Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett has had a prolific year. and he continued to rewrite the Panthers' record book while leading them to the ACC Championship. More importantly than personal records, this win got the program its first-ever ACC Championship. The last time Pittsburgh won a conference title, the school was in the Big East. Elevating the program to new heights is a great attribute that will help Pickett with pro teams throughout the leadup to the 2022 NFL Draft.
Just over a minute into the game, Pickett dodged a blitz and ran into the secondary. He started to do a slide, but then saw an opening and reared back up to dodge some defenders and explode down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown. Even though the announcers said it should be illegal, it was an incredible play that showed off his athleticism, mobility and quickness.
On the next drive, Pickett made two completions for chunk gains. The second one was a touchdown strike to surpass Dan Marino for the most career touchdown passes in Pittsburgh history. It was a just a pass to the flat, but it was the correct read because the running back was left open with green grass ahead of him from about 15 yards out.
After missing a few passes due to simply throwing too hard, Pickett took some heat off the ball to throw a quick slant for a touchdown that tied the game at 21 in the second quarter. In the final seconds before halftime, Pickett made an excellent play, looking off the coverage and then throwing a strike to Jordan Addison for a 32-yard gain. That completion set up a Pittsburgh field goal on the final play of the half.
In the third quarter, Pickett threw a beautiful deep ball downfield, but the ball bounced off the hands of Addison, who had been hit too early by the safety. It was an incredible pass by Pickett that showed his deep-ball accuracy. He came back to make a phenomenal throw on the run, rolling to his right and firing a frozen rope to the sideline for Addison to make a catch while stretched out over the paint. The play was reminiscent of the Aaron Rodgers-to-Jared Cook throw in the NFL playoffs a few years ago. That completion set up a critical rushing touchdown that put the game away for the Panthers. Despite playing banged up in the ACC Championship, Pickett completed 20-of-33 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also rushed for that 58-yard touchdown.
This tape will definitely help Pickett. He threw accurate strikes to all levels of the field and showed off a strong arm capable of firing ropes into tight windows and lofting passes deep down the field. His mobility and running ability were impressive along with his toughness. Pickett could be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft and a high first-round pick.
Wake Forest tackle Zach Tom has played tackle and center for the Demon Deacons over the past three seasons, gradually evolving into a tough blocker at the point of attack. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder has quality height, but at his weight, moving inside to center could be his best fit for the NFL. Team sources say they've been impressed by Tom this year, and they have believe he should man the middle of the line as a pro. They feel Tom could end up being a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The media has been putting a lot of hype and attention on Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to close out the 2021 season, and Hutchinson has put together an excellent season for the Wolverines. After leading a huge win over Ohio State, Hutchinson played well versus the Hawkeyes, but he was not as dominant as he was a week earlier.
In the first quarter, Hutchinson bull rushed the right tackle into the quarterback and knocked him flat on his back. Just before halftime, Hutchinson got home for sack No. 14 on the season. He used power to shed the right tackle, swam over the running back, and then took down the quarterback. Hutchinson picked up some more pressures on the quarterback in the second half, but the Wolverines dominated the time of possession because they were blowing out Iowa. Eventually, Michigan pulled its starters.
Overall, this tape will help Hutchinson's draft grade. He showed the speed to rush around the corner, active hands, some variety in moves, good vision to adjust to the quarterback, and a relentless motor. Hutchinson is basically adequate for chasing down backs in the ground game, but he can have issues defending runs coming downhill straight at him. Hutchinson looks poised to be a high first-rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum could also join Hutchinson as a selection on the opening night of the 2022 NFL Draft. Linderbaum turned this game into another solid performance to add to his strong junior year. Linderbaum is a very polished and well-rounded player. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder plays with good leverage and displays advanced hand placement. He is able to sink his hips to anchor against bull rushes while showing quickness and agility to adjust to speed. Linderbaum looks like a safe pick to become a quality starter in the NFL, and he could be selected in the back half of the first round if he enters the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Georgia defense has been the toast of college football this season, dominating the SEC and carried the team to an undefeated regular season. After the game against Florida in late October, however, the Bulldogs lost their best pass rusher and the best player on the team in outside linebacker Adam Anderson. He was arrested with a rape allegation that he claims to be innocent of. The Bulldogs were not tested by a tough opponent without Anderson, and they really missed him against Alabama. That was clear as their other front-seven prospects were not as effective without Anderson to get pressure off the edge on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
Bulldogs defensive tackle Jordan Davis could go in the top half of the 2022 NFL Draft, but he was worn out by Alabama and did not have an impact beyond of a few tackles in the ground game. Georgia defensive ends Travon Walker and Nolan Smith were non-factors, as Alabama left tackle Evan Neal and the rest of the Crimson Tide line cruised over them. Young dominated Georgia, throwing for over 400 yards, and those Bulldogs defenders did nothing in the pass rush. This performance will definitely hurt Davis, Walker and Smith.
This season there has been no opponent that has been able to contain Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, and the much-hyped Georgia defense fell victim to him as well. Williams got this game started with a great tackle on punt coverage, and before long, he had his way with the Bulldogs secondary. Early in the second quarter, Williams got open in busted coverage the middle of the field. He then exploded down the field and out-raced the Georgia defense for a 67-yard touchdown. Shortly later, Williams showed his acceleration on a short screen by exploding downfield for a gain of 23 yards.
At the start of the third quarter, Williams ran a stutter-and-go to burn a corner and safety for a 55-yard touchdown. He finished the evening with seven receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 189-pound Williams has quality height, but his explosive speed, suddenness and vertical burst catch defensive backs by surprise and are what make him truly special. The lightning bolt-fast Williams could be one of the most dangerous deep-threat receivers early in his NFL career. He has put himself in contention to be a top-20 pick with his dominant 2022 season.
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie is a mid-round talent, but a big SEC Championship game could have helped him rise for more second-day consideration in the 2022 NFL Draft. In the second quarter, Metchie made two big plays to help put Alabama in the lead. Backed up in their own territory to start drive, Metchie ran an out-and-up from the slot with a safety in man coverage. The ball was lofted in well, and Metchie made a catch slightly behind him for a gain of 40 yards. To finish the drive, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young pointed for Metchie to change his route and toward the back corner of the end zone. That breakaway from the defense got Metchie open for a 13-yard touchdown to give him six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Before halftime, however, Metchie went down with a leg injury while blocking, and that knocked him out for the rest of the evening.
Metchie was walking on the sideline afterward, so hopefully the injury is not serious. If he enters the 2022 NFL Draft, Metchie could be a third- or fourth-round pick.
Both Baylor and Oklahoma State are good college teams, but in speaking to multiple area scouts, they did not have any players on either team with first-day or second-day grade for the 2022 NFL Draft. From the Cowboys, cornerback Tre Sterling and safety Kolby Harvell-Peel received grades for Day 3. NFL sources, however, questioned Sterling's toughness, using a common word in scouting that got Jon Gruden in trouble for being a "misogynist" - SMDH. Harvell-Peel is viewed as a possible backup and special teams contributor by area scouts.
Multiple sources said they had third-day projections for the Baylor players as well. Bears running back Trestan Ebner is a late-round backup and special teamer according to team scouts, but he hurt himself with a fumble on the opening drive of the Big-XII Championship. Bears linebacker Terrell Bernard is another backup and special teams-caliber player. In the third quarter, Bernard came on an interior blitz to get a critical sack that helped force a punt from Oklahoma State. Otherwise, he didn't do enough to help himself in this outing.
This was a great college football game from two good competitive teams, but it was not a contest in terms of good draft matchups.
Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is the consensus top draft prospect for the 2022 NFL Draft, and Utah did a great job of neutralizing him in the first matchup between these teams on November 20th. In the Pac-12 Championship, Thibodeaux was not as much of a factor as run defender, with his tackles dropping from seven to three, but Thibodeaux did manage to record a sack.
The Utes did send some double teams to Thibodeaux in the early going and moved plays away from him, but not as much as they did in the first meeting. The Utah tackles had some wins in one-on-ones with Thibodeaux, but eventually that came back to bite them. At the end of the second quarter, Thibodeaux used his quickness and suddenness to juke the right tackle and get him off balance. Thibodeaux then darted through the pocket and took down the quarterback for a sack. The Utes had a 23-0 lead at halftime, so the game went away from Thibodeaux being a factor, with Utah able to drain the clock in the second half.
For the NFL, Thibodeaux is a Khalil Mack-style edge defender. He is explosive, twitchy and physical. Thibodeaux shocks opponents with his heavy hands and natural strength. He has a real burst to close and a relentless motor. This season, Thibodeaux has validated that he is worthy of being a high first-round pick in any draft class.
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd has been one of the most productive linebackers in the country this year, making a lot of splash plays for the Utes. He continued his strong playing against the Ducks, helping to lead a suffocating defense in theit first matchup, and showing his versatility for the NFL. That continued in the rematch.
In the first quarter, Lloyd made a game-changing play in pass coverage. He dropped into zone and saw the running back leaking out in front of the line. Lloyd undercut the pass and snatched it away. He then turned the corner and raced down the field for a touchdown from 34 yards out. That pick-six put the Utes up 14-0, and they cruised the rest of the game over the Ducks. Lloyd finished the evening with seven tackles and the interception returned for a touchdown.
Team sources like Lloyd, labelling him as big, long and athletic. They feel he has good instincts, but is not overly twitchy. Lloyd is physical and has good length to play off blocks. This season, he had made some impressive plays in coverage and as a rusher. Lloyd has a quality skill set and has been very productive this year. He could be a high second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and might get late first-round consideration.