Ready for the NFL’s dog days of summer to be over? If you have fallen into this category and are currently suffering from football withdrawal, how about a splash into the pool entitled, “2023 NFL Draft”?
Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a brief look at the outlook of each primary position in the 2023 NFL Draft, breaking down the top prospects of note while also taking a look at the prospects who make the most sense for the Steelers. Today, we will dive into the Steelers are currently unsettled at: offensive tackle.
While there are several high-upside prospects at tackle in 2023, there is not a clear-cut top prospect at this position. Several prospects lack ideal length and will potentially move inside to guard, while others lack the mobility and will be limited to the right side. Regardless of what shortcomings these prospects may currently have, we must remember they still have at least one more year of college ball to develop and prepare for the next level.
The Steelers have two young tackles in Dan Moore and Chuckwuma Okorafor, but both players were extremely up and down in 2021. When considering the fact that there is minimal depth behind them, it seems reasonable to believe that an upgrade could be needed in short order. If you have any thoughts on these prospects and their potential fit with the Steelers, be sure to drop a comment below and share them.
Let’s dive in!
1. Paris Johnson, Jr. | Ohio State
Johnson moved from tackle to guard when he came to Ohio State, but with Nicholas Petit-Frere leaving for the NFL, Johnson is expected to take his role on the left side of the Buckeyes’ line. Johnson is a fluid mover who fits the mold of a prototypical tackle (6’6”, 315 pounds). Not only does he do a great job of protecting his chest, but he also displays incredible balance on his feet in pass protection. Do not let his long frame fool you, however, as he can make a difference in the run game as well, using his heavy hands and nasty disposition to make open running lanes.
2. Peter Skoronski | Northwestern
Skoronski is a great athlete who displays tremendous quickness out of his stance, but his lack of length could limit him to guard at the next level. His slightly shorter arms have caused him to struggle against longer pass rushers at times, and his lack of bulk has limited his efficiency as a run blocker. On the bright side, he remains disciplined, balanced, and alert at all times, which has minimized his mistakes on the outside. If he can add some weight and gain more functional strength, he could follow in the footsteps of former Wildcat Rashawn Slater and become a premier draft prospect.
3. Connor Galvin | Baylor
Galvin is a long, athletic tackle who has displayed a phenomenal ability to anchor in pass protection. His long reach allows him to keep defenders far away from his chest, and his clean footwork allows him to move fluidly in his pass sets. At 6’7”, however, he often fails to get low enough to make a major impact in the run game. Defenders can get below his pads and drive him backward if they can get a good jump off the snap. Despite being a fifth-year senior, I am excited about Galvin’s potential, but there are definitely some rough edges in his game that will need to be cleaned up this year.
4. Dawand Jones | Ohio State
The other bookend tackle for the Buckeyes, Jones is an absolute mountain of a man, standing at 6’8”, 360 pounds. As expected, he has the ability to simply take over a game as a run defender, winning with power on a consistent basis. The downside of being that big is the fact that footwork is bound to be sloppy, and a high pad level can only be expected. That is certainly the case with Jones, and considering he is not the most athletic tackle in this class, he is likely bound to remain on the right side of the line long-term.
Rest of the Top 10
5. Robert Scott, Jr. | Florida State
6. Broderick Jones | Georgia
7. Jaelyn Duncan | Maryland
8. Zion Nelson | Miami
9. Carter Warren | Pittsburgh
10. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu | Oregon
Steelers Prospect to Watch
Jaelyn Duncan | Maryland
One of the best tackles in the Big Ten, Duncan has surprisingly gone unheralded in the NFL Draft community. Before choosing to return for his redshirt senior season, I pegged him as one of the biggest late-round sleepers in the 2022 draft class. Nonetheless, there are areas of his game that need a fine-tuning.
First and foremost, he must learn how to use his hands better. In 2021, Duncan not only struggled to land his punches accurately, but he also struggled to time his punches. Hand usage overall was sloppy, and that was typically the cause of his blown reps. Fortunately, Duncan has shown great signs of development and maturity during his time at Maryland, and his game continues to ascend.
What I like most about Duncan is his athleticism. At 6’6”, 320 pounds, Duncan not only has the length and quickness to protect the quarterback’s blindside, but he also has the strength and leg drive to push defenders off the ball in the run game. His footwork and fluidity in his pass sets improved greatly in 2021, and I expect his development in that area to continue in the right direction.
As mentioned in the intro, the lack of depth at the tackle position should have Steelers fans concerned. Dan Moore is still unproven, and Chuckwuma Okorafor is a hinderance to the Steelers’ running game. Adding a player like Duncan may not provide visible fruit right out of the gate in 2023, but with a little coaching and refinement of technique, the Steelers’ future at tackle would look much brighter with Duncan than the team’s current construction at the position.
Which prospect mentioned above intrigues you the most? Do you agree that tackle is a position that needs to be addressed early on in 2023? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!