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Scouting Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton

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Louisville v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

With the draft now complete, we’ll be providing in-depth breakdowns of each of the draft picks and undrafted free agents. We start today with the 11th overall pick - offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.

The 21-year old is listed at 6’7” and 364 pounds and attended college at Louisville. He made 33 starts for them in three seasons and was an all-ACC first-team selection in 2019. He also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the ACC’s best offensive lineman.

Background

Coming out of high school, Becton was a four-star recruit and regarded as one of the top recruits in the state of Virginia.

As a freshman, Becton started 10 games as Louisville had the third best offense in the nation, led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. He came off the bench in two others following a late-season injury.

Becton started all 13 games in 2018 and then in 2019 he earned all-conference honors as he started 11 games. He was knocked out of one of those games due to injury and then missed the following week’s game, as well as sitting out the team’s bowl game after announcing he was going to enter the 2019 draft.

After turning heads with an impressive 40-yard dash at the combine, Becton’s stock soared and some believed he would be a top five pick. However, the Jets were eventually able to select him 11th overall.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Becton brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Measurables/Athleticism

The first thing to note about Becton is his incredible size. Despite being over 360 pounds - and he has suggested his ideal playing weight is between 350 and 355 - Becton is not sloppy and has a low body fat percentage. He has had weight issues in the past though, with his weight reportedly being over 380 at one point.

In addition to his bulk and mass, Becton also has excellent length with his arms almost 36 inches long.

At the scouting combine, Becton caused jaws to drop when he ran a 5.1 in the 40-yard dash at 364 pounds. However, he tweaked a hamstring on that run and couldn’t complete the rest of his workout.

Nevertheless, you can tell from his film that he has quick feet and explosiveness. Those attributes are also apparent from his high school basketball footage, which features him getting up and down the floor, throwing down dunks and blocking shots.

Despite his obvious strength, Becton only posted a modest 23 reps on the bench press at the combine. However, Duke Manyweather, who has been training Becton and working on his technique, tweeted that Becton hadn’t had time to warm up properly and that he was sure he could’ve managed at least 30 with a proper warm-up.

Usage

The Jets have clearly targeted Becton to be their left tackle of the future and that’s the position he played all last season.

However, he has also played on the right. In 2018 and 2017, Louisville ran a system where they had a strong side and a quick side. Becton was the strong tackle, but that meant he would keep switching sides, along with the strong guard, throughout each game.

In addition to playing at tackle, Becton has also lined up as a tight end. However, this wasn’t as a sixth lineman and he would not be an eligible receiver on these plays. Instead he would move across to line up outside the quick tackle in unbalanced formations.

Becton also lined up in the backfield once, scoring this touchdown.

Pass Blocking

Becton’s ability to protect the blindside at the pro level has been the source of much debate. On the face of things, Becton gave up just five sacks in three years and only surrendered 10 total pressures last season. However, as analysis sites like Pro Football Focus have been at pains to point out, Louisville’s system was a big part of the reason his pressure numbers were so good.

As an example of what they’re talking about, Louisville would run a lot of plays where they would set up with the offensive line flowing left and fake a hand-off to the runner heading to the left side. However, the quarterback would roll right, away from the pressure and then would have the option to run or pass depending on whether anyone was open.

Even if he does run, Becton would get credit for a pass blocking rep although he hasn’t dropped into his stance and had to prevent a defender from getting into the backfield. Where a team does this kind of thing a lot - as Louisville did - then suddenly the fact Becton perhaps only gave up a few pressures becomes less impressive because he might only have dropped into a pass blocking stance 20 times even though the game chart says the quarterback had 50 dropbacks.

This is an important observation and definitely means that there’s a lot more projection involved in trying to determine how Becton will fare at the next level than there would be for any tackle playing in more of a pro-style system. We obviously then need to review those situations where he does the kinds of things that will be required of him at the pro level, for which obviously there is a much smaller sample size.

It’s fair to point out that Becton gave up pressure at a much less impressive rate than comparable tackle prospects in such situations. However, we can still identify the potential he has as a pass protector because he improved from 2018 to 2019 and eradicated some of his weaknesses.

The first thing to note about that progress is that, in 2018, Becton was beaten for three sacks. However, last year, he wasn’t beaten for a sack all season. One sack was correctly attributed to him, but this was a blown assignment rather than a pass rusher actually beating him. That came on the very last play of the season. He also dramatic reduced the total amount of pressure surrendered, with again about only about half of the 10 pressures he gave up coming on a one-on-one assignment.

Here’s an example of Becton giving up a pressure when not in a true pass set. He blocks down on the defensive tackle here, but can’t recover when the tackle spins off his block to get into the backfield.

Becton does have the tools and building blocks required to develop into a technically proficient pass protector. Despite being so big, he drops back into his stance and moves laterally with good balance to stay in front of his man.

His size and length is also an asset in pass protection. Even if you get past him, it’s a long way around. Also, he’s so strong, that he can use that ability to help him recover if he is at a leverage disadvantage.

He generally uses his length well to buy himself time to react to the pass rusher’s first and second counter moves. However, there are some aspects of his technique that need to be sharpened up. We’ll expand on that later.

Generally speaking, Becton is almost impossible to bull rush because he’s so strong but this play is perhaps the exception that proves the rule.

It’s worth noting, however, though that this happened in the first game of the season and then didn’t come close to happening again, as he was much more consistent with his base and easily able to re-anchor against any power rush attempts.

During his career, Becton faced NFL-level talent such as Bradley Chubb, Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns and Julian Okwara. In each of these games he held his own and showed flashes of being able to lock them down. However, he was by no means flawless in any of these match-ups.

Run Blocking

Unsurprisingly, Becton’s size made him a dominant run blocker at the collegiate level. However, he brings more to the table as a run blocker than just being big. That said, there are situations where his size and strength are enough to enable him to dominate and so he has done so in spite of less than perfect technique. Again, more on that later.

At the point of attack, Becton has the power to drive his man off the line to create running lanes, as he does here on an unbalanced line play.

He’ll also get out to the second level where just by getting in between his man and the ball carrier, he’s creating a very large obstacle for them to get in on the tackle.

Perhaps the most impressive part of his game as a run blocker is his ability to move laterally and how quickly he gets out of his stance. This enables him to make reach blocks and seal off defenders effectively.

He was also called upon to make cut blocks at the snap quite a lot in Louisville’s system. He showed athleticism on these and obviously was so big that he would disrupt multiple linemen, but on the whole he had mixed results in doing this and it perhaps isn’t transferable to the next level.

This type of play is a signature of Becton’s game. When isolated against an edge defender, he’ll effortlessly toss them aside to take them out of the play.

Becton is also a finisher, with plenty of highlights of him taking his man down or staying on a block past the whistle. This was something he got better at in his final season at Louisville.

If there’s an exploitable weakness in his game, it’s that he doesn’t always do a consistent job of sustaining his blocks. One thing that causes this to happen is that he’ll shove his man back rather than engaging them and staying on the block, thus enabling them to get back into the play.

As he moves up to the next level, he’ll encounter more players that will anticipate this kind of shortcut and exploit it. He’ll therefore not just have to sharpen up his technique, but also his mindset in terms of how to maximize his success with a consistent approach.

Short Yardage

Louisville were smart to run behind Becton in short yardage situations on a regular basis, and with good success. He’s not likely to allow his man to penetrate into the backfield and can often drive his man off the line or bury him at the point of attack.

Here’s an example that sees him seal off the defensive tackle on a reach block to create a lane for the runner to score easily.

Screen Blocking

The screen pass was not a big part of Louisville’s offense last season. In fact, their two main running backs caught less than 10 passes between them. However, they did both average over 10 yards per catch.

Becton’s 40-yard dash at the combine shows that he has the ability to get downfield and he’s going to be tough to navigate around even if he can’t lock onto a block.

On this play he initially bluffs a drop into a pass rushing stance and then explodes upfield to get out in front of the runner.

Footwork/Technique

Everyone seems to agree that Becton has “good feet”, but his footwork is not always perfect. He has quick feet, can change direction, move laterally and reset his angles with good balance.

It interesting to look back at some of his good plays, like the one shown above where he flung Julian Okwara off the line and note that his technique wasn’t actually that good. This is all about his incredible upper body strength, but he crosses his feet as he’s moving laterally and doesn’t get his hips behind that powerful shove.

You could liken this to a quarterback who has poor footwork but his arm is so strong he can still get zip on the ball even when throwing off-platform. However, where such a player may occasionally be so off-balance that the ball will float on him or be inaccurate, similarly Becton could allow a defender to fight off his block if he doesn’t have his entire weight behind it.

Also, the fact that he’ll fling players aside in this way - which is something he does both in the running game and in pass protection - can lead to his man being able to get back into the play if a run gets stretched out or a quarterback extends the play by scrambling.

His footwork was also sloppy at times when coming out of his stance, although this appears to be something he has worked at. You can see him taking false steps or anticipating one thing and over-stepping in that direction without being able to recover at times. His stance itself has also been scrutinized for being too upright or having his back foot too far off the line, but those may just be side-effects of how big he is. In 2019, he started operating more out of a three-point stance in run blocking sets.

In a similar vein, Becton got beaten around the edge a few times in 2018 because edge rushers beat him to a spot. A closer look seemed to show that he had a habit of taking a small step with his outside foot first and then not being able to effectively explode back into his stance off his inside foot. This seemed not to be an issue in 2019 as he did a much better job of getting back into position to engage the edge rusher.

Nevertheless, he got beaten around the edge on this play against Khalid Kareem from the season opener in 2019. The problem here wasn’t that he didn’t get back into his stance in time, but - having done so - he didn’t get his hands on his man early enough and this enabled Kareem to slap his outside hand away and get past him.

Hand placement is also an area where Becton could perhaps do with some refinement. This is again something where he was probably able to dominate without perfect hand placement in the past, but will need to develop better habits to succeed against experienced NFL-level players.

At his size, Becton will need to be wary of getting called for illegal use of hands to the face, which may affect his hand placement techniques. There’s a trade-off between keeping your hands wide to mitigate the risk of getting called for that and allowing your opponent to get his hands inside which can enable him to get your hands off him or drive you back.

Becton’s size is also going to be a factor in terms of his pad level. He will lose leverage quickly against NFL talent if they get below his pad level, especially if his hand placement is not ideal in such situations.

In summary, it depends whether you have a glass half full or glass half empty outlook. Becton’s dominance at the collegiate level clearly saw him succeed in spite of some technical deficiencies. That could lead you to believe that he won’t enjoy the same success at the NFL level because experienced players will be able to take advantage of him and this is almost certain to be an issue some of the time at the start of his career.

On the other hand, if he could be so dominant without even mastering techniques, then the sky really is the limit if he manages to get these techniques down. Everyone talks about Becton’s potential and this is why. He could become something truly special if he combines his physical gifts with flawless technique.

The good news is that he definitely made some improvements already, which suggests he is coachable, will trust his technique and has a desire to keep improving.

Penalties

One of the most impressive statistics connected with Becton is the fact that he never had a holding penalty in any of his 35 appearances with the Cardinals.

He also showed improved discipline overall, by reducing his penalty count from seven in 2017 to five in 2018 and then only having two in 2019. In fact, those two came in his final game of the year. That fits in well with the other linemen the Jets have targeted during the offseason, all of whom also had a low penalty count.

Of the penalties he did have in 2019, one was a false start and the other was a late hit, which arguably was a bit of a harsh call, but does show evidence of how he finishes and looks to punish his man.

Special Teams

It seems unlikely Becton will play any special teams with the Jets. At the college level, he blocked on the placekicking unit at times, but those were his only contributions.

Instincts/Intelligence

As noted, during his first two seasons, Becton played in a system at Louisville where he was required to keep swapping sides. While you might think this added level of complexity could prepare him for some of the complexities of pro-level schemes, it’s widely considered that his football instincts need to develop.

As noted, only about half of the 10 pressures Becton surrendered last year were in one-on-one match-ups as he still has some work to do in terms of his awareness and ability to anticipate stunts and blitz packages.

As noted, the only sack attributed to him last year came on the final play of the regular season, as Becton seemed to lose focus and left a rusher unblocked off the edge.

If his man drops off the line, Becton will generally keep his head on a swivel and go searching for someone to punish but on this particular play he doesn’t recognize the delayed blitz until it’s too late for him to recover.

He does show the capability to handle a stunt well at times, though. He does a stellar job of passing the edge off into a double team and then picking up the outside stunt from the tackle on this play.

Three of Becton’s five penalties in 2018 were false starts, but he cut down on those pre-snap mistakes in 2019 with just one in the final game.

Attitude

There are a couple of off-field concerns surrounding Becton, not least the fact that he had a drug test flagged at the scouting combine. Joe Douglas has said he spoke at length with Becton about this matter and appreciated his honesty. Obviously he wouldn’t have made the selection if he felt that this would be an enduring issue.

Reports, including one from former Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood - a former first round pick out of Louisville who has spent a lot of time around the program - suggest that Becton will work hard, is never going to be a problem in the locker room and is coachable.

Another concern is that Becton allowed his weight to balloon to almost 390 pounds at one point while at Louisville. If that’s an issue for him, it will limit his effectiveness and hurt his conditioning. It could also add to the risk of injuries.

The good news on that front is that Becton appears to be in great shape at the moment. Hopefully the truncated offseason program won’t threaten that.

On the field, Becton brings a level of nastiness the Jets haven’t seen on their offensive line for some time. He dishes out some punishing blocks and finishes aggressively.

Injuries

Concern over injuries and longevity is inevitable for a player of Becton’s size, but he’s only had minor issues so far. In 2017, he missed one game with an upper-body injury. That can often mean a concussion, but it was not specified officially. When he returned, he only played in a rotational role for the next two games.

Becton was knocked out of the Miami game in 2018 with an ankle injury that had him in a walking boot. He missed the next game and then returned at the end of the season.

At the scouting combine, Becton suffered a mild hamstring injury while running his 40-yard dash.

Scheme Fit

The Jets clearly intend for Becton to step in as the blindside pass protector, preferably on day one. If they deem him not ready to do so and they decide they trust a veteran like George Fant more in that key role, it’s possible he could start off at right tackle initially.

His obvious athletic gifts should complement the other offensive line personnel the Jets have brought in this offseason and his ability to move laterally or drive at the point of attack should enable him to handle both zone and man/power assignments in the running game.

In the past, Adam Gase has said he wants his quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly and that he wants to limit quick pressure. Becton’s combination of size and length should make him ideally suited to such a system and this will enable the Jets to insulate him from having to stay in front of his man for a longer period of time in much the same way Louisville was with the way their system operated.

Conclusions

Despite the fact that we’ve gone into great detail about certain aspects of Becton’s game here, it’s difficult to land too far away from the consensus on Becton, which seems to be that he is raw but has a tantalizing upside.

The fact he was able to be successful without perfect technique while at college serves to remind us of how he could yet develop even further, but it could also be a sign that his athletic gifts are so good that this might enable him to overcome some of his technical deficiencies even at the NFL level by using his strength, working hard and staying competitive to the whistle. Hopefully that raises his floor higher than many people have it and reduces the chances of him being a total bust without injuries or off-field issues.

It’s going to be a steep learning curve for Becton but his ultimate potential is absolutely off the charts. Based on the process of putting this article together, it should be fun to watch.