The Jets face a tipping point with a new QB in need of development and a talentless squad. Joe Douglas put the Jets in a precarious position before the 2022 NFL Draft. He had the worst defense in the NFL in 2021; it’s not easy to fix. He also has a 2nd year QB who needs protection and offensive talent around him.
Luckily for Joe, he has 4 selections in the top 38 to help rectify that. Unfortunately, that’s not enough draft capital to make the Jets a serious contender. It helps but is not enough. So let’s see what the Jets need to do in this draft to make this team better, much better. The joker is Mekhi Becton who only played half a game last year. I’m sure Joe knows a lot more than we do, but it’s a gamble to assume all is well with him and he’ll come back better than ever. It would be a dream scenario, but for now it is only a hope.
#1) The Jets need an edge rusher
Rarely do you have a Draft where there are so many quality players available. Take it from me. Carl Lawson is supposed to be back and he looks good in the workout videos. That said, this is the 3rd massive leg injury he’s had. (He tore an ACL in 2014 with Auburn and tore another ACL in 2018 with the Bengals.) It’s imperative the Jets get at least one of those rushers. They might even write two. Great peak rushers never come to market, and when even mediocre talent does, they get paid like a king. You can never have too many.
#2) The Jets will have to trade down.
Having the 4th and 10th picks is great, but in the long run the Jets could go down and get a number of picks early in this draft. Since the Jets are in it for the long haul, they could also take a 2023 1st round pick as compensation. Hope the Jets are in talks with New Orleans with their two first-round picks plus maybe a 2nd in 2023 for the No. 4 pick. If New Orleans believes in Pickett or Willis, they’ll want to get ahead the other QB needy teams to secure the best player on their board. They would wait until draft day to do so, so behind-the-scenes work is essential. I hope the Jets trade a few times. Additional choices could pay huge dividends.
#3) The Jets will need to draft at least one if not two safeties.
This draft may be lacking in top talent, but there are plenty of positions with players that have enticing upsides. One of them is the safe position. Lamarcus Joyner is a good veteran, but he’s a bridge player. Jordan Whitehead has signed a two-year contract, but a replacement would be nice in this draft. This replacement could be a special teams player as well as a subset guy as he learns defense for a few years. Lewis Cine, Daxton Hill, Nick Cross or even TJ Woods would make excellent choices in various rounds.
#4) The Jets need a linebacker or two.
The Jets linebacker situation is bad with an overpaid CJ Mosley being the standard bearer. Although I would love to see Mosley traded, the Jets are very thin in the LB position. There are some great picks available in the draft with Quay Walker undervalued and possessing a huge upside. Devin Lloyd is the top prospect, but if the Jets want a few LBs, they could select a combination of Walker, Tindall, Chenal or Hansford. All of these players are very athletic but may need a year to learn the Saleh system. They are all intriguing.
#5) What about the cornerback?
I really have no idea how the Jets view their cornerback position. Do they believe in what they have or do they need an upgrade? I’m going with the latter so I believe the Jets need at least a cornerback with an advantage in this draft. They’ll likely spend less draft capital on the position than others so they can look to players like Zyon McCollum, Damarion Williams or Alontae Taylor as possible upgrades in the middle rounds. This is where smart trading work could yield 4th or 5th round add-ons that turn into future newbies with good scouting.
#6) Don’t forget the defensive line.
Again, I have no idea what the Jets chiefs think of the defensive line. Last year was a horror show, so there must be some consternation about the position. I think the Jets could use a running tamper that has the ability to press the pocket. I don’t think they will prioritize position, so a selection of John Ridgeway or Eyioma Uwazurike is a possibility. Even a player like Damion Daniels as UDFA is a thought.
#7) The Jets need to draft at least two wide receivers.
The Jets need an upgrade at the wide receiver position, which is nothing new to anyone. The Jets need an outside threat as well as a slot machine player. Where do you place your priorities regarding the position of WR? There are several ways to do this. First you need to understand the type of players you need. I have already said that vertical threats become dinosaurs with the use of two deep safeties. So you need players with enormous speed and ability to work the three areas of defense. A player like Garrett Wilson (#1 receiver on my board) is a possibility at #10 if the Jets stay there.
If they chose another position to prioritize, then an Alec Pierce is a good player at the end of the 2nd round to choose. He is vastly underrated and will be a great receiver for a decade without being a huge star. Other choices could be Romeo Doubs, Danny Gray, George Pickens or even a Hairy Jones. Of course, those players would be later in the draft. In the slot (which is a huge need position) there are fewer choices, but the player the Jets need is Calvin Austin who comes across as a great fit. It has near world class speed and would be a game changer.
#8) The offensive line needs depth.
Now you can see the reason for trading down. The need is so acute in so many areas that the Jets could sign 12 players who could all be major contributors next year if given the choice. You and I have no idea what Mekhi Becton’s situation is. He played half a game last year so anything is possible. The Jets need a backup tackle who can be an above-average starter in the near future and a possible center who can take over next year. I kinda like Tulsa’s Tyler Smith as a right tackle prospect. He is salty and likes to dominate his opponents. As for the inside line, I love Kentucky center prospect Luke Fortner, who could be a swing inside lineman next year and a starter at center in 2023.
#9) Here’s a final perspective to consider.
The Jets have received next to nothing from the tight end position over the past decade. They need a viable receiver with size to keep the defense honest. I really believe in San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger who is a terrific offensive tackle. He is also fast with very good hands with the ability to run the seam. He was underused on a first offense, but he has great traits as a receiver. In addition, he is an excellent blocker at the point of attack. I realize the Jets signed two tight ends in free agency, so the need isn’t as acute, but it will also allow Bellinger to grow over time. He’s already a better blocker than the two free agents and the Jets can probably steal him in the 4th or 5th round.
#ten) The Jets need to find a partner for Michael Carter.
This is again a situation where trading down to add project capital makes sense as there are plenty of good backs in later rounds that could be taken. The Jets can’t just rely on Michael Carter to carry the load, he had 147 runs last year, and I think (at his size) that should be about his limit. Tevin Coleman has had a grand total of 112 carries over the past two years combined with under 3.7 yards per carry, so he’s not a great option to rely on. Ty Johnson (115 runs over the past two years) and Austin Walter (26 runs last year) aren’t the type of players you want to make a high percentage of your runs. If you can find a durable back with speed that can be in an RBBC situation, it would behoove the Jets to do it. I already mentioned Pierre Strong, a speedster (4.37/40) with decent size and huge production. He is an FCS player, so he can be played in the following rounds.
#11) Look at the UDFAs for special teams.
While I don’t think our special teams are that special, the needs are more pressing in other areas. We’ll have to see if Greg Zuerlein works. The Jets also spent a pick a few years ago on Braden Mann. The UDFA market will have to do. You’re not going to find a Matt Araiza there, but I don’t want to spend a 4th round pick on a punter with all our needs.
So this is it. : let me know what I missed, or how you feel differently. The draft arrives; I hope it’s a big… We need it.