NFL Draft

Scouting Notebook: Top Games To Watch And Prospects To Look For (Week 6)

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.

#8 Tennessee at #25 LSU 11AM CST ESPN

The Volunteers find themselves in the top ten of the rankings for the first time in well over a decade and hope to keep their hot streak alive on the road in Death Valley this weekend against the LSU Tigers.

QB Hendon Hooker has been the name taking all the headlines, but OT #58 Darnell Wright should be a name to watch that has helped contribute to the offense’s success. The 6’6, 335lb senior has fantastic size paired with the movement skills to be a strong run blocker, having the mobility to get out in space and climb to the second level to pick up linebackers and safeties. He has improved as a pass protector every season and could see his draft stock get a huge boost if he fares well against NFL talent on the other side of the LOS this Saturday.

The main man that Wright and the rest of the offensive line will have to key on is EDGE #18 BJ Ojulari. The 6’3, 250lb junior is following in his brother Azeez’s footsteps as a talented pass rusher looking to make his transition from college to the pros. He is coming off a two-sack performance against Auburn where he has shown phenomenal pursuit of the football combined with the bend and hand usage you want in an NFL pass rusher. Wright and the rest of the OL will have a handful with Ojulari who is looking to keep building his resume to be a first-round draft come April.

Texas vs Oklahoma 11AM CST ABC

The Longhorns and Sooners square off in the annual Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl Saturday in a battle of two Big XII teams trying to get back on track. The Longhorns will be relying on their defense to slow down Oklahoma’s potent offense. Anchoring the front line is DL #93 T’Vondre Sweat who garnered draft consideration last season but is back for his senior season. The 6’4, 340lb nose tackle is a plugger in the run game, having the size and strength to command double teams on a regular basis. Watch for him to try and slow down the Sooners’ ground game and make them one-dimensional this weekend in Dallas.

One player for the Sooners that is looking to embarrass Sweat and the rest of the Texas defense is RB #0 Eric Gray. The 5’10, 211lb senior transferred from Tennessee as one of the better backs in the nation but got stuck in a time share last season with Kennedy Brooks who became the team’s lead back. Gray, however, is the more appealing pro prospect and is off to a strong start this season, cracking the century mark three times on the ground in five games while also showcasing the receiving chops to play in all situations. His size and running style reminds me of Packers RB Aaron Jones and he should be a great value selection this spring should he declare.

#3 Ohio State at Michigan State 3PM CST ABC

The Buckeyes travel to East Lansing Saturday afternoon to face off against Big Ten rivel Michigan State. The Buckeye have a pair of NFL-caliber tackles, headlined by OT #77 Paris Johnson Jr. The 6’6, 310lb junior moved to the blindside after seeing action at guard before this season and has fared well, having the athleticism and size scouts look for in NFL OTs. He plays with a lot of effort in the run game but could stand to get stronger to match his frame as he looks to neutralize NFL-caliber pass rushers.

The defender that should see plenty on Johnson on the opposite side of the LOS is EDGE #4 Jacoby Windmon. Windmon transferred from UNLV to the Spartans for 2022 and got off to a hot start, racking up 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in the first two games. However, Windmon has been fairly quiet since then failing to log a sack and has one forced fumble in the last three games. He has faced better competition in recent weeks including NFL prospects Jaxon Kirkland and Jaelyn Duncan at OT. Paris Johnson is next up for Windmon as he attempts to get back on track and show the first two games weren’t a fluke as a pass rusher with NFL talent.

#16 BYU at Notre Dame 6:30PM CST NBC

The Cougars travel east to South Bend to battle the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame Saturday night in primetime.

The Cougars are off to a strong 4-1 start thanks to their dynamic offense. While QB Jaren Hall captures the headlines, OT #71 Blake Freeland is the draft talent to watch in this game for BYU. The 6’8, 305lb junior has been highlighted in this series several times thanks to his size, length, and athleticism, having the physical tools you want in a blindside protector. While fairly lean, Freeland generates good push in the running game, looking to crush opposing defenders in the second level if he is out on the move. He will face a tough test against an NFL-caliber pass rusher Saturday, meaning his draft stock could soar or take a tumble based off his performance.

The pass rusher that Freeland and the rest of the Cougar OL will have to deal with from Notre Dame is EDGE #7 Isaiah Foskey. The 6’5, 265lb junior has picked it up in recent weeks, recording three sacks in the last three games after getting shut out Week 1 against Ohio State. Foskey will now get the chance to redeem himself against NFL-caliber pass protection as he looks to build off his 11-sack campaign in 2021 and show scouts he is worthy of a first-round investment.

Texas A&M at #1 Alabama 7PM CST CBS

The Aggies travel to Tuscaloosa for their long-awaited battle with the Crimson Tide of Alabama after the Nick Saban/Jimbo Fisher comments on NIL earlier this year.

The Aggies may not be where they want to be in terms of competing for a national title this season, but they still have plenty of talent to watch for NFL purposes. One name that should be on everyone’s radar needing OL help is OG #64 Layden Robinson. The 6’4, 330lb junior played on the opposite side of Kenyon Green last season and shares many of the same qualities that made him a top 15 pick. He has a great base and anchor in pass protection while also possessing the movement skills and strength to be a road grader on the ground. If Texas A&M wants to get anything going in the running game against a stout Bama defensive front, expect them to run behind Robinson early and often.

The Crimson Tide remain the top dawg in the country and will rely on LB #10 Henry To’oTo’o to keep them there and avoid a Texas A&M upset. The 6’2, 228lb senior is the leader in the second level of the defense, having stellar instincts paired with the aggressiveness as a run-and-chase LB to make plays downhill or sideline-to-sideline against the run.  He also is more than capable in pass coverage and will look to help stifle an Aggie offense that has struggled to find any consistency this season.

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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