The New York Jets selected Mehki Becton in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft as they’ve continued to make efforts to completely turn around the fortunes of their offensive line after last year’s debacle. Becton steps in immediately as the most talented player in the O-Line room. Let’s take a deep dive looking at Becton’s strengths and weaknesses from his time at Louisville.
Strengths & Positives
Mekhi Becton is an absolute force and he’s going to get Jets fans even more invested in offensive line play than they were last year. He’s stronger than everyone else, but he’s also crazy athletic and smart. The Jets were the second most penalized team in the NFL last season and good amount of that came from the offensive line. Becton didn’t commit a single holding penalty in his 33 career starts for Louisville.
Becton started for the Cardinals since his freshman year. He began at right tackle and moved to the left during his sophomore season. This definitely gives the Jets some options on how they want to integrate him. Personally, I wouldn’t waste any time getting him started at left tackle. It would give Sam Darnold some consistency in the shape of his pocket for the long term.
To take a closer look at some of Becton’s strengths let’s look at some plays from his final season at Louisville. The three areas I want to cover are his power, his versatility, and his pass protection.
Zone But Make It Power
Luckily, for the Jets, Becton is actually a scheme fit. He’s coming from a zone blocking scheme with Louisville. Often when people think about a zone scheme from an offensive line perspective, they think finesse. That’s definitely not how Becton played it. He’s was a brute force blocker within a zone scheme. Typically the defender is a part of the dance but with Becton he often finished things up pretty quickly. Here are some examples of how Becton displayed his power in a Louisville’s zone blocking scheme.
Here at the top of the screen you see Becton lined up at left tackle (#73). At the snap you see they’re running inside zone to his side (something the Jets will likely do plenty of next season). His responsibility is the player lined up just outside of him. That defenders responsibility is to set the edge but that was an egregious mismatch. Becton throws him like rag doll on his first punch and finishes the block to the ground. The running back sees Becton create a chasm of space and bounces the run to his side, picking up a nice gain.
On this play it’s inside zone again and Becton (towards the bottom of the screen) has someone a bit closer to his size lined up in front of him. He used the same technique, though, punching hard with his inside hand, staggering the defender.
Here it looks like Louisville runs an iteration of an outside zone play. Becton’s responsibility, I believe, is the first man outside. At the snap, the defensive end slants inside so Becton leaves him and gets to the next level to get the looping linebacker. He throws that linebacker about 5 yards back, opening a huge lane for the running back. You have to love the power he displays but also the intelligence within the scheme.
This right here is pure, unadulterated, physical dominance. Cardinals are running inside zone away from Becton. One of the key tenants of zone blocking is to take the defender where he “wants to go.” Here Becton’s man takes one step play-side and then Becton drives him almost 5 yards back, making it an easy cutback read for the running back. This is an awesome rep as you can see the defender actually turn his back and give up as Becton gives him a final push with the play already on the other hash. That is not a small man he’s pushing around either.
One thing that’s super clear as you go through his tape is his versatility. Becton has power but he’s also a tremendous athlete and a smart player. He’s way more agile than you would think and can be quite efficient with his movement. That combination is what scouts think about when they discuss his ridiculous upside. The key will be consistency. He has to bring all those tools with him every play. Here are some examples of him displaying he’s more than just a power guy.
On this play, Becton responsibility is the first man inside. Here we see a linebacker creeping up in B gap. That’s his man. At the snap, you see him take an excellent angle with short quick steps and then completely wash the linebacker a few gaps over, creating a huge lane for the running back.
Look how quickly Becton gets to the next level on this 4th and inches play inside the 5. He gets there before the linebacker could make 3 yards of progress. I also like how he sealed the linebacker after the first contact. Easy touchdown for the running back here.
Becton at blocking tight end? Sure why not! Louisville lined him up here on the right side next to the right tackle. This is an incredible play-call from Louisville’s Scott Satterfield. They basically scored twice. The sweep motion influences the defense to that direction and on the backside, Becton completely collapses the edge. The quarterback could’ve given it to the running back after the sweep fake and they would’ve scored. Instead he kept it, the running back gave him a lead block, and he scored.
This is the area of his game where most people feel like he has the most room to improve. Usually transitioning to the NFL, the biggest change for offensive tackles who played in a power 5 conference is the quality of pass rushers. Becton will be facing more speed and a larger variety of techniques. Don’t get it twisted, though, it’s not like he’s a bad pass blocker right now. He was able to show on tape that he certainly has a good foundation.
A great deal of Becton’s pass pro reps look like this. He utilizes his powerful punch along with his great footwork to stymie defenders with ease. Any pass rushers without a plan shouldn’t even try. It also takes time to get by a man that’s so physically large so the quick passing game could see benefits as displayed here.
Because of Becton’s size, one concern is defenders getting low and bending by him. Here we see Becton counter use an excellent technique to guard against that. On this play, as the pass rusher makes his move to the outside, we see Becton force him downward by the shoulders and bury him.
Becton impresses in multiple ways on this play. First he shows that he can handle a twist. The edge rusher lined up outside of him loops towards the inside. Becton doesn’t panic with his footwork but instead smoothly exchanges with the guard beside him, as the defensive tackle slants to his gap. Then there’s more good stuff. You see the rest of the line completely collapse and only Becton remains near the line scrimmage. He continues to mirror his man even after the sack. The power punches are awesome but seeing his willingness to see a play to the end here is just as important.
Concerns & Improvements
Becton still has areas of his game to improve despite his immense talent. While he has maybe the greatest first punch we’ve seen in decades for an offensive lineman, he needs to consistently finish plays beyond that. In the NFL, the first punch won’t be as effective as it was in the ACC. He needs to not stop his feet after first contact (whether is pass or run blocking), and drive people back by bringing his whole body with him when necessary.
Becton also needs to work on minor fundamentals, one being with his three-point stance. One thing that’s noticeable is that he would sometimes tip the play and direction (particularly outside zone to his side) by how he was leaning in his stance. This isn’t uncommon at all amongst young offensive linemen but its something defenders definitely key on in the NFL. If you watched Jamal Adams breaking down film with Brian Baldinger last year, you’ll remember him mentioning keying a play based on an offensive lineman leaning in his stance.
Lastly, Becton needs to be on top of his body plan. We’ve heard encouraging reports about how seriously Becton has been taking his nutrition and he looks like he’s in incredible shape at the moment. This will have to be a career-long continued investment for him. At 6’7″ 350+ pounds, Becton has to be mindful of long-term health, particularly with the pressure exerted on his joints. He said he wants to maintain his weight around 350 lbs. His upside comparison, Jonathan Ogden, was able to maintain around 345 lbs during his 11-year, hall-of-fame career so that should be a reasonable target for Becton. He also has to maintain effective stamina throughout the game so his conditioning has to be on point all year.
Mekhi Becton has all the talent in the world. It’s all about putting it together. As you can see, when it clicks for him, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s now on Jets’ offensive line coach Frank Pollack to unlock that next level for Becton. He may not have been the most NFL ready of the tackles in this year’s draft class, but it was widely agreed that he definitely has the most upside.