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Why Jets might select big, athletic Tristan Wirfs for O-line in first round

Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs runs a drill

Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall

Tristan Wirfs likes pancakes.

Not the soft and fluffy kind that you can drown with butter and maple syrup, although he probably likes them too. But  the Iowa offensive lineman enjoys flattening an opponent to open a hole for a running back. Le’Veon Bell probably would love to run behind someone like that.

“My best attribute, I think I’m pretty powerful,” Wirfs said. “I think I can move guys off the line of scrimmage.”

So, you like pancakes?

“I do like pancakes,” the 6-5, 320-pound Wirfs said.

The Jets haven’t selected an offensive lineman in the first round since 2006, when they took D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. That could change this year with Joe Douglas in charge.

Douglas has been very transparent about his plan to build a line that will protect quarterback Sam Darnold. He signed five offensive linemen in free agency, and he might grab another with the No. 11 pick on April 23.

Depending on how the first 10 picks go, the Jets could choose from Wirfs, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills. Each of them could be the kind of player whom the Jets pencil in at one of the tackle positions for the next 10 years or more.

“There are quite a few guys that kind of fit the mold of what we’re looking for: smart, durable, tough, explosive, guys that can play multiple positions,” Douglas said.

Wirfs’ combination of size, strength and athleticism caught talent evaluators' eyes long before the NFL Combine. Then he showed the entire NFL world his athleticism in a record-setting performance in Indianapolis.

Wirfs' 36.5-inch vertical leap established a record for an offensive lineman. His  broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch tied the record. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds, which was the fastest time by all offensive linemen at this year’s Combine.

There are some questions, including his position. He played more right tackle at Iowa (30 games) than left tackle (four). George Fant is projected to play left tackle for the Jets. The other tackle right now is Chuma Edoga. The Jets are looking to bolster that position and the line overall.

Another thing that came up during Wirfs’ visits with teams is that they’d like to see more of a mean streak.

“Some teams have said they want to see me finish more,” Wirfs said. “Some teams want to see me get meaner, and I’ve been hearing that for I don’t know how long. I tend to open up in my pass sets a little bit, so some of the teams told me that. I’m working on that.”

Wirfs, who lived in a trailer park in Iowa with his mother, grandmother and sister before moving into a house when he was in kindergarten, said he’s not sure how to get meaner.

“I’ve never really been a mean person,” Wirfs said. “That’s a testament to my mom and how she raised me. I think they want to see me get more pancakes and I think I did that a fair amount this season. Last year against Nebraska, I had 14 knockdowns. I can try to get a little meaner. We’ll see.”

Wirfs was a state wrestling champ and won state discus and shot put titles in high school. He believes participating in those sports have helped him excel at his position.

“They’re two individual sports, you versus another guy, and I hate losing, so I’m not going to let another man beat me,” Wirfs said. “I’m going to do everything I can to stop it. You’ve got to do the same thing on the offensive line.”

Four offensive lineman options for the Jets at No. 11:

1. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa, Jr.

Athletic tackle, who ran a 4.85 40-yard dash at the combine, allowed just one pressure over his last seven games.

2. Andrew Thomas, Georgia, Jr.

Left tackle who patterns his game after Washington’s Trent Williams and Dallas’ Tyron Smith.

3. Mekhi Becton, Louisville, Jr.

Massive left tackle (6-7, 364 pounds) has 7-foot wingspan and moves well for his size.

4. Jedrick Wills, Alabama, Jr.

Right tackle gave up just one sack for a high-scoring team that attempted 31.5 passes per game.

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