A return of our Summer Scouting Series here at Steelers Depot as we highlight several 2023 NFL Draft hopefuls that are generating buzz prior to the start of the 2022 CFB season at positions that the Pittsburgh Steelers may have interest in several months from now once the pre-draft process gets underway.
#9 Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State (R-Junior) – 6’2, 198lb
— Has great height and length for the position with the frame to fill out more (6’2, 198lb)
— Has experience in the slot, but has seen most of his action on the outside
— Does his best work up-close and personal in press man coverage, using his length and physicality to throw WRs off their route
— Played in a system that required him to play press man, off man, and in zone coverages
— Can body up bigger receivers and TEs over the middle of the field, along the sideline and in the red zone
— Length and leaping ability aids in contesting 50/50 balls to the receiver
— Willing tackler when it comes to downhill pursuit in the run game
— Can bring some punishment when asked to blitz off the edge
— Plays hard and shows effort in pursuit as a tackler, chasing guys down from behind
— Could stand to add more size and strength to his frame to get off blocks better
— Good athlete, but doesn’t possess amazing deep speed or explosiveness
— Erratic as a tackler, far too often dropping his head and diving at the defender than running his legs on contact
— Tends to fall off tackle attempts more than you like
— Feet get caught in quicksand at the top of the receiver’s route as he anticipates the break
— Will be slow to react to changes in direction, leading to separation being created by his assigned coverage receiver
— Gets grabby down the field and at the top of route stems, leading to PI calls
— Gets lost at times when trying to track the ball in the air in coverage
— Very light ball production at the position with one INT in three seasons
— Redshirt Junior prospect from Bakersfield, CA
— Father, Joey Sr., was the outside linebackers coach for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and played 13 seasons for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals
— Cousin, Jason Gildon, played ten years for the Steelers and one season for the Jacksonville Jaguars
— Cousins Larry Birdine Jr and Sheldon Croney Jr., played college football with Birdine playing three seasons in the NFL
— Majoring in rehabilitation and human services with plans to take over his mother’s business, The Jasmine Nyree Day Center
— Moved from CA to play football at North Allegheny High School in PA
— Named All-USA Pennsylvania Football Team first team by USA Today in 2018
— Rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports and ESPN
— Also, an accomplished track and field athlete in high school
— Appeared in four games as a true freshman in 1029, recording three total tackles and one PBU
— Appeared and started in eight games in 2020 and made 33 tackles on the season (24 solo) to go along with two tackles for loss, one sack and four pass breakups
— Made 13 starts at cornerback in 2021 and finished with 51 tackles (40 solo), one forced fumble, one interception and four pass breakups
— Third-team All-Big Ten (2021), honorable mention All-Big Ten (2020)
If the name Joey Porter Jr. sounds familiar to you, it probably should. Porter is indeed the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers OLB and OLB Coach Joey Porter Sr who left a mark as one of the key pieces of a stout defense that helped take home the Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl XL. His son has followed in his father’s footsteps, relocating from California to North Allegheny when his dad started coaching in Pittsburgh and made himself a sought-after high school recruit at cornerback. Porter ended up choosing in-state Penn State where he spent one year as a reserve before becoming an entrenched starter the past two seasons.
When you pop in the tape on Porter, you see a long, lanky CB that uses his length well in coverage. He can cover up larger portions of space and minimize passing lanes thanks to his reach as well as his leaping ability to challenge jump balls. Here is an example against Ohio State where Porter covers up #5 Garrett Wilson well on an overthrow in the end zone.
Here is another example in the same game where Porter gets the pass breakup on Wilson despite the offsides penalty by his teammate. He is quick to get back on task once the ball is snapped and Wilson goes into his route and keeps good position in the end zone as the ball arrives, nearly picking off the pass as the WR plays the defender role and knocks down the pass.
As mentioned earlier, Porter’s long arms aid his ability to make plays on the football even when not in perfect position. Here against the Auburn Tigers, we see Porter carry a receiver vertically up the sideline, being a tad slow as he turns around and gets a little grabby as the ball arrives, by manages to knock down the pass despite slightly overrunning the play.
When he’s in position, Porter does a good job playing through the receiver’s hands at the catch point in attempt to deflect passes. Watch this rep against Indiana where Porter runs in-stride with the WR up the sideline and react to him turning back to the football, reaching his right arm through to contest the pass and force the incompletion.
This next rep by Porters shows both good coverage ability as well as great effort in pursuit. See how Porter aligns in the slot and covers up Wilson in tight man coverage. However, #7 C.J. Stroud throws the ball to #11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba who catches the ball and turns up field. Porter gets on his horse and manages to run down Smith-Njigba from behind, preventing the long TD catch-and-run.
Porter has also flashed his father’s skill set as a pass rusher at times at Penn State when sent off the edge as a blitzer. Whether it be run support or as a pass rusher, Porter has the speed and long strides to cover ground quickly to get into the backfield like we see on this sack against the Hoosiers.
Porter is a willing tackler when it comes to run support, being a volunteer to stick his face in the fan against bigger, stronger runners. Watch this rep against the Tigers where Porter comes up on the outside run to the right and squares up #4 Tank Bigsby. Now, Porter drops his head and stalls his feet on contact, resulting in Bigsby truck sticking him. Still, Porter manages to latch on and drag Bigsby down from behind with the aid of his teammate.
As you can see above, Porter isn’t the strongest tackler when it comes to running his feet on contact and form tackling the ballcarrier. He drops his head far too often and will be out of position, looking to chop them down by the legs than making a sound tackle attempt. Porter gets put on Bigsby’s highlight tape here as he comes to the scene head down and uncontrolled, resulting in Bigsby hurdling him as he slides to the turf.
Porter also struggles with having slow feet at times at the top of the route, getting his eyes glued into the backfield fixed on the QB’s eye rather than seeing the receiver getting on top of him. Here against the Tigers, Porter fails to carry the receiver vertically as his eyes gets stuck in the backfield, resulting in the receiver getting open in the end zone, but luckily the pass drifts away towards the safety who contests the pass.
Another bad habit Porter has is his tendency to grab opposing receivers at the top of their route as they come out of their break. Since he doesn’t move his feet quick enough in transition, Porter will allow separation, causing him to panic and grab the opposition, resulting in pass interference calls like you see in the examples below.
Overall, Joey Porter Jr. is a long corner prospect that best excels when he can play close to his competition in press man situations. His length can be his greatest asset as he can contest passes in short areas as well as challenge bigger receivers in the red zone. He has experience playing in off man as well as zone coverage and can be used as a blitzer coming off the edge.
Still, Porter lacks great twitch and fluid transition skills at the position, being slow to react at times to route stems in front of him which leads to getting too hands-on with WRs. He needs to clean up his tackling to be a reliable contributor in that area and needs to play with better position when the football is up in the air
When watching Porter, Tre Flowers of the Cincinnati Bengals came to mind as a reasonable pro comparison. Flowers was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma State, also being a long. lean cover corner that does his best work contesting bigger receivers in close quarters with his length or playing the ball in front of him in zone. Like Porter, Flowers is a good, yet not elite athlete that can struggle at times transitioning in coverage and being a consistent tackler. Still, Flowers has seen plenty of starting opportunity in his career thus far, starting 41 games for the Seahawks and Bengals as an average/below average player at the position in the league.
At this point, I see a similar career path for Porter who will entice NFL teams with his size, length, and bloodline as well as being a reported high-character player. Still, he will have to greatly improve his consistency in coverage and as a tackler as well as cut down on the PI calls in 2022 to go from being a potential player to contend for being one of the first CBs off the board. Pittsburgh technically has Witherspoon and Wallace under contract for 2023, but with Cam Sutton a scheduled free agent and their affinity for NFL bloodlines, Porter could be a player Pittsburgh targets that they will have background information on.
Projection: Day Three
Games Watched: at Ohio State (2021), vs Auburn (2021), at Indiana (2020)