the Hawkeye offensive line, constantly getting pressure on the QB or collapsing the pocket for other teammates to reap the benefits. He finished the night with four tackles and a sack, but his presence far exceeded what’s on the stat sheet, playing the role as a game wrecker upfront. In the last several games, Hutchinson has helped Michigan reach the CFP as well as played himself into Heisman trophy talk and potentially contending with Kayvon Thibodeaux to be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
The Pitt Panthers beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by a score of 45-21 to win the ACC Championship in Charlotte Saturday night. While the Panther defense came up with several key takeaways to clinch the victory, headliner QB Kenny Pickett led the charge on the offensive side of the ball to help Pitt get the win. Pickett completed 20-of-33 passes (60.6%) for 253 yards and two TDs with zero INTs while chipping in six carries for 20 yards which included a 58-yard TD run (sacks subtract yardage in college). Pickett surpassed HOF QB Dan Marino for the most TDs by a Pitt QB in school history in this one, leading Pitt to its best finish since Marino graced the field in 1981.
Pickett is an intriguing prospect as he had a breakout season in 2021 but has been more of an afterthought as a Day Three/UDFA prospect prior to this year. Many relate Pickett’s rise to prominence to Joe Burrow’s breakout season at LSU that led to him to getting #1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Pickett will be thoroughly vetted during the draft process to determine whether he has Burrow’s upside as a franchise signal caller at the next level or if he simply enjoyed a great season and is more of an average player in the NFL. Either way, Pickett has done everything this season to help his case to be QB1 off the board with his stellar performance and deserves to be praised.
What are your thoughts on the names listed above and their potential fit in Pittsburgh? Do you think they could translate well to the league? What other names stood out Saturday that the Steelers could have interest in come the spring? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!