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NFL Draft: 3 Rising Prospects After Week 7 of the 2021 College Football Season

Wondering who the prospects that are rising up draft boards? Here are three that could go earlier than expected.

The NFL season is quickly approaching its midway point, and many fan bases are already looking ahead to the 2022 NFL Draft. Several teams will be in the market for a new franchise quarterback come April, and many teams -- and fans -- may be disappointed in what this class has to offer at the top.

However, if you're a fan of a team that needs to improve outside of the quarterback position, this draft class has something for just about everyone. Need a star-wide receiver? There are plenty! Can't get pressure on the quarterback? Many EDGE rushers in this class may do the trick! Need someone to carry the rock? Running backs are here, too!

With all of that firmly in mind, let's take a look at some names who may find themselves rising up midseason draft boards and whom some fan bases may want to get familiar with before the draft kicks off in late April.

Kenny Pickett - QB, Pittsburgh

The 2021 college football season hasn't been kind to quarterbacks, especially at the top. The presumed top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft -- Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell -- have struggled mightily during the season. Rattler so much so that he's been benched, and rumors of his transfer have started flying. This season is not a great year for teams to need a quarterback more than any in recent memory.

While that may seem like an indictment of the 2022 class, it's also an opportunity for overlooked quarterbacks to step up and make a name for themselves. Some have already done so, like Matt Corral and Malik Willis. While not in the same tier as those guys, Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh has also been stepping up lately. He did so again this Saturday with another solid performance against Virginia Tech.

One look at the box score, and you may think Pickett doesn't deserve to be here. The stats weren't great last week. But so much about quarterback play -- and scouting in general -- is about more than numbers on a page. Pickett has improved tremendously this season in his accuracy, despite his receivers letting him down time and time again. He's gotten better at going through progressions, looks more comfortable as a quarterback, and even his velocity seems to be improved from last season.

While Pickett may not find himself in the first-round conversation, with the 2022 NFL Draft class being perceived as "down" at the position, he very well could play himself into an early day two discussion.

Treylon Burk - WR, Arkansas

With both Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell struggling this season, it has opened the doors of the 2022 NFL Draft class wide open. Not only for their fellow quarterbacks but for prospects at other positions. A quarterback class perceived as "weak" by scouts means that other positions get a bump in value they may not otherwise get. When one prospect falls, others rise to fill the void. One of those positions this season could be the wide receiver group.

The chief beneficiary of that bump could very well be Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks. While no one has established themselves at the top of the class, Burks is as good a candidate for WR1 as any. Though the Razorbacks season may have taken a downturn, Burks has turned in back-to-back great performances.

Burks burned the Mississippi defense to the tune of 136 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions a week ago. Then, he followed that up with a 109 yard, two-touchdown performance against Auburn. Both performances came in losing efforts, but make no mistake about it, Burks is quickly establishing himself as the head of the class.

Burks won't challenge Irving Fryar and Keyshawn Johnson as the only receivers to go first overall, but if he continues to put out games like this, he could easily find himself as the first overall wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

Nakobe Dean - LB, Georgia

It's not easy to stand out as a defender at the University of Georgia. The Bulldogs have been a pipeline of defensive talent to the NFL recently. This year's team is no exception. This season, we've seen many talented ex-Bulldogs players who have thrived at other schools, forced to transfer out as they could not jump the talent ahead of them. It's almost unfair how talented the Bulldogs defense is, and it's led them to a likely berth in the SEC Championship and a real shot at being named National Champions when all is said and done.

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It takes more than just talent to stand out in these circumstances. Teams and the NFL are littered with players who had all the talent in the world but didn't have the drive needed to succeed. That is not the case with Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean. Dean is the ultimate competitor. It shows both in the product on the field and in his progression into one of the top linebackers in the nation.

The Georgia defense has been the top unit in the nation this season, and Dean's development is a big reason why. Every year at Georgia, Dean has been tasked with more and more responsibility, and he's risen to the occasion each time. Now, he's developed into a player who can be a force in every situation. He can play the run. He'll play sideline-to-sideline in the passing game. You can bring him on a blitz to disrupt the quarterback. Dean can do it all.

As we mentioned before, the quarterback class has been a disappointment to this point. That opens all kinds of doors in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not only does it provide an opportunity for overlooked QB prospects to rise, but it also provides that opportunity for other positions. There will be 32 picks in the first round, regardless of how many good quarterbacks there are. This year, there's a ton of defensive talent to fill that void, and Dean may be making a case for himself as the top prospect in the linebacker class and a high first-round selection.

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