The New York Jets hold the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft. The overwhelming train of thought among mock drafters is that the Jets will use that pick to select an offensive tackle, as shown by recent data from nflmockdraftdatabase.com. By no means do I think that’s a bad plan. Indeed, the Jets offensive line was bad last season and it’s a valuable enough spot that I’m basically always in for a potential upgrade. However, I do think it’s unlikely to happen in this draft for the Jets and I wanted to write down my thoughts on why.
First, the Jets don’t really have an opening on their offensive line.
The most apparent hole is offensive tackle. However, while offensive tackles Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton have concerns, the Jets have invested quite a bit in both and generally speaking big investments don’t get benched. There’s also specific reasons why each of these players may not be given a blocked path to starting via the selection of a tackle at 13.
In regards to Becton, the Jets used a first round pick on him in 2020, received immediate dividends based on his on-the-field success, and have yet to see him play bad when on a football field and healthy. That isn’t the typical profile of a guy that gets benched. Additionally, while fans may not believe in offensive tackle Max Mitchell, the Jets certainly did when they used a 4th round pick on him just last year. In each case, spending a first round pick on a tackle would basically demote of those guys that General Manager Joe Douglas handpicked to what amounts to irrelevancy.
In regards to Brown, the Jets publicly begged him to come back.
Robert Saleh called Duane Brown a "Freakin rockstar" for playing through his shoulder injury last year. Spoke to him a few days ago.— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) March 2, 2023
"If he's here, that'd be awesome."
The #Jets clearly want him back.
Brown is also a decade-plus veteran who battled through injury all of last season for the betterment of the team... again, not typically a guy you bench, especially if you want to keep the locker room happy and your head coach is a “player’s” coach like Robert Saleh is.
At guard, the Jets have massive investments. You could make an easy argument that they’ve invested as much as anyone has at guard between Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Those guys aren’t sitting. So that rules a guard out.
The Jets could take a center, but the last time a center went at in the range of 13 or higher was 1993 when the Cleveland Browns took Steve Everitt. Sure, they could trade back, but 13? In this center class? Seems like an unlikely time for that trend to break.
Second, first round picks don’t sit on the bench for a full season anymore. When they do, it’s typically a quarterback. To hit home on this point, I went through the profootballreference.com pages for each of the 9 offensive lineman drafted in Round 1 last year. I could not find a single one of them who didn’t play 86% or more of their teams snaps last season... and that’s with time missed for injuries. So the idea of taking a tackle and then grooming them slowly on the bench? Yea, that’s pretty much no precedent for that in recent memory and that seems like an unlikely precedent for the Jets to set... especially after Team Owner Woody Johnson said this week that he wants to see some immediate success.
Jets owner Woody Johnson "anxious" about Aaron Rodgers situation: “We’ve got to win. We’re in the win business, so we have to win now"https://t.co/uWpJABpl5S pic.twitter.com/PU4OXcxA4h— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) March 29, 2023
So, while the offensive line wasn’t a strength last season and could certainly use an upgrade, there isn’t really a spot that the Jets can fill at 13. The most likely option seems to be replacing Becton, but it’s rare teams give up on guys that were taken that high and performed well early on without seeing them struggle... and the Jets really haven’t seen him struggle on game day yet... and he’s Joe Douglas’ first ever first round pick which likely means there’s some office political capital invested in him.
Could it happen? Sure. Do I think the mock drafters are falling into a bit of groupthink as they keep mocking tackles to the Jets with little regard for the context around the guys on the roster? I sure do
But what do you think? Will the Jets cut bait on any of their current starters and, if so, who?