The Jets were one win away from the playoffs last year and if they could get Ryan Fitzpatrick to re-sign or find a competent QB in the draft it was thought that New York would be a playoff contender in 2016. Now the team is scrambling three weeks before the draft to find a new left tackle after D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired at the age of 32.
Retiring early seems to be the trendy thing to do now. The 49ers lost linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland last year as both were in their prime. Now Ferguson will join them leaving the Jets with a gaping hole on their offensive line heading into this month’s NFL Draft.
The Jets were already looking to upgrade the right tackle and add a linebacker who can get to the quarterback. Picking at #20 in the first round makes things a little tricky to project due to all the uncertainty of the 19 other teams picking ahead of them . Recent mock drafts have the team taking players like Baylor receiver Cory Coleman, Clemson DB Mackensie Alexander, Texas A&M OT Germain Ifedi or Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd.
The best two offensive tackles in the draft are Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss and Ronnie Stanley from Notre Dame. Both are expected to go in the top five or six picks. It’s doubtful Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has the ammunition to trade up to the top five to get a premier tackle.
With needs at left and right tackle you can expect the Jets to go after the top available tackles such as Michigan State’s Jack Conklin or Ohio State’s Taylor Decker should they be available in the latter part of the first round. The problem is that both are projected to be mid to late first round selections and could be gone by the time the Jets pick at #20. Texas A&M tackle Germain Ifedi could be there when the team picks but his draft stock fluctuates and some teams have his graded in the first round while others think he should go in the second round.
New York could opt to go after a pass rusher, quarterback or receiver in round one and then look for offensive line help in the second and third rounds. Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs is a prospect who has a lot of potential. He had a good Combine and showed out at the Senior Bowl earlier this year. He could be there in round two for the Jets.
Texas Tech tackle Le’Raven Clark has potential but still needs some work. He is thought to be more of a raw prospect who could grow into the role as a starter in the league. It’s thought he could go in the late second or early third round.
LSU tackle Vadal Alexander had a stellar career in the SEC but it better at run-blocking than pass protection. Like Clark he still needs a little work but could become a starting right tackle in the NFL. Alexander has been projected to go anywhere from the 3rd to 5th round.
Like his Alexander Auburn tackle Shon Coleman’s draft projection is all over the board. We’ve seen him going from the 1st to 4th rounds in recent months. He came out early and probably could’ve helped his stock with another good year under Gus Malzahn. The knock on Coleman is that he sometime relies on his strength instead of technique. If he can be had in the mid-rounds Coleman could be a guy who blossoms into a reliable starter in New York.
There are other tackles that will go in the mid-rounds like Willie Beavers from Western Michigan, Spencer Drango from Baylor, and Caleb Benenoch from UCLA.