Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton during training camp at the Atlantic Health...

Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton during training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. on Aug. 11. Credit: Noah K. Murray

INDIANAPOLIS – Mekhi Becton wowed most, if not all NFL decision makers, scouts and anyone watching him at the NFL Scouting Combine two years ago. It wasn’t just his size, but how he moved for a man that big.

Becton, all 6-7, 364 pounds of him at the time, ran a 5.1 second 40-yard dash. His game film showed he was a people mover on the offensive line. The Jets drafted Becton with the No. 11 pick, believing they had found their franchise left tackle.

Two years later, there are questions about Becton’s future with the team after a disappointing injury-plagued 2021 season when his conditioning was a major topic and reason for concern.

Could the Jets be looking for Becton’s replacement at this year’s Combine?

It’s no secret that general manager Joe Douglas believes in building the offensive line. He’s made it his mission since taking over in June 2019.

The Jets currently have picks four and 10 in the first round. Douglas could use one of them to nab another offensive lineman and make sure quarterback Zach Wilson is protected better and has more time to make plays.

The ideal situation would be for Becton to return in the best shape possible and be a massive piece on that line the way Douglas intended and continue to build with him. Last year the Jets drafted left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round and he looks as if he could be a fixture on the line.

The Jets aren’t giving up on Becton. He was slowed during OTAs with plantar fasciitis and dislocated his kneecap in Week 1. Becton never returned, despite the initial prognosis that he would miss 4-8 weeks.

Simply put, this is a critical offseason for Becton.

Robert Saleh, who isnt in Indianapolis and will take part in player interviews virtually, has already said George Fant will get the opportunity to compete with Becton for the starting left tackle job. Fant slid over from right tackle when Becton got hurt and played well.

Alabama tackle Evan Neal is expected to be gone when the Jets pick and could be taken No. 1 overall. A name to watch at the combine is North Carolina State junior tackle Ikem Ekwonu. If the Jets don’t take an edge rusher at No. 4, Ekwonu could be their target, and has the versatility to play either tackle or guard.

NFL Network’s draft expert Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, believes the 6-4, 320-pound Ekwonu is "so powerful and strong" that he could play guard as a rookie and then eventually play either tackle spot, depending on the team’s need.

"If he went to the Jets year one he would be playing guard," Jeremiah said. "I think him and Vera-Tucker would be two of the strongest, best young guard duos in the NFL."

Tackles Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) and Charles Cross (Mississippi State) and interior offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa) could be on the Jets’ radar at 10 or if they package some picks in a trade as they did to get Vera-Tucker. Jeremiah remains high on Becton and believes it’s too early to move on from him.

"I love the way he played when he was coming out of Louisville and thought he was the best tackle in that draft," Jeremiah said. "When he was on the field as a rookie, I thought he played at a pretty elite level and was on his way to establishing himself as one of the best left tackles in the NFL, and then this year was a complete waste. He got hurt and didn't come back.

"I think the guy is really, really talented and pretty rare in terms of the ability that he has. The rest of it, I guess we've all got to see how that sorts itself out, but I don't have any doubts about that guy's ability."

This is also a huge offseason for Douglas. He said as much, declaring, "I have to do a better job," after the Jets finished 4-13 and missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year.

The Jets have nine picks in the draft and are projected to have more than $35 million in cap space, a number that can increase if they cut some players. Douglas has the ability to make some needed improvements.

"We’re fortunate to be in this position, to have this kind of flexibility," Douglas said in January. "I think we’re always going to be aggressive if the right opportunity presents itself."

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