In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that will certainly be needed to added to via the draft. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential offensive linemen that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York to add up front. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets and potential running back targets, for the Jets.
Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama – 6’2″ 325 lbs - Warmack is arguably the best player at his position in the entire draft class. With New York likely losing at least one of last year’s starting guards to free agency, this position is among their greatest needs. Warmack would be an incredibly safe pick at 9th overall, but could possibly be attained if the Jets decide to trade down a few spots, considering the guard position isn’t normally valued as a top 10 pick. However, Warmack could be an exception to that notion considering his immense strength, footwork, hand placement, and ability to both drive defenders off of the ball and get to linebackers at the second level. Warmack is the total package. He is big, strong, quick, and incredibly tenacious. Selecting him in the first round would give New York stability at guard for the next decade.
Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs - Cooper, although not quite the player Warmack is just yet, is undoubtedly the second best guard in the draft this year. Although Cooper does not possess the overall strength that Warmack does, he is incredibly quick for the position, slides his feet very well in pass protection, and uses his hands like a polished NFL veteran. Cooper will likely be a late 1st, early 2nd round pick, and if the Jets decide to pass on Warmack in the 1st, look for Cooper to be the guy with the 39th overall selection. His agility and strength in zone blocking will make him an ideal fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s system.
Barrett Jones, Guard/Tackle/Center, Alabama – 6’5″ 302 lbs - Jones is the only player in the history of the NCAA to win a National Championship while starting at each position on the offensive line. His versatility up front is unparalleled, which would give a team like the Jets some much needed flexibility in terms of depth on the offensive line. He is extremely intelligent, but has all the physical tools, as well with great strength, leverage, footwork, and overall quickness. His leadership is above and beyond any other lineman in the draft, and his toughness is unheard of, as was displayed by his admission to having played in the National Championship game while suffering from a Lisfranc injury. Jones could end up being a 3rd-4th rounder, with a chance of going in the late second. If the Jets decide to focus on positions outside of the offensive line with their first two picks, Jones is a player that must be on the radar in round 3.
Brian Schwenke, Guard/Center, California – 6’3″ 311 lbs - Although not quite as versatile as Jones, Schwenke proved to be effective at both guard and center last week at the Senior Bowl. His quickness is among the best at the position this year, and although he isn’t necessarily the most physically strong player, he makes up for it with his excellent technique and tremendous use of leverage. He shows very good feet in pass protection, and a very good ability to chip off of double teams onto linebackers at the second level. Like Jones, his versatility will be a plus moving forward. Schwenke is likely more of a 4-6 round player.
Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky – 6’3″ 325 lbs - One of the heavier guards of the class, Warford certainly is not the typical immobile big man. As put on display in the Senior Bowl, Warford is deceptively quick, with a much better ability to get to the second level than the eye would tell upon initial impression. He has shown to be effective as a puller, as well, as he has an uncanny ability to maintain his feet and balance when blocking defenders in space. The combine will be big for Warford in terms of where he ends up being selected, but as of now he would hold solid value in rounds 3-4.
The Jets have an issue on the interior of their Offensive Line. No starting caliber Guards are on the roster. Slauson and Moore and Unrestricted Free Agents, and Vlad Ducasse isn’t starting caliber. Austin Howard was better than some people thought. His run blocking is really good. His pass protection is about average and there is room for improvement. Another thing is that he became a victim of Mark Sanchez holding onto the ball too long. With the switch to the West Coast offense, it should simplify things for Sanchez, thus making the O-Line not have to block for a full 8 seconds. You can’t expect linemen to block for that long without holding or giving up a sack. Just like you can’t expect much from a CB when plays break down and the WR improvises to meet the QB.
Based on need, the Jets need to leave this draft with 2 Guards, a Tackle and a Center for depth. Let’s look at the top 5 Offensive linemen the Jets should look at and where they should draft them:
Chance Warmack- Guard- Alabama- 6’3” 320 lbs- Quite simply, Warmack is the best. He is the best Guard in the draft and the Jets would be wise to use the 9th overall pick on him. Putting him between Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson would be incredible. The left side of the offensive line would be excellent and the running backs would have absolutely gaping holes to run through. Warmack will be a Pro Bowler sooner rather than later in his career. Not to mention, having a really, really good Offensive Line is at the foundation of every team that is a contender. 1st round. 9th pick.
Johnathan Cooper- Guard/Center- University of North Carolina- 6’3” 310 lbs- Cooper is the second best guard in the draft. He gets set quickly, has active feet and great hands. He is a really good run blocker and an even better pass blocker. He will be a starter in the league next year barring anything unforeseen. Since he is the second best guard in the draft, he will be taken in the 1st round, it is just a matter of when. If the Jets manage to trade down or get another 1st round pick, they can take Cooper in the middle to end of the 1st round and that would be a good get. You can still smack him between Feguson and Mangold and have an incredibly dominant left side. The drop off between Cooper and Warmack isn’t big enough where getting Cooper is “settling.”
Larry Warford- Kentucky- Guard- 6’3” 336- Warford was really good the whole week of the Senior Bowl and in the game itself. He was moving linemen all over the field, showing glimpses of Brandon Moore in his prime. Above average at run and pass protection and best suited as a Right Guard. He has a good lower body to drive defenders off the ball and can get out quickly when pulling. For his size, he has good straight-line speed, as well. Some cons are that he falls off blocks because of lunging occasionally, but that is a tendency that can be broken. He also dips his head in open space at times. He has a lot of experience with 25 starts and 35 appearances. After the Senior Bowl, his stock shot up a bit. He can likely be had in the late 1st round to the middle of the 2nd round. Once again, taking him with the Jets current 2nd round pick would only happen if they addressed a different need in the 1st round.
Barrett Jones- Alabama- Guard/Center/Tackle- 6’5” 311- Barrett Jones was probably the most experienced and versatile person on the best O-Line in the country at Alabama. I say more versatile because he has played at every spot on the line. On the three championship teams in ’09, ’11, ’12 he played Right Guard, Left Tackle, and Center, respectively. He is the ultimate depth-machine and would hold great value with the Jets. I saw a lot of grit and toughness from him while I watched him this last year. He played really well, and apparently, he was playing with a Lisfranc injury that he just recently got surgery on. Drafting Jones is a tough question to answer because we haven’t seen him since the Championship game because of his foot surgery. I think at latest he will get drafted by the second round.
Joe Madsen- West Virginia- Center- 6’4” 310 lbs- Throughout the week at the Senior Bowl, Madsen looked real good. He was moving D-Linemen all over the place and looked technically sound. For the Jets, he could be drafted to acquire depth. Madsen can sit behind one of the best Centers in the league and learn. Not only that, he can also learn other positions so he can be more helpful to the Jets as a team. I can see him getting drafted in the 4th or 5th round. He still has some work to do to be a starting caliber lineman in the NFL, but I can assure you he is already better than Vlad Ducasse.
Free agency is forcing the Jets to make a decision on the interior of the offensive line heading into the offseason. Brandon Moore isn’t getting any younger, and Matt Slauson was so bad in run blocking situations that Vlad Duccasse was actually seen as an improvement. With those questions looming, finding at least one guard in April’s NFL Draft has got to be a focus for the Jets.
While there’s the perceived notion that the Jets offensive line stinks, the truth is that it’s easily the most noticeable strength of a pathetic Jets offense. Austin Howard improved at right tackle throughout the season, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold both continued playing at a high level. The real issues on the line include a lack of depth, Slauson’s limitations as a blocker, and Moore’s age and contract concerns.
Personally, I can’t justify using the ninth overall pick on a guard—but anything goes on day two and beyond. Here’s a few offensive lineman that should be on the Jets radar moving forward:
Justin Pugh, Guard, Syracuse - 6’5″ 301 lbs: Pugh spent three years playing the left tackle position for Syracuse, but after a very impressive showing at guard during the Senior Bowl, he’s now ranked among the top interior lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Coming into the Senior Bowl the biggest knocks on Pugh were tied to his physical drawbacks and his struggles protecting the edge against some of the more ferocious pass rushers. But with the move inside, those deficiencies become less significant, allowing his more impressive attributes to boost him up draft boards.
As a guard, Pugh’s speed and movement help him reach the second level in a hurry, and while he still needs to add some size and refine the use of his hands, he is certainly an intriguing option to replace Matt Slauson at left guard.
Barrett Jones, Guard, Alabama- 6’5″ 302 lbs: - As Jets fans have seen in recent years, when Nick Mangold goes down, things get ugly…and fast. Although Jones would be best suited as a guard in New York, his résumé at Alabama illustrates extreme versatility on the offensive line; including two years at guard, one year at tackle, and another at center.
Versatility like that is tough to ignore, and it would certainly be convenient to have a viable option to move around the offensive line if need be.
Brian Winters, Offensive Tackle, Kent St- 6’4″ 310 lbs: Winters is another college tackle that appears better suited to play guard at the next level, mostly due to his wide base and good body control.
A blocker that on relies more on brute strength and toughness than anything else, Winters is quick off the snap and does a good job of using his hands to engage the defender. Although Winters likely has the size to play right tackle in the NFL –and while he lacks experience playing on the interior- developing as a guard may be his best bet moving forward. Projected to go sometime in the third or fourth round, Winters could be an interesting project for the Jets.
Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina - 6’3″ 320 lbs: He’s the highest-rated lineman on my list, but in no way do I condone this selection with the ninth pick in the draft. Realistically, there’s no way Cooper falls into the second round, but he could be an option for the Jets if a “trade down scenario” plays out in April.
Cooper is so highly touted mostly due to his impressive speed, lateral movement, and footwork, along with his enormous frame. Cooper’s explosiveness and balance also are very apparent when watching tape, as he’s able to get to the second level with ease. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him climb into the top 20.