The next member on our 2017 Best of the Jets list is the third New York Jets newcomer to crack the top-20. Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum will be presented with an opportunity Ryan Clady squandered last season.
The Jets are still searching for competence at left tackle after shoving D’Brickashaw Ferguson into retirement in 2016. They signed the injury-prone Clady to an incentive-laden contract that featured a hefty option for 2017. But the team had no other choice but to move in another direction after Clady started in only half of New York’s games and was stricken by injury once again.
Beachum serves as the next alternative, but he’s not all that far off from Clady in terms of his injury history. Nonetheless, he possesses a similar amount of upside and could be a steady starter if he can stay on the field.
Let’s delve into the No. 17 player on our Best of the 2017 Jets countdown:
What he did in 2016:
Beachum enjoyed one of his healthiest seasons in his professional career, starting 15 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars at left tackle. Jacksonville’s offensive line was decent in pass protection, allowing 34 sacks last season.
Individually, Beachum wasn’t tremendous. He was ranked 63rd among all tackles (and one spot behind Clady) by Pro Football Focus with a 44.3 overall grade. However, Beachum was slightly more respectable in pass blocking, ranking 43rd among players at his position with a 68.3 pass blocking grade.
Run blocking was where Beachum struggled the most, per Pro Football Focus. He ranked 75th among 80 eligible tackles with a run block grade of 37.7.
Why he’s on the list this year:
Beachum was one of the more contentious players discussed for this list. One member of the staff thought Beachum’s injury history, plus average performance in Jacksonville, didn’t merit a spot.
The person who vouched for Beachum the most highlighted his past performance with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a legitimate starting tackle before missing nine games in 2015 due to injury. In 2014, Beachum received an 85.6 overall grade from PFF during what happened to be the only full season he has played during his five-year career. He was also respectable before tearing his left ACL in 2015, garnering a 77.7 overall grade.
What to expect in 2017:
It’s never easy gauging expectations for a player who has dealt with injuries throughout his career. It’s even harder for a newcomer along the offensive line.
The Jets are banking on Beachum returning to his 2015 form and gave him a three-year contract worth $24 million that doesn’t have a true escape hatch until 2019. Beachum is only 27 years old, but lingering knee issues will always be a concern.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that Beachum was arguably the most notable free agent the Jets went out and signed during an offseason that was defined by roster turnover. A full season removed from his ACL injury, Beachum could become a solid starter for a couple of years while the Jets attempt to build a competent offense around whoever is under center down the road.
Beachum should also serve as a veteran mentor for younger linemen Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell. A respectable year out of a respectable player seems likely. In 2017, the Jets will take any semblance of respectability they can get.