The New York Jets are in desperate need of offensive line help. Lucky for them this class is stacked with elite tackle prospects.
The New York Jets‘ draft targets aren’t a mystery. They want to draft offensive linemen. General manager Joe Douglas made that clear the day he walked through the door. The offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL in 2019.
They ranked bottom three in nearly every important stat and considering the offense is built around a young quarterback, having a strong offensive line is a must.
They need to keep Sam Darnold healthy and in a clean pocket. When Darnold had a clean pocket, he was an above-average quarterback in 2019, ranking 12th in passer rating. When he was pressured, he was one of the three worst passers in football.
Lucky for the Jets, this is a very strong offensive line class. There are four offensive linemen with top-15 grades. All four of them play tackle, which is the Jets’ biggest need. Both Brandon Shell and Kelvin Beachum are free agents when the season ends.
Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Thomas is the top-rated tackle in this draft. He will likely be off the board by the time the Jets are on the clock, but one can hope.
Thomas has NFL size standing at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. That size doesn’t hurt his athleticism at all. Thomas has the quickest feet in the draft and he uses it well in his pass protection.
Pass protection is Thomas’s strong suit. He has excellent technique and footwork. His long arms help him get leverage on most edge rushers. Most impressive though is that Thomas was a four-year starter at Georgia and never had a below-average pass-block grade by PFF.
With all that said, His run blocking is a work in progress. He lacks that nasty streak that offensive linemen need to be elite run blockers and lacks the ability to block in space. When moving to the second level of the defense, he often opts to chip instead of engaging, which costs his running back yards.
All in all, Thomas is an elite offensive lineman prospect. The Jets would be lucky if he fell to them. However, barring a miracle Thomas will likely be selected in the top-10, perhaps even the top-five.
Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
Wills Jr. is the first realistic target for the Jets and it’s still unlikely that Wills Jr. will be on the board, but it’s not improbable.
Wills Jr. is the best pass blocker in the draft class. He has quick feet, though not as quick as Thomas. His pass blocking technique is the best in the draft and he uses his 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame to great effect. He’s incredibly difficult to move off his spot.
He’s been protecting Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside this season and has done an excellent job, allowing just one sack all season. Among a mediocre Alabama offensive line, Wills Jr. stands out.
His run blocking needs work. His technique is good, but his effort and IQ could stand to improve. He often loses the ball on run plays leading to unnecessary block or taking himself out of the play.
That said, when he’s on, he can be an elite run blocker. He handles his man and moves to the second level. His run blocking in the red zone is arguably the best in the draft.
Wills Jr. is behind Thomas simply because he plays right tackle and for his inconsistencies in the run game. He’ll likely be a top-10 pick, but if teams are put off by his lack of time at left tackle, he could fall right into the New York Jets’ lap.
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Wirfs, like Wills Jr., is a RT. Unlike the previous two offensive linemen, Wirfs is a mauler who focuses on his technique rather than relying heavily on his athleticism.
He’s a decent pass protector. His 6-foot-5 and 320-pound size helps Wirfs ward off power rushers. He has no problems going shot for shot with the best power rushers in college football.
Speed rushers, on the other hand, give him a headache. He has slow feet, which allow him to fall prey to speed rushers on the outside. He’ll need to learn how to use his long arms and to deal with speed rushers if he’s going to have any success pass blocking in the NFL.
When he’s engaged, Wirfs is a force of nature in the run game and he is absolutely dominant when the ball is run off the right side. He seals lanes and pushes players off their spots with ease.
The issue is that he loses that edge when the ball is run away from him. He often becomes apathetic and doesn’t attempt to block anyone, rarely pushing to the second level on runs off the left side.
Wirfs is a hard player to nail down. The potential for an Orlando Brown-esque dominant mauler right tackle is there. That said, it’s just as likely that Wirfs lack of athleticism will be his downfall, leading to a move to guard or worse—a career as a backup.
Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Becton is a ball of raw athleticism. There is no prospect in this class quite like him. Standing at 6-foot-7 and 368 pounds, he’s by far the biggest offensive lineman in the class. He puts that size to use in all phases of the game.
In pass protection, Becton is a monster. He is known for his highlight-reel blocks where he physically throws people off their spots.
But it’s not all sunshine with Becton. His technique needs a ton of work. In pass protection, he often displays too much aggression and that leads to some issues. His hand fighting is the worst of the four offensive linemen and he struggles to recover once he’s beaten off the snap.
In the run game, Becton is incredibly mobile. He’s constantly looking for someone to hit, and he is essential to Lousiville’s ability to run the ball. They often moved him over to right tackle just so he could set the edge.
The technique is not awful, but it’s not at the level of the others. He’s the high ceiling-low floor prospect in this year’s class. If the New York Jets want to gamble, Becton is the guy to do it on.