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Relax, NY Jets fans: Fashanu is a better win-now pick than Bowers

Olu Fashanu
Olu Fashanu, Getty Images

New York Jets fans wanted a win-now pick, and they got one, even if some don’t realize it

Looking long-term, there wasn’t a bad pick the New York Jets could have made on Thursday night. Beyond 2024, they don’t have a starting offensive tackle or starting tight end under contract, and Garrett Wilson is the lone respectable wide receiver under contract.

The team’s selection of Olu Fashanu solved an immense long-term need at one of the game’s most important positions. I don’t think any Jets fan is upset about the Fashanu pick regarding what it means over the next five-plus years.

But there are many Jets fans and media critics who are upset with the Fashanu pick due to its perceived lack of impact on the team in 2024. They claim it wasn’t a win-now selection for a team that is very clearly in win-now mode. Some fans are especially upset since tight end Brock Bowers was still on the board, a player widely viewed as the team’s best win-now option.

I think a lot of people are way off the mark in their analysis of how this pick affects the Jets’ chances of winning a Super Bowl in the 2024 season. Contrary to popular opinion, I think Fashanu is a far better win-now pick for the Jets than Bowers would have been.

Let’s stare reality in the face. Nobody wants this to happen, and hopefully it doesn’t, but this should be the expectation: The Jets will need their backup tackle to start around half the season, at the very least.

Left tackle Tyron Smith, age 33, is essentially guaranteed to miss at least three games. He has been absent for at least three games in eight consecutive seasons, with an average of six games missed per season over that span.

Right tackle Morgan Moses, also 33, is coming off pectoral surgery and played only 69% of the snaps for Baltimore last year. He missed three games and logged less than 100% of the snaps in 8 of the 14 games he played.

Throw those two guys on the vaunted MetLife turf, and the outlook isn’t pretty.

As their top backup plan for those two, Jets were looking at either Carter Warren (a fourth-round pick who has been bad so far), Max Mitchell (another fourth-round pick who has been bad so far), or free agent and Rodgers crony David Bakhtiari, who had more than one-third as many knee surgeries (5) as games played (13) over the past three years.

When the Jets inevitably need at least 6-8 games from their backup OT, they can now turn to a high-end talent instead of two fourth-round picks who have proven absolutely nothing or a guy whose knee might explode the second he smells the Meadowlands swamps.

Yes, Fashanu is a rookie and this will probably be his worst season in the NFL. It’ll likely take him a few years to hit his peak. But as the 11th overall pick, the baseline expectations for his rookie year are higher than you may have thought.

Based on the average rookie-year production of first-round OTs in recent history, Fashanu should be expected to play around the level of a below-average starter. As I broke down here, among the 36 first-round offensive tackles since 2014, their average rookie-year overall Pro Football Focus grade was 66.2, which would have ranked 40th among 64 qualifiers (min. 565 snaps) in 2023. That essentially makes you a top-20 player at either left or right tackle, better than around 12 of the league’s starters at the position.

This would be a gargantuan upgrade over what the Jets were looking at. In 2023, Mitchell had a 49.3 overall PFF grade while Warren was at 46.9. Both marks would have ranked 62nd out of 64 qualifiers. If you shrink the snap qualifier to 300 snaps so both players qualify, they ranked 87th and 92nd, respectively, out of 99 qualifiers. Basically, they’d each be in the conversation for the worst OT3 in the NFL.

The Jets should never want Mitchell or Warren on the field at this moment. While they’re young and could improve (particularly Warren, who has only played one year to Mitchell’s two), let’s be real here. These are fourth-round picks. It’s unlikely they get much better than they are.

So, the Jets were staring at the possibility of their top backup offensive tackle being one of those two aforementioned unplayable fourth-rounders, a walking injury in Bakhtiari, or somebody off the free agent scrap heap. And, let me tell you, the free agent crop for tackles is bad right now. You’re not finding anybody who is substantially better than Mitchell or Warren. When the best suggestion I hear people bring up is Donovan Smith – the guy who allowed a higher pressure rate than both Mekhi Becton and Carter Warren last year – you know it’s bad.

Now, the Jets have a blue-chip talent in that role instead. Sure, it’s his rookie year, so this won’t be the peak version of Fashanu. And while the baseline expectation is that he plays like a below-average starter, that’s only the midpoint of the possible outcomes. He could end up anywhere on the spectrum. Fashanu might struggle immensely this year.

But he could also be an instant stud. People tend to automatically assume rookies will undergo growing pains – and most do, so it’s a wise assumption – but for picks this high in the draft, the possibility of hitting the ground running should never be ruled out, even if it’s unlikely.

In fact, the odds of a first-round rookie tackle becoming an immediate standout are not much different than at wide receiver. Since 2014, seven of the 36 first-round tackles exceeded a 77 overall PFF grade (enough to rank top-16 among OT in 2023) as rookies: Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, Taylor Decker, Ryan Ramczyk, Tristan Wirfs, Rashawn Slater, and Penei Sewell. That’s a 19.4% rate, not much different than the 9-of-43 first-round wide receivers (20.9%) to hit 1,000 yards as rookies since 2014.

Fashanu profiles as a particularly strong candidate to be one of those rookie tackle standouts. While his run blocking needs plenty of work, Fashanu comes to the Jets with an NFL-ready resume in pass protection. Of all the offensive linemen who went in the first round yesterday, Fashanu was arguably the second-most prepared to immediately step in and protect the edge for Aaron Rodgers.

In 2023, Fashanu allowed zero sacks and zero hits on 382 pass-blocking snaps. More importantly, Fashanu thrived on true pass sets, a skill that is vital when projecting NFL success. His 82.6 true pass set grade at PFF placed him in the 97th percentile among qualified FBS tackles. This ranks second-best among the nine offensive linemen who were drafted in the first round this year, trailing only fifth-overall pick Joe Alt. Fashanu and Alt were the only players in that group with a grade above 80.

Even if Fashanu doesn’t join the likes of Sewell, Wirfs, and Slater in the club of top-16-ranked rookie OTs – and with 1-in-5 odds, it’s a very exclusive club, so he shouldn’t be held to those expectations – his reputation in pass protection should at least allow him to meet the baseline of performing like an average/below-average starting OT in his rookie year. That would be enough to make him an invaluable cog in 2024 for a Jets team that will not be able to give him a true redshirt year and needs him to be ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.

Toss in the luxury of being able to learn from two highly successful veterans in Smith and Moses, and the Jets have every reason to believe that Fashanu is going to land on the higher end of rookie first-round tackles – especially in pass protection, which is the far more vital phase for this Jets team.

Critics will argue that, while they admit Fashanu might make a spot start here or there, he still won’t play nearly as much as Bowers would have played. While that might be true, I think Fashanu will probably play significantly more snaps than some expect.

Let’s break it down. Tyron Smith averages 6 missed games per year since 2016. Morgan Moses missed 31% of the snaps last year, equivalent to five games missed. However, Moses never missed a game in the eight previous seasons, so let’s find a middle ground and say it’s fair to expect Moses to miss 2-3 games this year. Add that to Smith’s average of 6, and you should expect the backup OT to play 8-9 games as a baseline: essentially 50% of the season.

And if we’re being totally honest, knowing the Jets’ injury luck and the unfavorability of their home field, we should probably be leaning toward the negative side of the luck spectrum, putting Fashanu well north of 8-9 starts. But we’ll be fair and assume an average amount of luck, making about 8.5 starts a fair baseline for him. That’s a 50% snap count.

That’s plenty of Year 1 snaps/impact for Fashanu. While Bowers would have had a chance to push for 60% of the snaps or even 70% if he impressed the coaches enough, we need to keep a crucial factor in mind: one snap of an offensive tackle is more valuable than one snap of a tight end.

This is always true in football. Tackles flat-out have a larger effect on the game than tight ends. And for a team that employs a 40-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles injury, the edge in favor of tackles is even greater.

With that in mind, I would argue that even if the Jets get unexpectedly awesome injury luck from Smith and Moses – leaving Fashanu to start, let’s say, only the bare minimum of three games that Smith always misses – he would still make a bigger impact in 2024 than Bowers. Having Fashanu over Mitchell/Warren could flip all three of those games from losses to wins. How many wins would Bowers add in 2024?

Considering the brutal rookie-year standards for first-round tight ends, probably not many. Of the last 13 tight ends selected with a top-15 pick, 11 of them didn’t even hit 400 yards in their rookie year. None scored more than four touchdowns and 11 scored two or fewer. It’s extremely unlikely that Bowers is the year-one superstar that he’d have to be to provide more impact at a non-premium position than Fashanu will at a premium position, especially one where the Jets were set to rely on bottom-of-the-barrel players for a significant chunk of the year.

Think back to the last 13 years of your Jets fandom. How many times did you walk out of MetLife Air Conditioning Unit on a cloudy Sunday, trek two miles across a sea of scattered Bud Light cans and discarded rally towels to get in your car, sulk in two hours of traffic on the turnpike, and vent to your buddies, “Man… our tight ends lost us that game.” Count the number of times that happened – if it even did. Now compare it to how many times you got in your car and groaned, “Our O-line gave us no shot.”

Fashanu is going to play this year, and he is going to provide an enormous upgrade over the alternatives at the single most important non-QB role on the Jets’ roster. The impact of having Fashanu versus his alternatives is going to make a far bigger impact for the Jets than having Bowers versus his alternatives would have had.

There will come a time late this year when the Jets are playing a pivotal game for playoff and/or division positioning and fans are thrilled to see Fashanu out there blocking a premier edge rusher instead of some scrub. While it’s difficult to feel the win-now value of selecting Fashanu at this very moment, just run through the scenarios in your head to feel the impact of this pick.

If the Jets had to throw Mitchell or Warren out there against Jaelan Phillips for a Week 18 AFC East championship game in Miami, it would be an insurmountable obstacle that could sink the entire team. That nightmare scenario has been erased. Instead, they have accepted the possibility of throwing Jeremy Ruckert out there as the TE1 in that game if Tyler Conklin goes down. It’s certainly not ideal (unless Ruckert takes a leap), but it’s considerably less catastrophic than the other route. You can work around deficiencies at tight end. You cannot work around deficiencies at tackle.

This pick offers significantly more win-now impact than people are giving it credit for. I understand that it’s difficult to envision right now, but in due time, there is a good chance that the Jets’ selection of Fashanu will save their 2024 season.

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Jets71
Jets71
28 days ago

This is a good pick considering the players available and that they grabbed to additional picks in the process. Yes, he needs work but if he plays 3 or 4 games and holds up well in pass protection that’s an IMMEDIATE impact for the team this year. Bowers may have made more impact in the passing game but I don’t see him doing anything in the run game in year 1 so there’s no saying he’d even be TE1.

The Jets aren’t done yet with this draft but considering the options, pick 1 was a good start and it WILL help the team this year. This notion that the 1st round pick HAS to make a major impact in their fist year is more ESPNquierer hype. These guys still need to develop. I’ve realized they have fans so “draft crazy” that it’s lost all perspective.

PS. I believe Detroit has the same turf as the Jets (or did at one point) and I’ve never once heard anything about the dreaded turf in Detroit. Another overhyped ESPNquirer storyline. I can think of plenty of players who blew ACL’s or tore Achilles on the dreaded grass field. I’m going to find out.

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
28 days ago

Fash may have been the right pick because looking at who the teams above drafted I don’t think any were looking to move down.
Imo it would have been smart for the Falcons to move from 8-10 with the Jets.
Bases on what the Jets got to move down one spot that had no effect a 4 and 5 wouldn’t be crazy.
Chicago wasn’t taking Penix and if they traded with the Jets Penix would absolutely be there and the Jets could have taken Odunze.
Now thier only chance of a gamebreaker is trading and paying either Aiyuk or Higgins.
I don’t see them going far without another big weapon.
If Ladd McConkey is still there a few picks into round 2,.Jets should pay the price.

Jets71
Jets71
28 days ago
Reply to  Peter Buell

Lots of WR’s still available. Like you I like McConkey, but McMillan Franklin, Rice (with KR ability) Roman Wilson, Javon Baker, Walker there are guys.

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