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When the Jets claimed former Patriots offensive tackle Antonio Garcia last week, it was one of the more interesting moves off the offseason. Garcia was selected with the 85th overall pick in the third round of last year's draft, but the Patriots have opted to give up on him already after a challenging rookie season.
For the Jets, it's a low-risk move to pick up a player with untapped potential, and could prove to be great value as he will remain on his rookie deal for three more years. If the move doesn't work out, the Jets won't owe Garcia any money or bear any kind of a cap hit, so they have little to lose.
As a draft prospect, Garcia drew a lot of interest because of his ability as a pass protector, and his potential to develop into an NFL starter at left tackle. There were concerns that he'd need to bulk up and to refine his skill-set, but the general consensus among draft experts was that he was the sort of player that you could stash for a year before he would start competing for a left tackle role.
Unfortunately for Garcia, he fell ill early on during training camp and ended up missing most of camp and all of preseason. He spent the entire regular season on the non-football illness reserve list. Entering this year, Garcia is essentially back to square one, resetting the clock in terms of the preparation time he needs to become NFL-ready. This perhaps wasn't something the Patriots had the patience for.
In addition to the loss of valuable practice time, Garcia lost a lot of weight due to the illness, which was reportedly diagnosed as blood clots on the lungs. While he's now been cleared, he is believed to have lost somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds. That's a concern for anyone, but it's particularly concerning for Garcia, who was already undersized and someone who some experts felt might struggle to keep weight on due to his narrow waist.
Bulking up an undersized tackle can be a challenge. Jets fans will recall that D'Brickashaw Ferguson struggled to stay above 300 pounds during his first couple of seasons before growing into his body and developing into a Pro Bowl tackle.
It's interesting that the Jets' current left tackle is Kelvin Beachum, who himself is undersized at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds, having entered the league at basically the same weight as Garcia. The Jets could opt to resurrect the Patriots' original plan to stash Garcia for a season, so they can groom him to potentially compete with Beachum at left tackle, and maybe even replace him the following year.
Based on their combine measurables, Garcia is a better athlete than Beachum and he's three inches taller, although he doesn't have the long arms NFL teams often look for in tackles. Dante Scarnecchia - the Patriots' outspoken offensive line coach - has repeatedly complained about what he perceives to be an over-emphasis on long arms for tackles, though.
That sheds some light on the Patriots' selection of Garcia, and also that of Isaiah Wynn, who they drafted in the first round this year. Most scouts projected Wynn to guard because he doesn't have long arms either, but he figures to compete at left tackle with New England. Wynn is obviously Garcia's replacement, and the reason the Patriots are comfortable enough to move on from him.
Looking at what else Garcia brings to the table, he has good hand strength and moves well, but needs to sharpen up his technique and anticipation. That could make Beachum a perfect mentor for him because the fact he's such a good technician is what makes Beachum successful despite lacking prototypical size.
One final concern with Garcia is that he didn't face top-level competition at Troy, but he has faced some NFL-quality pass rushers in college and held his own. These include Clelin Ferrell, Bradley Chubb and Tarell Basham.
The Jets made a good move to jump on this opportunity to restart the clock on Garcia's development. Many draft experts were high on him as a potential franchise left tackle, which is something the Jets desperately need, and which usually costs a lot more in terms of salary or draft capital.
While we perhaps shouldn't expect much, if anything, from him in 2018, it seems likely he's worth keeping around for at least a year to figure out if he still has that potential having overcome the tribulations of his rookie year.