NFL Draft

Scouting Notebook: Top Games To Watch And Prospects To Look For (Week 5)

Every week in lead up to the slate of college football games on Saturday, we will be highlighting several high-profile games as well as several college football prospects in each matchup that project to be sought after in the 2023 NFL Draft and specifically how they may be viewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

#18 Oklahoma at TCU 11:00AM CST ABC

The Sooners travel to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs of TCU Saturday in a Big XII conference clash.

The Sooners bring a high-powered offense to Texas with OT #71 Anton Harrison being an integral part of the squad in terms of establishing the trenches in the run game as well as protecting QB Dillon Gabriel in the pocket. The 6’5, 315lb junior has all the measurables you look for in a blindside protector at the next level paired with the athleticism to mirror in pass protection and get out in front in the run game. A shutout performance against the TCU defensive front would go a long way in helping Harrison establish himself as one of the top OT prospects in this draft class.

For the Horned Frogs, CB #1 Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is the name you need to watch. He may be small in stature (5’9, 180lb), but the diminutive cover man flashes big play ability in the secondary. He had 21 PBUs, two INTs, and Toe Forced fumbles coming into 2022. He is an aggressive defender that throws his weight around defending the run and has the quick feet and hip fluidity to match speedy receivers in coverage. Projecting to be a quality slot option at the next level, the nephew of HOF RB LaDainian Tomlinson has held his own on the outside as well, providing teams with a talented DB option this spring who may slip down boards due to lack of ideal size.

#7 Kentucky at #14 Ole Miss 11:00AM CST ESPN

The Wildcats head into Oxford this weekend with the Rebels next up on the schedule after jumping ahead in the polls to a top ten ranking.

While QB Will Levis will draw the headlines, RB #24 Chris Rodriquez is the engine that makes Kentucky’s offense go. The Wildcats take pride in a physical brand of football and Rodriquez embodies that vision as a physical runner between the tackles. The 5’11, 225lb runner went over 1,300 rushing yards and nine TDs on the ground last season but hasn’t been able to take the field yet in 2022 due to a four-game suspension due to a DUI charge he picked up this summer.

Without him, the Wildcats rank dead-last in the SEC in rushing, something the team identifies as its bread and butter. A player built in a similar mold to former Wildcat Benny Snell Jr., Rodriguez can make up some ground in this matchup as a mid-round hopeful come April.

On the opposite sideline, the Rebels will be relying on OG #64 Nick Broeker to pave wide running lanes and keep the QB clean against an aggressive Wildcats defense. After playing left tackle for the Rebels for three seasons, Broeker is moving inside to left guard for his senior season. The former freshman All-American in on the Outland trophy watch list thanks to his impressive blend of strength at the point of attack, flexibility and knee bend, movement skills in the run game and in pass protection, and refined technique. He has become known for his pancake blocks and will look to dish out several of those in this matchup as one of the best senior IOL in the country.

Purdue at #21 Minnesota 11:00AM CST ESPN2

Purdue heads up to the Twin Cities for a Big Ten matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers Saturday afternoon.

While WR Charlie Jones is the talk of the town for his breakout season, TE #87 Payne Durham is another name NFL draft nerds like myself should keep an eye on. The 6’5 255lb senior has the size and frame that project well to the next level at the TE position as well as some solid tape in the receiving game. He caught 45 passes for 467 yards and six TDs last season and is two weeks removed for nine catch performance for 83 yards and two TDs against Syracuse.

A viable blocker that has room to develop more into his body, Durham could be a sleeper TE prospect that can come in as a backup and special teamer initially while developing into a potential starter down the road.

For the Gophers, the name to know is C #60 John Michael Schmitz. The 6’4, 320lb senior is potentially the top center in this draft class, having the size, strength, and athleticism to make nearly any block you ask of him in the running game. He does a great job using leverage and his movement skills to create wide running lanes as well as the nasty demeanor to finish his opponent to the ground. A sound pass protector with great anchor, JMS is pro-ready and will look to entrench himself as C1 in this draft class throughout the rest for the fall.

#2 Alabama at #20 Arkansas 2:30PM CST CBS

The Crimson Tide head to Fayetteville, Arkansas for an SEC showdown against the Razorbacks looking to rebound after a tough loss to Texas A&M last week.

The Crimson Tide has a plethora of talent on the defensive side of the football with one name to watch being S #9 Jordan Battle. The 6’1, 206lb senior has improved every season in Tuscaloosa, becoming one of the main faces on the Alabama defense. He is a physical safety that best projects as a strong safety at the next level, having the size and physical play style to bring the wood as a hitter. He picked off three passes last season as well, returning two for TDs. He needs to clean up his tackling prior to entering the league, however, and will have to execute at a high level against a Razorback run game that will look to establish itself on the ground.

The Razorbacks have a talented edge rusher who used to make his bones in Alabama that looks primed for the NFL jump in OLB #42 Drew Sanders. The former Crimson Tide linebacker transferred to Arkansas and has enjoyed a breakout this season, posting 31 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two PBUs through four games. He had a coming out party against South Carolina three weeks ago and has been running hot ever since, winning with both speed and power on the edge. Should he get to Bryce Young multiple times in this game, Sanders’ stock could continue to soar and prompt an early exit to the NFL.

#10 NC State at #5 Clemson 6:30PM CST ABC

The Wolfpack and Tigers square off in primetime under the lights at Death Valley for what is looking to be a great top ten matchup of ACC powerhouse squads.

NC State currently has the best pass blocking efficiency in the nation of 96.7 which is helped by C #50 Grant Gibson leading the charge from the pivot. The 6’1, 310lb senior has started 40 games over the course of the last four years and has done well as a pass protector despite being undersized. His strength comes in the running game, however, as his footwork and body control to pull from the center spot, seal off defenders, and climb to the second level of the defense is pure artwork given the degree of difficulty of blocks he is asked to execute. His size will knock him down some boards, but Gibson is a battle-tested veteran who appears to be a perfect fit for a zone running scheme.

The Clemson defensive front will look to get the best of the NC State OL with Gibson likely seeing plenty of DL #11 Bryan Bresee Saturday night. The 6’5, 305lb redshirt sophomore was one of the highest recruits in the nation back in 2020, having the size, strength, and explosiveness coming out of high school to make many deem him the next J.J. Watt. While not on the level of one of the NFL’s best defenders, Bresee is talented in his own right, having the power to walk back grown men into the pocket and enforce his will along the LOS.

He needs more development in terms of block shedding and pass rush moves, but Bresee has the stuff you can’t teach and can be one of Clemson’s next great defensive linemen that makes his transition from college to the pros.

What are your thoughts of the games and prospects listed above? How do you think they will fare on Saturday? Will you be tuning into any of these games specifically? Who else will you be watching for this weekend as a potential draft prospect for Pittsburgh? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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