Rivalry weekend didn’t disappoint. The final week of the 2021 college football regular season produced more stock up, stock down candidates than I could reasonably write about on Sunday morning, but I’ve put together some of the highlight performances that should impact the 2022 NFL Draft. Take a look at which stars shone the brightest and which ones burned out against their greatest rivals.
Please keep in mind that this article only includes players eligible for the upcoming draft. True freshmen and sophomores don’t qualify, so don’t complain about not seeing Bryce Young.
Information on height, weight, and sacks comes from ESPN.
Feel free to tell me in the comments or on Twitter @Sam_Teets33 if you saw a player over the weekend that belongs on this list.
UP: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE Michigan
Hutchinson entered the weekend as a consensus top-ten pick at least. He might’ve left as a top-three selection. The 6'6", 265 lb. senior stared down an offensive line featuring junior right tackle Dawand Jones, fourth-year left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, and fifth-year left guard Thayer Munford. He dominated.
Hutchinson amassed seven tackles, three tackles for loss, 15 pressures, and three sacks in Michigan’s upset win over the hated Buckeyes. He also had seven tackles and three sacks two weeks earlier against Penn State. Hutchinson’s sack total is up to 12 for the year, and he has 68 total pressures.
The star senior was No. 2 on The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s freaks list ahead of the season. He hasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
DOWN: Matt Corral, QB Ole Miss
As the regular season winds down, Corral is still the 2022 NFL Draft’s top quarterback, but the conversation is open for debate. He hit a few road bumps on Thursday against Mississippi State. Ole Miss walked away with a 31-21 victory, but Corral threw an interception despite only having a four-yard average depth of target (ADOT).
Outside of the interception, Corral played such a conservative game that he only averaged 6.8 yards per attempt and nine yards per completion. Even if it wasn’t a disaster, the in-state Thanksgiving rivalry matchup wasn’t a good showing for Corral.
UP: Markquese Bell, S Florida A&M
Bell was terrific in 2019, intercepting five passes in 11 games. He hasn’t been as impactful this year but is still a force NFL teams should scout. Bell has a unique build for a safety at 6'3", 205 lbs. That fits the look pro teams are trending toward. While he’s reliable in coverage, Bell will likely see plenty of snaps in the box at the next level.
Bell had a strong performance against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday. Florida A&M credits him with 16 tackles and a forced fumble.
DOWN: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT Ohio St. & Thayer Munford, OL Ohio St.
Michigan’s offensive line took it to Ohio State’s defensive front. I can’t say the same for the Buckeyes front five. Petit-Frere, who has emerged as a projected first-round pick, and Munford, a projected second-round selection, had their worst games this season.
The Buckeyes made some interesting adjustments to try and offset Michigan’s dynamic pass rushing duo. Ryan Day had Petit-Frere take about 21.9% of his snaps at right tackle despite having played him almost entirely on the left side this season. Munford, who was exclusively a left tackle from 2018 through 2020 but shifted to left guard this season, played roughly 33.8% of his snaps at left tackle.
The shifts didn’t do much to help either lineman. Petit-Frere allowed a season-high eight pressures and gave up a sack for the second time this year. He’s allowed 19 pressures in his past five appearances. Meanwhile, Munford surrendered seven pressures. He’d previously never allowed more than four pressures in a game.
UP: Roger McCreary, CB Auburn
Bryce Young and Alabama’s offense took over the Iron Bowl toward the end of regulation and in overtime. Auburn’s defense looked gassed after playing roughly 70 snaps against one of the nation’s most talented offenses. McCreary dominated early in the contest before trailing off as John Metchie and Young got into a rhythm.
McCreary followed Alabama’s best receiver (Jameson Williams left the game because of a targeting call on special teams) in man-to-man coverage for most of the night. Young completed eight of his 19 targets against McCreary for 119 yards and the game-clinching two-point conversion.
It might not look the best on paper, but I thought McCreary played a first-round-caliber game. He had four passes defensed and smothered Metchie several times.
DOWN: Malik Cunningham, QB Louisville
Cunningham didn’t look like himself one week after becoming just the second FBS player with 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in a game. The fourth-year quarterback couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm against Kentucky. He completed 12 of 20 pass attempts for 145 yards and an interception while rushing 11 times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Cunningham is a controversial prospect with great physical upside. He might take advantage of his one remaining year of eligibility instead of entering the 2022 NFL Draft. Cunningham finished 13th on my recent ranking of the top 30 draft eligible quarterbacks.
UP: Derick Hall, EDGE Auburn
Hall had his best game of the season when it mattered most. The 6'3", 251 lb. junior amassed six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, four pressures, and three sacks against Alabama. That takes Hall to 51 tackles, 40 pressures, and nine sacks for the season. He’s been one of the largest risers in a loaded edge class.
DOWN: Jaylin Williams, CB Indiana
The Hoosiers have a surprisingly talented secondary, but the unit hasn’t made as much of an impact this year as I expected. Williams hasn’t had a horrible season, but he was more of a game changer in 2020. The senior Tennessee native allowed four receptions on five targets for 56 yards and two touchdowns this weekend against Purdue.
This is the first season in Williams’ career where he doesn’t have an interception. He’s allowed a career-high four touchdowns.
UP: Andrew Stueber, OT Michigan
Fans should get acquainted with Stueber because his stock will likely peak after a massive game against Ohio State. The 6'7", 338 lb. senior didn’t allow a pressure in 23 pass blocking snaps, marking his seventh clean sheet this season. Stueber also deployed from his right tackle role in the running game and opened space for Michigan’s dynamic playmakers.
We’ll talk more about Michigan’s offensive line and how they dominated the Buckeyes later.
Tight end Erick All deserves some credit. He was tremendous as a lead blocker on several occasions and played a large role in the running game’s success.
DOWN: Chris Owens, OL Alabama
Owens hasn’t had a stellar season for the Crimson Tide, but the team’s tendency to flip him between center and right tackle hasn’t helped much. Auburn’s defense put Owens on blast in the Iron Bowl. The 6'3", 305 lb. tackle allowed five pressures on 41 pass blocking snaps. He’s surrendered a team-high 34 pressures and three sacks this year.
Stud left tackle Evan Neal performed well against Auburn’s relentless pass rush, but even he allowed two pressures, including a sack. Right guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. had the best performance of the bunch, allowing only one pressure.
UP: Breece Hall, RB Iowa St.
The Cyclones beat up on TCU thanks to Hall taking over the game. The superstar junior will own most program rushing records when he leaves for the NFL. There’s still more football ahead for Iowa State, but Friday was the exclamation point on a record-smashing career for Hall. He ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns on only 18 carries (13.4 yards per attempt).
Hall also made two receptions for 39 yards and a fourth touchdown. The incredible performance made Hall Iowa State’s all-time leader in yards from scrimmage with 4,675. He has 16 more touchdowns than any other skill player in school history.
This year’s running back class lacks a dominant presence. Kenneth Walker III is my top back for now, but we could easily see a team fall in love with Hall’s receiving ability and explosive plays.
DOWN: Phil Jurkovec, QB Boston College
Jurkovec was probably planning on returning to school for his senior season because he missed a bunch of games this year, but Saturday’s performance sealed his return. The Notre Dame transfer completed three of 11 pass attempts for 19 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions against Wake Forest.
Jurkovec hasn’t looked like himself since returning from a hand/wrist injury he sustained in early September. That leaves 2020 as his only season of reliable tape.
UP: Jalen Tolbert, WR South Alabama
Tolbert ranks among the nation’s top-five leading receivers. Unlike some of the other small school prospects toward the leader board’s top, Tolbert has size that should easily translate to the NFL (6'3", 190 lbs.). He set a season-high in receiving yards in an overtime loss to Coastal Carolina. Tolbert finished the game with ten receptions on 13 targets for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Tolbert came in at eleventh on my top 30 wide receiver rankings for the upcoming draft. He should command a Day 2 selection, even though he’s frequently faced lesser competition.
DOWN: Zach Harrison & Tyreke Smith, EDGEs Ohio St.
Michigan’s offensive line largely neutralized Harrison and Smith. The two draft eligible star edge rushers haven’t lived up to expectations this season, and they underachieved on Saturday. Michigan’s gameplan didn’t give Ohio State many opportunities to rush the passer, but the offensive line stoned any defensive ends that went after Cade McNamara.
Harrison finished the game with 18 pass rushing snaps and zero pressures. Smith applied one pressure on 15 pass rushing snaps. The defensive ends also had their hands full in the running game. Michigan’s line consistently created space for the running game. Neither Harrison nor Smith had a tackle for loss.
UP: Jonah Tavai, IDL San Diego St.
Tavai is an undersized 6'0", 295 lb. defensive tackle who played the game of his life on Friday against Boise State. He finished the outing with six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and a whopping 11 pressures. The California native might not have the physique and athleticism to garner a decent draft pick, but his 56 pressures and 6.5 sacks should attract scouts.
DOWN: Desmond Ridder, QB Cincinnati
Ridder had a solid performance against East Carolina, but it wasn’t enough to answer the mounting questions surrounding his draft stock. The Cincinnati star has always suffered from some inaccurate throws. He’s pulled things together down the stretch, but throwing two interceptions against significantly lesser competition isn’t acceptable.
Ridder could raise his stock if he cuts down on some of the puzzling mistakes he makes every few games.
UP: Martin Emerson, CB Mississippi St.
Emerson and Mississippi State’s defense did a good job containing Matt Corral throughout their Thanksgiving game. The 6'2", 200 lb. junior faced five targets but didn’t allow a reception. He finished the game with four tackles and one pass defensed. Emerson only has one interception during his collegiate career, but he has late first-round potential.
Emerson hasn’t allowed over 50 yards in a game this season outside of the games against Alabama and Memphis.
DOWN: Jaxson Kirkland, OT Washington
Early in the season, Kirkland was on track to hear his name called in the first 32 selections on draft night. Everything shifted once he ran into the human buzzsaw called Aidan Hutchinson. The star pass rusher exposed Kirkland, and the 6'7", 310 lb. junior hasn’t fully recovered. He recently allowed three pressures on 33 pass blocking snaps against Washington State.
Kirkland has allowed three sacks and 16 total pressures on 404 pass blocking snaps this season. For reference, he allowed one sack and ten pressures on 456 pass blocking snaps between 2019 and 2020.
Honorable Mentions Stock Up
Max Borghi, RB Washington St.
Treylon Burks, WR Arkansas
Brenton Cox Jr., EDGE Florida
Jahan Dotson, WR Penn St.
Tyler Goodson, RB Iowa
Hassan Haskins, RB Michigan
K.J. Henry, EDGE Clemson
George Karlaftis, EDGE Purdue
Verone McKinley III, S Oregon
John Metchie III, WR Alabama
Skyy Moore, WR Western Michigan
Lew Nichols III, RB Central Michigan
Carson Strong, QB Nevada
Luke Tenuta, OT Virginia Tech
Henry To'oTo'o, LB Alabama
Garrett Wilson, WR Ohio St.