The offseason scouting process is just beginning, free agency hasn’t even started yet, and the NFL Draft is still more than two months away. But it’s never too early to take a look at how the draft might unfold.
So here’s my three-round mock for the Jets, version 2.0. They have five picks in the first two days:
First round (second overall) – Oregon T Penei Sewell
First things first: The quarterback situation is still unsettled and I’m not quite ready to predict or believe the Jets are moving on from Sam Darnold. And if they don’t, I think they’d be wise to trade this pick. But for now, let’s assume they keep Darnold and don’t make a trade.
In that case the choice really comes down to taking the best weapon or the best offensive lineman. And while the Jets can still pick up a heck of a receiver with their second first-round pick, there’s a steeper dropoff in offensive linemen in the latter half of the round.
Really, there’s a drop off after the 6-foot-6, 331-pound Sewell, which is why the Jets could jump at him here and take a huge step towards solidifying their offensive line for the next decade. They hit it big (literally) last year with Mekhi Becton at 11. Now they’d anchor the other side with Sewell. Add in a free agent like, say, Joe Thuney at guard and GM Joe Douglas’ second shot at rebuilding the Jets’ decrepit line might actually work out.
(Previous pick: LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase)
First round (23rd overall) – Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman
Unless they double up on top receivers in free agency, one of these two first-round picks has to be used on a target for whomever the Jets quarterback is in 2021. The good news is that this is another deep class of receivers. And when that happens, some really good ones tend to drop.
So while the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bateman isn’t thought of in the top class with Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, he’s really not that far behind. He’s the top of the next tier because of his great hands and versatility to play outside and in the slot. He’s considered to be more physical than fast, and while everyone loves speed the Jets could use a bigger, tough receiver who can muscle his way to a few catches in the red zone.
He would make a nice tag team with the 6-foot-3 Denzel Mims and either Jamison Crowder or whatever free agent receiver the Jets choose to invest in next month.
(Previous pick: South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn)
Second round, 34th overall – Miami DE Jaelan Phillips
It’s clear that the defenses that new Jets coach Robert Saleh built in San Francisco were powered by the defensive line, and that a big-time pass rusher off the edge (Nick Bosa) was the key. It’s also clear that the Jets don’t have a strong defensive line, nor do they have that edge rusher. And they’ll need to find one if Saleh’s defense is going to work.
Their best bet might be free agency, but that shouldn’t prevent the Jets from grabbing a young, talented pass rusher early in the draft, too. This isn’t a great class for edge rushers and a bunch of them could slip to the second round. If the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Phillips does, he’s definitely worth a shot.
Last season with the Hurricanes, he took over for Gregory Rousseau, possibly the best pass-rusher in this draft, after he opted out of the 2020 season. And while he didn’t come close to duplicating Rousseau’s 15 ½- sack performance from 2019, he still had an impressive eight in 10 games, plus 15 ½ tackles for loss.
He’s probably no Bosa, but he could at least fill that role.
(Previous pick: Clemson RB Travis Etienne)
Third round (66th overall) – North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
There is value in both of the talented backs from the Tar Heel backfield, but the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Williams gets the slight edge over the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Michael Carter because of his size advantage and power. Scouts see him as more of an every-down threat, even though the Jets won’t necessarily need him to fill that role.
The Jets, as the 49ers did, are much more likely to run a backfield by committee so they need to add running backs this offseason. Their current duo of La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson has potential, but Williams could easily fill the lead role. His tough running style makes him good for short-yardage and the goal-line too.
(Previous pick: Tennessee G Trey Smith)
Third round (87th overall) – Ohio State C Josh Myers
There’s going to be a lot of change along the Jets’ offensive line this offseason, and probably more to come next offseason. Right now, the one thing that’s really missing is a group of young, talented offensive linemen that can help the Jets in the future (at least beyond Becton). That’s why I could see Douglas taking two in his first five picks.
And a center would be a good choice, considering Connor McGovern was just OK last season and there’s already some speculation that the Jets could move him to guard. The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Myers may not be an instant upgrade, but he figures to be an NFL starter sooner than later, so he could eventually push McGovern during the season. And perhaps just as importantly, his presence would at least give the Jets some options — both right away, and for 2022 when McGovern’s contract becomes expendable.
(Previous pick: Boston College TE Hunter Long)