Historically, NFL Network’s Peter Schrager has had one of the more accurate mock drafts every year, in large part due to his connections around the league and the inside information to which he has access.
So, when he drops a mock this close to the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s certainly worth taking some stock in.
In Schrager’s latest mock draft released Tuesday morning, he pairs the Pittsburgh Steelers with a potential franchise-altering left tackle in Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. at No. 17 overall, giving Pittsburgh arguably its top target in the draft.
“The Steelers like plucking prospects from Ohio State. Johnson is a versatile pass protector who can play right away and shouldn’t escape the top 20,” Schrager writes. “I have Pittsburgh passing on Joey Porter’s son, which just doesn’t feel right. Oh well.”
Johnson is considered one of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft and is a consensus top-15 player in the class. He rates as the top offensive tackle on some big boards and is a consensus top-3 guy at the position.
Though it’s unlikely Johnson falls to No. 17 overall, in Schrager’s mock there are some interesting selections prior to the Steelers getting on the board. He has Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker coming off the board at No. 11 to Tennessee, just ahead of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis at No. 12 overall to Houston, not to mention Texas running back Bijan Robinson at No. 10 to Philadelphia and Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid at No. 16 to Washington, pushing Johnson down the board to the Steelers.
As Schrager alluded to, he grabbed Johnson for the Steelers over Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., who went one pick later to Detroit at No. 18 overall.
At 6′ 6″ and 310 pounds, Johnson is a prototypical offensive tackle. He played on one of the best offensive lines in college football at Ohio State and was a dominant force for the Buckeyes, even after moving from guard to tackle in recent seasons before really coming into his own last year at left tackle.
Here is what Steelers Depot’s own Tyler Wise wrote about Johnson in his draft profile for the site:
“Johnson is a really intriguing prospect. There’s a little bit of projection to him as he’s only played 13 college games at left tackle, but you could tangibly see him get more comfortable as the season progressed at his natural position. Right now, I think the biggest thing he’ll struggle with in the NFL is power rushers. Until he stops giving up his chest due to his poor hand technique and bolsters his lower body strength, they are going to present him with problems. I don’t think he’s the squeaky-clean prospect that some people may promote him as, but he possesses all the intangibles you could want in a franchise left tackle: size, athleticism, aggressiveness, smarts, etc. The technique is all coachable and can be worked out of his game. For that reason, I could easily see him being the first offensive lineman off the board in this year’s draft.”
With Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor slated to start the season as the bookend tackles once again, and with just Le’Raven Clark behind the pair as depth, tackle remains a major need for the Black and Gold. Johnson would be that franchise stalwart with which to build around. He could push Moore to a reserve swing role or cause him to slide back over to right tackle, where he got some work in training camp and the preseason in his rookie year.