NFL Draft – Five Potential New York Jets First Round Targets

Clayton Smarslok with five prospective first round targets for the New York Jets

After Sunday’s victory against the Buffalo Bills, there were a lot of mixed emotions amongst us Jets fans. On one side, 21 year old, rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was able to lead a fourth quarterback comeback against a top 5 defense, on the road and in his first game back from injury. The team was in disarray, losing their last six games. One of which included a blowout to the Bills at home. A game like this was needed for the young guys on this team moving forward.

On the other side of things, the win hurts the team in terms of draft position. Instead of owning the first pick and the inside track to Nick Bosa, they are picking fourth for the time being. No matter how you look at it there’s good and bad to both outcomes.

Due to them winning, as I mentioned the Jets currently have the fourth pick. Being slated to pick here in Week 15 almost guarantees there is no chance of taking Nick Bosa. With that being the case, they will have to turn their focus elsewhere. With so many needs on the roster, where could they look to? Well in no particular order, here are the top five options for the Jets with their first selection.

Inside Top Five

IDL Quinnen Williams, Alabama

I know what you’re thinking, not another defensive lineman. There are a couple reasons for putting Quinnen Williams here though. First, Leonard Williams has not panned out like we all hoped he would. In being one of his biggest defenders since being drafted, it’s come to the time to just know that it’s not working out. Williams is on a contract year entering 2019, meaning he will either want to get paid this offseason or he will have to before the 2020 season. There is this gut feeling that he is going to ask for more than he’s worth and if that’s the case, Maccagnan should ask around on potential returns for Williams. If Leonard Williams is traded, Quinnen Williams could step on in as the replacement.

Second, if Leonard Williams is retained, Maccagnan has already shown he’ll go best player available even with a position filled. This defensive front isn’t as good as it was in 2015, and if Quinnen drops to the fourth pick this selection shouldn’t be a surprise considering he is far and away the best player available, in my opinion.

What he brings to the table against the run and pass are very highly regarded. When watching him, it’s easy to find him because he is making an impact on every play. His jump off the snap, his violent hands, his pure strength and even his instincts. With a bevy with pass rushing moves in his repertoire, he isn’t just a one trick pony. With players like Aaron Donald, Chris Jones and others excelling as interior linemen, it shows how much a great one can benefit a defense, even if they don’t always show up on the stat sheet like his play below.

Quinnen

EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky

Get ready for another year of Josh Allen being linked to the Jets. Only this time, there won’t be disgust whenever you hear the two together. The good Josh Allen decided to go back to school for his senior year even though he would have likely been an early day two selection. That decision may have been the greatest one he has ever made. After a dominating senior season where he equaled his sack total from the last two seasons (14), he is now practically regarded as a consensus top 15 selection.

Allen flourished all season long, showing his worth as an edge rusher as well as his ability to play in space. His versatility to fit in any defensive front will be extremely valuable at the next level. From a pass rushing standpoint, he brought his game to another level in 2018, consistently getting into the backfield. Allen’s length and strength are tremendous but it was his burst, flexibility around the corner and beautifully used hands that really stood out. He used those to get his 14 sacks but also five of those resulting in forced fumbles.

Allen is slated to be at the Senior Bowl next month and if he shines against the offensive line talent in Mobile, there is no reason as to why he shouldn’t be a top five selection in April. He has the production, he has the awards, so all he needs now is high draft selection to cap off his tremendous rise. This is the type of player the Jets have needed for quite some time and no matter who the coach is, Allen should be a great fit for the defense in 2019.

Good Josh Allen

OT Jonah Williams, Alabama

With Mike Maccagnan likely leading the charge for the 2019 draft he now has to make sure his investment for Sam Darnold is not put to waste. The offensive line has struggled mightily in Darnold’s rookie season, putting him in situations that you don’t necessarily want young quarterbacks to get into. There are likely to be two new linemen next season at left guard and center, but the third one could be at tackle if they decide to bring in Jonah Williams with their top pick.

Kelvin Beachum is not horrible by any means but he is right around average at the left tackle position and isn’t expected to be on the team long term regardless. They could move on from him and take the tackle to grow up with Darnold along the way. Williams is a three year starter for Alabama and a two year starter at the left tackle position. This past season’s performance warranted him being unanimously selected as an All-American.

The major concern with Williams is that his length will force him to be kicked inside. While that may be an issue with some NFL people, most of the draft media, including myself believe there will be no issue for him at the position. He has tremendous technique and athletic ability to counter the size. He is a mauler in the run game and has a high IQ of how to play the position. One thing to like about him is that when having a mobile quarterback to block for, he knows how to get on the move and continue to do his job. Darnold will be out of the pocket quite a bit, whether it be by design or not so having somebody back there that is already used to it is a nice plus.

Trade Outside Top 5

CB Byron Murphy, Washington

Everyone knew that plan A for the Jets was to sign Kirk Cousins. What people may not know is that they really wanted to take Denzel Ward if Cousins was on the team. That obviously did not happen and now we have Sam Darnold and no long term corners on the roster. Trumaine Johnson has had his ups and downs and he likely won’t reach the end of his deal in New York. Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne are both free agents after this season and Daryl Roberts should only be viewed as a solid depth player. With all of this going on, there definitely is a need at the cornerback position moving forward.

Due to the Jets loving Denzel Ward as a prospect, it wouldn’t be shocking to see that they really like Murphy when it comes down to it. He is the closest thing to Denzel Ward in this class. He often plays in a cover 3 defense taking the deep third but while in zone at all, you can tell how comfortable he feels for his surroundings. He has a good feel for what is going on around him allowing him to make a play on the ball quite often. In man coverage he shows fluid hips and quick feet to mirror opposing receivers. Even with his more wiry frame standing at 6’0 175 pounds, he has the tenacity to go up against any kind of receiver.

It’s hard not to like the film on Murphy, especially the way he ended the season against Utah in the PAC-12 Conference Championship. Murphy and LSU’s Greedy Williams should be the top two cornerbacks taken in the 2019 class but given Murphy’s all around game, his value may be higher in the eyes of Maccagnan and the Jets.

Byron

WR Kelvin Harmon, NC State

Just like how it was mentioned with Jonah Williams above, the Jets need to make sure Sam Darnold has every opportunity to improve in his second season. Every receiver on the roster is a free agent of some sort, Robby Anderson being the lone restricted free agent. They have already talked to Quincy Enunwa about coming back but it is pretty much impossible to trust him to be on the field for a whole season. If Robby comes back, he will need to improve as a threat within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage as well. What the Jets are still lacking however, is that legit number one option when the going gets tough.

At NC State, Harmon has put up the numbers going for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, including seven touchdowns this year. It may not be the most amazing stat sheet in the 2018 wide receiver class but it’s what is beyond that. At his size of 6’3 214, he has a big frame that will make it easier for Darnold to find on the field. Harmon does a great job using his body to box out defenders and making tough catches in traffic. The speed will be a concern to some but it looks good enough to where it shouldn’t hinder what his game is. He isn’t a Marquise Brown that relies on it more so than anything else.

Harmon has fantastic body control, strong hands and solid route running skills that could make him this first receiver taken in the draft. Allowing Darnold to grow with a receiver like Harmon could work wonders for the future of the offense. Having a main core of Harmon, Anderson, Enunwa and a developing Chris Herndon wouldn’t be the worst thing for this quarterback. Add a certain running back to the fold and there might be something there.

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