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College football Chiefs’ prospect watch: conference title edition

Identifying college football players to watch for the Chiefs on Saturday.

South Florida v Cincinnati Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The final weekend of the college football season is here.

The only team that should have been bowl eligible that has been unable to participate was the Washington Huskies, who were replaced by the Oregon Ducks against the USC Trojans in the Pac 12 championship game. This will be the most important game against the best competition, making it a great barometer for their performance.

I am changing up this week’s watch list to identifying my favorite draft prospect from each team in the conference championship games. There will be a bit of a Chiefs angle involved of course — focusing on the perceived 2021 needs of the team.

Prospects to watch

Big Ten championship game

Ohio State vs. Northwestern, 11 a.m. Arrowhead Time

Shaun Wade | DB | Ohio State

With the last second news that Chris Olave will miss the Big Ten championship game, I’m left scrambling as to who my next favorite prospect on the team is. They have talent on all levels, but the player I’m most interested to see without Olave playing has to be Shaun Wade.

I am a Wade supporter, but there are several questions about his game, and that’s exactly why it’s important for him to play well here. As an outside cornerback, Wade has been incredibly up and down and not played up to near the level that other round-one cornerbacks have. He could really use a rebound game — or a few — to close out the season and ensure he can play there in the NFL. If not, he may have to transition to safety, which is where I think he’d best fit. His size, IQ and downhill nature could lend itself to a very Malcolm Jenkins-type of player in the NFL, so long as he embraces it.

Greg Newsome | CB | Northwestern

With Rashawn Slater opting out of this season, Northwestern hasn’t drawn as many eyes as it normally would have. That’s allowed Greg Newsome to fly under the radar, but thanks to Dane Brugler, his name is getting out there now.

Newsome has quality size at 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds — with length that flashes top-end potential. He is allowing under 30% completion percentage into his coverage, and he’s about to get a massive test against Olave and Ohio State’s weapons. With the ability to play a variety of techniques and styles of coverage, this game could prove to be a huge jumping-off point for Newsome.

Big 12 championship

Oklahoma vs. Iowa State, 11 a.m. Arrowhead Time

Ronnie Perkins | EDGE | Oklahoma

Ronnie Perkins was suspended for last year’s Peach Bowl and the first five games of this season for failing a drug test. But once he got on the field, it has been fireworks. Averaging a sack and two tackles for loss a game since returning in 2020, Perkins looks to continue his tear during the championship game.

On the field, Perkins plays with his hair on fire and with the kind of violence that’s difficult to not love. He is a power-first player who loves to rush through his hands and utilize his initial punch to jolt blockers. He has a good enough first step and the flexibility to turn the corner once he’s softened it with his hands. Perkins is at home when trying to rush through a tackle’s shoulder and utilizing his leverage and power.

Charlie Kolar | TE | Iowa State

Charlie Kolar is a big-bodied tight end who fits in the NFL as a more traditional Y-TE. After a quality year in 2019, he got off to a slow start in 2020 but has rebounded well with four touchdowns in his last five games.

Kolar has the size — 6 feet 6 and 257 pounds — to play in-line, but he is still athletic enough to stretch teams vertically up the seams and provide a quality possession receiving threat. He may not be overly dynamic and provide a significant mismatch from a personnel standpoint, but he can play on all three downs. He may be trending a little bit more towards a high-end No. 2 tight end rather than a top-end starting tight end with some athletic limitations, but he could really improve his draft stock at the end of the year.

ACC championship

Notre Dame vs. Clemson, 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | LB | Notre Dame

One of the biggest risers during this draft season, the undersized Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah added a little weight in the offseason and has found a way to maintain his athleticism. Owusu-Koramoah has had a fantastic season, playing a little bit of linebacker, a little bit of overhang and a little bit of a slot defensive back for Notre Dame.

Normally, one would be a little concerned when an undersized linebacker takes the field against a blue-chip caliber team in college football, but Owusu-Koramoah has already had a dominant game against Clemson once this year. His ability to quickly identify plays and play faster than the offense allows him to keep his chest clean and make plays. He’s proven to be a quality coverage player at the position but has really impressed with his ability to excel in the box. He’s not a full-time linebacker at this point in time, but he’s been incredibly impressive chasing plays down from the back side and as a coverage backer.

Cornell Powell | WR | Clemson

Perhaps I’m being a prisoner of the moment, but fifth-year senior wide receiver Cornell Powell has caught my eye over the last month-plus. Powell made almost no impact his first four years at Clemson behind a ton of talented receivers, but he’s surpassed 90 yards in his last four year games of the 2020 season.

Listed at 6 feet and 210 pounds, Powell plays a bully style of receiver that has proven to be a problem in the ACC down the stretch. For a guy who simply hasn’t been able to see the field much for Clemson, he shows a great feel for route spacing and plays with leverage on vertical routes. When the ball is in the air or when he has the ball in his hands, he is going to own it. It could just be a flash in the pan, a fun college player going out on a high note, or Powell could continue his strong finish and play his way into the NFL.

AAC championship

Cincinnati vs. Tulsa, 7 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Myjai Sanders | EDGE | Cincinnati

Myjai Sanders is the top prospect on one of the nations best defenses in Cincinnati. The super long, athletic EDGE rusher has only improved every season and is finally on the verge of completely breaking out to the national public.

If there is one EDGE rusher not currently projected to go in round one of the NFL Draft that could test his way into it, it very well may Sanders. The 6-foot-5 260-pound frame paired with the first step and flexibility is going to make him highly-coveted by the NFL. Being in the national spotlight for the first time all year could be the first step in the challenge. Sanders has greatly improved his hand technique this season, which has opened up an inside counter to match the success of his speed rush on the outside.

Zaven Collins | LB | Tulsa

If there was a player to contend with Owusu-Koramoah for the most improved draft stock on the defensive side of the football, it has to be Zaven Collins. Strangely enough, they play similar roles for their respective defenses despite Collins being listed at 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds. He also has to be the favorite for the Chuck Bednarik Award (given to college football’s best defensive player).

Collins plays as a stacked outside linebacker for Tulsa and is a true jack of all trades. You can find him dropping into zone coverage, rushing off the edge and even kicking out into the slot for some man coverage reps. He’s shown incredible IQ this season, and some of the best zone eyes you can find in a college linebacker, but despite his size, there is quite a bit of softness to his game. The question will always be, where do you play a 6-foot-4 260-pound quality athlete? But at this point, you just want him on your team.

SEC championship

Alabama vs. Florida, 7 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Landon Dickerson | OC | Alabama

Quite possibly my favorite prospect in the entire draft, Landon Dickerson is currently playing center for Alabama but has experience at every spot along the line. The intelligence to pull that off is evident in his game, but more importantly, he is one physical, mean dude.

Dickerson is constantly looking to put defenders into the dirt — whether as a help pass protector or a run blocker. He has the strength on every level: lower body, hands and core, so he can bury players in a variety of ways, and he utilizes his wide frame to do so. He’s not just a guy stuck in the mud, either. He’s incredibly quick laterally with the ability to pull around the horn or make some nasty reach blocks on defensive tackles. Where Dickerson may impress me, the absolute most is picking up stunts and blitzes on the interior as he flawlessly slides from one defender to the next as they come through.

Kyle Pitts | TE | Florida

For the most part, I’ve tried to stick to players that I think the Chiefs could be looking at in the draft and may have a chance to draft but that changes here. Kyle Pitts should be long gone before the Chiefs pick. However, to put it plainly, he is — along with Devonta Smith of Alabama — the best player in college football, and he has to go on this list.

Some can critique Pitts as a big wide receiver rather than a tight end, but he shows a willingness as a blocker and the ability to physically dominate the defensive backs, which is enough. More importantly than that, even as a pure receiver, he is absolutely insane. His blend of athleticism and route running is impossible for any college defender to handle at his size. He’s put future NFL cornerbacks like Derek Stingley, Eric Stokes, Jaycee Horn and others in the blender as a route runner. Pitts not being a star tight end or receiver in the NFL would be one of the more shocking outcomes of this draft class, in my opinion.