One of the least mentioned, but most important, takeaways from free agency is the Jets’ perilous position in the 2020 Draft. There are currently five teams picking above the Jets that could potentially take an Offensive Tackle:
- New York Giants – Pick 4
- Los Angeles Chargers – Pick 6
- Carolina Panthers – Pick 7
- Arizona Cardinals – Pick 8
- Cleveland Browns – Pick 10
Given the current landscape of the Offensive Tackle class, in which there is a precipitous drop-off in talent after the top four prospects, the Jets are in danger of not having one of these top players available when they pick at 11.
I believe that the Jets should trade up in order to draft a Tackle that is capable of starting on Day 1. So far this offseason, the Jets have made marginal improvements on the interior and have opted for higher upside signings at Tackle. There is nothing inherently wrong with this decision as it could certainly be fruitful in the long-run, but it must be balanced out with the acquisition of a Tackle prospect who can start on Day 1 without concern. I am disquieted at the looming possibility that the Jets could stay put at 11, and be forced to reach for Josh Jones or another developmental player. After all, the team doesn’t need another Chuma Edoga; the Jets need a player who can immediately anchor the Left Tackle spot for the next Decade. Some may argue that the Jets shouldn’t relinquish the valuable draft capital used in a trade-up, but I believe that the cost of trading up, and taking a higher percentage shot at a franchise Left Tackle, is well-worth forgoing a mid-round and late-round pick.
One logical trade partner is the Carolina Panthers. Given the team’s recent signing of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers will likely be looking for foundational pieces in their rebuild. Unless the Panthers favor one prospect in particular, trading back would allow the Panthers to acquire more draft capital and greater flexibility. It also situates the Panthers in prime position to acquire an EDGE like K’Lavon Chaisson or one of the top wide receivers.
The Panthers are a prime trade-up spot for the Jets because such a trade would allow the Jets to jump the Cardinals and the Browns, both of whom are locks to draft Offensive Tackles. If the Jets acquire the 7th pick, it’s plausible that they are the first team to draft a Tackle besides the Giants, which would give them multiple intriguing options. It is also plausible that the Jets could wind up with one of Jedrick Wills or Tristan Wirfs, or even OT1 if the Giants select a defensive player with the fourth pick.
According to a chart based on every NFL Draft trade over the last 8 years, the cost of trading up from the 11th pick to the 7th pick is a mid-3rd round pick and an early 6th round pick. Perhaps if the Jets offered the Panthers their second 3rd round pick (#79) and a 2021 5th round pick, the Panthers would bite. The Jets have the luxury of two 3rd round picks this year (thank you, Dave Gettleman) and for the cost of a developmental corner, EDGE, or receiver prospect, the Jets may secure a franchise OT.
It could very well be that one of the top 4 OTs is on the Board at 11, but I don’t think that is a risk the Jets should take. If Jets fans are serious about building around Sam Darnold, they will have no problem with giving up extra picks in order to acquire a game-changing talent to protect him.