Joe Douglas, Ikem Ekwonu, NFL Draft, NY Jets
Joe Douglas, Ikem Ekwonu, NFL Draft, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Offensive linemen should not be in consideration for the New York Jets at the top of the 2022 NFL draft

I’m going to start this article by stating the obvious: both Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are fine players and worthy of being considered top-5 selections.

But the New York Jets would be making a big mistake if they were to take either with the #4 overall pick.

Here’s why – if the Jets were to take either player at #4, that would represent their third top-15 selection on the offensive line in the last three drafts:

  • 2020 – Mekhi Becton, Tackle (#11)
  • 2021 – Alijah Vera-Tucker, Guard (#14)
  • 2022 – Ikem Ekwonu/Evan Neal (#4)

If we’re looking at the draft in isolation, that’s already a hefty resource allocation in one particular area. But when you add in all the money that Joe Douglas has spent on the line through free agency, it becomes clear that considerable resources have already been used on elevating the Jets line from one of the worst in the league, to what we hope will be at worst a top 15 unit.

The Jets have already spent on the following offensive linemen in free agency:

  • 2022 – Laken Tomlinson, Guard – 3 years, $41.2 million
  • 2020 – Geoge Fant, Tackle – 3 years, $27.3 million
  • 2020 – Connor McGovern, Center – 3 years, $27 million
  • 2020 – Greg Van Roten, Guard – 3 years, $10.5 million

I appreciate that when Joe Douglas took over, the Jets offensive line was a bit of a mess. Douglas had no choice but to commit to revamping it. But like any project, there has to be a point where your attention switches to other areas of the team.

As things stand the Jets line will consist of three big-money signings (Fant, McGovern and Tomlinson) and two first-round picks (AVT and Becton).

That’s a lot of resources in one position group, and if you look around the league you’ll see that overall it’s rather unique. Most teams will consist of a highly paid player, maybe one first-round draft choice, and then some later draft additions.

Following the 2021 season, Pro Football Focus released their list of the best offensive lines in the league. The Jets, for what it’s worth, came in at #11 overall, and that’s before adding Laken Tomlinson and the returning Mekhi Becton. If you swap Greg Van Roten for Tomlinson and Morgan Moses for Becton, that line significantly improves and almost certainly jumps into the top 10, if not closing on the top 5.

PFF’s top five rated lines in football were:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
    2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    3. San Francisco 49ers
    4. Philadelphia Eagles
    5. Kansas City Chiefs

Most of these lines did not have nearly as much capital invested into them as the Jets do.

The Cowboys had second-rounder Connor Williams and fourth-rounder Tyer Biadasz. The Bucs had second-rounders Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet along with third-rounder Alex Cappa. The 49ers had former Jet and sixth-round pick Tom Compton and undrafted Daniel Brunskill.

I can go on and on and on, but I think you get my point. While it’s absolutely key for you to address your offensive line, you don’t need constant first-round additions and big-money signings. That is a complete waste of resources.

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I’ve seen more than a few people say the Jets should take Ikem Ekonwu or Evan Neal if they fall to #4.

“They’re Joe Douglas picks,” people shout. “What if Becton gets injured again?” is a common argument. “Fant is a free agent next year,” people scream.

Those are all valid points, but how many teams have first-round picks backing up first-round picks? Not that many. The Jets have depth signings on the line and whether we like it or not, it seems as though Joe Douglas has faith in players like Chuma Edoga, Conor McDermott, and Dan Feeney to make spot starts. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have signed them.

I know people are concerned about Becton, but his knee injury against Carolina wasn’t his fault and big guys take longer to rehab, that’s just the nature of the beast. Becton looks hungry to prove his doubters wrong and for the first time he’ll be competing for his favored left tackle spot with George Fant, and competition brings out the best in people.

If you’re worried about Becton’s injury, worry about Carl Lawson’s too. He’s coming off a horrible Achilles injury and the depth behind him is largely nonexistent.

I don’t want my argument to be confused. I’m not saying the Jets should not draft a lineman. Anyone who’s followed me knows I talk a fair bit about guys like Abraham Lucas in the second round, Cole Strange in the third round and Zach Tom later in the draft.

I’m just saying you shouldn’t select an offensive lineman in the first round for the third year in a row, especially when your offensive line was just ranked the 11th-best in football and your defense was ranked as one of the worst.

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For argument’s sake, let’s just imagine the Jets take Ikem Ekwonu.

Do you trade George Fant? A 29-year-old tackle coming off a season where he was rated as one of the best tackles in football?

Do you trade Becton? Two years after drafting him and while his value is so low? No chance.

What if you trade Fant or Becton and Ikem doesn’t work out? Then you’re back to square one.

So, if you trade neither Fant nor Becton, do you have Ikem sit on the bench this year as depth? He’s certainly not playing over AVT or Tomlinson. It seems strange to have a #4 overall pick riding the bench all season.

Why would you back yourself into a difficult situation by taking an offensive lineman? I know Joe Douglas loves his offensive linemen but it makes absolutely no sense to go in that direction again. There’s no point putting garnish on a dish that isn’t finished and that’s what I consider an offensive lineman to be. New York still needs to finish this roster.

I would argue that even if Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux are off the board, there’s more value in taking someone like Jermaine Johnson at #4 than taking Ikem and there’s more value in taking your WR1 than taking Ikem.

Again, I like Ikem and I like Neal. This is about resource allotment.

You’re known as an offensive line “guru”, Joe. How about you prove it by finding a valuable asset later in the draft?

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Staff writer for Jets X-Factor, NFL draft writer for SB Nation, Scribe & founder of the Daily Jets Newsletter, host of the UK Jets Podcast, husband and dad. Email: d.wyatt25[at]gmail.com
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rex
rex
1 month ago

I told you nitwits that Becton couldn’t be relied upon. But no, the offensive line was “set,” the Jets had ALL the OL required. Fast forward 3 months and look at Jets Nation now, the sky is falling and all hopes hinge on a 37 year old LT to decide between the Jets and who knows which other team(s) that might provide a better opportunity to win is vying for his services. Wilson might spend another season running for his life, but at least the Jets have Sauce, right? Imbeciles.

Freedom1789
Freedom1789
6 months ago

If you love Ekonwu and think he can play OT you take him. He then pushes all 4 positions on the line and provides amazing depth for one year if he can’t crack the starters. Then on year 2, you have flexibility on Fant’s contract, as well as Tomlinson who might not be worth 17 million in year 2 (a point you make of not over allocating resources to OL). I’d also consider Linderbaum if he is there at 10 as again, if he is NFL ready he provides alternate to McGovern (who could even slide over). If we don’t trade back, I want BPA for positional value at #4, which for my money in this draft is OT or to your point Edge\DL. Maybe CB if you love one and are willing to change from the current defensive system a bit. I agree we don’t want a pure guard at 4.

WorthlessWoody
WorthlessWoody
6 months ago

Ooooof. Terrible take. Short term thinking imo. And it’s based on nothing more than hype and wishful thinking. I don’t care how much we overpaid to get JAG hold the fort types in Fant and McGovern. And I don’t care what PFF thinks about him, I know he’s an average swing tackle. We signed him to be replaced.

And Becton is a MAJOR concern and just because his PR agent tweeted a couple pics of him working out doesn’t excuse him bailing on the later part of the season….let’s not forget he’s also a guy who tapped out as a rookie multiple times during games.

It’s great that he’s now motivated to prove doubters wrong…which btw…that’s mentally weak/ego driven/loser type motivation…but that’s another issue.

Bottom line is that the OL is a house of cards and we are overpaying for mediocrity with previous FA signings (both Fant and McGovern were 3rd or 4th options IIRC during FA). You need to see past the moment you are in and look at the big picture. Jets could just as easily see Becton in Mims doghouse next year and we will be seriously discussing the validity of retaining George Fant on a Franchise tag or be left with nothing.

This idea that the Jets OL was so good…c’mon. Watch the games. Don’t take a bunch of wanna be scouts and stat nerds words for it. The OL was not good enough. Far from it. And that was with Moses. And even though I don’t believe in Zach Wilson, I still think you have to put him in a position to succeed. And this OL, as constructed…ain’t it.

We need another OT and C to replace Fant and McGovern ASAP. Joe brought them in to patch a hole and punt long enough to draft over them.

Now is the time.

Barring a trade down, gimme OT and Edge rd 1. Then go WR and Edge in rd 2.

rex
rex
1 month ago
Reply to  WorthlessWoody

As of yesterday afternoon, EVERYONE who down voted you AND the author of this article have been exposed as ABSOLUTE, KNOW NOTHING CASUALS. There’s nothing else for it. It takes a fool of the highest order to look at an OT that’s started ONLY 14 out of 33 possible games (with six he couldn’t finish due to INJURY) and think “there should be no concern over an almost 400 pound human being and his ability to remain healthy playing the most physically demanding team sport in the world.”

BigJetsFan1
BigJetsFan1
6 months ago

I see your point. However, its no fun watching your QB run for his life and when we are on defense watch the other QB scan the field, finish his taxes and waive to his family in the stands then remember to throw the ball for a TD. We just want certainty that Zach isn’t seeing ghosts anymore. Is this too much to ask? A great o-line can make tier 2 WR’s which is what we have look better. I would love drafting a great o lineman with our first pick and another with our last pick.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
6 months ago
Reply to  BigJetsFan1

Your answer contains it’s own contradiction. Yes, at the beginning of the season our line was playing poorly. But by the end of the season it was playing pretty well, and it has already been improved by signing Tomlinson. Meanwhile you noted how opposing QBs are sitting back in the pocket forever while our our secondary struggled to cover WRs forever. That’s why the correct answer at #4 is to improve the pass rush by taking Travon Walker, Karlaftis or KT.

hh11212
hh11212
6 months ago

We need to look at players like Abraham Lucas who I think is a more athletic version of Morgan Moses. Lucas can be your Right Tackle for 8 to 10 years. Draft him in 2nd to take over for Fant in a year or trade Fant and draft Lucas. I feel Lucas is a plug and play starter (was a 4 year starter at WSU) and you save on the cap for the next 4 years with an inexpensive starter. Definitely have to start spreading the resources out rather than trying to spend big to fill every O-Line position.

rex
rex
6 months ago

Yeah. It makes ZERO sense to draft an OL when Fant will be a FA after the 2022 season, Tomlinson will be 31 at the start of the 2023 season and we have no idea when he’ll start to decline and Mekhi Becton is not a lock to be a premiere LT moving forward. It’d be a travesty to go into 2023 with an already groomed OL that can be plugged right in in the event any combination of the aforementioned scenarios doesn’t resolve in the positive for the Jets. Who needs a consistently competent OL anyway, right?

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
6 months ago
Reply to  rex

So you start to churn the horrible depth with mid round players and develop them. Not every OL has to be a 1st rounder.

rex
rex
6 months ago
Reply to  verge tibbs

That’s how the Vlad Ducasses and Chuma Edogas end up on NFL rosters.

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
6 months ago
Reply to  rex

Yea, certain players drafted lower suck, but plenty end up good, just like some 1st rounders suck n some are good. Referring to the article, theres plenty of linemen on the top 5 lines last season that arent 1st rd picks. If they end up spending a 2nd, ok, that wouldnt be ridiculous. Spending 4 overall would be.

rex
rex
1 month ago
Reply to  verge tibbs

Yup. 4th round pick, Max Mitchell, looks to be an excellent replacement for Becton now, huh?

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
6 months ago
Reply to  rex

O linemen play well into their 30s. Andrew Whitworth just retired at 37. Tomlinson will be fine on a 3 year contract. You want to play what it? What if we don’t get a pass rusher and Carl Lawson get hurt again? We will once gain have one of the worst defenses in the league. That is unacceptable. We MUST fix the pass rush to make the defense work!

rex
rex
6 months ago

Andrew Whitworth is an outlier with most NFL OL retiring in the their early 30s. Jets fans need to ask themselves what’s more important: having an elite pass rush or having a legitimate franchise QB. Because without a CONSISTENTLY COMPETENT offensive line, Zach Wilson can easily and quite quickly become damaged goods. And that could very well result in JD and the CS handed their walking papers and ANOTHER reset/rebuild under a new GM and HC and drafting yet another kid in the first round in the hopes he can develop into a franchise QB. But hey at least then the pass rush MIGHT be solid, right?

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
6 months ago

100% agreed. Not to mention how theyll all be possibly getting big second deals consecutively.

verge tibbs
verge tibbs
6 months ago

100% agreed.