The Jets’ offensive line has a been an area of increasing concern for some time as a positional group with aging talent and limited depth. The retirement of starting left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, despite being past his prime, and the placement of nine year vet Breno Giacomini on the PUP list has exacerbated the situation. Clearly keen to add depth to this shaky group and begin to build for the future, the Jets traded back into the fifth round of the draft to pick up South Carolina’s Brandon Shell. Lets take a closer look at the player for whom the Jets gave up their 2017 fourth round pick.
Brandon Shell (6’5”, 324lbs) has football in the blood; he is the great-nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame member and former NFL head coach Art Shell. He had top billing out of high school and signed to South Carolina University, starting 47 consecutive games (appearing in 52, starting 48) for the Gamecocks in his four year career. For the first three years, he played right tackle before moving to the left in his senior year. A shoulder injury kept him from spring practice in 2015 but he came back to start all games. Despite being a central part of the offensive line, Shell’s college career was described in Dane Brugler’s draft guide as ‘non descript’ and he only made third team All – SEC in his senior year.
As is so often said of players, Shell ‘looks the part’ of an NFL offensive lineman and it is his physical attributes which must have largely endeared him to the Jets. He is tall and has exceptional length which he uses to his advantage when dealing with inside pass rush moves. He is incredibly strong with good core strength. His tape shows decent performance as a run blocker. Shell also shows patience and accuracy in combination blocks. Being a four year starter in the challenging SEC should not be ignored as positive trait, even if he didn’t set the world on fire; consistency is key. Shell also has an excellent work ethic and attitude, gaining academic honors. He works hard on technique, such as maintaining a wide base and using his arm length even if it is not always as effective as he would hope.
Draft reports suggest that the weaknesses in Shell’s game often outweigh the strengths when it comes to his suitability for the NFL. This is mainly in terms of his footwork and ability to keep up with speed edge rushers. In 2014 he struggled against the likes of Dante Fowler and in this play from 2015 his hesitancy allowed Shaq Lawson to fly past him.
Shell particularly lacks the bend, balance and lateral agility to consistently handle NFL speed rushers. In a bid to ensure he doesn’t get beaten, he has a tendency to rock on the line, drawing an excessive number of penalties. At times Shell shows excellent pass protection skills, it is just not consistent. Overall he needs to develop better control of his body, better hand placement and more effective foot movement to ensure he can consistently protect against NFL level defenses.
Most draft analysts pegged Shell as only suitable as a right tackle in the NFL, however, on the initial depth chart released by the team, the Jets currently have him second behind Ryan Clady at left tackle. In reality, the main point of drafting Shell was to begin to look to the future of the Jets’ offensive line by picking up players with potential. Mike McCagnan explained:
” We thought from a value standpoint where we took him was very good. He’s a big, long athletic offensive tackle who has the chance to potentially develop into a good backup, possibly a starter in time. He’s like a lot of players; he probably needs some work.”
Most suited to a back up position in the rotation, the Jets probably don’t expect Shell to feature much in his rookie year. However, with Giacomini out and questions over his durability, Shell has an opportunity to compete with Ben Ijalana and Brett Qvale, and possibly get more involved than the team initially planned. He’ll need to show progress in his areas of weakness during training camp, particularly tidying up the number of penalties he receives and developing his pass protection skills. With a lot to do to raise his game to a consistently NFL level, he is not an immediate solution should Giacomini’s injury continue to keep him out or if injury rules out another lineman, but he has a great opportunity in front of him and is one to watch for the future.
photo credit: www.newyorkjets.com