NY Jets, Offensive Line, O-Line, Ranking
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Projecting where the New York Jets’ offensive line will rank in 2023

Heading into the 2023 season, the New York Jets‘ offensive line is an extremely polarizing unit. There’s no telling exactly where it will land in the NFL pecking order. There are plenty of reasons to believe it could be excellent and just as many reasons to believe it could crumble.

General manager Joe Douglas has invested an immense amount of capital into the group, which gives it a tantalizing ceiling. The Jets’ projected starting-five features two first-round picks, one second-round pick, and two veteran free-agent signings who combine for six career Pro Bowl appearances and a 2023 cap hit of $22.2 million. On paper, it looks like a unit that could be one of the league’s strongest if everything breaks the right way.

Projected starters:

There’s only one tiny problem: Considering how many red flags surround this unit, the odds of everything breaking the right way don’t seem to be very good.

The offensive line is riddled with serious questions about its durability. Only one of the Jets’ four returning starters played all 17 games last year (Laken Tomlinson). The other three returning starters combined to play just 19 out of a possible 51 games.

In addition to the durability-related question marks, there are also numerous concerns related to on-field performance.

Tomlinson showed a Pro Bowl ceiling in San Francisco but didn’t play anywhere close to that level in his first season as a Jet. Can he bounce back?

Brown will soon turn 38 years old and appeared to be on the downswing last year. He was playing through a shoulder injury, though, so the team is hopeful he can stay healthy and return to the above-average play he was providing as recently as 2021. But at 38 years old, is it realistic to expect him to stay completely healthy? And even if he does, how much does he have left in the tank at this point?

Becton showed elite potential in his rookie year but has not played a full game in three years, so even if he does stay healthy and play a lot of games, it’s a mystery as to what caliber of performance he will provide.

Tippmann is a rookie, making him a complete wild card in year one. He could be fantastic, terrible, or anything in between.

Other than that, everything looks great!

In all seriousness, this can be a top-tier offensive line. The talent is there. For it to happen, though, so many things must go the Jets’ way.

This unit is easily the most fascinating one on the Jets’ roster because of its enormous spectrum of possibilities. The gap between its ceiling and its floor is not only larger than any other unit on the team, but it might be larger than any other offensive line in the NFL, too.

Without further ado, let’s try and project where the Jets’ offensive line will rank in 2023. We will attempt to pinpoint a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and most-likely scenario.

The study will be based on PFF grades; while these grades are subjective and sometimes come to interesting conclusions, they are the only available metric for evaluating individual offensive line play, so we’ll roll with them for the purpose of this study.

These projections aren’t going to be overly scientific. They will mostly be built around ballpark estimates – using past performance to make educated guesses of what the future could look like.

Best-case scenario

  • Brown stays healthy and plays like an average starting tackle.
  • Tomlinson gets back to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in San Francisco.
  • Tippmann is an instant stud, playing like a top-10 center.
  • Vera-Tucker returns and gets even better than he already was, taking a third-year leap to establish himself as an All-Pro guard.
  • Becton plays most of the Jets’ games and improves upon his intriguing-but-inconsistent rookie year to become a borderline Pro Bowl tackle.

Let’s quantify what this could look like and where it would place the Jets on the league-wide leaderboard.

Brown’s 57.8 overall grade in 2022 ranked 70th out of 81 qualified tackles (min. 300 snaps). It was a steep drop-off from his 2021 season when he ranked 36th out of 83 qualifiers with a 71.5 grade. To be optimistic yet realistic, let’s say Brown gets up to a grade of 68.0 in 2023 – much better than 2022 but still not quite as good as 2021. That would make Brown an average starter, as it would have ranked 42nd out of 81 qualifiers in 2022. The Jets would be happy with that.

Tomlinson ranked 57th out of 79 qualified guards (min. 300 snaps) with a 56.8 grade in 2022. In his 2021 Pro Bowl season with the 49ers, Tomlinson was 11th out of 85 qualifiers with a 75.9 grade. Still 31 years old, Tomlinson is young enough to have some prime years left in him, and he also doesn’t have any lingering injury issues, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say he can match his 2021 season. We’ll put Tomlinson back at a 75.9 back grade for our best-case 2023 scenario.

Over the past couple of years, Creed Humphrey (Chiefs’ 2021 second-round pick) and Tyler Linderbaum (Ravens’ 2022 first-round pick) have shown it is possible for high-drafted rookie centers to be difference-makers from the jump. Humphrey was PFF’s No. 1 center in 2021 while Linderbaum was the No. 6 center in 2022. Bouncing off Humphrey and Linderbaum’s rankings while not going overboard with optimism, let’s say Tippmann finishes as the No. 8 center this year. In 2022, that was Corey Linsley with a 74.2 grade, so we’ll settle on that number for Tippmann.

Vera-Tucker played right guard for the first three weeks of 2022 before playing right tackle (one game) and left tackle (three games) over his next four starts. He earned his best grades at guard. From Weeks 1-3, Vera-Tucker’s 76.6 grade ranked seventh-best among guards. Considering Vera-Tucker will only be 24 years old this year, he should have a good chance to continue improving. We’ll put him at a grade of 80.0 for 2023, which would have ranked fourth among guards last year.

In his rookie season, Becton showed flashes of pure dominance, but he still needed to further refine his technique so he could become more consistent. Becton’s dominant peaks combined with his inconsistency landed him at 32nd among 83 qualified tackles with a 74.4 grade. Since this is our best-case projection, we will anticipate Becton to improve off his rookie year. With a grade of 80.0, he would have ranked 10th-best among qualified tackles in 2022.

Altogether, in our best-case projection, the five starters combine for an average grade of 75.6:

  • LT Duane Brown (68.0 – average T)
  • LG Laken Tomlinson (75.9 – top 11 G)
  • C Joe Tippmann (74.2 – top 8 C)
  • RG Alijah Vera-Tucker (80.0 – top 4 G)
  • RT Mekhi Becton (80.0 – top 10 T)

We should adjust for injuries, too, since even in a best-case scenario, it’s too optimistic to project all five starters to play 17 games.

Backups are expected to perform worse than starters, so the average grade among all players on the unit will most likely be lower than the average grade of the starters. Since this is our best-case scenario, the overall health of the unit will be very good – a fair estimate would be for the five starters to play somewhere around 90% of possible games. Considering that, we’ll only dock a modest total of two points off the offensive line’s overall grade of 75.6, landing us at a projected average of 73.6 among all linemen to take a snap.

In 2022, an overall grade of 73.6 would have ranked fourth-best out of 32 teams. Here are the best offensive lines of the 2022 season, based on the average PFF grade accumulated by all offensive linemen on the roster (weighted for snap counts):

  • 1. Falcons (77.7)
  • 2. Eagles (76.3)
  • 3. Chiefs (74.4)
  • 2023 Jets best-case projection (73.6)
  • T-4. Ravens (71.4)
  • T-4. Vikings (71.4)
  • 6. Browns (71.0)
  • 7. Lions (69.4)
  • 8. 49ers (68.6)

There you have it: This Jets offensive line undoubtedly has an elite ceiling. And it’s not an unrealistic ceiling to reach, either. We just went player-by-player and none of the individual best-case scenarios we laid out were overly ambitious. They are all well within reach based on the levels of performance each player has displayed.

The tough part will be getting all five players to achieve their best-case scenarios simultaneously. While that is unlikely, it is certainly possible.

Now, we move to the other end of the spectrum.

Worst-case scenario

  • Brown and Tomlinson perform just as poorly as they did in 2022.
  • Tippmann experiences rookie lumps and plays like a below-average starter.
  • Vera-Tucker is the lone silver lining as he performs similarly to 2022 (but doesn’t improve).
  • Becton performs worse than his rookie year, declining to a below-average starter due to rust and lasting injury effects.
  • Injuries strike the unit hard as Brown and Becton play only half of the games.

In this scenario, Brown and Tomlinson will fail to improve upon their underwhelming 2022 grades of 57.8 and 56.8, respectively.

Tippmann plays more like a typical rookie than outliers such as Humphrey and Linderbaum. If we project him as the 24th-best starting center, that would have put him at a grade of 61.4 in 2022.

We will keep Vera-Tucker at his 76.6 grade from the first three weeks of 2022. Even in an ugly scenario, it’s difficult to imagine Vera-Tucker playing poorly – he established a high floor last season. Sure, we could make up a doomsday scenario where every starter gets injured and/or declines to horrendous levels of play, but I’m trying to keep the worst-case scenario as realistic as possible.

Becton, when on the field, declines from what he showed as a rookie. In this scenario, let’s say he is the 50th-best tackle. In 2022, out of 81 qualifiers, the 50th-best tackle had a 65.3 grade.

Altogether, in our worst-case projection, the five starters combine for an average grade of 63.6, which is 12 points worse than our best-case projection of 75.6:

  • LT Duane Brown (57.0 – bottom 12 T)
  • LG Laken Tomlinson (56.8 – bottom 25 G)
  • C Joe Tippmann (61.4 – bottom 10 C)
  • RG Alijah Vera-Tucker (76.6 – top 8 G)
  • RT Mekhi Becton (65.3 – bottom half T)

Any worst-case scenario involving the Jets’ offensive line has to include an onslaught of injuries. The health of last year’s Jets offensive line is a reasonable guideline of what a bad season of durability could look like.

In 2022, the Jets’ Week 1 starters – if you count Duane Brown instead of Max Mitchell, as Brown was expected to start but got injured prior to the game – wound up playing 61 of 85 possible games (72%). If you want to count Becton as a starter instead of Brown, that drops to 49 of 85 possible games (58%).

Let’s ballpark it and say the Jets only get 70% of possible games (about 60 of 85) from Brown, Tomlinson, Tippmann, Vera-Tucker, and Becton. That means they would be getting a very high number of starts from backups, who would most likely perform worse than the starters (even at their projected worst-case level of play).

Thus, the overall average of 63.6 would be dragged down significantly. Since we only docked two points from the best-case unit, going off an estimated games-played percentage of 90% from the starters, we will double that number and dock four points from the worst-case starting lineup’s average of 63.6. This knocks them down to a projected average of 59.6 among all linemen to take a snap.

In 2022, an overall grade of 59.6 would have ranked 27th out of 32 teams. It barely beats the Jets’ 2022 mark of 59.2, which, coincidentally, was the 27th-ranked mark. Here are the worst offensive lines of the 2022 season, based on the average PFF grade accumulated by all offensive linemen on the roster (weighted for snap counts):

  • T-32. Texans (57.9)
  • T-32. Bills (57.9)
  • 30. Titans (58.2)
  • 29. Jaguars (58.7)
  • 28. Saints (59.1)
  • 27. Jets (59.2)
  • 2023 Jets worst-case projection (59.6)
  • 26. Bengals (60.0)
  • 25 Rams (60.4)
  • 24. Giants (61.0)

There is a very real scenario where the Jets’ offensive line is exactly as porous as it was in 2022.

To wrap things up, let’s take a look at the most likely scenario when considering all of the ceilings and floors we have discussed so far.

Most likely scenario

  • Brown improves decently over 2022 and is a below-average starter.
  • Tomlinson improves decently over 2022 and is an above-average starter.
  • Tippmann is an average starter.
  • Vera-Tucker improves slightly over 2022 and is a top 5-10 guard.
  • Becton performs the same as he did in 2020, remaining an above-average starting tackle.
  • The Jets get much better injury luck than 2022 but still deal with a few significant injuries.

After crafting best-case and worst-case scenarios, we’ll meet in the middle for each player to identify the most likely scenario.

  • LT Duane Brown: Best case (68.0) + worst case (57.0) = 62.5 – Would rank 61st of 81 T in 2022
  • LG Laken Tomlinson: Best case (75.9) + worst case (56.8) = 66.4 – Would rank 27th of 79 G in 2022
  • C Joe Tippmann: Best case (74.2) + worst case (61.4) = 67.8 – Would rank 12th of 39 C in 2022
  • RG Alijah Vera-Tucker: Best case (80.0) + worst case (76.6) = 78.3 – Would rank 5th of 79 G in 2022
  • RT Mekhi Becton: Best case (80.0) + worst case (65.3) = 72.7 – Would rank 29th of 81 T in 2022

The five starters combine for an average of 69.5.

On the injury front, a realistic middle-ground projection could be a games-played percentage of around 85% for the starting lineup. This would entail the five starters playing about 72 of 85 possible games, meaning they would combine to miss 13 games. It’s far better than 2022, but it would still require ample snaps from the backups.

To estimate the effect of injuries on the unit’s overall performance, we deducted two points off the starter’s average in the best-case scenario and four points in the worst-case scenario. The midpoint would be three points. That is what we will deduct from the starter’s average of 69.5, leaving us with a final mark of 66.5 in our most likely scenario.

In 2022, an overall grade of 66.5 would have ranked 10th-best out of 32 teams. Here are the top 12 offensive lines of the 2022 season, based on the average PFF grade accumulated by all offensive linemen on the roster (weighted for snap counts):

  • 1. Falcons (77.7)
  • 2. Eagles (76.3)
  • 3. Chiefs (74.4)
  • 4. Ravens (71.4)
  • 5. Vikings (71.4)
  • 6. Browns (71.0)
  • 7. Lions (69.4)
  • 8. 49ers (68.6)
  • 9. Bears (67.9)
  • 2023 Jets most-likely projection (66.5)
  • 10. Patriots (66.4)
  • 11. Buccaneers (65.8)
  • T-12. Raiders (65.7)
  • T-12. Packers (65.7)
  • T-12. Cowboys (65.7)

So, what did we learn today?

Most of all, I think we confirmed the polarizing outlook of the Jets’ offensive line. Its reputation as a high-ceiling, low-floor unit appears to be accurate.

But I also think we found out that the Jets’ offensive line has a better median outcome than some might think. The final projection we put together is very fair – it features all five starters landing directly in between the ceilings and floors we set for them, and it features injury luck that can probably be considered league-average. Yet, the Jets landed all the way up at No. 10 in this projection.

As long as the Jets avoid a catastrophic number of injuries, the floor for this offensive line should be fairly high. It’s a well-rounded group with a nice blend of veteran experience and youthful upside.

There’s also the Aaron Rodgers effect. Rodgers’ ability to set protections and get everyone on the same page should help the offensive line play better as a unit, leading to a significant decrease in blown protections compared to last season. This skill from Rodgers is a floor-raiser that ideally should allow each player to stay far away from their worst-case outcome and at least reach their median outcome.

All in all, the ceiling for this unit is very high, and considering the number of injury concerns, the floor is very low. But the injury bug is really the biggest factor. On the field, things are looking pretty good. If the Jets can dodge the injury bug, the baseline expectation for the offensive line is higher than many people think. Even if all five starters only land in the middle of their respective spectrums of outcomes, this would still be an above-average unit as long as it is blessed by the football gods with reasonably good health.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
20 days ago

I would actually put Becton’s highs higher and his lows lower. He has lost around 50 POUNDS this offseason and looks to be in the best shape of his life. That dropped weight should significantly decrease the chances of another injury, and with his athleticism I think his ceiling is more like Top 5 than Top 10. On the other hand, it’s possible his knees are already bone on bone and he’s either done or looking a major reconstruction.

I’m also higher on our depth than I was a year ago. Mitchell played pretty decently until his blood clot issued ended his season. I agree with Matt below that if, say Tomlinson isn’t performing up to snuff, we could go with a Turner or Schweitzer or even kick Tippman out to Guard and play McGovern at Center.

Regarding the latter, I think Tippman will be way better than McGovern at identifying protection issues and pointing them out at the LOS, as, of course, will Aaron Rodgers. A lot of bad plays could have been avoided last year if McGovern had simply said to Tomlinson, “make sure you’ve got THAT guy.” He didn’t, and THAT guy came in completely unblocked way too often. Plus Rodgers is way better at reading the field and getting the ball out quickly, making lengthy protections less of an issue.

What I’m most excited about though is our running game. I see a run right, with Tippman pulling from Center and leading Becton, AVT and Ruckert to plow openings for Breece and Izzy. We’re going to bust a ton of long runs this season.

Good article. Is it September yet?

21 days ago

Hopefully guys like Turner, McGovern and second year Mitchell can provide decent depth.

Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
21 days ago

One thing not mentioned, and which could play a part, is I think “the best five play” is an enduring philosophy, and this lines has options. If one of these players is not meeting an optimistic or realistic expectation, there are others that could give us a couple of surprisingly good games, ala Herbig.

Gary Berman
Gary Berman
21 days ago

They have to stay healthy at some point. The injuries the past 2 years have been absurd. Top10 is definitely realistic.