The NFL world is in somewhat of a standstill as they wait for the 2023 NFL Draft in just a few weeks. Nonetheless, the continual focus for media pundits everywhere is primarily on the first round. It makes sense, but 31 picks doesn’t make the entire draft.
There are plenty of good prospective players who are going to be available on Days 2-3, and ESPN recently highlighted several of those players to keep an eye out during the process.
Let’s take a look at what experts had to say...
Day 2 (Rounds 2-3)
Of the three players listed by the ESPN experts, they are absolutely positions the Pittsburgh Steelers will be keeping an eye on throughout the process.
Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
Mobile, versatile offensive tackles usually get pushed up the board, and Freeland could be the latest case. One veteran scout had a good comp for him: Kolton Miller. “That checks out for me when I watch him,” the scout said. Freeland has played a lot of football, starting 41 games for the Cougars over four seasons. At 6-foot-8 and 302 pounds, he also only allowed one sack in 2022. While he’s not a lock to go in the second round, he’s a threat to do so given how many teams need tackle help and prioritize the position.
Jartavius Martin, CB, Illinois
He’s repeatedly mentioned when talking to scouts. “We thought he was going to stay hidden after he suffered the injury during the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl, but the combine completely changed that,” an area scout said to me. Martin has spent time at both safety spots, outside corner and nickelback — and he’s a mainstay on special teams. His instincts stand out, as he trusts what he sees and isn’t shy about attacking downhill once he diagnoses. Martin picked off three passes, broke up 12 more and forced a pair of fumbles last season. After a really good combine showing, it would be surprising if he made it out of the top 75 picks.
Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
The buzz started at the Senior Bowl, when scouts and coaches were talking about Mingo’s build looking like A.J. Brown’s. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he does resemble Brown or Alshon Jeffery when watching him in person. And like those big-bodied wideouts, Mingo has the power to box out defenders and is a menace on breaking routes, helping him to 16.9 yards per catch last season. He ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine and elevated his status to Round 2 target. Teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Bills and Chiefs all make sense for him at the end of the second round.
Day 3 (Rounds 4-7)
While the Steelers might not be interested in adding to their running back room, adding a quarterback in the late rounds isn’t out of the question. After all, there are still only two quarterbacks on the roster. As for defensive line depth, can you ever have too much quality depth? I don’t think so...
Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
Even though he was No. 2 running back at Texas behind Bijan Robinson, Johnson caught the eye of scouts. He carried the ball only 93 times last season but averaged six yards per tote. And while he lacks an A-level trait, he’s very well-rounded. Johnson is a natural tackle-breaker who runs with power and vision, and he has also contributed on special teams, which is repeatedly brought up by scouts on what separates him from the rest of a deep running back class. The most common projection for Johnson from people in the league is the third or fourth round.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
The quarterback class has a sizable drop-off in talent after Hendon Hooker, but scouts are starting to buzz about Thompson-Robinson, likely the QB6 in this class. DTR is a former top prep recruit who started 48 times in college and was highly productive as both a passer and runner, finishing 11th last season in QBR (82.1) and also rushing for 12 touchdowns. With 4.56 speed and experience in a pro-style system, Thompson-Robinson isn’t the project many are expecting him to be in the NFL. An early Day 3 selection wouldn’t surprise me.
Scott Matlock, DT, Boise State
He was an All-Mountain West second-teamer who didn’t participate in the combine, but he showed at his pro day that he can move at 6-foot-4 and 296 pounds, and scouts see value in the later rounds. “I like his athleticism, body type, lower-body strength and flexibility,” a veteran scout said. “I think he will develop into a starter.”
As a bonus, TCU running back Kendre Miller has had a quiet pre-draft process while recovering from an MCL injury, but he still has plenty of fans in NFL circles because of his toughness and explosion.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.