By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The New York Jets got their big man up front to help protect Sam Darnold and clear the way for Le’Veon Bell.
Massive Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton was taken by New York with the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL draft, filling what was 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 troubles up front last season. The addition of the 6-foot-7, 365-pound Becton helps solidify things.
And, in a big, big way.
Becton has enormous upside, along with tremendous size and 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 at both tackle spots for the Cardinals during his college career.
“He brings an edge for us,” coach Adam Gase said on a conference call. “He brings nasty to our offensive line room.”
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.
The selection of Becton marks the first time the Jets have selected an offensive player other than a quarterback – Sam Darnold (2018) and Mark Sanchez (2009) – since New York took 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.