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Over the next month or so, we're going to be reviewing some of the top draft prospects at each position to assess some potential candidates that the Jets will show interest in. We continue today with a look at the 2019 interior offensive lineman class.
Jets needs: centers and guards
The Jets are probably looking for two new starters on the offensive line, as left guard James Carpenter is out of contract and the team already declined center Spencer Long's option. Veterans Dakota Dozier, Jonotthan Harrison and Brent Qvale, each of whom has started a few games on the inside within the past few seasons, are all also out of contract. Any of them might be re-signed for depth, but is unlikely to be considered an adequate option to start.
They are widely expected to at least attempt to address these spots in free agency. It's anticipated they will make a strong push for players like Matt Paradis and Roger Safford to fill these roles, and they could also explore some potential trades.
The Jets are set at right guard, with head coach Adam Gase having indicated that the Jets are happy with incumbent starter Brian Winters for the time being. Otherwise, there are a few young players who will battle it out for roster spots, but each of them lacks experience at the NFL level.
2019 draft: centers and guards
The top-rated interior linemen in this year's draft could all be off the board by the time the Jets are due to make the first of their two third-round picks. Elgton Jenkins of Mississippi State, Garrett Bradbury of North Carolina State and Erik McCoy of Texas A&M all played center last season, whereas Boston College's Chris Lindstrom played right guard.
Each of these four did an outstanding job at the scouting combine, with Bradbury the pick of the bunch. Although he's undersized compared to the others, Bradbury may have secured himself as a first-round pick, so if the Jets still need a center, they might be left hoping McCoy or Jenkins fall to the third round unless they make a draft-day trade of some description.
Lindstrom, who also played some right tackle in college, has also started training at the center position to improve his versatility. He is solid in pass protection and plays with good discipline, as evidenced by the fact he only had five penalties in four years as a starter.
Another option could be to draft a tackle and move them inside, either permanently or just for this season with a view to moving them to left tackle when Kelvin Beachum is out of contract. Top rated tackles who some believe could fare better on the interior include Jonah Williams from Alabama, Cody Ford from Oklahoma and Dalton Risner from Kansas State. However, Ford is probably better suited to the right side if he does end up at tackle, and Williams is likely to be selected too high to warrant a role on the interior.
Some interior linemen from top college programs could be available in the mid-rounds. Alabama's Ross Pierschbacher, Penn State's Connor McGovern, Wisconsin's Beau Benzschawel and Michael Jordan from Ohio State fall into this category. Benzschawel was an effective run blocking guard for the Badgers but might struggle with NFL-level pass interior rushers. McGovern, who has experience at both guard and center, posted solid numbers at the combine, but his pass protection may need work as he gave up four sacks last season. Jordan also had good numbers over the weekend, although he needs to work on his strength.
One small-school prospect who really stood out at the combine was Iosua Opeta from Weber State, who posted outstanding numbers for speed, strength and explosiveness. However, his agility numbers were poor, so that might limit where he would be a good scheme fit.
In the later rounds, Kentucky's Bunch Stallings has the potential to be a dominant run blocker at guard, and centers Jesse Burkett from Stanford and Lamont Gaillard from Georgia look good on film, although each may need to work on his physical limitations.
It would be risky for the Jets to enter the draft without having already addressed the holes at center and left guard in free agency. If they don't, they might need to swing a deal on draft day to ensure they bring in someone capable of starting as a rookie. Either way, the Jets need long-term solutions on the interior, so they should be in the market for potential contributors from the third round onwards.