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For over a decade, Nick Mangold held down the middle of the New York Jets offensive line. The fans loved him, and he was one of the best centers of his generation. In the 2022 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper Jr. thinks a Mangold-like player will be available at the end of the first round, which will entice the Jets to go up and get him.

The New York Jets offensive line is already a team strength

(L-R) Iowa NFL draft prospect Tyler Linderbaum; New York Jets legend Nick Mangold.
(L-R) Tyler Linderbaum, Nick Mangold | Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Unlike many teams picking in the top 10 of the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Jets actually have a pretty good offensive line. The unit finished 11th overall in PFF‘s final offensive line rankings for 2021.

As of now, the 2022 starting lineup looks like this:

  • LT Mekhi Becton
  • LG Alijah Vera-Tucker
  • C Connor McGovern
  • RG Laken Tomlinson
  • RT George Fant

It’s a nice line, but there’s always room for improvement. For one, Becton and Vera-Tucker are both 23, while McGovern (29), Tomlinson (30), and Fant (30) are all older. Also, as of now, McGovern is the only center on the roster.

With a 23-year-old quarterback Zach Wilson the long-term centerpiece of the organization, Jets general manager Joe Douglas is trying to build a young team around Wilson that can compete for years to come.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. thinks that involves giving up draft picks to get back into the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and add another young cornerstone to the O-line.

Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Jets trade back into the first round for a top prospect

In his latest mock NFL draft, Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the New York Jets will make a bold move in the first round. Not at No. 4 or No. 10, but at No. 31, where the Cincinnati Bengals now reside.

Kiper writes that a trade would be enticing for the Jets at that point in the draft:

How about a third first-round selection from the Jets? In this scenario, with a glaring hole at center and the top guy still on the board, they deal No. 35 and a Day 3 pick to get back into Round 1. And crucially, they keep their pick at No. 38, which allows them to get more help.

Mel Kiper Jr. on the New York Jets trading with the Cincinnati Bengals

While “glaring hole at center” seems a bit dramatic, with Conner McGovern coming off a good season, the point is well-taken. Joe Douglas could get twitchy of the best center in the draft, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, is still around at the end of Round 1.

Of Linderbaum, Kiper writes:

Could Linderbaum be the Jets’ new Nick Mangold? They took Mangold at pick No. 29 in 2006 and have been trying to fill that void at center since he left the team after the 2016 season. Some NFL teams are put off by Linderbaum’s short arms, but just watch the tape. He has the physical traits to be an All-Pro and is exceptional as both a run and pass blocker. He’s exactly what the Jets need, and this is tremendous value.

Mel Kiper Jr. on the New York Jets taking Tyler Linderbaum in the NFL draft

A new Nick Mangold!? That will get Jets fans excited for Linderbaum if he can be anything like the Gang Green fan favorite who snapped the ball for the franchise for 11 years. 

Nick Mangold is a franchise legend


NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Raves About New York Jets Second-Round Pick in Todd McShay’s Mock Draft

Coming out of Ohio State, Nick Mangold was a can’t-miss prospect. However, as a center, no team took a chance drafting him early in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

The New York Jets finally took him off the board at No. 29 that year with a pick they got from trading defensive end John Abraham to the Atlanta Falcons.

Mangold rewarded the Jets by starting 164 games in his career. During the first 10 years, he missed just four games. He made seven Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams and is now eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022.

The former Buckeye is also beloved for his life off the field. His long blond hair and big, bushy beard could be found out and about in New York City all the time during his Jets tenure.

Tyler Linderbaum has the talent to become the next Nick Mangold — on the field, at least — and that will make Jets fans OK with trading up to get him.  

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference