Depending on how you view things currently for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise could go in a number of directions in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, at least as we sit here today.
Cornerback and inside linebacker remain major needs on the highest-paid defense in football, while in the trenches the Steelers could use some serious help on both sides of the football. At 7-8 on the season and still fighting for a playoff spot, the Steelers went from potentially picking inside the top 5 to sitting just inside the top 20 at the moment at No. 16 overall.
That might not be the ideal spot overall year in and year out in the draft, but the 2023 NFL Draft appears to be a promising one on paper to this point. So, at No. 16 overall a good talent will be there. That’s exactly what happened in the latest mock draft from Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema Wednesday morning as Sikkema has the Steelers addressing the offensive line in his latest mock draft, landing Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones at No. 16 overall.
In the mock draft exercise, Jones is the third offensive tackle off the board, with Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski going No. 11 overall to Houston, and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. going No. 15 overall to the New York Jets.
“After drafting what could be their franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett in the first round last year, the Steelers need to fix their offensive tackle woes,” Sikkema writes in his mock draft regarding the Steelers selection of Jones at No. 16 overall. “Broderick Jones started at left tackle for the first time this year, and it was clear he was still adjusting to how to best brace for and counter better pass-rush moves, but he checks a lot of the size and athleticism boxes, as well as shows good flexibility in his base to stay low at the snap. Those are all signs of an offensive tackle worth taking a chance on in the late teens.”
Jones should be no stranger to readers of Steelers Depot, as our own Jonathan Heitritter profiled the Bulldog in his Summer Scouting series as a name to watch for the black and gold.
As the starting left tackle at Georgia in 2022, Jones posted a PFF grade of 78.5, including a pass-blocking grade of 83.0 and a run-blocking grade of 73.1. In 805 snaps on the season, Jones was called for just two penalties.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound left tackle allowed just eight pressures all season in 399 pass blocking reps, with six hurries and two quarterback hits. He did not allow a sack on the season.
Though current Steelers Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor have been better in recent weeks as pass blockers and run blockers, both are upgradeable as things currently stand. While Jones is a great athlete with impressive size and overall production at Georgia, he has just one year of true starting experience at left tackle, which is a slight concern.
That said, he’s an accomplished run blocker that could thrive in that area right away in the NFL. Here’s what Heitritter had to say about Jones back in the summer:
“Overall, Broderick Jones is a raw, yet talented offensive tackle prospect that came on strong last season for the Bulldogs, helping them dominate on the ground en route to a National Championship,” Heitritter said of Jones in his Summer Scouting series from June. “He is a well-accomplished run blocker that looks to enforce his will on his opponent with physicality and an aggressive style of play. His athleticism and movement skills remind me personally of another redshirt sophomore who just got drafted in Charles Cross. However, a better comparison for Jones at this juncture would be Vikings OT Christian Darrisaw who too possessed impressive mobility and a fluid lower half for his size while playing with a similar frame and excelled as a run blocker for the Hokies when coming out of Virginia Tech.”
The Steelers need that type of nastiness in the running game up front, especially at right tackle where Okorafor is a great athlete but lacks the overall punch in the run game.
While it is a new front office regime in Pittsburgh now following the retirement of longtime GM Kevin Colbert in May, it’s worth noting that not once during Colbert’s tenure did the organization select a tackle in the first round of any NFL Draft. The last time that the Steelers did select a tackle in the first round of a draft was in 1996 when Jamain Stephens was picked 29th overall out of North Carolina A&T.
That selection didn’t go so well as Stephens lasted just two seasons and played only 11 games. New GM Omar Khan has new faces in the front office in assistant GM Andy Weidl and Director of Pro Scouting Sheldon White so that streak of no tackle selection in the first round could be broken rather quickly into Khan’s tenure with a guy like Jones.