AFC East: Oldie but goodie

Projecting the best 30-and-over player in the division by the start of the 2014 season.

The New York Jets’ Nick Mangold will turn 30 in January 2014. And he will be the best 30-and-older player in the AFC East at the start of the ’14 NFL season.

Tom Brady probably can’t be counted on to be the same elite signal-caller as he is now that far down the road. Jake Long and Darrelle Revis won’t yet be 30 when the 2014 season kicks off. There are a lot of great players in the AFC East, but going with Mangold, the best center in football right now, was an easy selection for me.

Mangold is a player without a weakness right now. He has excellent power and strength, and utilizes those qualities well due to the great leverage and pad level with which he plays. He is a natural knee bender who strikes his opponent on the rise. Mangold also is superb with his hand placement. He moves very well for a center and isn’t a liability in space or getting to the second level to block a smaller man. He shows quickness off the snap and is quick to set in his stance after snapping the football.

Mangold is a fantastic run-blocker and is one of the few centers in the game today who can handle true space-eating 3-4 nose tackles without much assistance. But Mangold also more than holds his own in pass protection against quicker, penetrating defensive tackles or blitzing linebackers. Mangold is tough, finishes his blocks and sets the tone for his entire line. He is smart and very adapt with the line calls and the nuances of the position, while also being very technically sound with his footwork, blocking angles and body position. Again, he really doesn’t have a flaw to his game.

Like any player, as Mangold ages, he is sure to lose some of his athletic gifts. He might not move his feet quite as well. He might not be quite as quick or be able to play quite as low as he does now. But because Mangold is a tenacious student of the game and a tremendous competitor, he will still be an exceptional pivot well into his 30s.

Along with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Mangold will be an anchor for the Jets this season, in 2014 and maybe quite a while longer.