The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?
Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.
Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.
Today, we are going to break down a position group the Steelers made multiple moves at this offseason: offensive line. The Steelers appear to have the guard and tackle positions set for at least the next couple years, but what about center? Mason Cole has a strong first season with the Steelers, and he is in great position to improve even more this year. However, the Steelers may not see him as the long-term answer. Could they be in the market for a lineman early? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.
Potential first-round prospects
Olumuyiwa Fashanu | OT | Penn State
Fashanu would have been in the OT1 conversation if he had remained in the 2023 draft. Instead, he decided to return to school and build on the impressive campaign he had as a redshirt sophomore. At 6’6”, Fashanu provides ideal length with athleticism to match. For someone with as little collegiate experience as he has, Fashanu displays beautiful footwork in pass protection and a consistent pad level in run blocking. He is likely to go top 10 next April.
Sedrick Van Pran | C | Georgia
Almost never do you see a center prospect who could go inside the top 10-15 picks, but next year, we may have just that. Van Pran was the catalyst of a stacked Georgia offensive line in 2022, and he heads into 2023 with the challenge of playing next to several new faces on the line. While being an elite athlete at the position, Van Pran also displays sweet feet, above-average power, and great hand placement. He has the potential to be a top-3 center in the NFL for the next 15 years.
Joe Alt | OT | Notre Dame
If you like long tackles, you will fall in love with Joe Alt. At 6’8”, 315 pounds, Alt is incredibly swift on his feet, quick out of his stance, and technically sound in the run game. While not the most power run blocker, Alt defies his build and displays a consistent pad level, which allows him to attack the defender with the right momentum at key leverage points. He could also go as early as the top 10.
JC Latham | OT | Alabama
Perhaps the most physical of the top tackles, Latham is a people-eater in the run game while displaying above-average anchoring ability in pass protection. His long arms make life difficult on edge rushers coming around the edge, as Latham combines his length with outstanding footwork, allowing him to mirror effectively. If his athleticism numbers match the tape, he is a surefire first-round pick.
Donovan Jackson | G | Ohio State
Jackson had the benefit of playing in between Paris Johnson, Jr. and Luke Wypler in 2022, but this year, the spotlight will be on him. Jackson is not the greatest puller, and his athleticism may not be to the level of, say, a Quentin Nelson. However, he is a mauler that can handle just about any defender one-on-one as a run blocker. Guards do not typically go early in Round 1, but in the later portions of the round, I could see teams giving Jackson a hard look.
Others on the fringe
Options for the Steelers
Unless both Chukwuma Okorafor and Dan Moore, Jr. fizzle out at right tackle, I do not see the team taking a tackle extremely early. However, I would love to see Sedrick Van Pran join his former teammate Broderick Jones in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have attempted to find a long-term center with Maurkice Pouncey look-alikes (i.e. Kendrick Green, Spencer Anderson), but Van Pran is a talent actually capable of playing to the level of a prime Pouncey. Depending on where the Steelers are picking in Round 1, I expect the team to look long and hard at the Georgia standout.
Which offensive linemen are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!