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It should be much easier to figure out who the Jets are going to take with the fourth overall pick in the draft, but so much of it depends on what happens with the Houston Texans at No. 3. The Jets have multiple options. It really will depend on which players are left.
They have even more options at 10, which makes this a fascinating first round for GM Joe Douglas, whose team doesn’t have a lot of obvious needs to fill. It has sure sounded like coming out of the first round with an edge rusher and receiver is their preference, but before they go in that direction, they have some questions to answer first.
Here are five of the biggest questions I still have about their plans...
Would they really take another offensive tackle who might not be guaranteed a starting spot as a rookie?
Apparently, yes. Quite a few people believe Douglas is prepared to do just that if N.C. State tackle Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu is still available at No. 4. Many people believe he’s the top tackle, if not the top player, in the draft and the Jets apparently have him very close to the top of their board, too.
Now, the Jets wouldn’t be drafting him fourth overall to let him sit for a year. He would be penciled in as their starting right tackle for this season, leaving George Fant and Mekhi Becton to battle it out on the left side. That’s not completely ridiculous. Fant had to battle for a starting job in training camp last season, and Becton’s issues with injuries and his weight are well-documented. There are some who think the Jets are ready to move on from the 2020 first-round pick, but that likely wouldn’t happen until next year. And if all this seems like overkill ... well, Douglas doesn’t agree. The more depth he can get up front, the better.
Is the fourth pick too early to take what might be the third-rated edge rusher on their board?
This actually might be part of their thinking if Ekwonu is still there, and could lead to a very interesting choice if he’s gone. The two top-rated edge rushers likely to be waiting for them at No. 4 are Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson. My understanding is they like Johnson better, though they do think No. 4 might be a little high for him.
The problem, though, is there doesn’t seem to be any way he’d still be available at No. 10. So if they want him, they have to take him there. And I think that if Ekwonu is gone, they will. And if somehow Georgia’s Travon Walker fell, as some experts think he might, I think he might turn out to be the choice at No. 4, especially if Ekwonu is off the board. So yes, if they really want their edge rusher, they might take him at No. 4 even if two others have already been picked. Would it be a reach? Maybe. But keep in mind, plenty of people around the NFL think Johnson deserves to go in the top 5.
Would they take Alabama WR Jameson Williams at No. 10 even though he likely won’t play until November?
That’s an interesting question that is so hard to answer without knowing their medical evaluation of him. Williams tore his ACL in the College Football Playoff and almost everybody thinks he’ll begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he won’t play until late October or November. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the Jets think he’s the best receiver in the draft, as some around the NFL do. But Douglas has also been clear that he wants starters and immediate impact players in the early rounds of the draft. That would seem especially true with a Top 10 pick.
In a big year for young quarterback Zach Wilson, with a team that the Jets believe can at least be a contender for the playoffs, I don’t see how they can take someone who’ll miss all of camp and then the first two months of the season. Maybe if they trade down, but even then it seems like a waste of a year for someone picked so high in the draft.
Do they really have to take a receiver at No. 10, or could they wait until the top of the second round?
They absolutely don’t have to take a receiver at 10. I think they probably will, but if they take Ekwonu at No. 4 they might feel like they need to grab an edge rusher at No. 10, especially if Johnson or Thibodeaux is still there. In that case, they’d target a receiver with one of their two early second-round picks, Nos. 35 and 38. Every year, good receivers fall into the second round. Sometimes, some of the better ones fall through.
And just a couple of picks into Round 2 they could be looking at Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, or Georgia’s George Pickens. They may not be in the same class as the top 4-5 receivers on the board, but they’re all pretty good and would give Wilson another dangerous weapon. So it’s not the worst play to wait.
Is a defensive back really in play with either of their first-round picks?
I don’t think so, though a lot of smart people do. There has been a real buzz around the NFL the last week or so that the Jets are considering Cincinnati CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner at No. 4. I know they really like him and did a lot of work on him. I’m sure he’s high on their draft board because he seems to be high on everybody’s board. But someone who knows Jets head coach Robert Saleh well told me there’s no way he wants a corner that high. He doesn’t have the final call, but his preference is for an edge rusher, even if he has to reach a little to get one. His defenses have always put more of a premium on players on the line over players in the defensive backfield.
That also explains why Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton isn’t an option. Saleh previously said he’d only take a safety that high if he thought of him as a "unicorn" – a player so unique he couldn’t be passed up. That just doesn’t describe Hamilton. Add in the fact that the Jets spent some money in free agency at corner (D.J. Reed) and safety (Jordan Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner) and I just don’t see them investing a top 10 pick at those spots, too. I suspect all the buzz about Gardner might be to tempt some teams to make them an offer for the No. 4 pick. They don’t want to trade it, but they’re willing to listen. If they stay put, though, I can’t see them taking Gardner or any defensive back over Ekwonu or any edge rusher they like.