The big challenge for every NFL front office during Draft season is trying to find future the Hall of Famers, All-Pros, even Pro-Bowl-level talent in the class, especially in the first round of the draft. This year’s group will undoubtedly produce many stars of tomorrow, but identifying those prospects before selection day is extremely important when building a draft board for selection day.
I believe there are several players in this draft that compare favorably to current superstar players in the league. Since this is a Steelers website, let’s look at those players the Steelers could target on Thursday that fit that description.
The Player - LB Nolan Smith, Georgia
Shades of - Micah Parsons, Cowboys
Despite Nolan Smith’s insistence that he’s a true Edge Rusher, I believe teams could view Smith as a Parsons-like player on defense. Smith’s size and elite athleticism scream versatility, and teams would love to deploy him much like how the Dallas Cowboys do Parsons: as a game-wrecking demon both off the ball and on the edge.
The Player - CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn St.
Shades of - Carlton Davis, Buccaneers
Much like Davis, “JPJ” possesses exceptional length and physicality on the outside. Davis has been a rock-solid cover man for the Buccaneers, helping lock down offensive playmakers for several years now for a good Bucs “D”. The knock on Porter Jr. is a perceived lack of ball skills, but the same could be said for Carlton Davis, who is still viewed as one of the elite corners in this league.
The Player - OT Paris Johnson, Jr., Ohio St.
Shades of - Lane Johnson, Eagles
Paris Johnson Jr. is the type of long, athletic left tackle that teams covet in the NFL Draft. Combine that with his collegiate experience and you have a potential Pro-Bowl tackle with room to improve still. At his best, he’s reminiscent of Eagles stud LT Lane Johnson, who consistently out-leverages defenders with his length and elite footwork. Johnson has those capabilities, and if unlocked, could make him one of the top tackles in football in short order.
The Player - OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Shades of - Taylor Moton, Panthers
Right tackles don’t get a lot of pop, but just watch Darnell Wright play and you can see the elite traits just waiting for an opportunity to shine. He reminds me of Panther’s rock on the right Taylor Moton in that he’s just a massive but athletic dude who’s ready to maul in the run game but also has the finesse to drop back in pass pro.
The Player - ED Lukas Van Ness, Iowa
Shades of - Joey Bosa, Chargers
The team who drafts Van Ness will absolutely be salivating over his potential l. Though he’s not getting the buzz coming out of college that Bosa did, he could very well enjoy similar success as a big, long, ultra-athletic edge rusher with a motor that never stops.
The Player - DT Mazi Smith, Michigan
Shades of - Kenny Clark, Packers
Smith is even BIGGER than Kenny Clark, but also possesses the elite fluidity and freaky athleticism that make Clark such a monster in the middle. A true space eater with top notch run-stuffing chops, Smith also has pass rush upside like Clark and could end up a Pro-Bowl caliber Nose Tackle sooner rather than later.
The Player - CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
Shades of - Tyson Campbell, Jaguars
Watching Deonte Banks play is a treat. He is just moves differently than everyone else. Tyson Campbell is the same way. Their athleticism and fluidity jump off the page. Campbell is a rising star for the Jaguars who easily mirrors routes and can stick with speedy receivers on the perimeter. Banks is even faster than Campbell, and does a great job anticipating routes and playing sticky coverage as well. Like Campbell, Banks could turn into a top tier starter in time with his solid overall game and elite traits.
What other players on the Steelers first-round radar compare favorably to league superstars? Let us know in the comments and be sure to tune into BTSC and the Steel Curtain Podcast Network for all your Steelers Draft news and notes!