Breaking down the New York Jets’ 2022 NFL draft plan at the offensive tackle position
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas has done a commendable job through his first three offseasons of improving the Jets offensive line. The biggest concern for the group at the moment is arguably the depth at tackle.
The Jets currently have two offensive tackles they can feel confident in: George Fant and Mekhi Becton. This offseason, they lost Morgan Moses to free agency, a 16-game starter from a year ago. That leaves Conor McDermott as their primary backup tackle at the moment.
It should be a priority for Douglas and his staff to acquire a young offensive tackle in the NFL draft who can come in as a backup early on. If so, it would most likely happen in rounds three through five.
The top offensive tackle prospects and the best mid-round depth targets for the Jets in each part of the draft will be highlighted below.
The consensus top four offensive tackles in the 2022 NFL draft are Ikem Ekwonu (NC State), Evan Neal (Alabama), Charles Cross (Mississippi State), and Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa).
The Jets will likely not end up landing any of these players. Of the four, the only one that seems to have a chance to be selected by the Jets is Ekwonu.
Ekwonu is one of the best prospects (if not the best) in the entire draft. New York could consider him the best player available at number four, but where he would play along the Jets offensive line with five starters already essentially locked in is the main question.
With the importance of run-blocking in Mike LaFleur‘s scheme, Neal is not the most logical fit with the fourth overall selection. Neal is considered much more refined as a pass-blocker than a run-blocker at the moment.
Cross and Penning could be valued around the 10th overall pick, although it doesn’t seem likely the Jets would take one of them over a player at another position (namely a wide receiver).
The final two offensive tackle prospects with late first-round value who could fall to the Jets’ early second-round picks (35 and 38) are Tyler Smith (Tulsa) and Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan).
Smith and Raimann will probably be selected late in the first round. If one does fall to the second round they could be considered. However, it still feels unlikely the Jets would draft a backup offensive lineman with an early second-round pick.
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Douglas could begin to strongly consider drafting a tackle starting with the Jets’ third-round pick (69th overall).
There is a drop-off from the projected first-round tackle prospects to the next tier. At the earliest, these players will begin to go off the board in the mid-second round.
This bunch consists of Abraham Lucas (Washington State), Daniel Faalele (Minnesota), Kellen Diesch (Arizona State), Nicholas Petit-Frere (Ohio State), Max Mitchell (Louisiana), and Rasheed Walker (Penn State).
The first two likely to be taken are Lucas and Faalele. If either one makes it to the Jets’ third-round pick, they could be in consideration.
Lucas recorded a great Relative Athletic Score (9.73). He has produced as a pass blocker on the edge. Per PFF, he did not allow a sack in 2021 (78.6 grade for the year). In 2020, he only allowed one sack.
Faalele would bring a massive frame (6-foot-8, 384 lbs, 35 1/8″ arm length). He had a successful 2021 season (82.3 PFF grade, one sack allowed).
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Diesch and Petit-Frere seem to be valued in the mid to late third round. Either one could potentially make it to the Jets’ early fourth-round pick (111th).
In Diesch, incredible athletic ability is added (9.75 RAS). Petit-Frere was not consistently productive at Ohio State but is a former five-star recruit with the talent to grow.
Mitchell and Walker will likely be valued from the late third round to the mid-fourth. In 2021, Mitchell recorded a PFF grade of 94.8. Mitchell has experience at both left and right tackle (over 400 snaps at each position).
Walker started the last three years at left tackle. He did not play his best in 2021 (19 hurries allowed) but has the talent to improve.
Potential fifth-round prospects
If the Jets find better value in the third and fourth round at other positions, there are two intriguing tackles who could be available at picks 146 and 163.
Braxton Jones (Southern Utah) and Matt Waletzko (North Dakota) are two great athletes, which is the logical approach to take with upside on day three offensive tackles.
Jones recorded an 8.44 RAS headlined by his speed (4.97 40-yard). He also brings a ton of length (35 3/8″ arms).
Waleztko scored exceptionally well when it came to his RAS (9.95). In particular, his 7.26 3-cone time stands out. Waletzko also brings a great height and length combination (6-foot-7, 36 1/8″ arms).
When it comes to developing offensive tackles drafted outside of the first few rounds, having athleticism is usually a necessity to be successful.
Final outlook for the Jets
At some point, the Jets will have to improve their depth behind Fant and Becton. Drafting a young player into a backup role could pay dividends for Zach Wilson at some point in his second season.
In rounds three through five, with five total selections in those rounds, one offensive tackle should be added.
Starting in round three, Lucas would be a very good prospect to acquire. In the fourth round, if Diesch or Mitchell are available they could be in play for the Jets.
Having a young player begin his career in a reserve role behind two good starters would be the best-case scenario for the Jets at offensive tackle.