NFL Survey Highlights Joe Douglas’ Greatest Jets Blunder as GM

Joe Douglas

Getty New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas watches practice on July 30, 2021.

This is not some Joe Douglas hit piece. Overall, the New York Jets general manager has done a really solid job turning this roster around after a half-decade of Mike Maccagnan’s miserable drafting and ill-advised spending from 2014 through the spring of 2019.

The hole Maccagnan dug this franchise into was halfway to China when Douglas took over and he’s done a commendable job clawing his way out of it. A recent GM ranking from NBC Sports Edge is proof of that, as NFL writer Patrick Daugherty credited Douglas with the No. 19 spot despite a 13-36 record over three seasons with the Jets.

Daugherty, like most fans, is beginning to see the process take shape. There is one blunder that Douglas cannot seem to get away from though, and it occurred right toward the start of his overhaul — passing on offensive tackle prospect Tristan Wirfs.

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NFL Survey Features Wirfs as No. 2 Offensive Tackle

Douglas began his tenure in 2019 but his first true offseason was in 2020. That’s when he turned in his first ever draft card, choosing the more risky left tackle out of Louisville over the durable and technically sound pass-blocker out of Iowa.

The Mekhi Becton selection showed guts, no doubt about it, but a recent NFL survey from ESPN highlighted once again that it was the wrong move — and Douglas’ future as Jets GM could potentially hinge on its turnaround.

This survey of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players took the time to vote on the top 10 offensive tackles in football and Wirfs finished second overall at age 23. ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler made sense of his ranking:

This is high for a player entering his third season, but Wirfs’ immediate impact in the league can’t go unnoticed. Wirfs narrowly beat Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari for second place in the voting… “Elite pass-blocker,” an NFL personnel director said of Wirfs. “He’s got all the tools to be the best in this area.” Having incredibly light feet for his 6-foot-5, 320-pound size helped Wirfs post a 91.6% pass block win rate last season — 12th best at the position — while leading all tackles in pass-block snaps (754). His pass-block prowess is especially impressive considering Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady’s lack of mobility, though Brady is also highly skilled at getting rid of the ball quickly.

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Wirfs Is Everything Becton Is Not

You might say Becton — who was named in the “also receiving votes” portion of this survey below the top 10 and seven honorable mentions — is the polar opposite of Wirfs in terms of traits. For example, he’s the more dominant run blocker when he’s on the field, while Wirfs is the prototypical pass-protector.

Ironically, some believe Douglas chose Becton because he saw him as the true left tackle and feared Wirfs could only play the right bookend. It’s ironic because right tackles are usually the maulers in the run game, while LTs are better known for their pass-blocking off the blindside.

Wirfs has remained on the right side for Tampa Bay but in the end, Becton will likely join him as an RT in 2022 — making this argument a moot point.

The other area these two differ is availability. Wirfs has not missed a single start throughout his first two NFL campaigns. Becton, who was always a health risk because of his enormous size, has missed several. In fact, he’s been absent more than he’s played, appearing in 15 out of a potential 33 games.

In the best-case scenario, Becton puts up All-Pro numbers in 2022 and proves to be a solid piece moving forward — but there’s still a good chance that durability doubt will always remain because of his weight. Wirfs profiles as more of an ironman who is as reliable as they come.

Imagine a spring with no rehab concerns, no weight questions from the media, no speculation on whether the franchise should draft a new left tackle, and no debates about insurance policies. It sounds like a fairytale, but it was available free of charge in 2019.

For that reason, the decision to begin laying the new foundation with Becton rather than Wirfs will hopefully go down as Douglas’ No. 1 mistake as Jets GM. Because if that ends up being his greatest error on the job, Gang Green is set up to have a pretty good run under his regime.

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