Every iteration of the NFL draft is a gamble, and this week's 2022 NFL Draft will deliver more of the same. Sure-fire prospects often fail to meet expectations, and underrated gems who received little attention throughout the pre-draft process develop into quality starters at the next level. The New York Jets are currently learning this the hard way. Jets General Manager Joe Douglas was confident he had discovered his left tackle of the future when he drafted former Louisville standout Mekhi Becton with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Becton’s mammoth size and rare athletic abilities made him one of the top prospects at his position that year. But fast forward a couple seasons and multiple reports are beginning to emerge that Becton has possibly played his final game in a Jets jersey.
Becton's professional career has been awfully tumultuous thus far, largely due to inconsistent performances, injuries and strange team-related occurrences. He’s had recurring knee, foot and shoulder injuries. Becton also suffered a concussion in August of 2021. The Jets, who own two top-10 selections in Thursday's first round, are allegedly running out of patience regarding Becton. Douglas could potentially draft Evan Neal, Charles Cross or Ikem Ekwonu on Thursday. Doing so would effectively admit defeat on Becton.
With Becton's name now circulating the trade rumor circuit, we've identified three franchises that should consider swinging a deal for Becton.
Despite owning an abundance of cap space heading into the offseason, Colts General Manager Chris Ballard has approached the left tackle position with a surprising lack of urgency. Last season's starting left tackle Eric Fisher remains an unrestricted free agent, and reports largely indicate Fisher has priced himself outside of Indianapolis' comfort zone. As things stand, veteran journeyman Matt Pryor is penciled in as quarterback Matt Ryan's blindside protector. A swing tackle, Pryor played the majority of his snaps at right tackle last season, having filled in for the injured Braden Smith at times. The Colts are still evaluating the position, however. They recently hosted Dennis Kelly on a free-agent visit. The Colts are awfully familiar with Kelly, who recently spent multiple seasons as a starter for the division-rival Tennessee Titans.
Kelly's visit indicates Ballard is willing to make another move at the tackle position. Ballard's history of transactions suggests he isn't afraid to acquire a reclamation project such as Becton, whose value has never been lower. Despite often operating with more cap space than most team’s league-wide, Ballard prefers to apply his trade as a shrewd businessman. Acquiring Becton for a second-or-third-round selection may be worth the risk for a Colts franchise that seemingly lacks a long-term solution at the left tackle position.
New Bears General Manager Ryan Poles is largely tasked with placing franchise quarterback Justin Fields in an environment that's best suited for success. The fate of this era of Chicago football will ultimately be decided by Fields' trajectory and how Chicago invests in his continued development. Poles has been somewhat surprisingly stagnant in relation to addressing their needs across an underperforming offensive line. Chicago allowed a league-high 58.0 sacks in 2021. Having your franchise signal-caller consistently under duress is a less-than-desirable way to help him acclimate to the next level. The addition of former Green Bay Packer Lucas Patrick at center should help, but the Bears are still staring at two question marks at the bookend positions.
Former Bears General Manager Ryan Pace drafted two offensive tackles in the 2021 NFL Draft. Larry Borom was a fifth-round selection out of Missouri that ended up playing significantly more snaps at right tackle than anyone within Chicago's organization had originally planned. Borom handled himself rather well all things considered, but the jury is still very much out on his long-term prospects. Second-round pick Teven Jenkins unfortunately struggled with recurring back injuries and inconsistent play. Poles obviously wasn’t a part of the regime that drafted either player, and he may hold a different evaluation on both players altogether. Jenkins is currently penciled in as the team's starting left tackle going forward, but the nature of his future is a giant question mark. It’s far too early to give up on Jenkins, but adding Becton to the mix would potentially help the Bears find another solution at either position.
The Seattle Seahawks’ current roster contains one of the more concerning situations at both tackle positions across the league. Last year's starting left tackle Duane Brown remains an unrestricted free agent and will turn 37 years old in August. Brown led the offense in snaps last season (970, per Pro Football Reference). It's worth noting the Seahawks are reportedly still holding discussions with Brown about a potential return. If the regular season were to begin tomorrow, and the Seahawks should be thankful it isn't, Jake Curhan and Greg Eiland would serve as Seattle's starting left and right tackles. Eiland has never played an official NFL snap, and Curhan was slapped with an unfathomably poor 37.2 grade in pass protection by Pro Football Focus for his performances as a rotational player last season.
It's partially why the Seahawks have been tied to potentially drafting Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning with the No. 9 overall selection in Thursday's first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Seahawks are clearly in rebuild mode. General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll are attempting to restore the Seahawks to relevancy in a stacked and competitive NFC West division. Acquiring what could still be deemed as an ascending player such as Becton makes sense for a franchise that should stack as much young talent as they can possibly get their hands on.