Using Mike LaFleur’s previous teams as a guide for what he may be looking for, here are the 2021 NFL draft IOL prospects who best fit the New York Jets.
It’s tough to know exactly how the New York Jets offense is going to look until we actually see it take the field. We as a football-watching community always like to assume that coaches are going to create a carbon copy of the offensive or defensive scheme employed by the team they just coached for, but that’s usually not the case, at least not to an extreme degree. While coaches definitely draw a heavy amount of inspiration from their background in most cases, they usually put their own personal touch on things to create something that’s reminiscent, but new – a spin-off version, if you will.
So, we have no idea what Mike LaFleur‘s Jets offense is going to look like. It could be extremely similar to the Kyle Shanahan-led 49ers unit that he was a part of for the past four years. It could look like a healthy blend of the 49ers’ style and that of Mike’s brother Matt in Green Bay. Maybe he draws from his days with Shanahan in Atlanta. Or, perhaps he ditches the philosophies of all of those teams and starts from scratch with his own vision.
Only time will tell us exactly what LaFleur is going to do, but until we know for sure, the best thing we can do to gauge what he might be looking for is to analyze the preferences of the teams he has coached for.
The interior offensive line is a prime need for the Jets after their interior trio allowed the worst pressure rate in football last season. There’s no doubt that the team will be looking closely at guards, centers, and potential tackle-to-guard converts early in the draft.
Let’s try and figure out what the Jets’ ideal offensive lineman might look like by analyzing the starting guards employed by LaFleur’s teams throughout his tenures with the Falcons (2015-16) and 49ers (2017-20).
The Falcons and 49ers combined for six different opening-week starting guards during LaFleur’s tenures with them. Each of those players was acquired by their respective teams during LaFleur’s stint alongside Kyle Shanahan, so we know that they were brought in with scheme compatibility in mind.
Here is the tale of the tape for those six guards, including some key measurables and the percentage of their run blocking snaps in which they ran a zone concept in the season prior to joining LaFleur’s team:
It’s pretty clear what these two teams wanted from their guards while LaFleur and Shanahan were around. They placed a higher premium on athleticism while devaluing size and strength.
A few common traits stand out to support this notion. Weight is one of them, as most of the Falcons and 49ers’ guards carried a smaller frame. The all-time 50th-percentile weight number for interior offensive linemen measured at the Combine is approximately 309 pounds. Five of the six players above were lighter than that.
Atlanta and San Francisco also did not seem to care much about raw strength. None of the six guards posted an exceptional number in the bench press, with Chris Chester’s 27 reps (66th percentile among OL) being the best of the bunch. Daniel Brunskill and Mike Person fared very poorly in the drill but still combined for 53 starts with the 49ers.
Perhaps the most notable thing that pops out on the chart is the obvious value placed on explosiveness. All six players posted above-average marks in both the vertical jump and the broad jump, suggesting that the two teams saw it as extremely important to have guards who can get off the ball quickly and have good movement skills.
Interestingly, it did not seem to matter whether or not the player came from a zone-based scheme. There was no consistency among the six players in this area. Andy Levitre and Mike Person came from zone-heavy schemes, but Brandon Fusco and Daniel Brunskill came from man/gap-heavy schemes. Chris Chester and Laken Tomlinson were in the middle. The player’s traits and skill-set seemed to be more important than their experience – the two teams clearly trusted they could integrate players from a different scheme if those players had the desired makeup.
So, based on what we know about the six players above, here is what the prototype Jets guard might look like:
- Slightly below-average frame (under 310 pounds)
- Great 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle times not necessary, but preferred
- Good numbers in both the vertical and broad jump (28+ for vertical, 103+ for broad)
- Not important: arm length, height, bench press/overall strength, and zone experience
Which prospects in the 2021 draft class could fit the bill? Here are a few who would seem to perfectly match the casting call for a guard in LaFleur’s offense: