The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft was projected to be one of the least predictable in recent history. The morning after the draft, it’s safe to say that was the case, with several players being taken much higher than their consensus projections.
The trade market was warm from the get-go on Thursday night, starting with the Texans moving up from Pick 12 to Pick 3 to nab Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr. All told, there were six teams that ascended their original slots. Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of them, leapfrogging the New York Jets at 15 to select Georgia OT Broderick Jones with the 14th overall pick.
With a potential cornerstone left tackle in tow and the 32nd overall pick glimmering to begin the second round, which players could the Steelers target on Day Two? Regardless of staying put or trading back, these available prospects are not only high on BTSC’s Big Board, but also align with what Pittsburgh might aim to do.
Top 10 Overall Prospects Remaining
1. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State (BTSC Rank: No. 5)
Redshirt junior, 6-foot-2, 195 lbs.
Bradley Locker’s Breakdown: Porter’s length and physicality make it almost impossible to win one-on-one against him; there’s no doubt he can be trusted when left isolated, even against backside receivers. Porter works in strong press and jabs throughout routes, mixing in both hands and placing them well on shoulder pads. On top of that, his instincts and anticipation are outstanding, enabling him to jump routes and understand where he should be positioned in zone. Even when he gives up separation, Porter’s arms are so long that he can tip passes effortlessly. Porter is certainly strong and big enough to even go head-to-head with tight ends in the slot, something which is rare for cornerbacks or even safeties. In terms of tackling, he’s good in the open field and is able to wrestle through blocks to make a stop. One of the areas of weakness for Porter is surrendering space, particularly on short, quick-hitting routes; he probably needs to clean up his turns and movement skills on breaks. Further, he should be conscious of not being overly physical, because subtle grabs or contact could be flagged at the next level. Porter’s solid Combine workout (despite not doing drills) and combination of ridiculous frame/wingspan make him a prototypical press corner who can lock down an entire side of the field.
Quite frankly, it was shocking to not see Porter be taken with the first 31 selections.
Recent mock drafts from top pundits had the former Nittany Lion sliding to the back half of the first round, but his expected draft position was 19.4, per Grinding the Mocks. Now, one of the crop’s best corners is still ripe for the picking at Pick 32.
Don’t expect Porter Jr. to last long into the second round. The Steelers are an obvious connection at 32 (see more below), but the Cardinals (33), Lions (34), Colts (35) and Rams (36) could realistically snag Porter.
2. Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (No. 19)
Senior, 6-foot-3, 222 lbs.
Ryland B.: Will Levis puts mayonnaise in his coffee and eats bananas with the peel on. He runs the ball with reckless abandon. He’s what you’d call a “football guy.” But grit and toughness don’t fully define his game. Levis has the ideal build and athleticism of an NFL quarterback with one of the best arms in this class. His physical tools just scream that he’s a franchise quarterback. But despite all of his NFL-ready traits, there’s no denying that Levis is still very much a project. Despite an elite arm his accuracy can be hit and miss and he’s yet to show that he’s a good off-schedule playmaker. Additionally, a lot of improvement is still needed when it comes to reading defenses, going through progressions, and pocket awareness. All of these detractors make me worry that Levis has “bust” written all over him, but his tremendous arm talent and mobility will surely intrigue NFL front offices — and for good reason. Levis has all the unteachable traits in spades, while all of his weaknesses are certainly coachable.
Two quarterbacks kickstarted the draft in the form of Bryce Young (Panthers) and C.J. Stroud (Texans), which was somewhat expected all along. While Indianapolis did take its gunslinger of the future in Anthony Richardson, no other franchise decided to select a QB in Round One, which left Levis in a tailspin.
Levis’ 2022 was considered a decline from a sensational 2021. Last season, the Wildcat quarterback posted a mere 68.6 PFF grade, with only seven big-time throws and a 3.6% turnover-worthy play percentage. Further, organizations were supposedly alarmed by a turf toe injury he suffered last campaign.
While Levis’ rookie deal will no longer have a fifth-year option, he’ll be a hot commodity to begin the second round. A team such as the Raiders (38), Saints (40), Titans (41) or Commanders (47) could trade up with the Steelers at Pick 32. If not, watch for the Lions (34), Rams (36) and Buccaneers (50), too.
3. D.J. Turner, CB, Michigan (No. 23)
Senior, 6-foot, 181 lbs.
Andrew Wilbar: Turner has been a pillar of production for the Michigan defense the past two seasons, consistently blanketing opponents’ number one receiver. Despite a rather small frame for a boundary corner, Turner plays bigger than his size and is unafraid to get physical with receivers at the line. He also makes up for any lack of size with incredible speed, and that speed was further exposed when he ran a blazing 4.26 40 at the combine. I also appreciate how Turner consistently gets good position against receivers in man coverage. His hips are fluid, and his aggressive hands make receivers work for positioning right off the line of scrimmage. The Mike Macdonald effect on the Michigan defense gave Turner experience in both man and zone, which made him much more schematically versatile. It was a little rough at the beginning, but once he learned the concepts of zone, it did not take long for him to begin producing again. For a smaller corner, he was a solid tackler at Michigan, but adding a few pounds to his frame may be needed to make those tackles in the NFL. Ultimately, I see Turner as a boundary corner who may begin his career in a nickel role. The upside is off the charts.
Turner lit up the NFL Combine in early March by running a blazing 4.26 40-yard dash, the fastest among any player this season. Additionally, the former Wolverine posted a 38.5-inch vertical jump (79th percentile) and 131-inch broad jump (91st percentile).
Beyond just his athletic measurables, Turner stood out in Ann Arbor by accruing 10 pass deflections and an interception his last season, earning an All-Big Ten selection.
Turner will probably go somewhere in Round Two, but how high is the question, especially in light of the fact that only four corners heard their names called on Night One. The aforementioned teams for Porter would likely also covet Turner, but also watch for the Bears (53), Jaguars (56) and Cowboys (58) if the Michigan man makes it that far.
4. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame (No. 26)
Junior, 6-foot-5, 265 lbs.
Andrew Wilbar: Mayer is by far the most complete tight end in the NFL Draft. The sure-handed, big-bodied pass catcher from Notre Dame possesses solid speed, excellent hands, and a large catch radius. Also known for having great ball skills, Mayer does a great job of tracking the football in the air and knowing when to turn around to make a play on the ball. He is also comfortable running routes, consistently finding open pockets in the coverage of opposing defenses. If that is not enough to sell you on him, he is one of the better blockers in this class as well. While he does not blow defenders off the ball, he displays good hand placement and finds creative ways to win the battle for leverage off the snap. Simply put, Michael Mayer is going to be an immediate contributor in his rookie season, and the team that takes him may be getting one of the next upper-echelon NFL tight ends.
Only one tight end was drafted in the inaugural 31 picks: Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, who was selected by the Bills at No. 25 overall. Mayer was step-for-step with Kincaid in terms of tight end rankings and projections, with some even viewing the former Irish star as more polished all around.
Teams that could angle for Mayer include the Lions (36, 48, 55), Panthers (39), Packers (42, 45) and Dolphins (51). All told, he should hear his name called rather early today.
5. Steve Avila, OL, TCU (No. 30)
Senior, 6-foot-4, 330 lbs.
John O: Avila is a big, strong people-mover that brings grit and toughness to the guard position. He is highly versatile having played left guard in 2022, center in 2021, and right guard plus right tackle in 2020. In 2022, TCU ran left behind Avila repeatedly. He also pulls well and moves with athleticism to the second level. Avila is physical and shows decent technique. He’s far from perfect, however. He loses focus at times and struggles when his assignment doesn’t give him someone obvious to block. His agility sideways isn’t what he brings when moving forward either. When helping with double teams, rushers still get between or around him after he makes contact due to hesitation, lack of agility, or sometimes he seems to think the play is over after his initial punch. These traits negatively impact his ability to pick up defenders while pulling or assisting others. Overall, Avila’s versatility and talent otherwise make him a quality prospect. He’ll need some talented coaching to keep him grinding and solve his present weaknesses. You should expect a lengthy NFL career though as a starter at guard.
With an EDP of 47.8, Avila was not figured to be a first-rounder. Nonetheless, the 2022 First-Team All-American and National Championship participant will have plenty of suitors, especially with potentially only one interior offensive lineman (if you consider Peter Skoronski to fit that mold) being selected in Round One.
Logical fits for Avila include the Rams (36), Seahawks (37), Raiders (38) and Saints (40).
6. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern (No. 31).
Senior, 6-foot-1, 282 lbs.
Noah_E: Adebawore is one of the most versatile defenders in the class. He can get after the quarterback as an edge rusher or line up on the inside and still cause havoc. He dominated at the senior bowl and bullied Cody Mauch on multiple occasions. He’s very explosive which he uses to his advantage and blows past interior linemen. Adebawore is also a good run stopper, consistently setting the edge and wrapping up tackles. His bend could use work and he relies a lot on his physical tools, something that won’t always work against NFL level tackles. I think he could thrive in a 4-3 defense due to his ability to lineup anywhere along the defensive line.
Adebawore had garnered some first-round buzz in recent weeks, but with seemingly the inverse of what was expected happening in the latter 20 picks of the draft, he was not taken in Night One.
While Adebawore’s athleticism is eye-popping — such as by running the fastest 40-yard dash for an interior defensive lineman ever — his frame is somewhat of that of a tweener, with the Wildcat likely needing to add weight to play inside. Additionally, while Adebawore is a force against the run with quick moves, reaction and strength, his pass-rushing repertoire is somewhat limited.
The All-Big Ten Northwestern product should be picked toward the beginning stages of Friday evening. Keep an eye on the Cardinals (33), Lions, Rams, Seahawks, Raiders and Jets (43).
7. O’Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida (No. 32)
Junior, 6-foot-5, 332 lbs.
Andrew Wilbar: One of the safer picks in the draft, Torrence is a true plug-and-play guard who can be a starter from Day 1 in the NFL. His lack of versatility may knock him out of Round 1, but he is not likely to escape the top-40 picks. For a man of his size, Torrence is a fluid mover with sufficient mobility. He is a technically sound prospect who maintains a consistent pad level throughout each rep, and his pure power may be the best of any lineman in the class. He flatout moves defenders backward, and there is no other way to describe it. He is not going to be doing much pulling, but in a true power/gap scheme, he will get the job done in the run game.
Alongside Avila, Torrence was regarded as the premier interior offensive lineman in this year’s class. Though his EDP was 29, the former Gator was not among the 31 first-round picks, a trend which had become prevalent in the last few weeks of pre-draft coverage.
The squads mentioned for Avila should also have interest in Torrence, who will likely be a high pick despite a relative athletic score just north of 6.
8. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia (No. 33)
Junior, 6-foot-7, 265 lbs.
Ryland B.: I first took notice of Washington when the Bulldogs played Oregon in the 2022 season opener. On one play, the 6’7”, 270-pounder bulldozed one defender and promptly hurdled the next, an impressive feat of athleticism for a guy his size. Darnell Washington is simply a massive tight end, dwarfing any DBs trying to cover or tackle him and being a formidable blocker at the line of scrimmage. Washington is a fantastic run blocker with great want-to and road-grading efficiency. In pass protection he’s good as well but his lack of great lateral mobility can hamper his effectiveness. Still, he’s leagues above where most rookie tight ends grade out in blocking as a whole. As a pass-catcher Washington displays incredible athleticism for his size, and his long stride makes him faster than you’d expect. Washington isn’t a super twitchy athlete, but he is a mismatch against linebackers with his speed and against corners with his size. He’s sure-handed as well. He does lack the smooth athleticism of a true elite pass-catching tight end like Kyle Pitts, as Washington has more of a lumbering run. His production isn’t stellar either but it seems like that was due to Georgia’s depth and scheme more than anything. Don’t overthink it – Washington is not only one of the best blocking tight ends in this class, but he’s still a very solid receiver with sky-high upside. At the moment he looks like a second rounder, but a good day at the combine could give Washington some first round hype.
Washington is one of the more freakishly built players in this entire class. At 6-foot-7 with his hulking frame, he looks superhuman next to fellow collegiate players, including 6-foot-5 Georgia teammate Jones.
It’s hard not to be tantalized by Washington’s mismatch potential, especially with his stellar 9.88 RAS. The two-time national champ should collect attention from the same teams as Mayer, but will probably be selected later than his tight end mate due to less refinement.
9. John Michael Schmitz, IOL, Minnesota (No. 34)
Senior, 6-foot-4, 320 lbs.
Ryland B.: Schmitz doesn’t exactly come across as a generational talent at center – but he’s a rock-solid Day 2 pick who could be a quality starter at the NFL level. Schmitz has good size for the position and solid mobility. He’s quick off the snap and adequate when it comes to pulling or moving to the second level. He’s aware and active in pass protection and a high-effort run blocker. I do feel like his leverage can be a bit high at times, as Schmitz isn’t an overly powerful blocker. I never saw him get thrown backwards and embarrassed on tape, but there were moments where a stronger anchor or forward drive would’ve been appreciated. Schmitz will still definitely be able to hold his own in the NFL, however, and he’s quite effective on double teams. His experience and well-rounded skillset should make him an immediate starter.
Schmitz appears to be one of the safer picks in this draft, with an outstanding track record of performance up the middle in Minnesota and a terrific outing at the Senior Bowl in February. His 5.35 40-yard dash was not superb, but he could quietly emerge as one of the better players from this class.
The Golden Gopher is likely teams’ top center option, which would put the Steelers, Cardinals, Raiders, Saints and Titans (41) in the mix.
10. Gervon Dexter Sr., DL, Florida (No. 35)
Junior, 6-foot-6, 310 lbs.
Noah_E: A redshirt Sophomore, Gervon Dexter is certainly an interesting prospect. He has a blend of power and finesse that you don’t see too often. He consistently eats space and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He has the power to bull rush his way to the quarterback, as well as a very effective swim move that allows him to get into the backfield and disrupt the play. He’s a smart player that plays with good pad level and seems to understand leverage. However, he is very slow getting off the snap, and even though it worked in college it’s more than likely going to get taken advantage of in the NFL. Dexter also has trouble when it comes to double teams and will easily get taken out of the play. There’s no denying that he has the size, athleticism, and skills to be a very good player, he just has some little things that might hold him back. He’s got a ton of potential and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take a chance on him in the first round.
Dexter was a bit of a late riser in the final weeks leading up to the draft and seems likely to be a Round Two selection.
Four interior defensive linemen (Jalen Carter, Calijah Kancey, Mazi Smith and Bryan Bresee) were nabbed in the first round, but the overall DL class is not viewed as stellar. Consequently, expect Dexter to be perched atop several teams’ boards, with overlaps with Adebawore.
Top 10 Steelers Fits
1. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
This one couldn’t be more obvious.
Despite signing Patrick Peterson, who still has good football left in him at age 32, Pittsburgh needs a young, blue-chip corner badly, especially after losing Cam Sutton to free agency. Porter fits that mold to a T, with outstanding size, length and physicality.
On top of that, the Steelers are awfully familiar with Porter in light of the fact that his dad played for the organization for eight seasons and was a coach for five additional campaigns in the 412.
If Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin elect not to make Porter a Steeler, it will most likely be due to trading too far back in the second round to select him. But, if the team stands pat at 32, this feels like the pick — and what a selection it would be.
2. Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
Branch didn’t crack the top 10 of the BTSC Big Board best available, but he’s considered one of the better defensive backs in this class. With the ability to play both safety positions or nickel/slot corner, Branch is tremendously physical, a great tackler and boasts top-flight instincts on top of it.
The Steelers re-signed Damontae Kazee, but the team witnessed the departure of Terrell Edmunds to Philadelphia. Edmunds was truly a do-it-all player in Teryl Austin’s defense, from lining up in the box to mugging A-gaps to playing center field. Branch can do much of the same.
Imagining a Crimson Tide safety duo of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Branch for years to come is giving me goosebumps.
3. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
One of the few astounding picks in Round One was the Detroit Lions selecting Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at 18th overall. While I (and my esteemed colleague Shannon White) am a major fan of Campbell’s, that slot simply felt too high, especially because of the volatility of ILB play and a poor track record of first-round linebackers.
Consequently, Sanders could be selected earlier than anticipated on Friday. With ranginess, pursuit, the ability to diagnose and react and physicality — not to mention rush the passer — Sanders has drawn comparisons to Cowboys star Micah Parsons.
The Steelers have a new ILB tandem in Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, but neither jumps off the page as a true standout player, especially in coverage. While Sanders’ coverage skill wasn’t necessarily on par with that of Campbell’s, he’d still be a terrific pick to add a tenacious, physical, young linebacker to a group that needs additions.
4. Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
As mentioned earlier, four cornerbacks heard their names called in Round One. Consequently, there should be an onslaught off the board in Round Two.
At 6-foot-2, Brents is a physical, intimidating corner who works well in press man and is not afraid to get dirty in the run game. While he can have issues keeping up with routes moving across the field and lacks elite speed, his 9.99 RAS speaks for itself.
Brents would be a top developmental option in the Steel City, learning behind savvy vets Peterson and Levi Wallace before growing into a top corner. His frame and athleticism make him especially appealing in light of the AFC North’s bigger receivers, namely Ja’Marr Chase.
5. D.J. Turner, CB, Michigan
Turner’s skillset was detailed earlier, as was his all-world speed and athletic ability.
The Steelers will almost certainly add a corner on Day Two after leaning offensive line in Round One. Plus, the organization has had a penchant for Michigan defenders (see: Chris Wormley, Devin Bush). Turner could be another member of the maize and blue to don the black and gold.
6. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
I’m skeptical the Steelers will select a defensive lineman high in this year’s draft following the re-signing of Larry Ogunjobi and additions of Armon Watts and Breiden Fehoko. Even then, Cam Heyward is 33, and the team still didn’t get enough production from its DL last season.
Though he’s too slight to play nose tackle, Adebawore would be a perfect fit at three-tech in Austin’s defense and could ultimately be a successor to Heyward. Pittsburgh does have an existing tweener in DeMarvin Leal, but Adebawore could even be transitioned to edge rusher if the team wanted.
7. Keion White, DL, Georgia Tech
White was a candidate to be taken in Round One, especially with this year’s edge-rushing contingent having only a few true stars in Anderson, Tyree Wilson, Nolan Smith and Myles Murphy.
The Yellowjacket has strong power in his hands, a relentless motor and versatility to play along a defensive line. Yet, his block-shedding left much to be desired, can be totally neutralized on plays and is already 24.
Whether playing inside or at edge rusher, White is an intriguing option for the Steelers, who need a clearly defined third EDGE.
8. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Ringo’s draft stock fell somewhat precipitously from mid-season onward, especially as he struggled in games such as the 2022 SEC Championship. Nonetheless, he’s a sensational athlete, good against the run and sound in zone coverage (particularly cloud flats), which the Steelers play plenty of.
I am concerned about Ringo’s viability in man coverage, not to mention his high penalty rate, but his championship pedigree (see: title-winning interception in 2021), background and potential should have him be picked on Friday. The Steelers’ interest in Bulldogs is well-documented, and Ringo could be another Kirby Smart product coming to Pittsburgh.
9. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
This pick feels highly unlikely for a number of reasons, but man, would it be fun.
The Steelers already boast a burgeoning young tight end in Pat Freiermuth, plus solid depth in Connor Heyward and Zach Gentry. Yet, we saw the Bills add Kincaid as more of a middle-of-the-field option for Josh Allen to target. Why not open the seams even further and run more 12-personnel with new offensive assistant Glenn Thomas?
10. John Michael Schmitz, IOL, Minnesota
The Steelers fortified the perimeter of their offensive line by adding Jones with the 14th overall pick. Why not reinforce it even further for second-year Kenny Pickett?
While the team’s tackles and guards appear set, center is still an area that could be renovated. Mason Cole was merely decent in 2022 and has only two years left on his free agent deal. Tomlin and other coaches got a close look at Schmitz in Mobile, and drafting him would create competition with Cole.
Other Names to Watch
Sydney Brown, S, Illinois (No. 36)
Andrew Wilbar: Brown measured in at 5’10” at the Senior Bowl, which is 2 inches shorter than he was listed as. Nonetheless, he is a living missile on the field. Brown is a dynamic athlete who possesses great range, fluidity in coverage, and outstanding instincts. One of the biggest risers at the Senior Bowl, Brown has consistently showcased his ability to come downhill and play the run, hang with dynamic receivers in coverage, and even blitz off the edge. I want to see the Steelers bring back Terrell Edmunds as much as anyone else, if not more; however, if that does not work out, I would love to bring in Brown as a replacement. Do not take this comparison out of context, but from the hair, to the athleticism, to the ability to make splash plays, he does show flashes of a prime Troy Polomalu when at his best. He is still a little rough around the edges, but the ceiling is super high for Brown.
Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson (43)
Shannon White: Simpson embodies the modern day interior linebacker the league is looking for, possessing the superior mobility needed to excel in coverage. If I am correct, and the Steelers are looking to fill some of what was lost with Edmunds departure with a off ball linebacker selection, then Simpson could very well be at the top of their list. The former Clemson Tiger, at 6’2” and 235 lbs., has the size and skill profile of the modern day Mack. Simpson’s 4.43 forty shows up on film, as he can easily turn and run with most receivers. This ability has resulted in numerous evaluators suggesting the possibility of a Carnell Lake-like move to safety in the NFL, but not solely because of his elite level athleticism. Simpson lacks ideal instincts, and the physicality to disengage from blockers, similar to a recently departed predecessor. Based on those shortcomings alone, I cannot justify selecting him in the first round, but the Steelers may have other ideas.
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina (45)
Noah_E: This cornerback class doesn’t have anyone that truly stands out like Sauce Gardner or Patrick Surtain, but it’s a very deep class and Cam Smith should be mentioned with the top guys. He’s an elite-level athlete with the size to compete at the NFL level. He breaks on the ball as quickly as anyone I’ve ever seen and has proven he can create takeaways, with 6 interceptions over the last three years. Smith is also an outstanding tackler that knows how to wrap up and stop guys short. His ability to anticipate throws and his instincts will help him transition into the NFL. He lacks fluidity when flipping his hips and often gets beat by deep threats. Smith has got a big penalty problem, with 10 in 2022 alone. While he certainly possesses the skill set of a shutdown corner, his best chance to be an impactful player is in a zone scheme where he can utilize his athleticism, instincts, and his ability to read the quarterback. A switch to Safety could be very beneficial.
Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin (47)
Ryland B.: Keeanu Benton is one of my favorite defensive linemen in this class. He’s a big-bodied run-stuffer with elite size and strength, but he has surprising juice as a pass-rusher. His hands are active and violent, and he has tremendous power when collapsing the pocket. Benton does occasionally play a bit too high, which can negate the size/strength advantage he has over most offensive linemen. He also can lean a bit too far forwards when pass-rushing, which can cause him to lose his balance and any lateral agility. Benton can lose some steam as the game goes on, but this should easily be solved at the next level with some NFL conditioning as well as a defensive line rotation. Benton is a great fit for the Steelers’ late second round pick or third round pick to solidify the team’s starting defensive line.
Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn (48)
Noah_E: Simply put, Derick Hall is a freak. He’s 6’4” and 254 pounds with a wide frame, and his explosiveness is off the charts. He has the strength to go toe-to-toe with offensive linemen, but he can drop into zone coverage when asked. He understands leverage and knows how to use his hands to get the advantage over blockers. Hall has pretty good instincts and locates the ball quickly to make the tackle. He does tend to over-pursue a little and can take himself out of the play. His technique isn’t perfect, but with his elite athleticism, it’s good enough to get by. His potential is honestly through the roof. It’ll be interesting to see how high he goes. I think his best fit is as a 4-3 DE, but he certainly has the capabilities to be an OLB in a 3-4.
Joe Tippmann, IOL, Wisconsin (49)
John O: Tippman is a huge, strong center prospect. He plays smartly with awareness of what is happening around him. Despite his largesse, he possesses capable athleticism and mobility to pull on running plays plus moves well to block pass rushers. Wisconsin regularly ran successfully up the middle behind Tippmann repeatedly. He played center his last two years with the Badgers – after redshirting and then being a reserve. Tippmann possesses the size and strength to play guard and experimented with differing positions at the Senior Bowl. His unusual height creates certain questions at center versus shorter, quicker players who sometimes get the drop on him, stay low, and push him backward. He got called for more penalties than one would like also. Coaching will be key to assist Tippmann maintain leverage and control. Nonetheless, he strikes as a bright player with quality technique and will be a high draft pick. If his size at center proves problematic at center, Tippmann can play guard. He should be a long-term starter somewhere.
B.J. Ojulari, EDGE, LSU (51)
Necksnation: The younger brother of Giants standout Azeez Ojulari, BJ has intriguing upside as a pass rusher and could develop into a similarly skilled player in the NFL. A main concern about Ojulari is his size. At only 6’2” and 248 lbs, Ojulari isn’t necessarily built to overpower anyone at the line of scrimmage. His athleticism, however, is excellent, and allows him to compensate for being undersized. Quick and explosive at the line of scrimmage, Ojulari racked up 16.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss at LSU, and will be on the younger side entering the league at 21 years old. Ojulari still managed to thrive in college despite multiple defensive coordinator and scheme changes, showcasing his natural talent and ultimately his upside as an edge rusher. While he seems more likely to be a high second round pick, Ojulari could sneak into the back of the first round if a team finds itself enamored with his upside and athleticism.
Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah (52)
John O: Phillips was the Pac 12 defensive player of the year as a CB. This is a big honor as he’s a small, quick CB that mirrors WRs well, but should get outplayed by taller WRs. Phillips found a way in college via tenacity, gumption, and decent technique to play outside CB for Utah and play quite well. In the NFL, he’ll again need to make up for his subpar size and find a way to make plays. He likely has the legs and feet to help him do so as he bends and turns his hips better than most, plus he follows and plays the ball well. With his smaller size, some will project him as a slot CB, but he may be able to play outside. Again, he has better technique than many, and he seems to have the heart to match. His ability to defend the run and not get pushed around as an outside CB is in question. He will bring determination but will his body and technique hold up? Overall, Phillips will play in the NFL – likely for many years. The question is in what role.
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami (53)
Skyfire322: A transfer from Georgia, Stevenson was a pillar in Miami’s secondary. During his tenure in Miami, he was credited with 68 tackles (4 for loss), three INT’s and 11 PD. Thanks to his size, length, and speed, he can cover larger receivers and is adept in press coverage. He’s also a very physical corner with an uncanny ability to force receivers off their routes. He also adds special team value, as he returned punts from time to time (four times in 2022). While he plays aggressively, his tackling is inconsistent at times. He’s not very twitchy and can also get a little handsy, which in a pass-happy league, can result in a big play downfield. He’d be most suited in man coverage with his current skill set. Most of Stevenson’s issues are easily coachable, and if fixed, he can become a true disrupter in the NFL.
Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina (59)
Noah_E: After a great showing at the senior bowl and an even better combine, Darius Rush has been one of the biggest risers in the draft over the last few weeks. He was a receiver when he came to South Carolina and only switched to the defensive side of the ball during fall camp before his Redshirt Freshman season. His background as a receiver has benefited him greatly as he has incredible ball skills and seems to know where the ball is going before the receiver does. He has NFL-caliber length and athletic ability. Rush does a good job mirroring his man and is sticky in man coverage. He does need to be smoother in his transition and he doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with twitchier guys. Rush won’t be talked about with the premier guys in this class, but he’s going to make a team very happy.