The Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims injuries in Week 17 cast offseason doubt on the New York Jets’ 2020 NFL draft class.
You know what they always say: Availability is the best ability. Every football player has also heard this: There’s a difference between being hurt and injured.
A hurt designation means availability is still on the table. A sore knee or a bum ankle doesn’t keep a player out of action. The injured designation is what NFL general managers want to avoid at all costs.
For the New York Jets, it’s like Déjà vu all over again.
After an injury-riddled 2019 season, the 2020 Jets came back with another non-available-type season. What tipped it over the edge is what happened in the team’s Week 17 loss to the New England Patriots.
Mekhi Becton exited the game with a high-ankle sprain and Denzel Mims left with a concussion. Joe Douglas‘s first and second-round picks in his first crack at the NFL draft enter the offseason injured—a concern that cannot be overlooked.
The point here isn’t to bash Douglas and the Jets organization. Just several days ago I praised the 2020 draft class as the Jets’ best in well over a decade. If not for injuries, it would have sparkled even further. Unfortunately, the injuries were very real in 2020.
Becton played in 14 games this season. Not bad, right? Well, in at least two of those games, he left either left early or didn’t even start.
Against Denver in Week 4, Becton dressed but didn’t start due to a shoulder injury. After an early injury to Chuma Edoga, the Jets reinserted him into the lineup. Obviously, it didn’t last long. Becton exited and missed the following two games.
Becton then exited Week 9 against the Patriots with a chest injury that severely worried the training staff. He didn’t return. Although he returned after the bye in Week 11, the big man wound up injured against the Pats again with a high-ankle sprain in Week 17.
While Becton played 14 games, he played just 10 full games. His 31 total snaps in Week 3, 15 snaps in Week 4, 15 snaps in Week 9 and 36 snaps in Week 17 make that previous notion crystal clear.
Meanwhile, Mims, the second-round product, played in just nine games this rookie campaign.
The Baylor product missed the first six games of the season thanks to a hamstring. It was the other hamstring, as he initially hurt one hammy in August that kept him out of training camp save for a couple of days leading up to Week 1.
He then experienced a family issue—which caused him to miss the Seattle Seahawks blowout loss and is something that would never fall on the kid, especially due to the stringent COVID-19 protocols that make it tough to return in time. His concussion status to cap the season allowed him to take just 18 snaps in the season finale.
As much as there is to love about Becton and Mims, the same worry needs to be put into the availability aspect.
A football general manager wants to look at his stalwart left tackle with ease. He wants to think, “Here he is, my guy, the beast who’ll play for the next decade and change without allowing me to think twice.”
A stud left tackle missing this much time makes for troublesome thoughts. A guy who never misses a single snap provides sheer bliss.
The turning point for the Jets franchise after Bill Parcells came in 2006 when Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum didn’t mess around. Instead of an exciting quarterback in Vince Young or maybe Matt Leinart (Young was selected before the Jets had a chance), the new head coach-general manager combo tabbed D’Brickashaw Ferguson as its first-ever pick.
All Ferguson did was miss one snap in his entire 10-year NFL career. To understand that feat and not fill your mind with amazement would be to sell it totally short. And if not for a desperate lateral-filled play in Week 17 against the Dolphins in 2008, Ferguson would have never missed a single snap.
Becton is a more dominant left tackle than Ferguson—a man who made three Pro Bowls. But Ferguson could be counted on no matter the situation. Mount Mekhi has some work to do in that regard.
Nick Mangold was the second-ever choice for the Mangini-Tannenbaum combo. All Mangold did was earn two first-team All-Pros and make seven Pro Bowls. Best yet, he missed just four games over his first 10 seasons. (He missed eight games in 2016, his final year.)
Availability is always the best ability.
Of course, the injury bug isn’t limited to just Becton and Mims. Nobody was hit harder than the Jets in 2019, and it felt as though it simply carried over into 2020.
Becton and Mims aren’t even the only two rookies who suffered through injury-riddled seasons. Douglas knew what he was getting into with Bryce Hall‘s ankle injury, and since he returned, he’s been stable. But Ashtyn Davis and La’Mical Perine participated in just 10 games apiece (one of Perine’s came due to a positive COVID-19 test), and both Jabari Zuniga and Cameron Clark experienced injury issues early in the season.
Solving this issue has to be No. 1 on the priority list for Douglas this offseason. Selecting non-injury-prone players also has to be at the forefront.
Time is still needed to gauge Becton and Mims’s injury-prone level. Per Becton, many studies have been run in order to get to the bottom of the size/weight issue. Are bigger players more susceptible to injury? In a study done by Football Outsiders in 2018, the answer seems to be no. Then again, Becton is bigger than just “big.” The thought around that exact idea is a relevant one.
At this moment, the overall cause for concern shouldn’t be met with a ghost pepper. One season never makes for a career and can never set a specific trend. Instead, let’s label the concerns with a medium brand of Tabasco. It looks a lot hotter than it actually is.
Spicy food temperament aside, the injuries sustained by the big-ticket rookies in Week 17 put a bow on a hopeful yet mildly-concerning season as it pertains to future availability.