Offensive line remains one of the Jets’ biggest needs, and there is every expectation Mike Maccagnan and his staff will be targeting one early. Ohio State’s Taylor Decker has been a popular first round projection as of late in mock drafts, but is he the man to replace Brick? Check out the rest of our NFL Draft coverage here!
2015 Statistics (from Pro Football Focus): 4 Penalties, 2 sacks allowed, 3 QB hits allowed, 10 hurries allowed
Combine Measurements: 6’7″, 310 pounds, 10 inch hands, 33 3/4 inch arms
Bench Press: 20 reps
40 Yard Dash: 5.23 seconds
Vertical Jump: 25 1/2 inches (Pro Day)
Broad Jump: 101 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.70 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.76 seconds
Strengths: Decker is a durable three-year starter for the Buckeyes and was made a team captain as a senior. He’s played both sides of the line, his last two seasons at left tackle and his sophomore season on the right. He certainly looks the part of an NFL tackle as well with a 6’7″, 310 pound frame. The first thing that jumps off when you watch Decker is how nasty and excellent overall he is as a run blocker. As a drive blocker he consistently locks onto his man and moves him off the line of scrimmage, and it isn’t uncommon to see Decker moving his man several yards off the ball or completely off the screen. Ohio State frequently calls down blocks and sometimes pulled Decker on some run plays. He consistently showed good strength turning his defender away from the play in down blocks and showed good initial quickness when used as a pulling OL to successfully execute the trap. In pass protection, Decker looked an improved player in the games I watched from 2014 to 2015. He simply was not often beat. He has a good initial step and punch. He is rarely beaten when attacked with a bull rush.
Weaknesses: There are fair questions over Decker’s upside as a pass protector, and thus whether he’s a “true left tackle” in the NFL. He has just average arm length compared to NFL left tackles and isn’t a great athlete. He can play too upright and isn’t a natural knee bender. His movement can be stiff and when standing upright is vulnerable to lose the leverage battle. Despite having a good initial step, he can be heavy legged in mirroring after the first punch, especially evident against quicker rushers. He also had some trouble with countermoves.
Overall: Decker has adequate physical traits, the durability and the intangibles (toughness, leadership) that should make him at least a solid lineman in the league and a potential day one starter. The questions are how good can he be ultimately and where his best fit is. His stiffness in pass protection paired with his road grading in the run game have painted him a questionable LT but a safe RT projection. It’s important to keep in mind though that RT is not a free ticket in pass protection, and that a number of the league’s best pass rushers (Von Miller, Justin Houston, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack) all line up frequently on the RT’s side. What about guard? His skill set ticks all the boxes, but crucially his tendency to play too upright could hurt him against more compact interior defenders as he stands at 6’7″. All in all he’s a probable day one RT that a team may attempt to kick to LT down the line, with some guard potential if he struggles outright as an OT at the next level.
Jets Fit: To anybody that follows the Jets it is no secret that the offensive line needs a serious injection of quality young talent. Most glaring is at the right side but the Jets can’t treat Clady like a slam dunk either. There’s an awful lot of faith being put in Brian Winters at guard right now too. Decker, while unlikely to reach the pass protecting heights of Brick in his prime, could be a reliable long-term starter in his own right and the mauling nasty presence in the run game that Brick never was.
Projection: Mid-to-late first round pick. Absolutely in play for the Jets at 20, but the middle of the draft also possesses some teams hungry for offensive line improvement.
Photo credit: www.osu.edu