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Jets Draft Preview | Top Tackles Are Penei Sewell & Rashawn Slater

Christian Darrisaw & Alex Leatherwood Also Could Find Their Way into Round 1

Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, participates in the school's Pro Day football workout for NFL scouts Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Tackle is always a Round 1 attraction, but will the Jets hop on the ride again? Last year they drafted their LT of the present and future in Mekhi Becton and signed RT George Fant in free agency. Chuma Edoga, the 2019 third-rounder, also is still on the roster.

So on the one hand it seems unlikely the Jets will tackle tackle again high in this draft. Yet on the other hand, GM Joe Douglas has often stated variations on the theme of "We need to have a strong offensive line."

But if the Jets aren't in the tackle market, lots of other teams will be. These are some candidates in the April 29-May 1 draft in Cleveland:

Top of the Class
Penei Sewell (6-5, 330), Oregon

Sewell opted out of the Ducks' 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic but that hasn't hurt him much if any in this draft, in which he could be a top-5 pick. He made his way from American Samoa to Utah to UO, became a starter as a freshman and earned unanimous All-America and Pac-10 honors as a super soph, including the Outland Trophy, which goes to the top interior lineman in the country.

Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline notes that from the start of his college career, "Sewell was projected as a potential early draft pick at the all-important left tackle position. He possesses the footwork, agility, and movement skills, to hold down the position at the next level, and he projects well in a zone-blocking scheme. He must improve his strength at the point and develop a nasty attitude, but he comes with a large upside."

Rashawn Slater (6-4, 305), Northwestern
Slater is slightly undersized at 305 but makes up for it with outstanding athleticism — not a surprise considering his dad, Reggie Slater, played eight NBA seasons, including four games with the New Jersey Nets in 2001. Rashawn flipped from RT to LT in 2018 and started 26 straight games there, yielding no sacks his entire junior season. He announced he would sit out the Wildcats' 2020 season to begin preparing for the draft.

Many draft watchers think Slater might make it into the top 10, but a couple of analysts think he might even make it to No. 5 and the Bengals. Ryan Wilson says, "Slater, who can play inside or outside, is a worthy selection here," while Josh Edwards opines that he "has five-position flexibility" and that the Stripes "must do right by Joe Burrow and invest further in the offensive line."

Best of the Rest
Christian Darrisaw (6-5, 314), Virginia Tech

Darrisaw had a low-key high school career and academic issues that prevented all but one FBS program from showing any interest in him. That program was Va. Tech, and he took the short trip south from his Maryland home to tear it up in Blacksburg. He was a three-year starter at left tackle who earned All-ACC first-team and All-America second-team recognition this past season and has played himself into the mid to low first round

"Darrisaw has ideal size, length and balance," draft maven Daniel Jeremiah, adding, "He'll have some trouble adjusting in space because of his average change-of-direction skills. I view him as a starting right tackle very early in his NFL career."

Alex Leatherwood (6-6, 312), Alabama
Leatherwood spent his first two seasons at Alabama moving from left tackle to right tackle to right guard, where he started all 15 games as a true sophomore. Back at LT, he started every game in his last two seasons and wound up a two-time national champion, two-time All-SEC first-teamer, and a unanimous All-American and Outland Trophy winner to cap his senior season. He was 'Bama's third Outland winner in five years, following T Cam Robinson in '16 and eventual Jets DL Quinnen Williams in '18.

Day 3 Diamond
Spencer Brown (6-9, 321), Northern Iowa

Brown's massive size, athleticism and 35-inch arms would normally lift him into the top 100. But FCS schools didn't play their 2020 seasons until this spring, and Brown decided not to stay at UNI and also declined offers to play for some Power 5 programs to play for them this fall in order to enter the draft. His lost season will drop him down many boards, but some scouts are elevating his stock just a bit lately. It will be interesting to see if some NFL team plucks him early in Round 4 as its right tackle of the future.

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