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FA haul shouldn’t stop NY Jets from targeting a key position in draft

Joe Douglas
Joe Douglas

The New York Jets shouldn’t ignore the offensive line in the NFL draft despite major signings in free agency

At the start of the offseason, the most glaring need for the New York Jets was the offensive line. The only starting offensive linemen returning for the Jets were second-year player Joe Tippmann and Alijah Vera-Tucker, who’s only played in 12 games in the last two seasons.

New York would address the rest of the line during the free agency period, signing former Ravens LG John Simpson and former Cowboys LT Tyron Smith. The Jets also would reunite with RT Morgan Moses, who they received in a trade with Baltimore. Yet despite the quick fixes, the Jets should not ignore the offensive line in the upcoming NFL draft.

Can the Jets OL stay healthy?

Arguably the two best players on the Jets offensive line have the biggest question marks surrounding their health and availability – Tyron Smith and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

Smith has only played in 30 games in the last four seasons. When healthy, Smith is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. However, entering his 14th year in the league, durability is a real concern at such a physically draining position. And as mentioned earlier, Vera-Tucker isn’t exactly an example of durability, either.

AVT is an incredibly versatile player, having the ability to move throughout the offensive line. The last two seasons have shown Jets fans how problematic his absence is to the team. Yet the biggest concern is if Vera-Tucker will remain the player he was pre-injury. Like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, AVT also suffered a torn Achilles during the 2023 season. There’s good recent precedence of OL coming back from Achilles injuries (like Vikings OT Brian O’Neill), but there’s no guarantee that AVT will have the same outcome.

There’s also the rumor that New York could sign former Green Bay Packers LT David Bahktiari, which would only add to the injury-proneness along the offensive line. Make no mistake, at their peak, all of these players are among the best at their position. But the risk of injury is always high inside the trenches, and with a 39-year-old under center, Gang Green would be wise to continue to invest in the offensive line during the 2024 NFL draft.

Potential offensive line targets in the draft

The 2024 NFL draft has a lot of talented prospects along the offensive line. While the signings of Smith, Simpson, and the trade for Moses mean taking an offensive lineman 10th overall isn’t a necessity, there are plenty of options for the Jets to consider.

Staying put in the first round

If the Jets don’t move up or down in the first round of the draft, there are plenty of talented OL targets to be had. Among the most commonly mocked players to the Jets has been Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga.

Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State

Taliese Fuaga is one of the most physical prospects in the draft. He’s always looking for contact and inflicting damage on opposing defenders. Speed rushers could give him some trouble, but he’d be a mauling presence in the Jets rushing attack. Fuaga could begin his career at guard before moving to tackle long-term.

The Oregon State product also expressed his excitement about the possibility of playing with Aaron Rodgers.

Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State

Olu Fashanu is a massive player at 6-foot-6. He can have some leverage issues against power rushers and be caught stiff sometimes. However, once he gets his hands on defenders, it’s rare that he loses his rep. Fashanu would be a safe pick for the position if the Jets did not wish to target Fuaga.

Troy Fautanu, Washington

Like the aforementioned Fuaga, Troy Fautanu plays angry. He’s aggressive and incredibly athletic for the position. He likely projects as a guard at the NFL level but could be an AVT-like chess piece along the OL with elite capabilities. There’s a real chance that Fautanu is the best overall offensive lineman in this class.

Potential second-round prospects

The targets listed below are widely expected to be taken in the second round, and the Jets do not currently have a second-round pick. However, if the Jets were to trade out of the No. 10 overall pick and acquire a second-rounder, taking an offensive lineman in the second round becomes a real possibility. In a deep OL class, there are plenty of intriguing prospects the Jets could target in the second round.

Cooper Beebe, Kansas State

Cooper Beebe lined up at four different spots on the OL during his time at Kansas State. While he isn’t particularly elite as a run-blocker, he’s one of the better pure pass protectors among interior linemen in this class. With some refinement to his technique, he could become a great asset to protect Rodgers.

Kingsley Suamataia, BYU

There are rumors that Kingsley Suamataia could find himself sneaking into the first round, but if the Jets get lucky, they could find him on Day 2 in a potential trade-down situation. Suamataia is a freakish athlete and has a good foundation as a pass protector. He needs to work on his run-blocking technique, but with two aging offensive tackles, Suamataia could get the time to refine his skills to become a force in the NFL.

Patrick Paul, Houston

With the Jets looking to keep Aaron Rodgers clean, Patrick Paul is an interesting name for Day 2. He shows a great punch and good capabilities in the passing game. However, he tends to struggle as a run-blocker. With a year to learn behind two great tackles, Paul could find himself ready to start in 2025. Until then, he could be a great depth piece and competition with Carter Warren.

Day 3 draft prospects

The good news for the Jets is that even Day 3 of this draft offers plenty of talented offensive linemen. While these players might not have elite upside, they could carve out a starting role in the NFL.

Christian Jones, Texas

Christian Jones is an incredibly balanced OT. He does well as a pass protector and run-blocker, and seems ready to instantly provide competition for a backup tackle position. He’s comfortable playing in any scheme and should be a solid swing tackle in the NFL.

Javion Cohen, Miami (FL)

Javion Cohen is an athlete player with a high football IQ. While he’s played both LT and LG in college, Cohen will likely move to the right side in the NFL. His wide base can cause some balance issues, but Cohen does well in pass protection and is athletic in the running game.

Kingsley Eguakun, Florida

Kingsley Eguakun is a violent IOL who can be a mauler in the run game. Primarily a center in college, Eguakun could project into a nasty run-blocking guard in the NFL. He’s a lot more aggressive as a run-blocker than a pass protector and could find himself in jumbo packages or in short-yardage situations. He’d be an excellent student to learn from John Simpson, who shares similar characteristics.

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