The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They will be a frequent contributor on newyorkjets.com in the weeks leading up to the draft.
While many fans have focused their attention on the Jets QB situation, Curtis Martin's future replacement at RB, and the depth of the receiving corps, the coaches and scouts likely have gone straight to the source of all things offensive, the O-line. If the Jets are to have any success on the offensive side of the ball this year, they will have to address their many needs along the offensive line in order to get the best possible production out of their skill position players.
The line has taken some hits this offseason. The Jets released center Kevin Mawae in a cap-cutting move and he has moved on to Tennessee. Jason Fabini was also released and has signed with Bill Parcells in Dallas. Free agent Jonathan Goodwin signed with New Orleans, and 12-year veteran Scott Gragg is also a free agent that the team doesn't intend to re-sign.
In the Jets defense, Mawae and Fabini are both talented but aging players coming off injuries, and Gragg was the oldest of the group. Though he filled an important role during the 2005 season, an upgrade was needed. Goodwin has been a career backup to this point, and a valuable swing man who can play both center and guard. The Jets likely would have considered him in a starting role, but with a pressing need at QB and at several defensive positions, his re-signing wasn't a priority.
Unfortunately, the result of all this activity is that Pete Kendall, another aging veteran, is playing out of position at center, leaving Brandon Moore as the only experienced starting guard opposite Steve Morley, a third year player who is a former rookie free agent from the Packers. He has played in seven career games with no starts. At tackle, Adrian Jones is coming off his first full season as a starter, and Marko Cavka, a 6th round pick of the Jets in 2004, has never played in an NFL game.
The Jets tried to address these needs in free agency, most notably with their pursuit of free agent OT Jon Runyan. Those efforts fell short however, and now, short of some potential late free agent signings, the team is faced with having to address those needs in the upcoming draft. Fortunately for New York, they have five of the first 97 picks in the draft, where the real value is amongst the offensive linemen. Though there are other needs and they have many options, there are several impact players who could be available to them and help address the need.
With two and a half weeks until draft day, teams are still engaged in a lot of smokescreen talk, and though Reggie Bush seems to be the consensus number one pick, the Saints and Titans plans at selections two and three are still very much in question, as are the Jets plans at number four. The point is there are several scenarios where Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson could fall to the Jets. The former Freeport High School standout would feel right at home in New York and is the type of player, like Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden and St. Louis' Orlando Pace, who could man the LT spot for the next ten years. He is tall, athletic and quick, and a very strong run blocker and pass protector. He's clearly the best offensive lineman in the draft and one of the top five overall talents in this class. The Jets could hardly go wrong with Ferguson.
In the same mold as New England's Bill Belichick, Eric Mangini and the Jets will be looking for big bodied linemen who are strong and smart, and there are several players who fit the mold in rounds one through three.
In round one, though it's not likely, if Ohio State center Nick Mangold, who is considered the best center and one of the top five O-linemen in the draft, gets by the Cincinnati Bengals at pick number 24, he could slide to the Jets. The Green & White could also be in position to snatch up Auburn's massive OT Marcus McNeil (6-7, 336) with the 29th pick, and if both of those players are gone, could reach a few picks for Miami OT Eric Winston (6-6, 310), who is very athletic for a man his size and has risen to late first round, early second round status.
At the top of round two, look for the Jets to have their choice of talented guards in Oklahoma's Davin Joseph (6-2, 305), Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles (6-3, 355) and USC's Deuce Lutui (6-3, 334). Joseph is considered one of the best run blockers in the draft. Jean-Gilles doesn't look the part, but once he gets the pads on, he a ferocious blocker with the strength and quickness to anchor against penetrating defensive linemen. Lutui's stock rose significantly after a strong pro day workout April 2nd. At 6-3, 334, €œDeuce€ turned in a 32-inch vertical leap and nearly went nine feet in the broad jump. His agility and quickness at that size has impressed many scouts.
After that top group, there is a significant drop off in talent at the O-line positions. LSU OT Andrew Whitworth is the most likely to come off the board next, but the Jets probably won't have a shot at him at the top of round three. However, if the team still hasn't addressed its tackle need by then, Cal's Ryan O'Callaghan (6-6, 340), Texas' Jonathan Scott (6-6, 315), and Bosie State's Darryn Colledge (6-4, 302) could all be viable options. O'Callaghan and Scott have good size and extensive big game experience in top programs. Colledge made his mark at the Senior Bowl where he showed a great work ethic and good intelligence, but also used his strength and speed to not only pass protect, but get downfield and block in open space on running plays.
Day Two also holds some prospects. In the fourth or fifth round, Michigan's OG Adam Stenavich (6-4, 310) could be a good value, and in the seventh round players like Rob Meadow (OG Washington), Rob Smith (OG Tennessee) and Matt Lentz (OG Michigan) fit the size and intelligence requirements the Jets are looking for.
The Jets have plenty of needs to address in day one, but the pickings get slim on day two when it comes to linemen of any kind this year. Expect the Green & White to consider their options at offensive line with every first day pick.