NEW YORK (AP)The New York Jets got their big man up front to help protect Sam Darnold and clear the way for Le’Veon Bell.
Massive offensive tackle Mekhi Becton from Louisville was taken by New York with the No. 11 pick in the NFL draft, filling one of the Jets’ biggest needs.
General manager Joe Douglas repeatedly said during the last few months that strengthening the offensive line was a priority for a team that had lots of trouble up front last season. The addition of the 6-foot-7, 365-pound Becton helps solidify things.
In a big, big way.
”He brings an edge for us,” coach Adam Gase said on a conference call. ”He brings nasty to our offensive line room.”
Becton agreed with that assessment by his new coach.
”I think my demeanor is real nasty,” he said with a smile during a Zoom call with reporters. ”I like to see the man on the ground stay on the ground.”
Becton has enormous upside, along with impressive speed for a man his size – he ran a 5.12 40-yard dash at the combine in February. He has a 7-foot wingspan and played both tackle spots for the Cardinals during his college career.
”He moves people like furniture,” assistant GM Rex Hogan said. ”He’s a big and powerful man.”
New York was expected to target either one of the top offensive tackles or wide receivers at No. 11, and the draft played out well in the Jets’ favor. Georgia’s Andrew Thomas went to the Giants at No. 4 and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. was taken by Cleveland one spot before New York selected, so the Jets had their pick of either Becton or Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs.
They also could have gone with a wide receiver – none had been taken before New York went on the clock.
But, Douglas and the Jets chose a player they believe can be a big building block – literally – for years to come.
”We’re so excited to add a guy with this size and athletic ability,” Douglas said on a conference call. ”A guy that we really think can fortify our front.”
The Jets could have a completely different starting five on the offensive line than what they had in Week 1 of last season after Douglas invested heavily up front in free agency. George Fant, signed from Seattle last month, could team with Becton at the tackle spots – with both having enough versatility to play on either side.
Douglas wouldn’t commit to Becton being penciled in on the left side – or right side, for that matter – saying only that the Jets will put the best five offensive linemen on the field and he expects there to be a good competition in training camp.
Becton had a drug test flagged at the combine, and Douglas acknowledged it ”raised a flag” when the Jets heard about it. The GM said the team took ”a deep dive” on why Becton’s test was flagged, and the staff spoke to several people about the offensive lineman. Douglas also personally spoke to Becton on Wednesday, and the Jets were comfortable drafting him.
”It was a one-time mistake that’s never going to happen again,” Becton said.
The selection of Becton marks the first time the Jets have taken an offensive player other than a quarterback – Sam Darnold (2018) and Mark Sanchez (2009) – in the first round since New York picked tight end Dustin Keller in 2008.
Becton is also the first offensive lineman drafted by the Jets in the first round since they selected both left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in 2006. They were mainstays on New York’s offensive line for a decade.
”I definitely expect to be that type of player for the Jets,” Becton said. ”I mean, I have big shoes to fill, so I’m going to come in and come to work.”
Becton is the highest-drafted offensive lineman in Louisville history, and the third taken in the first round, joining Eric Wood (2009) and Bruce Armstrong (1991).
Douglas and Becton also have something in common: They’re both from the same general area of Virginia. Douglas grew up in Mechanicsville, Virginia, located less than 15 minutes from Highland Springs, where Becton was raised.
”There was definitely a great bond,” Becton said of his phone conversation with Douglas. ”Because when he said street names, I knew the streets he was talking about.”
The Jets have three picks scheduled for the second day of the draft, a second-rounder (No. 48 overall) and two third-rounders: No. 68, from the Giants as part of the Leonard Williams trade, and No. 79.
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