Throughout the 2022-2023 college football bowl season, we’ll be highlighting each game and the key 2022 NFL Draft prospects Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans should be keeping an eye on.
RELIAQUEST BOWL #22 MISSISSIPPI STATE VS. ILLINOIS 12:00PM EST ESPN2
The Bulldogs and the Illini face off in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to kick off bowl game action Monday afternoon.
Mississippi State’s top prospect CB #13 Emmanuel Forbes will be playing in this game. Emmanuel Forbes has been one of the most productive players in college football since stepping on campus. Forbes picked off five passes as a freshman and has six so far in 2022. With 14 career INTs and 18 PBUs in three seasons, Forbes is as good a ball hawk as you are going to get, having the length and instincts to cover the opposition’s best receiver with a knack for producing turnovers.
The Bulldogs also expect fellow defensive back S #0 Jalen Green to be drafted somewhere on Day 3. Green transferred from Texas back in 2021 and has had two productive seasons for Mississippi State. He has good size (6’1″, 197lb) and has two INTs in each of the last two seasons along with ten total PBUs. A willing run defender, Green should be drafted as a depth piece and special teamer as he works into more of a role at the next level.
CB Devon Witherspoon, S Sydney Brown, and RB Chase Brown have already opted out of the bowl game. This leaves OL #63 Alex Palczewski as one of the top draft-eligible prospects playing in this game. Palczewski has great size (6’6″, 315lb) along with the strength and power to move the opposition in the running game. He will have to prove he can hold his own in pass protection at the next level, but Palczewski should be a likely Day 3 pick.
C #75 Alex Pihlstrom is another offensive lineman that could be drafted in the late rounds as a potential depth piece at the next level thanks to his experience and prowess as a run blocker.
CITRUS BOWL #17 LSU VS. PURDUE 1:00PM EST ABC
The Tigers of LSU take on the Purdue Boilermakers in Orlando, Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
The Tigers have had Jay Ward, Kayshon Boutte, and BJ Ojulari opt out of the bowl game. DL #99 Jaquelin Roy will play in the game, however, as he determines his NFL future. The 6’4″, 297lb junior could go back to school, but he garnered interest from scouts thanks to his frame, strength, and disruptiveness at the LOS. His production isn’t anything that will knock your socks off (four career sacks), but Roy plays good run defense and is still developing into a quality DL prospect.
CB #2 Mekhi Gardner also could back to school, but the 6’2″, 212lb former Louisiana transfer has fantastic size to play on the boundary making him an enticing potential Day 3 pick.
EDGE #11 Ali Gaye is a long, athletic pass rusher (6’5″, 250lb) that lacks production at the college level, but has the traits and tools to develop into a potential difference-maker at the next level. LB #6 Mike Jones has good size and ample experience, having played for both the Clemson and LSU Tigers, making him a good backup/special teamer at the next level.
Purdue has had a host of players opt out including Durham Payne, Cory Trice, Charlie Jones, and Aiden O’Connell. DE #58 Branson Dean could be drafted late as a seventh-round/UDFA prospect, having good size (6’2″, 280lb), but lacks good length and production in his college career (6.5 career sacks).
COTTON BOWL CLASSIC #10 USC VS. #16 TULANE 1:00PM ESPN
The Trojans and the Green Wave meet in Jerry’s World in Arlington to battle it out in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
The Trojans have had Jordan Addison and Andrew Vorhees opt out of the bowl game. They will have DL #49 Tuli Tuipulotu in this game as the 6’4″, 290lb junior had a breakout season and looks to have a strong chance to get drafted in the top six picks this Spring. He finished near the top of the nation in sacks (12.5) and is second nationally in tackles for a loss (19). Tuipulotu moves up and down the LOS, rushing from head up on the guard to outside of the offensive tackle. He uses a combination of strength and finesse, having a varied pass-rush skill set, but needs to be more consistent as a run defender to have a more well-rounded game.
CB #6 Mekhi Blackmon also projects to be drafted this Spring as a current Day 3 prospect. He has decent size to play outside (6’0″, 175lb) as well as the ball production with three INTs and 12 PBUs. His size raises questions about his physicality and tackling at the next level, thus adding some size to his frame would help him improve in this area.
Tulane’s top draft defensive prospect playing in this game is LB #2 Dorian Williams. The 6’2″, 225lb senior has been a field general, making plays against the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. He posted 115 total stops (72 solo), 8.5 TFLs, five sacks, two INTs, two forced fumbles and seven PBUs this season. Williams is an instinctive player and should be drafted in the middle rounds as a rotational player to start his career with the opportunity to work his way into a starting role.
The Green Wave also has RB #22 Tyjae Spears on offense that could declare for the draft after a strong junior campaign. The 5’10, 195lb runner posted 212 carries for 1,376 yards (6.5 YPC) and 15 TDs on the ground along with 21 receptions for 242 yards and two scores through the air. Spears is a shifty runner that has the contact balance to break tackles up the middle just as well as he can make defenders miss in space. Pair that with his open-field speed and burst, Spears should be a quality Day 3 pick that can add a dynamic element to a team’s backfield at the next level.
ROSE BOWL #8 UTAH VS. #11 PENN STATE 5:00PM EST ESPN
The bowl game action comes to a close with the Utes and Nittany Lions facing off in the “Grandaddy of Them All” in the Rose Bowl.
The Utes have had several players opt out including Dalton Kincaid, Clark Philips, and Tavion Thomas. OT #71 Braeden Daniels should have a chance to be drafted this Spring as a physical, aggressive blocker that gets after it in the run game. He doesn’t have great size for the position (6’4″, 297lb), but Daniels has good athleticism to make blocks in space and has room for further growth as a blocker.
TE #80 Brant Kuithe lacks size and height for an NFL TE (6’2″, 230lb), but the senior has been a quality pass catcher and could sign with a team as an H-back type player. LB #3 Mohamoud Diabate is a slender (6’4″, 222lb) but effective pass rusher, recording five sacks this season as a potential Day 3 pick at off-ball linebacker.
Penn State has a few players not playing in this game including Joey Porter Jr. and Parker Washington. S #16 Ji’Ayir Brown will play in this game as the 5’11″, 208lb defender plays his last game as a Nittany Lion. He has been a ballhawk during his time in college, posting 66 total tackles, three INTs and three passes defensed this season, but had six INTS and five PBUs last season. He is a willing tackler and has the instincts to cover the backend of the defense. He may be limited athletically, but Brown is an instinctive defender that can become a quality rotational defender/capable starter and special teams contributor.
DL #97 PJ Mustipher also should be drafted for Penn State this upcoming Spring. The 6’4″, 321lb senior has the size and strength to be a quality run plugger at the next level. He only has three sacks in five seasons in college, meaning he’s limited as a pass rusher. Still, Mustipher should have a chance on Day 3 to be drafted as a nose tackle that can sit in gaps and demand double teams.
Which of the names listed above will you be specifically watching? Do you think any of the prospects would be a good fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!