Pressure is nothing new to first round draft picks in the NFL. The pressure starts the minute those invites go out to the players that will be invited to the draft. Images of Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers sitting in the green room, waiting for hours to hear their name be called by the commissioner can be a draft pick’s greatest fear. Or struggling to live up to the player’s draft position to avoid being labeled as one of the all-time biggest busts like Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf. While these factors all play a role in the amount of pressure for a first-round pick, there is an added level of pressure for a prospect like Joey Porter Jr. Can he live up to the defensive standard that his father set with the Pittsburg Steelers?
People may forget how ridiculous Joey Porter was during his NFL career. The linebacker is a legend for a franchise that is known for the defensive players that donned the black and gold. Joey Porter was a Super Bowl Champion. He was a four-time Pro Bowler. He amassed 98 sacks in his career. He forced 26 fumbles and had 12 interceptions. He was a devastating force that kept offensive coordinators up at night and haunted the dreams of opposing Quarterbacks. And now after this legendary career, he gets to have one of the greatest joys as a father: Watching your child achieve his dream in becoming a first round NFL draft pick.
The Son of the Beast
Joey Porter Jr. was a four-star cornerback out of Pennsylvania. He held offers from LSU, Maryland, Miami, West Virginia and Pittsburgh before finally deciding to attend Penn St. and become a Nittany Lion. The 6’2 standout would redshirt in 2019 for the Nittany Lions, only appearing in 3 games that season. In the strange CoVid year of 2020, Porter Jr. became a young, key piece for the defense on a team that struggled throughout that year. That defense started their transformation going into the 2021 season, as expectations were high for Penn St. Expectations were placed on the shoulders of Porter Jr. to lock down one side of the field. Opponents began to test the redshirt sophomore. He responded with 50 total tackles. That’s one clear point with Joey Porter Jr., he tackles like a safety. He inherited the tough tackling gene from his father and the willingness to mix it up on the outside with wide receivers. While some analysis will get stuck on the lack of overall statistics, the understanding on defensive statistics for cornerbacks shows that offenses tended to stay away from that side of the field.
In 2021, Joey Porter Jr. went toe to toe against the opposing team’s best wide receiver. The matchup that will have people salivating is the battle between him and Garrett Wilson. Joey Porter Jr. gave Wilson all he could handle that night in Columbus. Wilson still wound up having 7 receptions for 82 yards, it was the lowest yards per reception for the entire season. Throughout the tape, Joey Porter Jr. excels in man to man coverage. He showed closing speed when an Ohio State receiver would catch a ball in space. At times, he would use his hands too much and get called for pass interference, but the first round talent was extremely clear as he matched up with the best receiver in the 2022 draft class. Penn State was probably better than their 7-6 record that year, but the major issue was the defense would be on the field for way too long.
The Battle of the Legendary Sons
Joey Porter Jr. isn’t the player in the Big 10 with a legendary father. In Columbus, the off-spring of Marvin Harrison is taking after his father at the wide receiver position. Marvin Harrison Jr. is considered by many experts as the best wide receiver in the 2024 NFL draft class. Coming into this matchup, Penn State had only a single loss to Michigan, while Ohio State at the time was undefeated. The two Big 10 East powers traded their best shots during this game. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Ohio State won the day and Harrison put on a clinic with 10 catches for 185 yards. Time after time, CJ Stroud picked apart the Nittany Lions’ defense through the air on their way to a victory. After seeing the end result, most common people would believe that Harrison dominated the matchup because Penn State would obviously put their best cornerback against Ohio State’s best receiver right?
Only 2 of Harrison’s 10 catches came against when he was directly lined up against Joey Porter Jr.. One of those two catches, the Penn State defense is clearly in a zone coverage and Harrison finds a soft spot in the zone to provide an easy completion for Stroud. Joey Porter Jr. closes on Harrison and makes the stop. After watching the tape, when set in man coverage, the battle between these two second generation football talents was an absolute war. It was physical and brought out the best of both players. Throughout the entire day, CJ Stroud’s read was to find the blue number 9 jersey and make the reads away from his direction. Stroud finished that day with 354 yards passing, but over 250 of those yards went to Harrison Jr. and Tight End Cade Stover. The majority of the pass offense went away from Joey Porter Jr. out of respect for his ability. Joey Porter Jr. finished the day with a total of 4 solo tackles. Even in a defeat, he eliminated an option for one of the best offenses in college football
Cornerbacks in the draft
In the NFL, cornerback has become a premier position that NFL franchises covet. The numbers speak for themselves. In the last three drafts, 17 cornerbacks have been taken in the first round. That’s an 18% usage rate of draft capital on first round corners. This reflects the shift in the NFL, moving away from traditional base 4-3 or 3-4 defenses and needing additional corners for the nickel and dime packages that a found commonly in an NFL game. A NFL team must have at least two or three solid cornerbacks to keep up with pass happy offenses that can be found throughout. NFL General Managers are going to place a high priority on cornerbacks that can play press coverage and shut down an entire side of a field. In 2022, players like Sauce Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr. became top 5 picks due to these abilities. Joey Porter Jr. should be the next in line to hear his name called near the top of the draft.
Cornerbacks like Joey Porter Jr. are in demand in the NFL more than ever. At 6’2, he has the size and length to challenge most NFL receivers. His 4.46 40-yard dash time shows that he has the speed that could easily make him into a special talent on Sunday afternoons. The challenges placed upon him are living up to the name of his father. Throughout the dive into his college film, the talent is there perhaps more than that of his father as he came out of Colorado St. His natural ability is truly special and definitely warrants a team using a top pick in the draft to add a remarkable level of talent. By the end of his career, they may easily go down as one of the greatest defensive father-son combinations to ever step foot on an NFL field. This will be a story of family and the power of football to unite parents with their children through the love of football.