While fans might be disappointed that the Las Vegas Raiders didn’t land one of the top cornerbacks in free agency, the good news is there’s plenty of talent at the position in this year’s NFL Draft class. One of the Raiders’ top options could be Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., whose father, Joey Sr., enjoyed a 13-year NFL career as a linebacker.
The younger Porter tied for third among Big 10 cornerbacks with nine pass breakups last season, per Pro Football Focus. More impressively, he allowed the fewest receiving yards at his position within the conference (minimum 200 coverage snaps) with a stingy 143 yards surrendered while also ranking third in coverage snaps per reception yielded (17.1).
But, what does the Nittany Lion’s tape look like? Let’s take a look.
Great read and break on the route by Joey Porter Jr., but we also found out why he plays defense… pic.twitter.com/xbwbLMsx4x— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 29, 2023
I’m conflicted because I love and hate this first play at the same time.
Penn State is running Cover 6 with Porter Jr. on the Cover 2 side at the top of the screen. He does a good job of getting outside leverage on and using his hands to force a re-route against the No. 1 receiver to the wide side of the field. That helps bait the quarterback into throwing the out route, and he breaks on the out/No. 2 receiver perfectly.
Porter Jr. is in a great position to intercept this pass and walk into the end zone for a pick-six. However, you gotta FINISH!!!!!
Purdue gets lucky and the wideout ends up catching this pass off the deflection for a first down. Regardless, this is a great rep Porter Jr. that shows off his football intelligence and ability to make plays on the ball. We’ve just got to work on those hands.
Joey Porter Jr. putting those long arms to good use pic.twitter.com/YppitmK1u4— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 29, 2023
The Nittany Lions are running a zone blitz here and are disgusting it pre-snap. That makes Porter Jr.’s job a little more difficult since he has to start closer to the line of scrimmage to sell the Cover 2 look and then bail post-snap to cover the deep route.
He plays with inside leverage on the receiver and flips his hips to the sideline to help take away a deep dig route and stays on top of the receiver to avoid getting deep. With his eyes locked on the wideout, he recognizes when the wideout is looking back for the ball so he does the same.
At the catch point, Porter Jr. uses those 34-inch arms to at least obstruct the receiver’s vision and ends up getting a PBU. The combination of his long limbs and instincts to know when to locate the ball in the air are impressive.
Joey Porter Jr. has some impressive makeup speed pic.twitter.com/7O5vbmi1hF— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 29, 2023
This next clip is great because it highlights one of my concerns with Porter Jr.’s game while also highlighting one of his strengths.
I’d consider him inconsistent against slant routes and he’s too passive with his hands in press coverage here, which is part of the reason why he gets beat to the inside and the quarterback decides to target him. However, the Penn State product runs a 4.46-second 40-yard dash we get to see some of his makeup speed on this rep.
That brings him back into the picture and he rakes the receiver's hands as the ball arrives to pick up another PBU. This is another instance where those long arms come in handy, too. So, while Porter Jr. has some work to do in this area of his game, his ability to recover is still an asset.
Beautiful job playing the fade route by Joey Porter Jr. pic.twitter.com/Fc83gguap2— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 29, 2023
We’ve seen a similar play from Porter Jr. before where he recognizes when to turn his head and locate the ball in the air. The biggest difference between this clip and the one above is this time he’s in press coverage and does a great job of staying in the receiver’s hip pocket against a fade route.
Honestly, this ball never should have been thrown with how tight Porter Jr.’s coverage is but, regardless, he bats another pass and forces Purdue into a 3rd and 25 situation.
Joey Porter Jr. reads screen and makes a tackle that would surely make his dad proud pic.twitter.com/thG4Ff7Rmi— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 29, 2023
We’ll start to wrap up here with a clip that shows off Porter Jr.’s instincts and physicality.
Almost immediately after the snap, he reads the screen and comes crashing downhill hard and changes his angle at the last second before contact to make the outside receiver miss and duck under the block. Then, we see the genetic linebacker skills that he has show up to make a perfect form tackle right at the line of scrimmage.
Likely passed down from his father, Junior plays with a level of aggression and physicality that you don’t typically see from a cornerback.
Some of my concerns with Porter Jr.’s game have already been highlighted above. For example, his use of hands in press coverage is inconsistent and he’ll miss when trying to jam receivers, making it difficult to cover slants.
He has a similar issue down the field against in-breaking routes and doesn’t quite have the top-notch change-of-direction skills to stay in phase if he loses at the line of scrimmage. He has the typical tall corner issue where his pad level is too high when trying to cut, so NFL wide receivers will test his ability to recover.
It’s been a common theme with the other top corners in this class—Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon—as the Penn State product tends to get grabby when he gets beat. While he cut down on the penalties this past season with just three, there were a few instances where he got away with defensive holding or pass interference and he drew 10 flags in 2021 which is far too many.
My last concern ties back to the first clip. Let’s just say there’s a reason Porter Jr. plays defense and only had one interception during his college career...
To me, Gonzalez and Witherspoon are a tier ahead of Porter Jr. I think those two should be the Raiders’ top options with the seventh overall pick and the latter would be the biggest reach of the three. However, if Las Vegas opts to trade back and add more picks, then the Nittany Lion is a good mid-first-round option.