New York Jets fans should still have faith in Mekhi Becton’s future
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas‘ first draft class was considered a good group after its 2020 rookie season. Two years later, most members of the class are on the chopping block heading into Year 3.
Injuries have derailed the careers of almost the entire class. Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Hall, and Braden Mann have missed significant time over the last two seasons with various injuries. Former fourth-round pick Cameron Clark was forced to retire before ever playing a snap.
The only player who has met or surpassed expectations is cornerback Bryce Hall. However, even he is being moved to the bench as the Jets signed free agent D.J. Reed to a large contract and then used the fourth overall pick to select Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner.
Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton is certainly the most scrutinized player of the bunch. In fact, he has been the subject of intense speculation since he first declared for the draft. The massive lineman’s durability has long been questioned. Things only got worse following a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 of his second year, and since then, rumors regarding his weight and motivation have circulated non-stop.
Regardless, I have high expectations for the former 11th overall pick as he heads into his third season.
Today, I will go into Becton’s struggles, why I believe in him, and where he stands heading into Year 3.
Injuries and weight concerns
Coming into the league there was significant speculation regarding Becton’s weight. His size has contributed to a significant amount of missed time in his first two seasons.
As a rookie, Becton missed over 30% of the Jets’ offensive snaps with a shoulder and chest injury.
Concern only grew during the offseason.
Before the 2021 season even began, Becton was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain that is generally manageable and improves as the day goes on but can flare up. Then, once training camp started, Becton was routinely beaten by defensive end Carl Lawson before the latter suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
In the first game of the season, one of Becton’s teammates fell into the back of his leg resulting in a dislocated knee cap. The injury was expected to take eight weeks to recover but it lingered through the season. Unfortunately, due to a slow recovery and poor conditioning, Becton missed the rest of the season.
While I’m not surprised someone as large as Becton would take longer to recover from a knee injury, it was extremely disappointing to not see him back on the field.
However, the obsession over his weight has been overblown. Even if he did weigh over 400 pounds during recovery, it would likely put him around the average lineman’s body fat percentage.
ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that while Becton weighed as much as 389 pounds during his college career at Louisville, his body fat percentage never exceeded 20%. For reference, the average offensive lineman is usually around 25 percent, according to this study.
While Becton does need to control his weight, it is natural that he gained weight when he couldn’t be on his feet.
Injuries are a concern with Becton but the last two years have been an outlier for him. Over three years at Louisville, Becton played over 2,200 snaps and only missed one game with a minor ankle injury.
Becton has elite potential and has already flashed the ability to dominate
If you told me after the 2020 season that Jet fans would want to trade Becton heading into 2022, I’d call you crazy. However, after missing a year and plenty of speculation, many people are writing him off.
To give up on a player with a ceiling as high as Becton’s after only two years would be ridiculous.
Becton is blessed with size and athleticism that few can match. At the combine, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever by a 350+ pound player (5.10) and received an elite Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.85.
Coming into his rookie year, Becton was considered a very raw prospect that would thrive in the run game but struggle in pass protection. He would far exceed these expectations.
Becton still dominated in the run game but his pass protection was far better than expected.
Becton vs Bosa again. Becton 45 degree sets to Bosa who takes two steps upfield, inside of the TE. Becton reaches for contact with two hands (locks hips), but is able to land his right hand into the “v of the neck”. Maintains that contact, + lat shuffle, grip strength and matches pic.twitter.com/Ak56LW0lVt
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) October 11, 2020
Another rep where Becton jump sets the DE to sell the play action. Becton gets hands on with a good base, grabs on showing good grip strength, tight elbows, keeps the DE close (tighter the more power generated) and matches with his feet. Completely locked up again. pic.twitter.com/RYQIAOvr7u
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) October 11, 2020
No game better displayed Becton’s pass-protection ability than his Week 11 battle against the Chargers. Becton was the first left tackle in 2020 to not allow a single pressure while facing Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Michael Nania went into full detail regarding Becton’s performance against the Chargers here.
In his first year in the NFL, Becton earned an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 74.4 which ranked 30th among 63 offensive tackles. Despite expectations, Becton actually graded higher as a pass blocker (76.0) than as a run blocker (73.3).
Where does Mekhi Becton stand heading into Year 3?
Heading into his second season, expectations for Becton were sky-high. An ESPN survey of coaches and executives had him ranked as the sixth-best tackle in the NFL going into 2021.
Now in Year 3, Becton is fighting for his spot at left tackle, and expectations are significantly lower.
Jets coach Robert Saleh says it will be a competition at left tackle between George Fant and Mekhi Becton
— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) February 1, 2022
The Jets will be holding a competition at left tackle between Becton and George Fant after the latter played at a high level in 2021. Fant is also looking for a contract extension and would command a larger salary as a left tackle.
Speculation has continued to swirl around Becton as he didn’t show up to voluntary workouts while expecting the birth of his first child. Team captain Justin Hardee defended him on Twitter.
Y’all gotta chill with the narrative to break players down. His child comes first
— Justin Hardee Sr. (@jhardee_19) April 22, 2022
While he did not attend camp, Becton is continuing to train and prepare for the season with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather in Dallas. Here he is working on his technique, notably aligning as a left tackle.
— Optimistic Jets (@OptimisticJets) May 5, 2022
I have extremely high expectations for Becton – I believe he’s truly a Hall-of-Fame caliber player – but he may still end up playing at right tackle in 2022.
Though Becton is capable of winning the job at left tackle, it may help the entire offensive line if he played at right tackle.
Fant has shown he’s a significantly better left tackle than right tackle. In 2021, Fant had a 71.8 overall PFF grade in 14 starts at left tackle compared to a 60.1 grade in his one start on the right. This trend goes back to 2020 when he had a 66.7 grade in two starts at left tackle and a 60.0 grade in 12 starts at right tackle.
It’ll be up to the coaches to decide. Regardless, I’m excited to see Becton back on the field with a revamped offensive line.
In Year 3, the pressure is on Becton. He flashed elite potential as a rookie. If he can stay healthy and build on that potential, I believe Becton will be an All-Pro caliber player for a long time.