NFL Draft – New York Jets Final Thoughts & Mock Draft

Joe Belic with final stats and a final mock draft for the New York Jets heading into NFL Draft night

The long-awaited day has finally arrived, and the NFL Draft is just hours away. Some fans remain firm on their favored course of action, while others have remained ambivalent.  In an effort to add some arsenal to your convictions or potentially help sway your opinion, below are some thoughts and stats that could be useful.  Happy Draft Day Jets fans!!!

Wide Receiver:

It’s hard to justify taking a wideout at 11 with the need at tackle, a deep class, and the fact that solid receivers can be found outside of day one. 

17 of the 25 wideouts to gain at least 1,000 yards receiving in 2019 were not first-round picks.

11 of the top 15 leaders in receptions were not first-round picks. 

12 of the top 15 receivers in yards per route run were not first-round picks.

Offensive Line: 

All but one team in PFF’s Top 10 offensive lines in 2019 possess one similarity: a first-round pick. 

6 of the top 10 teams had two or more on their roster: Cowboys, Colts, Eagles, Saints, Steelers, and Titans. 

The Jets don’t have any first-round picks along the offensive line and haven’t drafted any since 2006: D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.

With that said, a first-round pick alone doesn’t correlate to success—albeit a good start—it’s about a continuous investment up front.

For instance, the Eagles, who are perennial studs in the trenches for the last decade, selected five offensive linemen (two in the first round) in the same time frame Mike Maccagnan invested three total picks. 

When Max Unger retired, the Saints didn’t look to Wesley Johnson or Spencer Long to fill the center position. New Orleans tactfully moved up during the draft in 2019 and selected Erik McCoy to anchor the line and provide Drew Brees the necessary protection. 

Although the Buccaneers remain the only team in the top ten without a first-rounder, Tampa Bay possesses two second-rounders and one third in the starting lineup. Don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay leapfrogs the Jets and adds a first-rounder to this already strong unit with a new signal-caller in town: Tom Brady. 

I can’t stress enough how important it is for the Jets to come out of this draft with a bona fide starter at tackle and an interior offensive lineman—no later than round three—who can compete with Van Roten, Lewis, and Winters. 

Outside Corner:

According to Football Outsiders, the Jets ranked in 18th in pass defense last year and are in desperate need of an outside corner despite signing Pierre Desir.

While with Philadelphia in 2017, Joe Douglas and Howie Roseman double-dipped at cornerback in the second and third rounds regardless of an 8th ranked pass defense the previous year. 

There aren’t many viable options available outside round one and two in this particular draft, and the law of supply and demand could force the Jets’ hand.  If prospects like Jeff Gladney, A.J. Terrell, or Jaylon Johnson somehow fall to the second round, don’t be surprised if Joe Douglas pulls the trigger—yes, even before a wide receiver. 

Edge:

Some rumors are circulating that the “Big Four” will be gone by the time the Jets select.  A pivot to wide receiver (or trading down) seems like the logical choice with the 32nd ranked pass offense, but I’m not so sure Joe Douglas agrees.

The Jets ranked 26th in adjusted sack percentage last season, registering a mediocre 35 sacks for the year. Wide receivers can be had throughout the draft, and after the first round finding a double-digit sack machine isn’t easy to come by.  There are some outliers, but the majority of dominant pass rushers are day one picks. 

Nonetheless, I’m starting to get the impression that those Jets fans who are concerned shouldn’t be. Douglas played a significant role in two drafts where a pass rusher was selected in round 1: Derek Barnett and Leonard Floyd. However, I have to believe that after getting burned by these two prospects, Douglas won’t settle for a player like K’Lavon Chaisson just because he’ll fill a need at a premium position. 

Douglas was part of the scouting team in 2015 (Ravens), which identified Za’Darius Smith (13.5 sacks in 2019) in the fourth round.  During his last two seasons with the Eagles, Philadelphia selected two developmental players as well in round four: Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller. I’m hoping the Jets take a similar approach and target a player in the same range in the 2020 draft who can be molded and contribute initially as a situational pass rusher.  

Safety:

We are all too familiar with the Jamal Adams situation, and Marcus Maye is in a contract year.  I fully expect the Jets to select a safety at some point in the draft, preferably between rounds 4-7, and some solid prospects may be on the board: Terrell Burgess, K’Von Wallace, Geno Stone, Alohi Gilman, and Levonta Taylor.

The lights are up, and the tree is decorated. For what you ask? The NFL combine, and in my household, it’s a national holiday. 

Mock draft 4.0: Happy Draft Day!!!

Objective: Fix the Offense

Round 1 (pick 11): Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Becton, a human wrecking ball, is an all-around great prospect. While his floor is lower than the other top tackles, he possesses a ton of upside, and that’s intriguing.  

Becton is a beast, an absolute soul snatcher. I’ve seen him treat defenders like rag dolls, tossing them to the side with no effort. He’s a mountain of a man and a complete bulldozer; once he gets his massive hands on an opponent, it’s lights out.  

Becton has exceptionally long arms and uses them effectively in pass protection. He’s technically sound, extremely quick and fluid for a man his size (6′ 7″ 364 pounds).  Roll the tape and watch him go, he won’t disappoint. 

Round 2 (pick 60 from BAL): K.J. Hamler (WR), Penn State 

Trade Alert!!! Jets trade picks No. 48 and 191 to the Ravens for picks No. 60 and 92

Separation and speed win in the NFL, and Hamler has that in spades. One of the most elusive wideouts in the league he’s absolutely electric with the ball in his hands; Hamler would fit nicely in an offense geared toward creating opportunities after the catch. Although utilized almost exclusively out of the slot at Penn State, I’m confident Hamler can be deployed on the boundaries as well, and a creative coach will maximize his potential.  I can see him being used similarly to Albert Wilson, who spent much of his time outside in Gase’s offense. 

Round 3 (pick 68): Robert Hunt (IOL), Louisiana-Lafayette 

Hunt is one of my favorite prospects in the draft.  He has experience at both guard and tackle but will make his money on the inside in the NFL. Lance Zierlein, of NFL.com, highlighted Hunt’s rare combination of bulk and athleticism, his ability to sustain blocks on the second level, and physical tools to become a plus run blocker in all schemes.  

Round 3 (pick 79): Cam Akers (RB), Florida State

I don’t know if this is a Joe Douglas move, but with the extra pick acquired via trade, I’m all for it. Akers isn’t the ideal fit for a zone heavy system at the moment, but he’s too talented to pass up.  After a year of coaching, I believe he’ll hit the ground running in 2021 and transform into the scheme versatile back I think he is. 

Round 3 (pick 101 from SEA): Bryan Edwards (WR), South Carolina

Trade Alert!!! Jets trade pick No. 92 (from Baltimore) to Seattle for picks No. 101 and 133

Although Edwards’ stock will inevitably fall because of injury concerns, a team may ultimately benefit if willing to take a chance.  Durability is a trait Douglas covets, but I doubt it’ll keep him from taking players with unquestionable talent. Edwards can lineup anywhere on the field: split end, flanker, or in the slot. He is exceptional with the ball in his hands (7.6 yards after catch per reception), an above-average route runner, a significant big-bodied threat in the red zone, and consistently creates separation down the field.

Round 4 (pick 120): Reggie Robinson II (CB), Tulsa

Robinson raised his stock with a solid performance at the Senior Bowl and followed that up with a dominant showing at the combine: 4.44-second 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical jump, and 132-inch broad jump.  Robinson excels in press-man coverage and isn’t afraid to lay the wood in the run game.  The secondary is in desperate need of playmakers, and Robinson offers a lot in terms of upside. 

Round 4 (pick 133 from SEA ): Alex Highsmith (Edge), Charlotte

Highsmith is a high character hard-working prospect that dominated the lower level competition he faced at Charlotte, registering 15 sacks in 2019. He’d fit nicely into Williams’ defense as a 3-4 OLB, and if he adds some strength to his athleticism, he could be a force to be reckoned with.  

Round 5 (pick 158): Netane Muti, (IOL) Fresno State

There is some speculation that Muti’s extensive injury history could have him falling even later than pick 158. If he’s available in this spot, the Jets shouldn’t hesitate to make the pick. If he can stay healthy, he would be a plug-and-play starter from day one. 

Muti fits the profile of an athletic lineman with the lateral mobility Douglas values. Strong as an ox, Muti put up 44 reps on the bench to boot. He’s a respected team captain and one of my favorite overall prospects in the draft.  

Round 6 (pick 191): Traded

Round 6 (pick 211): Alex Taylor (OT), South Carolina State

I selected Alex Taylor in a similar spot in mock 3.0. I like his upside and would love for the Jets to take a chance on him. Taylor is a late-round prospect booming with potential. The NFL Draft Network’s Joe Marino said, “Taylor is a high-end developmental lineman that features an exciting blend of size, length, and mobility that serves as a strong foundation to build upon. Patience is required, but Taylor has a chance to develop into a starter or quality reserve in a year or so.”

Recap:

Round 1: Mekhi Becton, OT

Round 2: K.J. Hamler, WR

Round 3: Robert Hunt, IOL

Round 3: Cam Akers, RB

Round 3: Bryan Edwards, WR

Round 4: Reggie Robinson, CB

Round 4: Alex Highsmith, Edge

Round 5: Netane Muti, IOL

Round 6: Alex Taylor, OT