Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: How many Jets rookies will be in the starting lineup in Week 1?
EA: The floor is two and the ceiling is four. You can get into semantics with "starters" and football coaches and personnel folks around the league hate that word, but let's dive in for this exercise. The best five offensive linemen will play and Mekhi Becton will have to earn his spot, but I expect the No. 11 selection in April's draft to line up at either left tackle or right tackle on opening day. The 6'7" 364-pound Becton is an old-fashioned road grader who will continue to improve his technique under OL coach Frank Pollack. Braden Mann is the only punter on the roster and the sixth-round pick figures to be the guy in Buffalo. Not only does Mann have a huge leg, but he also is an excellent directional kicker who can hold. Brant Boyer consistently has one of the NFL's top special teams units and Mann will be an asset in the hidden yardage category. If the Jets open up offensively in 11 personnel, Denzel Mims certainly has a chance to "start" and he has the potential to be a big-time threat in the vertical and red-zone games. And let's not forget about Ashtyn Davis, who won't rise above No. 3 on the safety depth chart but gives Gregg Williams some options with three-safety looks and potentially at big nickel. Depending on the health status of rookie Bryce Hall, he'll be a cornerback to watch at camp.
EG: I think the answer is at least one and probably no more than three. As it stands, Jets sixth-round pick Braden Mann is the only punter on the roster. General manager Joe Douglas said special teams coordinator Brant Boyer stood on the table for Mann in the predraft process, so I think it's fair to say that signs point to Mann, the Ray Guy Award winner in 2018, being the Jets starting punter. I don't think it's farfetched to assume the Jets' first- and second-round picks could find their way into the starting lineup either. Douglas emphasized the offensive line in the offseason and No. 11 overall selection Mekhi Becton (6'7", 364) was his first draft pick. Douglas, however, has reiterated the best five will play, which means Becton will battle with tackles George Fant, who signed in free agency, and second-year player Chuma Edoga (8 starts in 2019) for a starting gig on the outside. Wideout Denzel Mims certainly has the prototypical size (6'3", 207) and speed (4.38 40-yard dash), but he's going to have to earn his stripes in training camp to see the field as a starter. I also think third-round picks S Ashtyn Davis and DL Jabari Zuniga could find their way on the field early in certain packages.
RL: It seems like a great rookie class, but as far as starters at Buffalo on Sept. 13, I see only one definite, one conditional, and one if we extend the meaning of "starter." The definite is first-round pick T Mekhi Becton. If he's everything as advertised during training camp, I could see HC Adam Gase slotting him as a starter for the opener, probably at LT, possibly at RT. Conditionally, if the Jets open in an 11 look, you've got to think second-round pick WR Denzel Mims will also get the starting nod along with vets Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman. And by extension, if we consider the punter a starter, Braden Mann is also in the lineup, since there are no other punters on the roster now and since the sixth-rounder in his last two seasons at Texas A&M recorded major league gross (48.9) and net (42.7) averages and drove 52.3% of his punts 50-plus yards.
OL: A lot can happen from now until Sept. 13 in Buffalo for Week 1. However, when taking a closer look at the 2020 rookie class, I think there are a few contenders that could be starters. It's reasonable to consider first-round draft pick Mekhi Becton, whom the Jets took 11th overall in this year's draft. At 6'7" and 364 pounds, the Louisville product wasn't taken just because of his size, speed and athleticism but also because he will play a large role in Joe Douglas' offensive line rebuild. Becton will have some strong competition along the line, though, against veterans like George Fant and company. Another face we may see starting in Week 1 could be WR Denzel Mims. Taken in the second round, Mims has high value and raw talent and size that could place him in a few offensive packages early in the season, especially after the departure of Robby Anderson in free agency. Third, it wouldn't surprise me if DC Gregg Williams mixed some rookies like S Ashtyn Davis, DE Jabari Zuniga and CB Bryce Hall into a starting package. Williams is known for having his defense fit the strengths of his players, and many defensive rookies saw starting time last year.