2023 NFL Draft: Experts hand out grades for Jets
It’s a tradition unlike any other: Giving out grades immediately following the draft. This year is no different as analysts across the web have already determined who the winners and losers of the draft are. Here, we’ll round up some grades and note from experts across the football landscape to get their thoughts on how the Jets did this weekend in the draft, headlined by the selection of Iowa State edge Will McDonald IV at No. 15. Let’s jump into it.
Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire - B+
Our own Doug Farrar is excited for Will McDonald to get to play more inside instead of his 4i-technique spot he played while in Iowa State’s three-man front. Farrar is also very intrigued with Kuntz and his ability.
“Sometimes as an NFL evaluator, you need to separate a prospect from a set of schemes that does him no favors. That was the case for the Jets and Will McDonald IV, who played inside the tackles far too often in Iowa State’s three-man fronts at 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds. After selecting McDonald with the 15th pick, both general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh said that McDonald’s days as a 4i were done, and thank goodness for that. He’s one of the quickest edge-rushers in this class, and his spin move will give offensive tackles fits. Douglas then added quality to an offensive line in need with Joe Tippman and Carter Warren, and Israel Abanikanda will add some thump to the run game. Perhaps the most interesting pick is Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz, who comes to Aaron Rodgers’ offense with measurables out the wazoo, and the ability to beat defenses deep over time.”
Mel Kiper, ESPN - B
Kiper is pretty pleased with the Jets’ draft. Kiper notes that this draft as more low-key compared to last year when the Jets had two picks in the top ten compared to this year where the Jets had only two picks in the top 100.
“The Jets had two first-round picks last year, but 2023 was much more of a low-key draft — unless you expand that out to the few days before, when they finally completed the Aaron Rodgers trade. In that deal, they swapped Round 1 selections with Green Bay, dropping down two spots. They also gave up Nos. 42 and 207 plus a conditional second-rounder in 2024 (that likely will be a first-rounder). The Packers sent back No. 170, as well.
We had connected New York with the offensive tackles in the class, but four already were off the board by the time it got on the clock at No. 15. I’m a fan of whom general manager Joe Douglas opted for; edge rusher Will McDonald IV (15) can fly to the football. He is one of my favorite prospects in the entire class. He had 33 sacks over the past four seasons. Expect McDonald to be a menace in passing situations as a rookie as he bulks up to improve as a three-down player.
I preferred John Michael Schmitz over Joe Tippmann (43) in the center class, but I know several teams that had Tippmann at No. 1 on their boards at the position. This was a clear need area for the Jets. Running back Israel Abanikanda (143) likely is insurance for Breece Hall returning healthy, but Abanikanda was productive in college, tallying 21 scores last season. Tight end Zack Kuntz (220) lit up the combine workouts, and he is a worthy risk in Round 7.
The lingering question about this Jets class is: Are they sure they’re OK at offensive tackle? They must trust that Mekhi Becton will return healthy and productive after back-to-back lost seasons. I don’t know that Carter Warren (120) is a candidate to play as a rookie.”
Eric Froton, NBC Sports - B-
Froton is a big fan of Tippmann and believes Kuntz is a steal in the 7th round, noting that Kuntz is the most athletic tight end in Scouting Combine history with a perfect 10.0 Relative Athletic Score.
“A three-time First Team All-Big 12 performer, Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald (6’4/239) channeled his prodigious athleticism into 42.0 career TFL, 10 forced fumbles and an all-time B12 leading 34.0 sacks. All three phases of his testing were elite while his arms measured at an elongated 35” for the third-highest RAS in the 2023 edge class. Despite his verifiable athleticism and production, McDonald’s frame is a bit thin for the position at the NFL level and was considered a late first round-to-mid second round player based on his more traditionally proportioned contemporaries at EDGE……I really liked watching Joe Tippmann’s tape and despite being abnormally long for the Center position at 6’6/303, he is a very effective mauler in the run game, enveloping his assignment and sealing them off with ease. However his long strides and lack of leg-bend can have him reaching in pass sets and kickouts at times. They picked up the OT they were looking for in Carter Warren, whose massive 84 ½: wingspan helps him engulf opponents. Between Warren and Tippmann, the Jets clearly have a “type” on the offensive line. Abanikanda is a very athletic RB I was hoping to see challenge for playing time in his first season, or at least land somewhere with upward mobility behind an aging veteran. Nope. I guess the Jets weren’t content with their predicament last season after Breece Hall went down. TE Zach Kuntz is a steal in the seventh round having transferred from Penn State to Old Dominion, as he followed his former, OC Ricky Rahne, to his new HC gig. Kuntz finished second nationally in 2021 with 112 targets (#1 = Michael Mayer) and posted a perfect 10.00 RAS, making him the most athletic tight end in Combine history.”
Pro Football Focus - B-
While McDonald was No. 29 on PFF’s big board, he was the No. 2 edge for PFF’s Sam Monson. Overall, a solid haul in PFF’s eyes for the Jets.
“Day 1: McDonald had the best season of his college career in 2022 and flashed incredible lateral quickness. PFF’s Sam Monson views him as the second-best pass-rusher in this draft class, but the Iowa State product was just the 29th-ranked player on the PFF big board. He finished his college career with 127 total pressures across 862 pass-rushing snaps.
Day 2: The Jets eliminated their need to take center by bringing back Connor McGovern on a cheap, one-year deal, but Tippmann gives them another long-term option at the position. He brings a unique combination of size and athleticism to the middle of New York’s offensive line, along with an 84th-percentile run-blocking grade at center on zone runs since 2021.
Day 3: The Jets finally take their tackle. For now, Warren projects as more of a depth piece. He has the requisite build and length but needs some work in his technique and consistency in pass protection. The Jets will hope to develop him behind some veterans in the early going.
With reports the Jets were considering drafting Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs at 15th overall, they add a speedy depth piece to their backfield in Abanikanda, who earned a 90.6 rushing grade in 2022 and is a threat to break off a big gain on any given carry. Abanikanda’s 10-yard split, vertical jump and broad jump all placed him in the 95th percentile or better. His hip flexibility and bend are not great, but if he can plant his foot in the ground and get upfield he will rip off chunks as a rotational piece.
Barnes is an undersized linebacker with great speed, landing in the 88th percentile for his 4.54-second 40-yard dash. Barnes’ sideline to speed shows up with his 88.9 run defense grade in 2022.
Kuntz is a freakish athlete at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, as he put together one of the best combine performances we’ve ever seen. His 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle and three-cone all ranked above the 90th percentile. At this point in the draft, you bet on these traits.”