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2024 Combine

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Notebook | Jets, With No. 10 Draft Pick, Potentially in the Hunt for Elite O-Lineman

Joe Alt and Taliese Fuaga Among Top Prospects

Oregon State offensive lineman Taliese Fuaga participates in a drill during the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, March 3, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Kevin Sabitus/NFL)

One of the prime objectives this offseason for general manager Joe Douglas is to strengthen the offensive line so it's able to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers and propel an offense that struggled for much of last season.

With about 10 days until the beginning of the free-agency period and about two months before the NFL Draft, the offensive line at present has two projected starters: center Joe Tippmann and lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who is coming off a torn Achilles. In his rookie season, Carter Warren showed he has potential. The Jets recently released veteran Laken Tomlinson, while Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown and Connor McGovern are all potential free agents. The Jets could potentially need to fill three starting spots and add quality depth.

"It's a lot of pieces, but at the same time, we just had some unbelievable meetings with our coaching staff, free agent meetings," Douglas said last week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "There are three different avenues that we can do this, right? Trade, free agency and draft, so going through where we are, the flexibility, going through the meetings that we just went through, the flexibility of AVT, I feel like there's some guys that could come in and be the right type of fit for us. In terms of intelligence, toughness, reliability, there's some good candidates out there that can come in and help us."

Beyond dipping into free agency, there was a strong contingent of offensive linemen at the Combine who the Jets can consider with the team currently holding the No. 10 overall selection in the NFL Draft (April 25-27 in Detroit). 

"I think we're in a really good situation because, particularly of the flexibility that AVT provides us," Douglas said. "We don't have any decision on exactly where he's going to line up, but his ability to play four different spots and play four different spots well, gives us a lot of flexibility on our roster building and our O-line building. The one thing we're going to do this year, we're not going to move AVT around. We're going to have a spot for him and leave him there for the season."

Daniel Jeremiah, draft analyst for NFL Network, rated seven O-linemen among his top 20 selections.

"It's a loaded tackle class," Jeremiah said last week in a conference call with reporters. "Just in terms of that top group, there's 10, 11 guys that are really interesting. I think we'll see a bunch of Day 1 starters out of that tackle group."

Here is a short list of the top candidates in a strong class of offensive linemen for the Jets scouted in Indianapolis:

Joe Alt, Notre Dame (6-9, 321)
The well-rounded 6-foot-9, 321-pound tackle credited his father, John Alt, who played 13 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"It's that competitive gene in me," said Joe Alt, who grew up in Minnesota and played hockey before switching to football after outgrowing his skates. "When I step on that field, it's a different person. It's a laser focus. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win that play and refuse to lose or let the other guy get to the ball. That's what I've tried to sell."

Alt had a 90.7 grade last season and a 91.4 the previous season, according to Pro Football Focus. Last season he allowed a single sack, 2 QB hits and 2 hurries in 368 passing snaps for the Fighting Irish.

"I don't pay too much attention to that kind of stuff," Alt said. "I like to keep my head down and just keep working each and every day. That stuff's going to take care of itself when it comes to that time."

He had solid numbers when he ran a 5.05-second 40-yard dash, jumped 28 inches in the vert and recorded a 9-4 broad at the Combine.

Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State (6-6, 324)
Fuaga is versatile enough to play either tackle or guard (which might be his stronger position) in the NFL and is considered to be one of the top O-linemen selected in next month's draft. That said, he has the range and long-term potential to immediately step in at either position.

"I come with an aggressiveness to the game," Fuaga said at the Combine. "I know everybody says it kind of brings that, but I love trying to knock people off their feet, it's kind of fun. I just try and do that."

He showed his agility, explosiveness and power at the Combine, with a 32-inch vertical, 5.13-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 9-3 broad jump. One downside: a modest 33.1-inch arm length. He also turned in a strong performance at the recent Senior Bowl.

"I'm ready to play both sides, right now working at left and right, even if guard, if I had me at guard I'm definitely ready for that," he said.

Amarius Mims, Georgia (6-8, 340)
Mims has imposing size and length (36-inch arms), but started only 7 games for the Bulldogs. He tweaked a hamstring in the 40-yard dash and had to take a pass on the rest of the Combine drills. He is coming off ankle surgery, which kept him from being a full-time starter. The general lack of first-team experience and his injury history could have an impact, but his tantalizing size could wipe away any doubts.

Before hurting his hamstring, he ran a 5.07-second 40-yard dash and had a 9-3 in the broad jump.

Olu Fashanu, Penn State (6-6, 312)
Fashanu ran a 40-yard dash then dropped out with an injury to his right thigh, according to NFL Media, missing the agility drills and field work. He hopes to be fit when Penn State's pro day rolls around. He made it through his first 40-yard dash attempt before dropping out due to a right thigh injury.

After his meeting with the Jets in Indianapolis, Fuaga (who played on the Senior Bowl team coached by Jets' DC Jeff Ulbrich) was "speechless" when asked about the potential of playing with Aaron Rodgers.

"I'm super confident in my ability to play now," Fashnau said at the Combine. "I've been ready for this moment for a while. Again, I'm ready for this moment."

Asked what sets him apart, Fashanu said: "I'm an ultra-competitor. I come from a competitive environment at Penn State. I know every day I come into the facility and I'm ready to work. I'm trying to outdo myself every day."

J.C. Latham, Alabama (6-5, 342)
J.C. Latham is an elite blocker who is coming off an ankle injury he sustained in the National Championship game. Still recovering from that knock, Latham sat out most of the athletic drills, but appeared to be at full strength in individual drills. 

"The mental aspect is the biggest improvement for me," he said at the Combine. "To be more consistent."

In high school at the IMG Academy in Florida, Latham began as a defensive lineman, but was forced to switch to left tackle because of injuries to other players. Arriving at Alabama, he found Evan Neal entrenched at LT, and switched to right tackle.

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