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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

NFL Draft surplus should fill needs of Jets, Giants

Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton plays against Western Kentucky

Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton plays against Western Kentucky on Sept. 14, 2019. Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mike Strasinger

Two years ago, they both needed quarterbacks. The Jets got theirs and the Giants got . . .  a running back. The quarterback came a year later.

Fast-forward to this year and the draft needs for the two teams again are remarkably alike. This time, though, they might end up finding similar answers.

Now that they’ve checked the box at quarterback with Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, it’s time to find quality offensive linemen to protect them  and receivers for them to throw to.

Oh, and a pass rusher would be nice, too.

All three needs are paramount for the Jets and Giants. Fortunately, there are plenty of options among this year’s crop of incoming rookies. It’s simply a matter of when and where — and whom — they pick.

For the two general managers involved, it all starts up front.

“Look, you guys know how I feel about the offensive line,” Jets GM Joe Douglas said. “It’s hard to have a good team without one.”

Douglas  already has gone to great lengths to refashion the Jets’ line, signing free agents George Fant, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten and re-signing Alex Lewis, who was acquired in a 2019 trade with the Ravens. But let’s face it: Fant isn’t the second coming of Anthony Munoz, so  Douglas could continue the offensive line upgrade as early as the first round.

It is considered a fine draft for elite linemen, especially at tackle. Start with 6-7, 364-pound mountain man Mekhi Becton of Louisville and continue with Tristan Wirfs of Iowa, Jedrick Wills Jr. of Alabama and Andrew Thomas of Georgia. USC’s Austin Jackson and Houston’s Josh Jones also will be in the mix in the early rounds.

Giants GM Dave Gettleman also is fond of quality linemen — maybe his favorite word is “hog molly,” a thick, tough freshwater fish he equates with blockers — so he too will have his pick of excellent prospects.

“The bottom line is, last time I checked, it’s really difficult to complete a pass when you’re on your back,” Gettleman said. “I’ve done that study. The bottom line is, it’s really the front.”

Gettleman has the fourth overall pick, and there’s no question he can take one of the elite offensive linemen that high. With Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa the most sought-after quarterbacks, it’s likely they’ll occupy two choices ahead of them. The question is whether Gettleman will buck tradition and take a tackle that high or whether he will address another major need, particularly on defense.

Gettleman knows he needs help with the pass rush. He also knows that Ohio State defensive end Chase Young likely won’t be available at No. 4 because the Redskins are likely to take him at No. 2. That leaves elite linebacker Isaiah Simmons of Clemson as a smart choice.

Yes, there’s value in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, but Gettleman already spent a first-round pick last year on Clemson defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, and the Giants slapped the franchise tag on defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

The Giants are desperate for a playmaker in the front seven, and Simmons — or a player of his caliber — won’t be there beyond the top 10. If I’m Gettleman, I go Simmons and then address offensive line lower down. There’s enough quality to get a good tackle beyond the first round, but when you have a need on defense this great, you’ve got to make that choice.

Simmons may not be the next Lawrence Taylor — hey, there may never be the next LT — but there is enough speed, athleticism and upside to the Clemson star to project him as a longtime contributor for a team with a great linebacking tradition.

At No. 11, Douglas won’t be in position to draft the best of the best at pass rusher, so he figures to go with offensive line or receiver, which is the other need that both teams have.

And boy, is this the year to have a need at that position.

Many NFL personnel executives believe this is one of the deepest receiving classes ever, with plenty of elite talent at the top and a vast reservoir of playmakers through the first four or five rounds.

That bodes well for the Jets, who need to surround Darnold with more weapons on the outside, and for Jones, who does have quality receivers in Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and 2019 fifth-rounder Darius Slayton but needs more.

The consensus three top receivers available: Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. But there’s much more after that, and Douglas and Gettleman will have plenty from which to choose, even if they don’t invest at the position in the first round. The best of the rest: Justin Jefferson of LSU, Tee Higgins of Clemson, Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State, Laviska Shenault of Colorado, Jalen Reagor of TCU and Denzel Mims of Baylor.

The Giants and Jets may be in direct competition with one another because the needs are similar, but rest assured there is plenty to go around in this draft.

Now it’s up to them to not screw it up.

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