What would the ideal rookie season for New York Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton look like?
Patience will be key with Mekhi Becton. The Virginia native possesses all of the potential in the world, but is likely going to need some time to iron out the nuanced details of his game before he can hit his stratospheric ceiling.
With that being said, the Jets have a franchise quarterback heading into his third year who is still looking to fulfill his own massive potential. If Sam Darnold is going to break out in 2020, improved offensive line play is going to be a part of it; and if the offensive line does take that step up, instant impact from Becton will be a major reason why.
Let’s take a look at a few rookie campaigns of the past that can serve as goals for Becton to shoot for in 2020.
Immediate run game impact, steady progress in pass protection – Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills (2012)
- High pick (2nd round, 41st overall)
- Similar physical profile to Becton with massive frame/great athleticism (6’6″, 345 pounds, 5.08 forty)
- Day 1 starter at left tackle
- Used gifts to boost run game immediately
- Started slower in pass protection than in run game, but set a nice base to work from and took a leap in second season
Glenn‘s early career is an excellent model for Becton to shoot for. The Georgia product is one of Becton’s closest physical comparisons, possessing a similar combination of colossal size and incredible athleticism for his frame. His strengths and weaknesses coming into the league were similar to Becton’s – dominant in the run game, moves extremely well for a man his size, but needs some tweaks in protection, although he still performed well in that phase overall thanks to his rare size/quickness combination.
Buffalo selected Glenn in the top-50 and named him their opening-week starter on the blindside, which will presumably be the case for Becton.
Glenn made an impact in the run game right away, earning a 70.8 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus that ranked at the 56th percentile among tackles. The Bills averaged a tremendous 3.2 yards before contact per rush attempt on runs directed left tackle or left guard (to either side of Glenn). For comparison, the 2019 Jets averaged 0.5 yards before contact on runs in those directions.
As expected, the passing game was more of a transition, but Glenn was respectable enough to give himself a platform to jump off of heading into year two. Glenn allowed 32 pressures (6 sacks, 9 hits, 17 hurries) over 452 snaps in protection, ranking at the 41st percentile in pass blocking efficiency (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks). However, Glenn ranked at the 64th percentile in pass blocking grade with a mark of 71.5, suggesting that many of those pressures were not his fault.
Ultimately, an above-average debut season is a great springboard for any rookie tackle, especially a high-ceiling, low-floor one that is learning how to make the most of his unique tools. Glenn came out in his second season and brought everything together. He figured out how to use his size and movement ability to dominate as a protector, ranking sixth in pass-blocking efficiency out of 74 qualifiers with 30 pressures allowed (2 sacks) over 604 protection snaps. Glenn also ranked 19th in run blocking grade and was the 14th-ranked tackle overall.
Glenn was graded as a top-20 tackle in each of the four seasons following his rookie year (2013-16), including sixth in 2015. The Bills averaged 4.8 yards per attempt on rushes directed left tackle or left guard over that span, second-best in the NFL behind David Bakhtiari‘s Packers.
After Glenn started every game from 2013-15, injuries began to creep in. Glenn missed five games with ankle, foot, and back injures in 2016. The following season, Glenn battled ankle and foot injuries until eventually be placing on injured reserve, missing 10 games. He was traded to Cincinnati prior to 2018 and has not quite been the same player since.
Hopefully, Becton is able stave off the injury bug and give the Jets more than just five seasons of reliability, but Glenn’s early career arc is a great model to shoot for. If Becton carves out huge chunks of yardage before contact for Le’Veon Bell while providing adequate protection that he can build off in 2021, it will have been a successful rookie season. Barely over 21 years old at the moment (and poised to be the youngest Jets lineman in history), Becton should improve substantially off of the level of play he establishes in 2020.