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Understandably, a lot of attention has been placed on what the Jets will do now that they have the number two pick in the draft. While many feel that they shouldn’t pass up the chance to bring in a potential franchise quarterback, there are others that feel Sam Darnold can still get to that level and that the team should use the pick to bring in an elite talent to pair with him – or perhaps trade down so they can use a surplus of picks to surround him with weapons.
Regardless of what they do with that first pick, the Jets have plenty of avenues to fill other needs on the team. In all, they have five top-100 picks and one that should be just outside the top 100 once compensatory picks have been factored in, including the 23rd pick and the second pick in round two.
Let’s consider some areas the Jets need help and suggest some prospects who could fit the bill in each scenario:
Need: A physical shutdown cornerback
Solution: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
The Jets played in a zone-based system in 2020 and the new coaching staff is expected to implement a similar scheme. However, what they lacked all year was a number one cornerback they could match up with the elite receivers they came up against. While this is a need they could address in free agency, it would be good to be able to develop a youngster who could develop into such a role.
Mukuamu is raw but he has outstanding size and length at 6’4” and the potential to develop into a cornerback with the physical tools to match up with alpha-type receivers. He could be an option with one of those day two picks.
Need: Someone who can make yardage after the catch
Solution: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
As Darnold struggled to make that next step in his second and third season, the player he missed most of all was Quincy Enunwa. Having someone who could take short passes and make good yardage after the catch took the pressure off Darnold in terms of having to take risks and would stretch out the opposing defense to open up some things downfield. Enunwa was in the top five in the NFL for yards after the catch per reception in 2018.
Whoever the quarterback is, such a player would give the Jets a dimension they lacked in 2020. Waddle could have been a top prospect, but his ankle injury and the fact he was overshadowed by his Heisman trophy winning teammate Devonta Smith may mean he drops to 23. Waddle, who is also a dynamic return man, doesn’t run over and through people like Enunwa but he’s fast and elusive and led the nation in that same yards after the catch category in 2019 and was among the leaders again this year.
Need: Someone who can generate constant pressure off the edge
Solution: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
The Jets have needed a productive edge rusher for years, but there isn’t much top-end talent in this year’s draft. Still, there could be some good value on day two. Jones is relentless off the edge and displays an arsenal of pass rushing moves to enable him to win one-on-one matchups. With Quinnen Williams inside, the Jets could use someone who can exploit such situations.
Need: A productive pass catching tight end
Solution: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
The Jets thought they had found a pass catching tight end when Chris Herndon led all rookie tight ends in receptions in 2018. However, he’s been disappointing over the past two seasons. He showed some signs that he’d rediscovered himself down the stretch, but the Jets can’t really rely on him to be consistently productive.
If Freiermuth falls to 34 in the draft, he could be a target for the Jets at that spot. He’s bigger than Herndon, giving the Jets not only another red zone target but also someone who can make good contributions as a blocker. If Herndon does rebound in 2021, Freiermuth wouldn’t be a wasted pick because the pair would complement one another well in multiple tight end sets.
Need: A lineman to help slow down the rate of interior pressure
Solution: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Guard, USC
The Jets tackles did a good job of limiting pressure off the edge in 2020, led by Mekhi Becton, but there was still too much interior pressure. Vera-Tucker switched to tackle in 2020 but he’s better suited to the guard position and didn’t give up a single sack or quarterback hit in the 2019 regular season while playing left guard. He’s also a good fit for a zone blocking based running attack.