2023 NFL Draft

Could Arizona’s Interest In OT Paris Johnson Jr. Put An End To Potential Steelers Trade Up?

During their pre-draft press conference Monday, HC Mike Tomlin and GM Khan floated that they have been considering moving either up or down in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.

They acknowledged that the Steelers are willing to be aggressive to go get a player at a premium position, but also that this draft class is deep, in their eyes, and would have no issue trading back in the first round — or with the 32nd pick at the top of the second round — should the return be too good to pass up.

According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, the Steelers have been contacting teams like the Chicago Bears (#9 overall) and the Tennessee Titans(#11 overall) regarding a possible trade up for an offensive tackle, specifically Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.

However, based on a recent report by Sport Illustrated’s Albert Breer, those calls may be in vain.

Breer tweeted out yesterday that the Arizona Cardinals, who pick at #3 overall in the first round, love both Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon as well as Paris Johnson Jr. Both are viewed in a better light by NFL teams compared to the media, Breer said, calling both likely top-10 picks.

The Arizona Cardinals sit in a great spot at #3 overall, having their franchise QB locked up with Kyler Murray inking a long-term deal last offseason. Arizona could go chalk and take the best edge rusher available at their current spot — Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson or Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. — or they could throw a curveball and take either Witherspoon or Johnson with the third pick, throwing mock drafts into the trash.

Arizona could instead use its pick as trade bait to move down a couple of spots with a team in the top 10 that wants to secure one of the top QBs left on the board and still be in-range to draft either Johnson or Witherspoon. The Colts could move up one spot from #4 to get their guy as could the Seattle Seahawks at #5, the Las Vegas Raiders at #7, or the Atlanta Falcons at #8.

Should this be the case and Arizona traded down to accumulate more draft capital, it still would be in prime position to take Johnson to protect Murray’s blindside as he rehabs from a torn ACL last season. While Pittsburgh could opt to take Georgia’s Broderick Jones in a trade-up scenario, Johnson is the more pro-ready prospect and makes the most sense to trade up for.

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is expected to be crazy as no one really knows what is happening after the first pick. While a trade-up scenario for the Steelers to secure an OT like Johnson is still plausible, I would hedge that it is probably not likely based on other teams’ perceived interest.

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