Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2014 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, focusing both on the Jets' current situation and the top players expected to be selected at the position from May 8-10. All player rankings have been compiled from 10 different "big boards" around the Internet, updated as recently as today and as far back as the start of free agency. Today's third in the series: Offensive Line.
Go ahead and pencil in Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson at center and left tackle respectively. In fact, you might as well use a Sharpie. Barring injury, Mangold, coming off his fifth Pro Bowl season, and Ferguson, with three trips to the annual all-star game himself, will anchor the Jets' O-line for the ninth consecutive year.
Meanwhile, newcomer Breno Giacomini and his Super Bowl XLVIII ring will replace Austin Howard at right tackle, while last year's starting guards, Brian Winters and Willie Colon, will return for their second seasons in green and white.
Also on the offensive line are two 2013 draft choices (Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell), a pair of fourth-year veterans (Ben Ijalana and Caleb Schlauderaff), and an undrafted rookie free agent from one year ago (Dalton Freeman), among others. Aboushi, Campbell and Ijalana were all fixtures on the 53-man roster from Week 1 through 17, though none of the three were ever activated for a game.
With three 30-year-old starters in Mangold, Ferguson and Colon, it would come as no surprise if the Jets were to draft a lineman before Day 3. Just don't expect tackles Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews to be on the board at pick No. 18.
As a redshirt sophomore last season, Robinson helped Auburn — a.k.a. Running Back U — set team rushing records in yards (4,596) and touchdowns (48). Despite his 6'5", 322-pound frame, Robinson managed to break the 5.0-second mark in the 40-yard dash (4.92) at the combine. As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted on Feb. 24, "some NFL scouts have compared him to former Cowboys Hall of Fame Larry Allen."
Speaking of Canton, Matthews (6'5", 308) is the son of a Class of 2007 inductee, Bruce Matthews, and the cousin of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews. NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell believes the Texas A&M star's skillset is similar to former Aggies linemate Luke Joeckel, whom the Jaguars selected second overall last April, saying, "Repetitive executions are their strengths. Matthews might be a little better athlete."
Michigan's Taylor Lewan will likely be the third tackle off the board. Lewan (6'7", 309) was named the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year in each of the past two seasons, an award given to the Big Ten's top O-lineman. His 4.87 40 and 9'9" broad jump led all offensive linemen at this year's combine.
Then there's Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) and Morgan Moses (Virginia), both projected to be Day 2 selections. Moses (6'6", 314) could join Ferguson and Aboushi as the third UVa tackle on our roster. Kouandjio (6'7", 322), a All-America first-team selection, "certainly has the size, length and movement to be a quality NFL left tackle, and probably a very good one," wrote Cosell, "but he just doesn't play that way."
Should the Jets decide to draft their third guard in two years, Notre Dame's Zack Martin and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo could be first-round options.
Martin (6'4", 308) set a Fighting Irish record with 52 starts, 50 coming at left tackle. "The knock on Martin," ESPN's Todd McShay wrote, "is his lack of ideal length [327/
" arms], which is why some believe he'll end up as a guard in the NFL. But whether he ends up as a solid tackle or an elite guard (my bet is on tackle), he is a very good prospect with quick feet, good technique and a mean streak on the field."
While Su'a-Filo technically qualifies as a redshirt junior, he actually began his Bruins career back in 2009 as a true freshman before taking a two-year hiatus from football in 2010-11 to serve a Mormon mission. He started all 40 games in his career, some at left tackle, some at left guard, and was named All-Pac-12 first team in his two most recent seasons.
Gabe Jackson (6'3", 336) andDavid Yankey (6'6", 315) should both be selected at some point during the draft's second day. Like Su'a-Filo, Yankey was also honored as an All-Pac-12 first-team selection the past two seasons and he, too, started every game (42 in all) in his career at Stanford. The Sydney, Australia, native one-upped Su'a-Filo, though, with the additional honor of All-America first team in 2013. Jackson started all 52 games of his Mississippi State career at left guard and did not allow a sack his last two seasons.
As for this year's top centers, it appears to be a three-horse race, and Marcus Martin from USC, Colorado State's Weston Richburg and Arkansas product Travis Swansonwill likely be the first three off the board.
After starting 20 games at guard during his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Martin (6'3", 320) moved to center last year as a junior. It turned out to be a seamless transition for the interior lineman as he was honored with All-Pac-12 first-team accolades by the year's end.
Richburg (6'3", 298) and Swanson (6'5", 312) each found his place as his team's starting center from the get-go and never relinquished the spot. Neither player missed a game in his four-year collegiate career, with both starting in all 50. Although Swanson's feat can be seen as more impressive for a historically superior Razorbacks program, he struggled at the combine with a mere 20 bench press reps and a less-than-stellar 5.28-second 40.
Other Notables: T Joel Bitonio (Nevada), T Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee), T Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), T Antonio Richardson (Tennessee), T Billy Turner (North Dakota State), G Brandon Thomas (Clemson), G Cyril Richardson (Baylor), T Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Tackles Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews are both projected to go within the first 10 picks.