The wait is over. After years of band-aid veteran signings and waiver wire pickups, the New York Jets are set to solve their offensive line problem. General manager Joe Douglas is on a mission to build a wall in front of quarterback Sam Darnold. And this might be the perfect NFL off-season to do so. There is talent hitting the market, such as guards Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow and center Connor McGovern. At offensive tackle, Jack Conklin headlines a market of Jason Peters, Andrew Whitworth and many more. Above all, the 2020 NFL Draft is full of talented offensive lineman.
Thankfully, with the 11th overall pick, the Jets are set to land one of the “core four” offensive tackles of the class. Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs from Iowa are athletic monsters. Jedrick Wills of Alabama is the best pass blocker in the draft. Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas has endless accolades and has led one of the strongest run games in the nation for years. The below details how each player fits in with Gang Green.
2020 NFL Draft: How Top Offensive Tackle Prospects Fit the New York Jets
Mekhi Becton (Louisville)
Becton once dominated the basketball court, but he has always been a natural offensive tackle. Out of Highland Springs High School in Virginia, he was heavily recruited. He received offers from Michigan, Oregon, Georgia, Penn State, and many others before eventually taking his talents to Louisville.
Right away, Becton got a chance to start. As a freshman, he started 10 games at right tackle, before switching to left tackle during his sophomore season. As a junior, scouts began to recognize Becton for his size and ability to plow through defenders. He received first-team All-ACC honors and finished the season with an NFL outlook of a day two pick and a developmental prospect.
Since declaring, he has soared up draft boards. Once viewed as a project prospect, he began to garner first-round status prior to the combine.
Measuring at 6’7″ and 364 pounds with a massive 35 5/8 inch arms, he drew comparisons to Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown. For those who remember, Brown is recognized for one of the worst combines in history. With those comparisons being drawn, it was expected for Becton to have a poor combine. Instead, he blew everyone away. His athleticism stood out through his smooth footwork and a jaw-dropping 5.10-second 40-yard dash time.
Now, Becton appears to be a lock as a first-round pick with top 10 potential. He now compares to Las Vegas Raiders left tackle Trent Brown, who is also known for using his athletic ability to beat rushers off the edge. There remain concerns about his weight discipline in the pros, but given the talent he has at his size, it is easy to understand why he could even go top five.
How He Fits With the Jets
As of today, it seems a long-shot Becton is even available by the 11th overall pick. After his combine performances, it seems less likely by the day. With his size, power, athletic ability and clean bill of health, he has a huge upside. If he can continue to control his weight and work on his control, nobody would ever lay a hand on Darnold again. Ultimately an immovable object, Becton would also fit well into head coach Adam Gase’s zone run scheme with his quick footwork. It is important to note that with his fluctuating weight and control issues, Becton also comes with a very low-floor, and this is a pick the Jets must get right. It is also interesting to note the Jets did not show any interest in signing his pro comparison, Trent Brown, last off-season.
Tristan Wirfs (Iowa)
Tristan Wirfs is the definition of an athlete. Before committing to joining Kirk Ferentz’s offensive line at Iowa, Wirfs was a state wrestling champion, and two-time state champ in the shot put and discus throw. He has been a starter since his freshman year, primarily on the right side, through three seasons. With top 2021 offensive tackle prospect Alaric Jackson opposite of him, Iowa had arguably the best tackle pairing in all of college football last season. Wirfs has earned multiple awards, from the 2019 second-team AP All-American team to Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.
From the moment Wirfs declared, he has been viewed as a top 15 NFL draft pick. He has spent years at right tackle, but with prototypical guard size, it became speculated he was destined to move inside. The last Iowa tackle to make such a switch is three-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff. Not to mention, such a move would make Wirfs the best guard prospect since 2018 (two-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts).
The guard-tackle debate continued until the combine. Wirfs amazed teams with his workout. It began with the 6’5″ and 320 pound lineman running a blazing 4.85-second 40-time. He also set the record for an offensive lineman with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and tied the broad jump record at 10’1″. To say Wirfs stood out at the combine would be an understatement, as he had one of the best combines for an offensive lineman in recent memory.
As it stands now, Wirfs’ stock is as strong as ever, with projections placing him between sixth and 12th overall. His effortless play will translate to the NFL, as well as inconsistency in generating leverage on defenders. He has experience at both tackle positions and can move inside if asked to by whoever drafts him.
How He Fits With the Jets
Joe Douglas has said time and time again he is focused on building this team upfront. If Wirfs falls to 11, he would be beyond thrilled. A versatile lineman, Douglas would land an immediate plug and play starter anywhere on the line. There remains the question of whether Wirfs’s arm length and size will allow him to play left tackle in the pros. Either way, he very might well be the rock the Jets need upfront, just maybe not at left tackle.
Jedrick Wills (Alabama)
Since 2017, Jedrik Wills has been viewed as one of the top tackles in the nation. Out of Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky, he was pursued by top tier programs such as Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. In the end, Wills landed with Nick Saban and Alabama.
He played in 11 games his freshman year, before becoming a full-time starter at right tackle prior to the 2018 season. With left-handed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Wills was, in fact, the blindside protector. He continued his elite play into 2019, receiving second-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC accolades. Through his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Wills only gave up two sacks through 28 games started.
Wills immediately became one of the best tackles in the draft once he declared. Entering the combine, he established himself as a likely top 15 pick and arguably the best tackle. As expected, his measurables came in undersized at 6’4″ and 312 pounds, with average-sized arms. He put up solid numbers and had a good workout that flashed his quick movement and body control. The combine highlighted his strengths in pass blocking but also displayed average run blocking and instincts.
Leaving Indianapolis, Wills was outshined by his fellow prospects which has made the best tackle debate even tougher. Concerns remain about his ability to switch to the left tackle position and protect a right-handed quarterback’s blindside. If he remains on the right, he will still be an impact player. He has received multiple comparisons to nine-time Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters. Peters has spent over a decade as one of the best tackles in the league while being undersized and continues to be one of the best as he enters his age 38 season.
How He Fits With the Jets
Wills is arguably the best pass blocker in the draft, and has a great combination of footwork, power, and hand placement. He remains average as a run blocker, as he struggles to control and finish off blocks. While that is a concern in Gase’s zone run, his pass blocking ability would be amazing for Darnold. It is not every year an elite pass blocker can be added straight from the draft. Wills would be a dream addition for the Jets, assuming he could make a smooth transition to left tackle. Just imagine Sam Darnold having his own Jason Peters for the next decade and a half.
Andrew Thomas (Georgia)
A highly touted recruit from Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, Andrew Thomas has lived up to the hype of being ranked 40th in the 2017 ESPN300. He remained at home by committing to Georgia over Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Michigan, and others.
He was inserted into the starting lineup right away and landed on the Freshman All-American team. After playing his freshman season at right tackle, he switched and has played left tackle ever since. And he has played well. His sophomore year (13 starts) led to him receiving second-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC honors. His play put him on the map as one of the top prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft. He held that status throughout the season and earned first-team AP All-American and first-team all-conference accolades. By the time he announced his declaration, he was firmly the most accomplished tackle in the draft class.
His status as arguably the best tackle in the draft remained until the others’ stock rose. Becton had his meteoric rise, Wills willed his way to the top, and Wirfs held his spot strong with a great combine. Meanwhile, Thomas did exactly as expected. He remained consistent and was not flashy in terms of athleticism or excelling in one area more than another during the combine. A prototype tackle at 6’5″ and 315 pounds, there is no question Thomas will play left tackle in the NFL.
Since then, Thomas has remained a likely top 20 pick in the NFL Draft. Whoever selects him will get a mean, gritty day one starter who plays start to finish. He has the size, length, and mentality to be a left tackle, yet he will play right tackle at a high level if necessary. While he is not the strongest of tackles and plays with stiff hips, Thomas is regarded as one of the best tackles in the nation for a reason. He is as consistent and healthy as they come and will do whatever it takes to best his opponent.
How He Fits With the Jets
Thomas is the safest pick of the four tackles, and for that reason alone he should be one of the Jets favorite prospects. The last thing Douglas needs is a bust at tackle to set back Darnold’s development. He needs someone who can remain healthy and consistent, both being what Thomas excels at. Again, he may not have the high ceiling the other three have. But what he does have is the best resume. He has played a huge role in protecting quarterback prospect Jake Fromm for three years and blocking for running backs Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift. Thomas is efficient in all parts of the game, and while not being the flashy tackle selection, it would be a home run if the Jets landed him.
Who knows what the New York Jets will do with the 11th overall pick in April’s draft. Between free agency and trades, a lot could change. Until then, the debate, mock drafts, and speculation will only continue as to which of these four offensive tackles will be wearing Gotham Green in 2020.