Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2013 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, the Jets' needs at the spot, and the top players expected to be selected at the position from April 25-27. Today's fifth in the series: Offensive Linemen.
A season ago the Jets sent three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl. One year later not a single lineman made the trip to Honolulu.
As Marty Mornhinweg, in his first year as a Jets coordinator, installs his West Coast offense, he understands that for it to be successful, the play up front has to be superb.
"That line is the No. 1 key right there," Mornhinweg said recently. "You can do some things with a talented offensive line."
One of the Green & White's noteworthy offseason moves took place March 15, with the signing of guard/tackle Willie Colon, who played in 62 games over the past six seasons, was a Super Bowl XLIII champion with Pittsburgh, and brings valuable experience to the unit.
The addition of Colon is significant because Matt Slauson, the Jets' starting LG for the past three seasons, signed a one-year contract with Chicago on March 31. At the same time, RG Brandon Moore is still a free agent after having reportedly visited Miami, Dallas and Detroit.
RT Austin Howard did a solid job in his first year as the starter, but he remains a restricted free agent.
Mike Devlin, who served as the Jets' tight ends coach and OL assistant the past seven seasons, takes over the line duties full-time after the departure of OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
Being No. 1 Not Joeckel's Top Priority
This year's offensive line draft class may be considered one of the deepest in years.
Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel is not only expected to be the first tackle selected in the draft but could be the No. 1 overall choice. Joeckel said he is striving to be the top pick but realizes he can only control so much.
"My dream is to just play in the NFL," he said. "I know, being the No. 1 pick, after that, it doesn't really matter. You've got to go prove yourself in the NFL. It's just like that in college. Being the No. 1 recruit in college doesn't matter unless you step on that campus. It's the same thing. It's cool and everything, but going to any team I go to, proving myself there will be the biggest thing."
With great size (6'6", 306), Joeckel was a major reason Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel was able to capture the Heisman Trophy and A&M finished the year ranked in the top 10.
USA Today's Tony Pauline wasn't impressed with Joeckel's combine performance, writing: "His 40 time of 5.30 was average while his 10-yard split of 1.81 was outright poor. During drills Joeckel was nothing more than ordinary and did not look like an early-first-round selection."
If Kansas City elects to draft him, he would be the first offensive lineman selected No. 1 overall since 2008, when Michigan's Jake Long went to the Miami Dolphins. "I know where I came from, I know where I started. I appreciate the praise, but nothing's perfect." —Alabama G Chance Warmack
It's anticipated that Alabama guard Chance Warmack could be a top-5 pick as well. Even if Warmack is taken from sixth to 10th, he would be the highest guard selected in 16 years.
"I know where I came from, I know where I started, and that's the same mentality I have now," Warmack said. "I appreciate the praise, but nothing's perfect."
Philadelphia, which maintains the fourth pick, seems like an ideal landing spot for Warmack. The Eagles recently hired Jeff Stoutland, Warmack's Alabama OL coach, while former Crimson Tide director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz is also on the Philly staff.
Despite being shorter than many scouts prefer, the 6'2" 317-pounder presents long arms and is able to drive-block defenders off the line of scrimmage.
Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News envisions Warmack being a good fit with the Green & White. "Warmack is built to control the action inside, combining his powerful frame with smooth feet and strong hands," Iyer writes. "He looks the part of a durable long-time Pro Bowler. He's the 'safest' pick in the early first round, and the Jets (No. 9) and Titans (No. 10) are the likeliest landing spots."
On the Lowdown, Fisher's Got It All
Another top line prospect is Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, whose stock rose at the combine as he showed he's the complete package. During position drills, Pauline observed, "Fisher showed the uncanny ability to keep his 6'7" frame low to the ground, something NFL decision makers love to see."
As a senior, Fisher was an All-MAC selection and helped guide the Chippewas offense to an average of 6.2 yards per play. The 22-year-old can become only the second first-round draft choice in CMU history.
"It's just amazing watching my dream becoming reality slowly," Fisher said at the combine. "Obviously, there's still two months till the draft, and I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get drafted as high as possible and make my dream complete. But it's been absolutely amazing, just a surreal experience."
Although Lane Johnson played on Oklahoma's offensive line for only two years, he showed he's capable of earning a first-round selection.
Johnson's career in Norman began at tight end and defensive end. In 2011 he transitioned to the O-line and started 12 of 13 games at right tackle. Last season he switched to LT and CBSSports.com recognized him as an All-America third-teamer.
"There might be some teams that very quietly think he could become better than those other tackles, Fisher and Joeckel, with time because of that athletic ability," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "He's going to end up somewhere maybe in the 10-15 range in this draft and he has the ability to be an All-Pro left tackle."
The second guard anticipated to hear his name on the draft's opening night is North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper.
As a four-year starter, Cooper played a vital role in the Tar Heels' running attack, which averaged 193.8 yards per game, their highest average since 1994. He was the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC's top offensive linemen and also was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation's best interior lineman. At the combine, he knocked out 35 repetitions on the 225-pound benchpress — a combine top performance — and clocked a 5.07 time in the 40.
"Nothing's written in stone. At any moment a team can like you or not like you," Cooper said. "So I am excited for the potential to be drafted pretty high for my position."
More Tide Talent in Fluker, Jones
Warmack isn't the only Alabama offensive lineman projected to be taken in the first round. Teammate D.J. Fluker probably will hear his name announced around the same time. In 2012 Fluker was named an AP All-America second-teamer and an All-SEC first-team honoree.
"The guy is as good a run-blocking right tackle as you'll ever find," said ESPN's Mel Kiper.
At the Senior Bowl, Fluker weighed 355 pounds, but when he arrived in Indianapolis he had dropped 16 pounds to weigh in at 339.
The debate will continue on whether he's better-suited to play right tackle or guard in the pros. Some previously believed he could play left tackle, but that may have been put to rest at the combine.
"He's a hulking human being with underwhelming movement skills," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah writes. "His 5.31 40 was a bit faster than expected, but he definitely lacks the foot quickness to play left tackle."
It wouldn't be entirely surprising if the top center drafted is Alabama's Barrett Jones, who put together a terrific career in Tuscaloosa and displayed versatility, seeing action at three different positions (right guard, center, left tackle) over his four-year career. Regardless of the position on the field, he thrived.
A Memphis, Tenn., native, Jones, missed the combine with torn foot ligaments. At present, he is concentrating on getting his health back to 100 percent.
"I can't control that I was hurt," he said. "I just have to focus on the things I can control. That's interview well and doing all the little things right."
The draft stock of Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Terron Armstead has skyrocketed after* *a stellar combine. He clocked one of the fastest 40-times ever for a lineman (4.71), did 31 reps on the benchpress, and produced a 34½" vertical jump and a 9'4" broad jump. Even though he attended a smaller D-1 school, he's a potential second-round choice.
"The important thing for Armstead is the process," Mayock said. "It's less about running 4.71 and more about having a real good week at the East-West game, which he did. He has a lot of upside. He's raw as can be and that's why you're not going to run up and say, 'I'm taking him in the first round.' But he has the skillset to be a starting left tackle. So the process is important to him and he's doing all of the right things."
G Justin Pugh, Syracuse; T Kyle Long, Oregon; C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin; T Menelik Watson, Florida State; G Larry Warford, Kentucky; T David Bakhtiari, Colorado; C Brian Schwenke, California.
Friday, April 5: Quarterbacks
Friday: April 12: Defensive Line