The New York Jets offensive line has been an issue for years. There is no question about it. Sam Darnold never had time to step into his throws, and they cannot let the same happen to second overall pick quarterback Zach Wilson. Already, it is clear the team is building with that in mind. After an underwhelming free agency, the Jets front office sought out to protect Wilson during the 2021 NFL Draft. That being said, let’s see how the Jets offensive line shapes up following draft weekend…
New York Jets Offensive Line Following 2021 NFL Draft
Left Tackle: Mekhi Becton
Left tackle sits as the lone spot along the offensive line that was set entering the off-season. Thanks to 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton, New York might is set for the next decade with their blindside protector. A mammoth of a man, Becton flashed his talent to be an immovable object along the front. Despite battling injuries, Becton even found himself in the thick of the Pro Bowl vote. Simply imagine what he is going to be able to do in year two when healthy.
Left Guard: Alijah Vera-Tucker
Obviously, the Jets biggest move during the draft was selecting Zach Wilson second overall. However, one can argue that the most important move the Jets made was trading back up to take USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. New York leapt to the 14th overall, sending the Minnesota Vikings their two third-round picks too in addition to the 23rd overall pick. What came next was a bit of a surprise though.
Some Jets fans questioned the move, given how many needs the team had. Except, the fact of the matter is Vera-Tucker is a stud. Easily the top interior offensive lineman in the draft, Vera-Tucker plays with fantastic lateral movement and a high football IQ. Vera-Tucker alone is going to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player sooner than later for the Jets. Yet, next to Becton, the pair could form one of the best left sides of an offensive line by the time they are due for their second contracts.
At the same time, Vera-Tucker’s selection moves 2020 starting left guard Alex Lewis to the block. Entering the off-season, Lewis was an expected cut by the team. Nonetheless, he remains with New York today, for now.
Center: Connor McGovern
New York’s number one signing last off-season, Connor McGovern had an up and down year in 2020 for the Jets. His first half of the season was atrocious, though he pulled it together down the stretch. In the end, he held his own in the run game, while remaining a liability in pass protection. Nevertheless, the Jets believe he is set for a rebound year in 2021.
The veteran center recently turned 28-years-old and remains under contract through 2022. New York does have an out in his deal following this season, but if McGovern could resort to his 2019 form, the Jets should be comfortable retaining him. It is also worth mentioning the craziness of the coronavirus pandemic. McGovern, as well as the offensive line, dealt with injuries that hindered their ability to get on the same page. Hopefully, with a somewhat normal off-season, McGovern can get things right in gotham green this season.
If not, the Jets made a notable depth move during free agency. Gang green signed former Los Angeles Chargers starting lineman Dan Feeney to a deal. Now, Feeney has been an average starter so far in his career for the Chargers. But, with his ability to play center and guard, he is a name to watch if anyone along the interior struggles.
Right Guard: Greg Van Roten
An interesting move from the Jets came during free agency, as they did not make any big additions along the offensive line. This comes because the Jets guards simply were not reliable in 2020. As previously mentioned, Alex Lewis was mightily uneven last season at left guard. Meanwhile, at right guard, Greg Van Roten was not much better.
The only difference between the two at this point is their contracts. Lewis is due more than Van Roten and offers less positional versatility. Now, Van Roten was not perfect this past season. He finished the season with a 63.0 grade from PFF, grading out 42nd among 80 eligible guards. Be that as it may, like McGovern, Van Roten should improve this upcoming season thanks to a normal training camp and an improved overall line.
If Van Roten is the starter, he may wind up with a rather short leash. This is due to the presence of 2020 fourth-round pick Cameron Clark. The Charlotte product never saw a snap his rookie year and could wind up finding a role this upcoming season. This year, expect Clark to find a role as a rotational blocker at the very least.
Right Tackle: George Fant
Like Lewis and Van Roten, George Fant is a player fighting to make the roster. The veteran tackle had an okay season in 2020, and with the way his contract is structured, he could be cut to save cap before the season. Except, right now, he is the Jets best option at right tackle.
Former third-round pick Chuma Edoga has flashed his ability before but remains too raw to be entrusted with a starting job again. With Fant, the Jets know what they are going to get. An athletic lineman who could fit offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s scheme and can get the job done. Because of that, Fant is the frontrunner for the starting right tackle job in 2021.
Jets Offensive Line Depth
Leo Koloamatangi has been in the Jets organization for a while now and will turn 27-years-old in a matter of days. He brings versatility, as his 6’4” and 310-pounds has given him experience at tackle, guard, and center. Similarly, Jimmy Murray has been around the team since 2019. He has experience back in 2018 at center playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
As for Conor McDermott, the massive 6’8” UCLA product offers the most experience out of those remaining on the bench. Between 2019 and 2020, McDermott has played in 22 games, starting three for the Jets. McDermott offers a rotational lineman who can start at guard or tackle if necessary. Corey Levin also brings plenty of versatility, playing multiple spots along the interior. After playing in every game for the Tennessee Titans in 2018, he finds himself on his fourth team since. Only time will tell if he sticks, or any of these players stick on the team in 2021.
Last Word on New York Jets Offensive Line Following 2021 NFL Draft
At the end of the day, who knows who will end up making the Jets 53-man roster. Training camp has yet to even start, and if there is anything the Jets have made clear, it is that everyone will be competing for every snap. With that mentality, the Jets offensive line is heading in the right direction in 2021 to be much better than in recent years.
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