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AFC East

Mekhi Becton, Sam Darnold’s newest bodyguard

From 2010-19 the Jets spent one first-round pick on an offensive player — Sam Darnold in 2018. From 2000 on, just eight of the Jets 26 first-round picks were on offense. Darnold joined Mark Sanchez and Chad Pennington as the only quarterbacks and tight ends Dustin Keller and Anthony Becht sandwiched wide receiver Santana Moss as the lone pass catchers. 

The final two picks, both of which came in 2006, were the first offensive linemen taken by the Jets in 18 years. The No. 4 pick, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, started 160 of 160 possible games in his 10 seasons in the league, making three Pro Bowls along the way. The No. 29 pick, Nick Mangold, made 156 of 160 possible starts over the same timespan — making seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams — before missing eight games in his eleventh and final season in the league.

The Jets had two-fifths of their offensive line locked down as top-end talent for an entire decade. From then on, they didn’t take another offensive lineman, even in four years following the decade of Mangold-Ferguson dominance.

Following a season where the Jets offensive line ranked No. 30 in the league in pass protection and No. 31 in run blocking according to Football Outsiders, Gang Green needed a major overhaul if they wanted to even give Sam Darnold a chance under center in 2020.

They did a solid job in free agency, most notably bringing in center Connor McGovern away from the Denver Broncos. They also re-signed guard Alex Lewis and signed guard Greg Van Roten away from the Carolina Panthers.

While they did a good job addressing the inside, the tackle positions went a bit neglected, with the only signing being sometimes-starter George Fant from the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets relative inaction in improving their tackles led many to believe that they were going to take one in the draft. They were right.

With the No. 11 pick the Jets selected offensive tackle Mekhi Becton out of Louisville. Becton was the third tackle taken, with the Giants taking Andrew Thomas at No. 4 and the Browns taking Jedrick Wills Jr. at No. 10. 

A 6-foot-7 364-pound athletic freak for his size, Becton has been touted by some as the tackle with the highest ceiling in the entire draft. However, of the top-four tackles taken, he’s also clearly the roughest around the edges. 

Not only is he big and tall, but his wingspan is three-quarters of an inch short of seven feet. At the combine, Becton ran a stunning 5.10 second 40-yard dash time.

Mike Mayock, general manager for the Oakland Raiders, said in a clip that can be found on the Raiders’ YouTube page that Becton’s 40 time was more impressive than that of wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who ran the fastest time at the combine at 4.27.

That combination of size, strength and speed has turned him into a pancake machine, just throwing opposing defenders all around the field at will.

His size alone should allow him to be effective right off the bat, and there are very few defenders in the league who will be able to beat him on sheer strength.

However, his biggest (no pun intended) strength may be his biggest weakness, as there are concerns about his size. Specifically, there are concerns that his body will not be able to hold up not only over the years but through a 16, soon to be 17 game season. Mobility is also a concern, something that is expected of someone his size.

As for his presence in the locker room, he got nothing but rave reviews from Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra, per Josina Anderson on Twiter.

“He was great with the younger guys on the offensive line,” Tyra said. “He was just a great leader. He was always teaching the position and what to do. His work ethic was awesome … He played through the whistle non-stop, and was just a great guy with everyone including myself.”

These comments came in response to the news that Becton had a drug test flagged at the combine, something Tyra said if true he would be very surprised about.

After being drafted, Becton responded to the flagged drug test, as reported by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

“It was just a messed-up drug test, you know,” Becton said. “I made a mistake… a young mistake that won’t happen again. It was a one-time mistake that’s never going to happen again.”

As for where is Becton going to play? Well, he played both right and left tackle for Louisville, so it gives the Jets some options. In an interview with New York Jets team reporter Eric Allen following the draft, Becton said it doesn’t matter to him which side he plays.

“Wherever they want me, honestly, I’m ready,” Becton said.

This flexibility is good for the Jets, especially since in early May, offseason signing George Fant made clear to the media in an interview that can be found on SNY that he intends to play left tackle.

“That was my thing, leaving Seattle I wanted to play left tackle. I feel really comfortable at the position,” Fant said. “I think that’s where I offer the best abilities and (I’m) able to help the team the most.”

He did expand on it, saying that he can play right tackle and has experience there, and ultimately it’s not the be-all-end-all.

“I’m just excited to get there and just play, so it’s not about the position, it’s about getting on the field.”

Still, it’s pretty evident which side of the line he wants to play on.

Right now, I’d say Fant is at left tackle and Becton is at right tackle Week 1, but I see Becton as the left tackle in the long run.

That’s what he was drafted for, to be the offensive tackle of the future, the next D’Brickashaw Ferguson. If not this upcoming year, he will certainly be there the next, and hopefully protecting Sam Darnold’s blindside for years to come.

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