New York Jets NFL Draft Options – Center and Edge

Clayton Smarslok on options the New York Jets have in the NFL Draft to improve center and edge rusher

The entertaining part of free agency is a couple weeks behind us now. During that time the Jets were able to make some fans happy with the signings of Le’Veon Bell, CJ Mosley and Jamison Crowder but there are still so many holes to be filled in order for this team to make a legitimate run to the playoffs next season.

The boss man went over the state of the roster in his piece yesterday and established which positions still needed to be filled whether it be through free agency, trade or next month’s draft. The first two are quite obvious if you have been following the moves the team has made thus far; center and edge rusher. For the other three spots, the team has made moves there, but the particular players there don’t do enough for us; cornerback, young offensive line depth, and skill position depth (HB, WR and TE).

With the Jets only having possession of six draft picks in the upcoming draft, it’s safe to say that they are lacking draft capital. While it can definitely change with trades in the next month, let’s try to see what some options are at their two most pressing needs with what they have at this point in time.

Center

Ever since Nick Mangold has retired, the position has been a weak spot and they can’t neglect it any longer with their future standing behind him every snap. Mike Maccagnan realized his mistake and let Spencer Long go before free agency even started, meanwhile also locking up Jonotthan Harrison in the process. Harrison is a solid player to have on the roster, but only if he is there for emergency situations. Other names have come and gone through Jets rumors, such as top free agents in Mitch Morse and Matt Paradis, and also versatile veterans in Josh Sitton and Stefen Wisniewski. None of which have signed a deal and quite frankly, the two that are still available aren’t the most exciting of options.

This leads us to the draft where there are a few possibilities. Going through the draft eligible centers, three stand out above all to me; Garrett Bradbury, Erik McCoy and Elgton Jenkins. Bradbury has been my top guy at the position for quite some time and it seems like recently, he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves, making it all more likely that the Jets are not a likely destination for the soon to be first rounder. The only way he wears the Jets new uniforms in 2019 is if they trade back to the middle of the first round.

Erik McCoy and Elgton Jenkins are two more likely selections for the Jets. It will be curious to see what kind of blocking scheme they plan to run with this offense because Gase typically runs more of a zone concept but the acquisition of Osemele makes some think about possibly going to more downhill blocking. If it is more power, Jenkins will be a better fit. But if they stick with the presumes zone concept, McCoy should be the target and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller believes so as well, mocking him to the Jets in his three round mock draft yesterday.

First hearing of McCoy at the Senior Bowl, I did not know much about him and it actually took me until the first practice to even know who he was. He absolutely shined all throughout the practice and ending it in great fashion, with a pancake. Then being able to go back to watch his film after Mobile, he continued to make his presence shown in a very tough SEC conference and in a battle against Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence of Clemson. If Gase plans to run a zone based blocking scheme, this is the ideal spot for McCoy. He is tremendous in space being able to gravitate whether it is getting to the second level or pulling on runs or screens. His shorter arms may be a concern, but his technique and athleticism have him looking like a day two pick. I personally have an early to middle round two grade on McCoy so it’s possible they may have to make a move up or hope they get a second round pick on a trade back from three to get into position for him.

Wild Card Options: Two former Crimson Tide players; Ross Pierschbacher and Jonah Williams. There have been talks around the league that Williams makes the kick inside and it’s center, not guard, that would be the ideal spot for him. If this is the case, it only makes sense to trade back for him, unless they plan on making him the left tackle of the future. Pierschbacher on the other hand should be available in day three. Only then should his name be in consideration.

Edge Rusher

It is insane to think that the Jets have the same exact group at this position as last year after two-plus weeks after free agency started. Yes, they thought they were bringing Anthony Barr in from Minnesota. But even if he came in, he was a big question mark with the whole not playing the edge rusher position in five years thing. So right now in a 3-4 base, Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland would be the two starters, yet again. However, it is very, very possible that could all change on the night of April 25th. The debate through Jets twitter has mostly been whether or not they should choose Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen with the third pick, if Nick Bosa were already taken of course. While I’m still siding with the former and would even lean more for Brian Burns than Allen, it would be hard to be too upset with the selection.

Burns, Allen or the very slight possibility of Bosa would greatly help fill the void that John Abraham left behind over a decade ago. The two more likely options are great fits as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense as they both have experience playing in space while also showing the innate ability to get to the quarterback. I think what it comes down to for Maccagnan is deciding what kind of pass rusher can do more work in Gregg’s system. Does he want the speed/finesse type in Burns or the stronger, more physical Allen?

Say he wants neither and goes with arguably the best prospect in the draft, Quinnen Williams. What happens at edge rusher then, you ask? Well the position takes a bit of a dive once we get to the third round. Maccagnan has tried taking the position here before in Lorenzo Mauldin and Jordan Jenkins but here we are again saying it’s a top need. This time around, whether it be in the third or fourth round, they need to get a more proven pass rusher and not someone just with potential (Mauldin) or a solid edge setter (Jenkins). There are a few names that come to my head; Christian Miller from Alabama, D’Andre Walker from Georgia and Oshane Ximines from Old Dominion.

Miller would have to be taken with their first third round pick, if he even falls that far. Walker and Ximines could be available for all three of their picks in rounds three and four. The first two don’t have a ton of sack production like Ximines but you can see they have what it takes in their film. It’s their individual injury histories that makes myself and others a little more concerned. As for Ximines, he is coming from a small school where he played in an even front but his smaller stature should turn him into an 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. Unfortunately for him, he does not have the experience playing in space or not all that much in a two point stance. All three of these guys have their question marks but it’s also what make them mid round selections.

Wild Card Options: Chase Winovich will be a fan favorite for some fan base out there and could potentially sneak into the latter half of the first round. If he starts to tumble a little bit in the second round, the Jets should not be afraid to make any calls to see what it would take to make a move for him. Same goes for Jachai Polite from Florida. His horrendous combine performance should definitely kick him out of round one and it’s tough to know where teams see him now. His film screams first round but it will be a matter of his maturity and how badly he actually wants to succeed. He would be an incredible fit for a 3-4 base, Maccagnan has to make a few calls if his stock falls more than we all think.