Early Draft Pick Gives Jets Opportunity to Improve OL in Front of Sam Darnold

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Since trading the No. 6 overall pick, along with three second-round picks, to the Indianapolis Colts in 2018 to move up to No. 3 and snag quarterback Sam Darnold, the Jets have talked about building around their 21-year-old gunslinger. And they could elect to begin that build up front along the offensive line, starting with the 2019 NFL Draft.

It’s been three years since the Jets selected an offensive lineman in the draft as right tackle Brandon Shell was taken in the fifth round in 2016. The Green & White have opted to draft eight offensive linemen since 2009 and three of them remained on the active roster through the 2018 season.

In 2013, guard Brian Winters was taken in the third round, the earliest a Jets OL has been taken in the past six years. Winters has been one of the most active linemen, appearing in at least 13 contests in five of his six seasons. The following year, Dakota Dozier was drafted in the fourth round, and in 2017 started at right guard for Winters in three games after he suffered a torn abdominal muscle. In mostly a reserve role, the Furman product has played in 38 games and started seven times since 2015.

The Jets have been more active in free agency of late when looking for players along the line. Left guard James Carpenter signed in March 2015 and started every game for the Green & White until a shoulder injury shelved him after Week 10 of this past season. Kelvin Beachum was added to the roster in 2016 and has been a mainstay at left tackle the past two seasons. Spencer Long, who played both center and left guard for New York’s AFC representative, joined the team last spring but was released this winter and is now a member of the Buffalo Bills.

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Included amongst the Jets' group of 23 unrestricted free agents are five offensive linemen: Carpenter, Dozier, OL Jonotthan Harrison, T Ben Ijalana and T Brent Qvale. The Jets will certainly be making line additions in free agency, but they could also choose to select players for up front early in the draft.

Alabama’s Jonah Williams, a 6’5”, 301-pound tackle, has been viewed by many as the most technically sound lineman in the draft and could be seen as a long-term protector for Darnold. The 6’6”, 325-pound Greg Little, who would have been a senior this season at Ole Miss, has enticing potential with his versatility and size. Florida T Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma G Cody Ford and Washington State T Andre Dillard all potentially could be taken in Round 1.

The last time the Jets took an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft was in 2006 when they drafted an OL pair: Virginia LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson fourth and Ohio State C Nick Mangold 29th, both of whom ended up having impactful careers with the team. Thirteen years later, it’s possible that the Green & White have plans to address their offensive line through the draft once again.

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