Peter Skoronski, 2023 NFL Draft, Northwestern, NY Jets
Peter Skoronski, NFL Draft, Northwestern Football, New York Jets, Getty Images

New York Jets fans, keep an eye on these top OT prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Few things in life are absolutely certain. Death, taxes, and the New York Jets needing offensive line help are some of the items making up the short list.

In the first half of the 2022 season, the Jets offensive line showed serious improvement from that of 2021, but once the injuries started piling up, it became pretty clear that the unit still needs more help.

The returns of Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton to the lineup next season will undoubtedly provide a jolt, but the line was in fact so bad to finish this year that it still feels like easily the biggest need on the roster. Cedric Ogbuehi and Mike Remmers simply can’t be the caliber of offensive tackle the Jets send out there to start a game at any point in 2023.

Free agency is always an option and general manager Joe Douglas will surely do his due diligence on players set to become available. A guy like Orlando Brown Jr., if not re-signed by the Chiefs, would be a tremendous signing at left tackle, but it’s never a safe bet that a player shakes free.

So let’s turn to the NFL Draft, in which the Jets are set to pick 13th overall.

This year’s crop of offensive tackles features three guys at the top of the class before a bit of a drop-off. Peter Skoronski from Northwestern, Broderick Jones from Georgia, and Paris Johnson Jr. from Ohio State all bring something of value to the table — which of them appeals most to Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh, however, is where the speculation gets interesting.

Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Peter Skoronski is the most technically-sound offensive line prospect in this year’s draft. He had a fantastic year for the Wildcats, only allowing one sack on the entire season. When it comes to the ins and outs of playing up front, you won’t find anyone better than Skoronski.

As a three-year starter at left tackle, his hand usage is as textbook as it comes. Because of that, the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder is uber-effective at sustaining blocks in pass protection and paving lanes in the run game. Pair that with his high-level football IQ and you’ve got another potential elite piece on the Jets offensive line to go with Vera-Tucker and hopefully Becton.

The concerns with Skoronski, though, come with his arm length.

Some people scoff at the idea that a player’s wingspan can limit their chances of success in the NFL, but it’s a very real drawback. At the college level, a player can make up for deficiencies in one area through elite play in another. But in the NFL, there’s rarely room for any deficiencies in the first place — the competition is too good.

Players with shorter arm length typically face the possibility of kicking inside to guard, as that way they have teammate support on either side of them, and therefore less necessity for length. For example, look no further than Vera-Tucker, who starred at left tackle in college, only to make the transition to guard in the NFL, where he made the all-rookie team. Other successful short-armed college tackles-turned-guards include Zach Martin, Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff.

But to put things into perspective, let’s look at Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater, who ironically, Skoronski replaced at Northwestern. Entering the NFL, Slater too faced big concerns over his arm length and whether he’d be able to hold up on the outside. Many analysts believed Slater would ultimately wind up kicking inside to guard, and Skoronski, with even shorter arms, will certainly face the same conundrum.

The bright side of the comparison, though, is that Slater has not only stuck at tackle; he’s excelled, establishing himself early on as one of the premier young talents at the position. Again, Skoronski will have to overcome even less favorable measurables than Slater, but the blueprint has certainly been set by his former teammate.

Skoronski should be viewed as the highest-floored offensive line prospect in this year’s draft. Despite the risk that comes with his wingspan, the football IQ and technical soundness that he brings to the table are all but guaranteed to help whatever team winds up drafting him.

Is he a target for the Jets? We’ve seen Douglas swing for the fences on a low floor, high ceiling offensive tackle prospect in Mekhi Becton — essentially the polar opposite of Skoronski. Maybe the way that situation has panned out is enough to change his approach this time around.

Broderick Jones, Georgia

If Skoronski is at one end of the offensive tackle prospect spectrum, Broderick Jones is at the other.

Heading into the 2022 season, Jones only had four career starts under his belt. And yet, his name popped up on nearly every early 2023 mock draft in the summer. Even with his lack of experience, Jones has been labeled as a future early-round pick for a long time. He was a five-star recruit out of high school and the top-ranked tackle prospect in the country when he arrived at Georgia in 2020.

Jones has a blatantly obvious selling point to his draft profile: his tremendous physical upside. He’s 6-foot-4, 315 pounds with a rare combination of strength, length and natural leverage. On top of that, he’s an explosive athlete within that frame, and he has the lateral ability to change direction in space very effectively. He’s also got all of the natural strength and power NFL coaches desire in their tackles.

Physically for Jones, it’s all there. The issues, however, come with an overreliance on those tools, along with his lack of experience. Because of his tendency to rely on his outstanding physical gifts, Jones makes a fair amount of mistakes mechanically — his footwork and hand placement need a lot of work, and despite his natural leverage, he lets defenders get under him too often. With such little experience to date, though, this stuff is to be expected.

Again, Jones and Skoronski are at opposite ends of the offensive tackle prospect spectrum. On one end, there’s Skoronski: the experienced, technically sound, three-year starter with less-than-favorable physical measurables. Overall, he presents a high floor, but lower ceiling. Then on the other end, there’s Jones: the extremely physically-gifted, former five-star who offers more of a high-risk, high-reward profile.

In a nutshell, what Skoronski lacks in raw, physical gifts, Jones has in spades — but what Jones still needs in experience and technique, Skoronski has plenty of.

This brings us back to the Joe Douglas-Mekhi Becton comparison. Will the Jets general manager be more inclined to stick to his initial ideologies and opt for the higher-ceiling prospect, or does he feel he’s learned something from the Becton situation?

It’s a question worth asking, especially when purely from a talent standpoint, Becton did seem to be a good draft pick — it’s been weight and injuries keeping him off the field, which Jones hasn’t struggled with. But at the same time, Douglas’ seat could start to warm if results don’t come sooner rather than later, and Jones will undoubtedly take some developing.

Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

Residing comfortably somewhere in the middle of our offensive tackle prospect spectrum is Paris Johnson Jr. out of Ohio State.

While not as technically refined as Skoronski and not as naturally strong and athletic as Jones, Johnson brings a healthy mix of both as opposed to an overload of just one.

He falls right in between the other two in terms of on-field experience as well. Johnson started the entire 2021 season at right guard for the Buckeyes before kicking over to left tackle in 2022. The season culminated with him garnering consensus first-team All-American and All-Big Ten honors. Because of his experience on both the left and right side, as well as the interior and exterior of the offensive line, Johnson offers rare versatility that a Jets front with lots up in the air could very much use.

To say that Johnson is a lesser athlete than Jones is certainly no knock on him overall. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Johnson is an explosive athlete in his own right and has easy movement skills for someone of his size. His technique needs some work, although his two years of starting experience put him well ahead of Jones in that regard. The biggest weakness to Johnson’s game right now is his functional strength, which luckily, is easily fixable with an NFL training program.

Because of Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh’s affinity for high-character draft prospects, it’s worth mentioning that Johnson is a standout in the classroom and in his community as well as on the football field. He’s received a number of academic accolades and has an extensive background in volunteering. In fact, he’s already established a foundation to help veterans and underprivileged children.

As a prospect, Johnson is regarded as safer than Jones, though with not quite as high of a ceiling. He’s considered to have far more potential than Skoronski, but he also can’t offer as high of a floor.

With all of these factors considered, it makes a great deal of sense that Johnson has gotten a lot of early love from Jets fans in the draft community. As things stand now, landing him at 13 overall might be wishful thinking. But on the other hand, there’s plenty of time and events between now and the draft, including the Senior Bowl, the combine, pro days, etc. With that being the case, a lot figures to change and there might even wind up being another offensive tackle prospect who works their way into this conversation.

In any case, there’s a strong likelihood that one of these three guys hears his name called by the Jets in April’s draft.

Ian Roddy is on Twitter @IanRoddy_

 

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Ian Roddy is a football writer currently working towards his masters at USC. He brings a versatile journalistic skill set to Jets X-Factor with both writing and audio. Email: roddy.ian66@gmail.com
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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
14 days ago

Good mention of Jones’ character pluses. Are there any character negatives on the other 2? Also, how would you compare these guys to AVT coming out?

Psi
Psi
14 days ago
Reply to  Ian Roddy

The position flexibility of Skoronski and Johnson is very important. I’d take either if they’re there at 13.

dudizt
dudizt
15 days ago

I like Johnson or Skoroski but I’d also throw steen in over Jones. What are your thoughts on him?

dudizt
dudizt
14 days ago
Reply to  Ian Roddy

I’m not as high on Jones as you are but agree to disagree. He just strikes me as someone who wins on talent but is sloppy technique wise. Doesn’t work in the nfl but he can change that. It’s like becton vs Wirfs. I much preferred Tristan at the time and so far have been proven right. But still young in their careers

Psi
Psi
14 days ago
Reply to  dudizt

Totally agree. Preferred Wirfs back then for the same reason. No projects. Especially now.