The overwhelming consensus among fans and pundits appears to be that the New York Jets will spend the 15th overall pick on an offensive tackle this Thursday.
Let me start by acknowledging that I understand the logic.
- The offensive line is viewed as important.
- Offensive tackles are viewed as the most important based on their contract values
- The Jets do not currently have an offensive tackle that is considered above average
- The Jets are bringing in Aaron Rodgers (officially!) and are trying to capitalize on a short championship window, which could be hampered by a poor offensive line
- To some degree, you could argue the Jets lack a glaring short-term hole at any of the other high value positions (quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher)
With that said, while I understand the logic, I disagree with it for a few reasons.
1) There is this prevailing belief the Jets offensive line was bad last season. That isn’t false, but I think it avoids the question of “why” that was the case. One could make a very simple argument that it was due to the quarterback. Beyond that, data on the whole supports as much, as QB pressures seem to be a function of the QB far more than the offensive line.
2) NFL teams seem to be recognizing that defensive lines are simply too good in the modern version of the NFL. Indeed, we see teams speed up their team to throw when facing a great pass rush, such as the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2022 Los Angeles Rams. This is notable because great pass rushes tend to make up a substantial amount of the pass rushes that teams face come playoff time, which are really the games that matter.
3) Data also suggests “elite” pass blocking offensive linemen have little incremental gains over their “good” counterparts, even though the elite players tend to cost 2x the price. While the rookie scale keeps draft pick contract costs low, this still has relevance for resource allocation and would imply that trying to identify and then eventually re-sign elite linemen may be a fool’s errand. Can an alternative option that yields basically the same outcome not be found on Day 2 or even Day 3? Personally, I think that’s doable if we’re shooting for “good” rather than “all pro.”
4) The hope when drafting is to select a player that outperforms their draft slot. With that in mind, how many current NFL lineman would you trade the 15th overall pick for straight up? At tackle, I can name maybe 6 guys if I’m being generous. At guard, I can name like 4. Do those numbers really sound like good bets? Especially given the lack of real value created by having an elite rather than a good lineman? I’m skeptical.
Putting it all together, I tend to fall under the belief that the offensive line may not be the most impactful use of resources. While important, I think an easy argument can be made that paying for “high end” offensive line talent is perhaps a poor allocation of resources compared to other units. If we think that argument holds weight then why invest our most impactful draft resource until April 2025 on such a player?
So, long story short, count me out on the offensive tackle draft party. Give me a playmaker if one is available.