Every draft class has its strengths. In 2022, we saw the wide receiver and EDGE rusher classes loaded with depth, while positions such as quarterback and tight end were relatively thin. Which positions are the deepest in the 2023 class? Let’s find out!
The Pittsburgh Steelers are just a matter of weeks away from concluding their 2022 season and shifting their focus to the 2023 offseason. With not a ton of cap space to work with, new general manager Omar Khan will need to get the biggest bang for his buck in the NFL Draft if he wants to make this Steelers team a playoff contender in 2023. Unfortunately, this team has quite a few areas of need.
Kenny Pickett is hopefully the team’s answer at quarterback for years to come, but the quarterback room could potentially lose both Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, with Rudolph’s contract expiring and Trubisky likely wanting an opportunity to compete elsewhere. Wide receiver and tight end depth could be an issue, while glaring holes at left tackle and left guard loom over this team as the season nears its conclusion.
On defense, Cameron Heyward is not getting any younger, and it is about time for Tyson Alualu to call it a career. Depth concerns at both inside and outside linebacker could force the team to make personnel changes there as well. The biggest need on defense, however, comes at cornerback, where the Steelers hardly have any corners worthy of even CB2 status.
While it is evident the Steelers could use upgrades at almost every position, the strengths of the draft will likely determine which needs the Steelers can most easily fill without spending top dollar on an outside free agent.
Here is how I rank the positions based on overall strength. Keep in mind that this is not solely about which positions I think will have the most first-round picks. While that does play a part in the strength of the class, that is only one of three determining factors. I am not only weighing the depth at each position, but I am also putting into account the relativity of the average depth at each position. For instance, tight end may not see more than one first-round pick, and the overall depth may not match that of other positions, but if the class is strong for the tight end position, I am going to give it a bump upward.
Note: Not all underclassmen have decided whether or not to declare for the draft yet. This could change the overall outlook, but this is how I see things as of now.
We may not see any corners selected inside the Top 5, and depending on team needs, we mat even see one selected in the top 10. However, the depth is incredible. Joey Porter, Jr., Cam Smith, Christian Gonzalez, DJ Turner, Kelee Ringo, Clark Phillips III, Deonte Banks, and Devon Witherspoon could all be in the first-round conversation.
2. EDGE rusher
Will Anderson, Jr. is arguably the best player in the draft, but there are plenty of guys to keep an eye on for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Tyree Johnson has the size, speed, and production to warrant a top-ten selection, and other talents like Myles Murphy, BJ Ojulari, Isaiah Foskey, and Andre Carter will garner interest in the mid to late first round.
3. Running Back
This position is almost perennially deep. Like every year, there will be prospects who fall to day three that can be quality backs for years to come. While I do not support taking any running back in the first round, Bijan Robinson may be the best back to come out of college since Saquon Barkley. He is the only running back I have a first-round grade on, but there are a slew of names who will come off the board quickly on Day 2. There is quality depth once again.
It has been a couple years since we have had multiple premier prospects at this position, but I think we might just get that this year. Sedrick Van Pran could still opt to return to school, but initially, he will be my number one center if he declares. John Michael Schmitz and my Michigan man Olusegun Oluwatimi will be up there as well. Another underclassman to keep an eye on is Ohio State’s Luke Wypler. He could really make this a special class if he declares.
5. Offensive Tackle
Arguably the Steelers’ biggest need, offensive tackle is a position that lacks an elite prospect but possesses some solid developmental prospects. Peter Skoronski is my top tackle currently, although his lack of length limits his overall upside. Paris Johnson, Jr. from Ohio State became more comfortable at left tackle as the season progressed, but he was not that impressive as a run-blocker. Keep an eye on Anton Harrison, Jr. and Jaelyn Duncan during the draft process. If they rise, we could easily see five tackles go in Round 1.
6. Interior Defensive Line
Jalen Carter will get most of the attention along the interior of the defensive line, but athletic freaks Bryan Bresee and Mazi Smith provide value in the right scheme as well. One of my favorite prospects is Siaki Ika from Baylor, and he is just one of several starting-caliber nose tackles in this class. The big guys may be coming back in style!
Some analysts have quarterback as one of the biggest strengths of this draft, but I am not one of them. The depth is solid overall, but there are concerns with each of the top quarterbacks. Bryce Young and Will Levis both have long-term durability concerns, but for different reasons. C.J. Stroud struggles when under duress, and Anthony Richardson is incredibly raw and will need at least one season on the bench. This class is not as good as it is made out to be, although there is potential.
8. Wide Receiver
This receiver class is not bad, per se, but it is not the level of the receiver classes in recent memory. The combine will have a huge impact on who the top receiver is. Quentin Johnson from TCU is my favorite as of now, but Jordan Addison and Jaxson Smith-Njigba will both have an opportunity to dethrone him. I will reserve judgment on the class as a whole until after the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine.
I think we will see at least one safety selected before Round 1 concludes, but it is no guarantee. This is another position which, like receiver, will be shaken up in terms of rankings after the combine. Brian Branch provides great value as a slot corner as well as a high safety, while Antonio Johnson is a long, athletic safety with good awareness. Ji’Ayir Brown could rise into the late first-round range with solid testing as well. There are also several intriguing mid-rounders, including one of own early favorites, Sydney Brown.
10. Tight End
Michael Mayer may not be the most athletic tight end in the world, but he has a well-rounded game and displays outstanding toughness before and after the catch. I expect him to be the only first-round tight end, but I could see as many as five or six additional tight ends on Day 2. Darnell Washington is an intriguing guy to watch. He was the backup to Brock Bowers at Georgia, but he is a big, athletic tight end who can both block and catch at a high level. He could become a top-50 pick despite production that does not jump off the page.
I think there will be a couple guys in the late Day-2, early Day-3 range that could fly under the radar, but the top of the class is not excellent. O’Cyrus Torrence is the clear-cut number one guy for me, and after him there is quite a drop-off. Andrew Vorhees dealt with injuries down the stretch this season, but he has a well-rounded game when fully healthy. He checks in at number two for me.
12. Inside Linebacker
I just do not find anything amusing about this class. Trenton Simpson and Drew Sanders could become first-round picks, but as of now, I am not impressed with the depth. Neither Jack Campbell nor Noah Sewell have impressed me in what I have seen of them, and many of the top talents either lack size or speed. There are very few in this class with a combination of both. There always seems to be a couple guys who come out of nowhere at the combine and burst onto the scene, but as of right now, this is an incredibly weak linebacker class.
Which positions do you think are the strongest in the 2023 NFL Draft? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for all the Steelers and draft content you need from now until April!