The Jets are in good shape on the offensive line entering 2022.
Alijah Vera-Tucker enjoyed a standout rookie season, George Fant was quietly impressive throughout 2021 and Connor McGovern had a nice bounceback year. Mekhi Becton missed almost the entire season with a knee injury, but he is set to return with immense potential yet again next season. And then there is free agent signing Laken Tomlinson, who is fresh off a Pro Bowl season with the 49ers.
New York’s offensive line might seem set, but that is not the reality for the unit — especially at tackle. Becton is difficult to count on after his injury-riddled first two seasons with the team and Fant might be out the door sooner rather than later with an expiring contract.
Does that mean the Jets will invest in a tackle in the 2022 NFL draft? Here are six Joe Douglas could target if he chooses to go down that road.
Ikem Ekwonu — NC State
Rogelio V. Solis
An All-ACC performer on the interior and the outside, Ekwonu is arguably the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft. Would the NC State product be worth nabbing at No. 4? Teams usually don’t draft for insurance in the top five, but Fant’s contract is up at the end of 2022 and Becton hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy. Ekwonu is one of two offensive line talents worth pulling the trigger on this early in the draft.
Evan Neal — Alabama
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Neal is the other offensive tackle the Jets could feasibly select at No. 4 if they choose to target the position over more pressing needs. Neal didn’t participate in combine workouts but caught everyone’s attention by checking in at a lean 337 pounds. His Alabama film also speaks for itself in terms of how dominant Neal could be at the next level.
Charles Cross — Mississippi State
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Douglas displayed his affinity for high-upside offensive linemen when he selected Becton in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Cross isn’t quite the physical outlier Becton is, but he is an impressive athlete at 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds and might go down as the best pass protector in this year’s draft when it’s all said and done. Cross would be in play for the Jets if they trade back in the first round. Taking him in the top 10 would be a reach.
Bernhard Raimann — Central Michigan
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Raimann boosted his draft stock with strong showings at the Senior Bowl and draft combine and is now in play to go off the board as early as the middle of the first round. Landing the Central Michigan product in the second round would be a steal for the Jets. Trading back and selecting him in the middle or late portion of the first round wouldn’t be a bad alternative, either.
Trevor Penning — Northern Iowa
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Penning showed the NFL world exactly how nasty he can be as a blocker during Senior Bowl practices. The Northern Iowa product plays with a mean streak and uses his 6-foot-7, 322-pound frame and strength to physically overwhelm opposing pass rushers on every snap.
Sean Rhyan — UCLA
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Rhyan showcased his athleticism at the draft combine and is extremely quick off the ball. The drawback with the UCLA product is his lack of length — his arms measured at just 32 3/8″ — and that could land him on the inside at the next level. Rhyan has a case to stick on the outside, though, and he could be a mid-round target for the Jets.