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Jets’ Joe Douglas deserves credit for long-view approach in first round of NFL draft



When Joe Douglas selected Olu Fashanu on Thursday night, he chose cauliflower over cake, water over whiskey and substance over sizzle. 

Picking an offensive tackle with the Jets’ first-round pick was not the sexy decision, but it was the smart one. For an organization that has made plenty of dumb decisions in the NFL draft in its history, this one should go down as one of the wise ones. 

We’ll find out in a few years whether Fashanu is a player. For now, we can only evaluate the logic and it is hard to find any issues with what Douglas did here. Yes, it may have been more fun to see Brock Bowers catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, but Douglas has to make sure his quarterback is protected above everything else. 

Olu Fashanu was taken by the Jets in the first round. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Rodgers will turn 41 during the season. He will be one year removed from Achilles surgery when the season starts. If Rodgers is going to lose anything to age and injury, it will be his mobility. The Jets have to limit the number of hits their franchise quarterback takes. A sack on the fourth play of last season ended his year without a completion. 

Douglas made moves in March to shore up the offensive line by signing left tackle Tyron Smith and guard John Simpson and trading for right tackle Morgan Moses. But Smith and Moses are both 33 years old. Smith has not played a full season since 2015 and Moses had surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle after last season with the Ravens. 

The Jets almost certainly will need Fashanu to play at some point as a rookie. If they don’t, the season probably went incredibly well with a healthy offensive line. Jets fans know how rare that is, though. They had 13 different starting offensive line combinations in 2023 and ended up starting players who were waiver-wire pickups or practice-squad elevations. 

Jets general manager Joe Douglas speaks to the media in Florham Park, NJ. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman has written about how Yankees manager Joe Torre was asked every day during spring training in 1996 about having eight potential starting pitchers for five spots as if it were a problem. But Torre, who had spent nearly four decades in baseball by that point, knew that the injuries would come and make those decisions for him. 

Much like a pitchers, you can’t have enough offensive linemen, and what feels like a luxury in April will surely be a necessity in November. 

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Beyond this year, Fashanu could be the long-term answer at left tackle. Smith only has a one-year contract and the Jets’ last No. 11 pick in 2020, Mekhi Becton, is now on this franchise’s list of busts in its history. 

On Friday, Fashanu was at the Jets’ training center in Florham Park, meeting his new bosses and some teammates. He also talked to the media for a few minutes and it was hard not to see a comparison to another first-round tackle from Jets history — D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Like Ferguson, Fashanu has a winning smile and is clearly highly intelligent. Even his frame is just like Ferguson. Fashanu is 6-foot-6, 312 pounds. Ferguson was listed as 6-6, 310 pounds in his playing days with the Jets. The Jets can only hope that Fashanu has the type of career Ferguson did for them. 

Olu Fashanu was the backbone on the Penn State offensive line. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

For Fashanu, this might be the perfect situation. The 21-year-old needs some seasoning. He only made 21 starts at Penn State. Those who have studied him praise his pass blocking but say his run blocking needs some work. With the Jets, Fashanu should get plenty of practice reps as the team carefully manages Smith’s workload. If Fashanu is not forced to start immediately, he also can learn without having to face the fire or the scrutiny of being a first-round pick in regular-season games. 

Douglas deserves praise for making a sound long-term decision despite entering 2024 on the hot seat. He has stayed deliberate and thoughtful throughout his offseason unlike some of his predecessors who reached for players or handed out crazy contracts out of desperation. 

Douglas picked smart over sexy on Thursday night and the Jets should benefit because of it.

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