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Friday, April 19, 2013
Jets draft preview: Offensive line

By Rich Cimini

This is the fifth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Offensive line

Depth chart: Center -- Nick Mangold, Caleb Schlauderaff; Tackle -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Austin Howard, Dennis Landolt, D.J. Young; Guard -- Willie Colon, Vladimir Ducasse.

Departures: LG Matt Slauson (Bears), RG Brandon Moore (unsigned), Jason Smith (Saints).

Total salary-cap charge (positional rank): $25.38 million (rank, first).

Scouting report: The glory days of '09 are long gone; this is a unit in transition. There's a solid foundation with Ferguson, Mangold and Howard, but there will be two new guards. Slauson left in free agency and Moore isn't far behind him. The Jets are searching for more competition at guard, shopping in the veteran-minimum aisle -- i.e. stop-gap players. They took a chance on Colon, an above-average player when healthy -- but he has been ravaged by injuries in recent years with the Steelers.

Right now, Colon and Ducasse are the starters. How's that grab you? Ducasse, a former second-round pick, was given an opportunity to start in each of his first three seasons -- and he failed every time. What makes them believe this year will be different? Howard had his share of hiccups in his first season as a starter, but he displayed enough potential to warrant a one-year, $2 million contract, the amount of his RFA tender. He was the 11th-rated right tackle in the league, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The last time: G Robert Griffin was drafted last year in the sixth round, but he didn't make the team in training camp.

Potential targets: No team has picked a guard in the top 10 since 1997. Will the Jets buck the trend? There are two candidates -- Chance Warmack (Alabama) and Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina). Both play left guard and both are considered future Pro Bowlers. Warmack is the better power player, Cooper the better athlete, capable of dominating in a zone-blocking scheme. There's little risk with either player, but the question is: Is there enough value in the guard position to warrant a top-10 pick? If GM John Idzik is in a play-it-safe mode in his first draft, it could be a guard. There's some thought that the Jets prefer Cooper over Warmack. They also could find a quality guard in the second round, either Brian Winters (Kent State) or Larry Warford (Kentucky). At tackle, the Jets visited with New Yorker Oday Aboushi (Virginia), a mid-round prospect.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): Guard -- 10; tackle -- 5; center -- 1.