USC's Jordan Addison and others among great first-round picks for NFL draft

One is wideout Jordan Addison, who had tremendous success at schools on opposite sides of the country.

Another is defensive tackle Jalen Carter, once projected to be the top pick but now steeped in controversy.

Yet another is cornerback Joey Porter Jr., with the weighty challenge of living up to his own name.

These are some of the other guys, the non-quarterbacks who will be selected Thursday in the first round of the NFL draft and will be rookies to watch Sundays this upcoming season.

The NFL is holding the draft in Kansas City for the first time, with the first round Thursday, the second and third rounds Friday, and rounds four through seven on Saturday. Seventeen prospects are planning to attend, among them Addison, Carter and Porter.

Three quarterbacks could be among the first five players selected: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Kentucky’s Will Levis and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker also might go in the first round.

Porter, a star cornerback at Penn State, is named for his father, the five-time All-Pro linebacker and Pittsburgh Steelers legend.

“My dad’s been there before,” the younger Porter said in reference to his father’s NFL career. “He’s done it. I want to do the same thing and just be better. That’s the main thing. He always told me he wants me to be better than him, so that’s what I’m gonna strive to do and that’s why I’m here.”

Porter was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection last season, having given up just 143 yards receiving in 10 games and recording 11 pass breakups.

There’s a good chance he will be chosen around the middle of the opening round, and the same goes for USC receiver Addison, who also has a Pittsburgh connection. He was a standout pass catcher for the University of Pittsburgh for two seasons before transferring to the Trojans.

At the scouting combine, Addison made it clear he’d love to run a comeback pattern of sorts, to play for the Steelers at the next level. He welcomes a reunion with Kenny Pickett, his Pitt quarterback who was chosen in the first round by the Steelers last year.

“Hey man, if we reunite, that’d be good,” Addison told reporters. “That’d be real cool. Real easy transition. Come get me.”

There’s recent precedent for that in the AFC North. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow has a favorite receiver in Ja’Marr Chase, his college wideout at Louisiana State.

USC receiver Jordan Addison catches a touchdown pass against UCLA in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl.

USC receiver Jordan Addison catches a touchdown pass against UCLA in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 19, 2022.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Daniel Jeremiah, draft analyst for NFL Network, said the 5-foot-11, 173-pound Addison was his top receiver at the beginning of the evaluation process but dropped a bit because of his less-than-prototypical size.

“I wish he was heavier,” Jeremiah said. “I don’t love the 173-pound aspect, but this guy made more big plays down the field in ’21 than anybody in the country. I know he can make big plays. He can get over the top. He is a talented guy. After the catch he is not going to be able to break many tackles. Not real physical, but he can make you miss and run away from you. I think he plays fast.

“So smooth, fast, fluid guy. I’ve dropped him down a little bit from where I initially had him overall. He ended the process as my 15th player. I think he is somebody that’s going to go off the board.”

Addison won the 2021 Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top wide receiver. At USC last season, he caught 59 passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 14.8 yards per reception. His numbers were even better in two seasons at Pitt: 160 catches for 2,265 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Another intriguing prospect is Carter, the Georgia defensive tackle and All-SEC honoree once projected by some talent evaluators to be the No. 1 overall selection.

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter runs football drills during Georgia's Pro Day in Athens, Ga.

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter runs football drills during Georgia’s Pro Day, on March 15 in Athens, Ga.

(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Yet Carter’s future is clouded by controversy and tragedy. He pleaded no contest in March to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing in connection to a fatal crash in January, when Georgia football player Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy were killed in a Jan. 15 wreck. Police alleged LeCroy was driving an SUV that was racing Carter’s SUV.

In a recent episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” Carter was asked if he thought the incident would affect his draft status.

“Yeah, I feel like it’s gonna matter a little bit,” Carter told the interviewer. “Because, you know, NFL teams look deep into your life. But it could’ve been something I did back in elementary [school]. You know, I’m pretty sure they’d know. So you know, this coming out at the time it did come out I’m pretty sure is going to affect a little bit.”

Carter was a centerpiece of a defense that helped Georgia to back-to-back national championships, amassing 18½ tackles for loss and six sacks in his career — no easy feat for a defender playing in the middle.

If the reaction of Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes is indicative of the reception Carter is getting around the league, the Georgia standout might not be waiting long to hear his name called on draft night. The Lions have the sixth and 18th selections.

“Yeah he came in and he did a nice job,” Holmes told reporters last week. “Yeah, again, it’s always case-by-case [evaluation]. [Carter] came in, we enjoyed our time with him, he did a nice job. I’ll say even after he left our visit, I felt better on him.”

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