Whenever you are a first-round, especially one that a team traded up for, there will be a demand for instant gratification. That will be the case with the Steelers’ 2023 first-round draft pick, left tackle Broderick Jones, who already has a sizeable hype train around him.
When you watch Jones at a glance, how can you not be excited right off the bat? He’s got a fantastic frame, elite athleticism, and some awe-inspiring highlight reel plays. That is why he went 14th overall, after all. However, beneath all of that, there are some real concerns with Jones’ game.
Right after Pittsburgh selected Broderick Jones, I said that there were going to be some real growing pains with him. After seeing him in person already, the frame, athleticism, and intangibles, well they are all as advertised. But the real problem is in the pudding, which is his technique on tape.
I talked with Jones already about the in-depth technique tweaks that Pat Meyer is working on with him. That includes his footwork, hand usage, and his center of gravity. They all intertwine with a list of other issues that correspond with his perceived rawness. Let’s just say this — his whole kinetic chain has to be restructured and rewired and that is going to take time. In addition, he will learn Meyer’s philosophy of independent hands rather than the two-hand punching technique he employed at Georgia.
With all of that in-depth stuff out of the way, let me cut to the chase. It’s going to take time for Jones to play at a high level in the NFL. Even more poignantly, I think it might take a good bit of time for him to even play at a starter level. Whether he starts Week 1 or not is irrelevant to the point. When he sees the football field, he will have his lumps, and those will be significant lumps at that.
The team drafted Jones to be the future, but that does not mean his level of play will be the now. I can already picture a scenario where he struggles early on in the season and there are some that will panic out there. Do not fall into that trap. Jones will absolutely have a lot of rough patches early in his NFL career given the technical deficiencies he has right now. But that could mean he has a much higher ceiling for it on the other end.
Jones has some similar issues to Evan Neal of the Giants, who came out last year. And, yeah, Neal really struggled. That could be the type of season you see with Jones. Hey, it might not even fully click until Year 2. Playing the offensive line in the NFL is hard, especially when your technique base is changing so drastically.
So, Jones will have lofty expectations. I understand that fact. But the struggles are very likely to happen. There might be some negative reports out of training camp. The game tape at first could be hard to watch. And that should not surprise one person. With Jones, patience is a virtue.