Patriots Draft Prospect Preview: Could T Josh Jones make sense in talented OL class?

Andy Hart
April 09, 2020 - 5:13 pm
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Between now and the scheduled April 23rd opening of the 2020 NFL Draft, WEEI.com will take a position-by-position look at the prospects in this year’s class, both in terms of a general overview as well as from a Patriots perspective.

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Offensive line

Supply-and-Demand Overview: The status of the Patriots offensive line – both in terms of starters and depth players – is probably a bit up to interpretation and projection at this point. The unit suffered a massive loss this offseason when legendary coach Dante Scarnecchia decided to retire for the second time, this time likely for good. But the questions for the New England line go well beyond coaching. Center captain David Andrews missed all of last season to blood clots in his lungs. While Andrews sounds hopeful to return, it’s not like he’s coming back from a traditional football injury. The Patriots also lost a backup option when Ted Karras left in free agency. The team’s decision to franchise tag left guard Joe Thuney at nearly $15 million is curious. Could he still be traded? Certainly, and that would leave a hole in the starting lineup. There are also questions about Marcus Cannon’s long-term stability as the starter at right tackle as well was whether 2019 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is fully entrenched on the blindside. Even the depth roles have uncertainty given that 2019 third-round tackle Yodny Cajuste and fourth-round interior lineman Hjalte Froholdt spent their rookie seasons on NFI/IR. Maybe they’re in the running for roles at this point, maybe they’re not. As far as the 2020 NFL Draft class of offensive linemen, it’s a top-heavy group with four tackles considered high first-round selections, a couple other tackles that are potential opening-night picks and then a few higher-end interior options that are likely to go on the second day of the festivities. Then there is the usual varied depth later in the process in which system fit and developmental ability are as important as any other factors. While the Patriots won’t be in line to get one of the top four tackles in all likelihood, they could have a chance at the next tier and are in strong position to address any perceived interior line weaknesses early if desired.

Top Prospect: Mekhi Becton, Louisville. The 6-7, 364-pound Becton obviously has the size to wow scouts but is also impressively athletic and has experience playing both tackle spots. He may not be a perfect prospect and could take time to hit his stride against elite NFL pass rushers, but there is no question Becton has the tools to be a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle at the next level.

Overrated Prospect: Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama. Wills is obviously a very good player from a very good offense who has played against elite competition for the Tide. His experience is at right tackle and that’s probably what he will have to be at the NFL level as well. But is a right tackle worth a top 10-15 pick? Some think so. Hell, the Raiders signed Trent Brown for $60 million to play right tackle. Maybe it’s a more premier position than I give it credit for. Either way, I think Wills is a good not great prospect.

Underrated Prospect: Josh Jones, Houston. Jones is a four-year starter and captain for the Cougars. He’s got good size and good enough feet/athleticism to be an NFL left tackle. He’s a more than solid prospect with pretty high upside even if some think he’s a little bit raw. Jones could be good value in the latter part of the first round. He’s a steal on Day 2.

Wild Card: Cesar Ruiz, Michigan. Ruiz is the best center in the class and probably the best interior offensive lineman overall. He has very good size for a center and decent playing strength. He’s light on his feet and is quick to get to the second level. Ruiz will be a mainstay in the middle of some team’s offensive line for years to come. If he’s a first-round pick, though, that might be too high. On Day 2? Sign me up.

Wild Card II: Isaiah Wilson, Georgia. Not gonna lie, I fell in love with Wilson at the Combine. He’s a rising mid-round tackle prospect with immense (6-6, 350) size, a big personality and big upside. He’s a beast to put at right tackle and watch him grow into his body and his talents. If he fails in the NFL there is always a career in pro wrestling.

Possible Patriots: Josh Jones, Houston; Jonah Jackson, Ohio State; Solomon Kindley, Georgia; Kyle Murphy, URI; Matt Peart, UConn.

Depending on where the Patriots look to target the line and which spot they are looking to shore up will obviously impact the guys that are in their wheelhouse. If Thuney is in the plans for 2020 and having used a first-round pick on Wynn two years ago, the line may not be a target in the first round. But a trade down to still land Jones would be a boon for the tackle spot. Jackson is a versatile interior option with plenty of experience as a graduate transfer from…wait for it…Rutgers to the Buckeyes. (Obviously the Rutgers connection doesn’t mean right now what it once did or what it will in the near future!) Kindley is a mauling type big blocker who met with the Patriots in Indy and felt they liked his makeup as a mid-round prospect. Murphy is a local Massachusetts product who would be developmental both in terms of competition level and strength, but has experience playing all positions, is a two-time captain and might be an intriguing depth piece. Peart is another local New England guy with versatility on the outside as a swing tackle prospect and clear physical upside.

Estimated chances the Patriots take an OL at No. 23: 12

Estimated chances the Patriots take an OL at some point in the 2020 NFL Draft: 91

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