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.
#3 Jordan Addison, WR, USC (Junior) – 6’0, 175lb
— Has average height but great arm length for the position
— Possesses the play strength to make contested catches and win jump balls
— Can contort his body in the air to make impressive circus catches
— Has good play speed and explosiveness for the position
— Can beat defensive backs vertically down the field as a seam stretcher
— Can elevate into the air to come down with the jump ball
— Does a good job putting the defender in a bind before coming out of his brakes
— Will get on a defender’s toes before breaking out of his route, not telegraphing where he is going before he breaks out of his route
— Does a good job stemming his routes, getting leverage on the DB in coverage or breaking in a way to get separation
— Can win with the ball in his hands both on quick screens, slants/crossers over the middle, and on the deep ball by creating after the catch
— Possesses good quickness and change of direction ability to evade defenders in the open field as a runner
— Does a good job on the scramble drill to find open space or to adjust his route as his QB extends the play
— Brings the skill set of a viable punt returner to the table
— A willing blocker despite his thin frame
— Possesses a thin, frail frame for NFL standards
— Didn’t face much press man coverage his first two seasons
— Has good speed, but doesn’t possess that rare second gear as a receiver
— Can be more nuanced as a route runner to set up defenders as well as have more crisp breaks to limit recovery time by DBs
— Pad level gets high at times right before he breaks
— Did most of his damage in the slot compared to the outside during his breakout season, raising questions as to whether he can consistently win outside as a WR1
— Has a notable drop issue, dropping 10+ passes the last two seasons and posting a 11.6% career drop rate
— Junior prospect from Frederick, MD
— One of ten children (six brothers, three sisters)
— Played wide receiver, quarterback, and defensive back as a four-year varsity starter
— Rated the nation’s No. 21 wide receiver recruit by 247Sports
— Enrolled early at Pitt in January of 2020
— Played in ten games, starting eight in 2020 as a freshman and totaled 60 receptions, 666 yards (11.1 YPR) and four scores along with nine carries for 58 yards, also returned two punts and two kicks on the season
— Broke out as a sophomore in 2021, starting all 14 games and broke the Pitt single-season reception record with 100 catches for 1,593 receiving yards (15.9 YPR) and 17 touchdowns while chipping in seven carries for 56 yards and a score, also returned 12 punts for 185 yards (15.4 YPR).
— Totaled eight 100-yard receiving games on the season in 2021, second at Pitt only to Fitzgerald’s 10 in 2003
— Won the prestigious Biletnikoff Award as college football’s most outstanding receiver for his accomplishments in 2021
— Entered the transfer portal and enrolled at USC for his junior season in 2022
— First team All-American (2021), first team All-ACC (2021), Honorable Mention All-ACC (2020), Freshman All-American (2020)
For those at home that watched Pitt QB Kenny Pickett lead the Pitt Panthers to the ACC crown in 2021, he did so with the help of another talented player destined for a career in the league as well. That name is Jordan Addison, former Pitt WR who entered the transfer portal this spring and has since committed to play for Lincoln Riley at USC this fall. Addison enjoyed the fruits of Pickett’s success at Pitt this past season, winning the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver after breaking out as a true sophomore. Now suiting up in Southern California this fall, Addison will look to capitalize playing with fellow transfer QB Caleb Williams to cement his status atop the 2023 WR draft class.
When watching the tape on Addison, there are several aspects that immediately stick out. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, he can win vertically down the field as a deep threat gain leverage on defenders at the top of his route while also using his long strides to run past coverage. Here is one example from New Hampshire where Addison runs past the defender down the seam can catches the ball over the shoulder for six.
Addison did plenty of his damage as a slot receiver in 2021, catching 12 of his 17 TDs from the slot according to Pro Football Focus. Here is one of those scores against Western Michigan where Addison sells the inside release then sticks his foot into the ground and goes vertical up the seam, catching the TD in contested coverage on an under thrown ball by QB Kenny Pickett in the end zone.
As you can see in the rep above, Addison has fairly good play strength and body control given his slight frame. He has made several contested catches in tough coverage like this one on the left sideline against Clemson where Addison runs up the sideline and elevates for the football, getting undercut by the safety coming in, but manages to come down with the catch after the big shot and hard fall in the air.
Addison’s body control and ability to contort his body in the air is eerily like that of former USC and Steelers WR Lynn Swann. Watch on this play against Miami where Addison works to get a step of separation on the outside against the corner. However, Pickett again under throws Addison as he gets separation, leaving Addison to have to come back to the ball. Addison manages to track the ball in the air and come down with the catch, snagging it while being tackled by the defender along the sideline to move the chains.
If you want to see Addison’s body control on full display, check out this impressive grab along the sideline against Wake Forest, snagging the ball out of the air and managing to get both feet down in bounds to secure the catch.
According to PFF, Addison scored eight TDs against man coverage in 2021, second to only Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith in 2020 and ahead of Ja’Marr Chase in 2019. Addison does a good job working to get open against coverage, putting defenders in a bind when he gets on their toes as well as when he manages to get behind him. Watch Addison here on the corner route against Virginia as Pickett buys time, catching the ball with a defender fighting for possession as well. Addison wins the wrestle for the football as the defender hits the grass, proceeding to take off for the long catch-and-run TD.
Here is another example of Addison winning against man coverage in the slot against Tennessee in the red zone, running a slant pattern against the DB and breaks inside, catching the ball outside his frame for the score. I would like to see Addison get closer to the DB before breaking and have better pad level before his break, but still a nice TD catch.
Not only can Addison win as a normal receive on a route or in contest catch situations, but he also can make some magic happen with the ball in his hands after the catch. He has good acceleration as a long strider and can evade defenders with some start/stop quickness. Check out this screen pass Addison catches on the left side turning up field and spinning out of a tackle attempt as he crosses field toward daylight and proceeds to take it to the house.
Addison uses that same skill set as a punt returner, having that ability to make defenders miss in open space and get yardage thanks to his vision as a runner. Watch this punt return against Virginia that Addison catches and takes toward the sideline, getting up field and runs away from several coverage guys in pursuit taking the ball well into Cavalier territory before being dropped on the tackle.
When it comes to negatives on Addison, his size will stick out to some. Much like DeVonta Smith, many question whether he weights 175lb, having a thin frame given his height and length. He also isn’t an elite athlete at the position and can stand to be a crisper route runner, generating more separation rather than winning on contested catches. Part of that was QB play, but to succeed in the NFL, he will have to do a better job not telegraphing his breaks to opposing DBs.
Addison’s main cardinal sin as a receiver is his issue with drops. Pro Football Focus has charted Addison with 10+ drops in consecutive seasons in college, posting a career drop rate of 11.6%. For reference, Diontae Johnson’s drop rate back in 2020 when he got roasted by the media was 9%. Most of the issue for Addison isn’t that his hands are bad, as we have seen him make impressive grabs in clips above. Rather, he has an issue with concentration drops, not looking the ball in through the catch or hearing footsteps over the middle like on this drop against Michigan State.
Therefore, while Jordan Addison shares plenty of similarities to DeVonta Smith in terms of size and prestige at the college level, I would say a more accurate comparison for Addison would be Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson (although there is some Swann in his game). Johnson is also an undersized WR that wins both as a route runner as well as deep down the field as a vertical threat despite running a 4.53 40. He has experience as a punt returner as well both in college as well as in the pros and create with the ball in his hands after the catch. He has made some impressive, contested catches during his career thus far, but also has struggled with concentration drops, namely during his 2020 campaign.
Overall, Jordan Addison brings some impressive tape to the table with his ability to win in a multitude of ways. Still, he needs to prove that his size won’t be a hinderance from playing outside as he didn’t see press coverage often at Pitt when he plays more athletic, physical corners in the league. He also will have to gets his drops vetted as while it is expected that more-targeted WRs will drop more balls, over 20 drops in two seasons at the college level doesn’t spell for good things in the league.
Still, Addison is a real threat both in the quick game near the LOS as well as down the field, whether it be vertically or improving to give his QB a target. He plays stronger than his size suggests, winning jump balls with impressive body control.
Pittsburgh may not be in a major need to draft a WR high right now, but should Johnson not be back in 2023 and Chase Claypool fail to rebound in 2022, Pittsburgh could elect to select another one early. While other needs may preface WR on the roster, we have seen the likes of the Bengals, Eagles, and Dolphins recently bypass other needs to pair their QBs with a former college teammate at WR. Who’s to say that Addison couldn’t be Pittsburgh’s replacement plan for Diontae Johnson in 2023 should he sign elsewhere as a free agent, pairing up he and Pickett once again in Heinz Field for years to come.
Projection: Mid-to-Late Day One
Games Watched: vs Virginia (2021), vs Western Michigan (2021), at Tennessee (2021), vs New Hampshire (2021)