While some pundits were predicting that the Jets would win maybe one or two games last season, a 5-11 record is nothing to get excited about, though perhaps that win total might have been a little higher if they hadn’t lost their surprise star of the season, Josh McCown, in Week 14. Regardless of what might have been, the bottom line is that the Jets need to improve significantly in 2018, and to achieve that, the roster will need plenty of work.
The silver lining to finishing with a losing record is, of course, a place towards the top of the 2018 draft. Given that the 2017 side performed better than expected, there’s reason for optimism about their chances if they can bring in some major upgrades in key positions. If they get their recruitment right, they could surprise a few people next season, and Jets fans who bet on NFL matches with Stakers.com might be able to pull off some wins at big odds.
However, before they take the plunge at the draft, they need to identify their priority areas. Here are five positions where the Jets should strengthen at this year’s draft.
For all his heroics, McCown is not going to be the long-term solution, and neither is Bryce Petty. The draft this year is packed with quarterback talent, and while the likes of Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold will probably be taken in the opening five pics, the Jets should still use their sixth pick to snap up a player such as Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, or Mason Rudolph. All three are likely to go in the first round, and Mayfield in particular would be a good pick, given that some even rate him ahead of Darnold and Rosen.
The Jets thought that they’d landed a top running back in Matt Forte back in 2016, while Bilal Powell has never let anyone down, but the rushing department performed poorly last season. Forte just hasn’t produced and Powell won’t be around for the long term, so a dynamic playmaker has to be one of their main priorities at the draft. They may have a chance at Saquon Barkley, but it’s more likely that the Colts will take him at three, so that would leave either Sony Michel from Georgia or USC’s Ronald Jones II, and both players have the potential to make a major contribution in 2018.
While the wide receiver position could also use some attention, a more pressing offensive requirement is to reinforce the offensive line, particularly at tackle. They clearly need to find someone who can ward off the defense and offer better quarterback protection. It is likely that they’ll be using their second pick in the second round to fill this position, and there are some good options available. Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State is a great prospect, but West Georgia’s Desmond Harrison is another possibility, and either would be an upgrade.
Edge pass rusher
Not since John Abraham was in his prime have the Jets posed a consistent pass rush threat. Opposing quarterbacks have had it too easy for too long, and the lack of a quality pass rusher is a major impediment to progression. The Jets finished 28th in the NFL for regular season sacks last year, while the top five teams in this ranking all made the playoffs. The ability to get to the quarterback has become a key marker of success, and the Jets need to go out and get a player who can be a consistent threat to opposition quarterbacks.
Muhammad Wilkerson shows no sign of turning his career around, and Leonard Williams suffered a slump in 2017, making just two tackles. However, while there are question marks against both first-choice defensive ends, Kony Ealy and Xavier Cooper are capable stand-ins, so the real issue for the Jets on the defensive line is at nose tackle. Steve McLendon is at the end of his career, while Mike Pennel offered very little last season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Jets draft one or even two players in this position.
If the Jets can address these positional weaknesses and show the same spirit that they showed at times last season, then there is every chance that they can not only record a winning record but perhaps also even sneak into the playoffs while laying the foundations of a brighter future.