Tackle it later...
Can the Jets find a starting caliber swing tackle later in the draft?
✈️ In just 37 days Joe Douglas and the New York Jets will have the opportunity to set the Jets on the right path when they head to Nevada for the 2022 NFL Draft.
We’re going to continue to look at some free agency options today, as the Jets look for the depth required for a full NFL season.
It’s also time to start expanding our look at the draft and some of the lesser-known prospects who could interest the Jets come next month.
🗣️There is going to be significant debate around the #4 pick over the next month and if you’re easily tired by repetitive narratives, you may want to take a break from social media.
The Jets have a list of needs, and offensive tackle isn’t at the top…but what if they love a player so much, they just have to take him?
What if you take that player and then George Fant and Mekhi Becton perform well in camp while the rookie struggles? Do you trade someone playing well just to make space for someone who’s not guaranteed to perform?
Or do you let your newly drafted offensive lineman ride the bench all season before moving on from George Fant? What if George Fant has another year as a top-10 tackle? What is Becton stays healthy and proves a dominating force?
💪 Joe Douglas - Offensive line guru
I had a look at what the word “guru” actually means. We hear it all the time in relation to Joe Douglas and the offensive line.
This is a little different from how I think I perceive that label in this context. When I think of a positional guru in the NFL, I think of someone who knows more than the next man.
Someone who can spot a talent that others can’t, find value where people presume there isn’t any.
A lot of Joe Douglas’s reputation stems from not only being a talented lineman in his own right in Virginia but also having been somewhat responsible for the drafting of Marshal Yanda when he was a scout in Baltimore.
Yanda was a 3rd round pick in 2007 and went on to become a 2-time first-team all-pro and a Super Bowl champion.
If the Jets decide to spend a first-round pick on the offensive line, that will be the third year in a row they have done so, and the third year in a row that they’ve spent a top 15 pick on one position group. Mekhi Becton at #11 in 2020, Alijah Vera-Tucker at #14 in 2021, and a lineman at either #4 or #10 in 2022.
Add all the money we’ve spent in free agency including the contract we’ve just given to Laken Tomlinson and I find it hard to justify another top 15 selection.
For me, that’s a poor allocation of resources and it doesn’t take a guru to find talent in the first round. I like Joe Douglas, but it’s about time we found our own Yanda in the middle rounds.
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Offensive Tackle Depth 👏
This leads us nicely onto our positional preview for the middle to late rounds.
Of the top 50 tackles in football last year according to PFF grading, 17 of them were drafted in the 3rd round or later (34%).
So for the sake of this quick run-down, I’m only including players who I believe will be selected from the 3rd round onwards.
Here are 5 that have me interested:
Abraham Lucas - Washington State
1️⃣ Probably more suited to a power game, but I think he has the lateral agility to play a zone-based scheme too. He gave up 0 sacks and just 9 pressures in 477 pass-blocking snaps last year. Doesn’t play with the power you expect but he has good body control for a 6’7 tackle.
Rasheed Walker - Penn State
2️⃣ One of my favorite tackle prospects outside the first couple of rounds. I like him more on the right than the left, but he has the athleticism and foot speed that you look for in a zone-based blocking scheme. I like the strength in his hands and his ability to re-set against counters. Allowed 4 sacks and 26 pressures at LT last season.
Cordell Volson - North Dakota State
3️⃣ Volson is a finisher and he has a real mean streak to him that a lot of fans love. He’s athletic enough to play zone but strong enough to hold his own in power. I like the depth he gets on his pass-sets and his anticipation and latch are excellent for a middle-round prospect. He’s a starting RT in the league from years 2 onwards. Allowed 0 sacks and 4 pressures over 282 pass-blocking stats.
Andrew Steuber - Michigan
4️⃣ Is he a tackle or is he a guard? That’s going to be the question for Steuber at the next level. I prefer him outside, although his power and drive off the ball may entice teams to kick him inside in the NFL. I don’t love the athleticism here for the Jets and he has a torn ACL in his past too, but around the 4th-5th round I could see there being interest. Allowed 0 sacks and 9 pressures in 351 pass-blocking snaps in 2021.
Braxton Jones - Southern Utah
5️⃣ There’s a lot to like about Jones for the Jets in the 4th round onwards. He’s agile and athletic and while not overpowering, he has the functional strength to move people in the run game. He allowed 3 sacks and 12 pressures last season in 442 pass-blocking snaps.
😴 Sleeper Selection: Zach Tom, Wake Forrest 🌲🌳
I’m a big fan of Tom and what he’s done at Wake Forrest having started 34 games and moved between tackle and center. He spent 2021 at left tackle giving up 3 sacks and 12 pressures on 525 pass-blocking snaps, his 98.5 pass-blocking efficiency rate is higher than Ekwonu’s 98.3. There’s a lot to like about Tom, he’s athletic and plays with outstanding and consistent technique. He’s not the longest guy (33 1/4” arms) and he won’t overpower you, but there’s something to be said for a guy who has the technique down. Chances are you can get Tom in the 5th or 6th round and it would be a good use for a selection at the back-end of the draft.
On the EDGE
There are some positions where you just think first-round talent. Quarterback is one of them, offensive tackle is another, and pass-rusher is the third.
I wanted to look into whether the statistics matched the perception, here’s what I found.
According to PFF, of the top-10 rated edge defenders in football last season, 80% of them were drafted in the first round. In comparison, just 30% of corners were taken in the first round.
When you expand it to the top 25 players at the position, 12 of them were taken in the first round as opposed to 11 offensive tackles taken in the first.
When looking at total pressures generated, 60% of the top-10 in football last year were taken in the first round. Go back to 2020 and it’s 60% again, and if you keep going back it’s similar every year.
50% of the top 10 rated edge defenders against the run were taken in the first round too.
Looking through the statistics one thing popped out, offensive line and edge defenders usually rank around the same in terms of production based on draft positioning. So you tend to be pretty safe taking either, but with the Jets needing an edge far more than a tackle, I’d say the choice is pretty clear.
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