5 players Jets should keep an eye on at the 2023 NFL Combine
With the NFL season officially behinds us, it's time to turn our attention to the 2023 NFL Combine.
This Tuesday, Feb. 28, hundreds of draft-eligible players will arrive at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as NFL scouts will evaluate them in all facets of the game. The hope is for teams to get a better look at some of the prospects they’re interested in drafting.
The Jets are no exception, so here are five players Gang Green should keep an eye on...
S Brian Branch (Alabama)
Branch started out as a special teamer during his freshman year at Alabama. His first career start came on Oct. 31 against Mississippi State, and after making seven tackles, he was named Defensive Player of the Week. He finished that season with back-to-back starts against Notre Dame and Ohio State in the College Football Playoffs.
From there, Branch established himself as a reliable member of the Crimson Tide secondary. He appeared in 15 games during the 2021 season and made 55 tackles, one sack, and a team-leading nine pass breakups.
This past season he started every game in a hybrid role, playing both safety and cornerback, for the Alabama defense.
Listed at 6-foot, 193 pounds, Branch plays much more physical than his size indicates. He finished his junior season with a total of 90 tackles (second on the team), 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.
Branch earned first team All-America honors at defensive back from CBS Sports and ESPN.com and at the flex position by Pro Football Focus.
OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
Jones has been a popular name connected to the Jets in recent mock drafts. He’s viewed by many as one of the top and most athletic offensive line prospects in the draft this season.
Jones was redshirted his freshman year, and appeared in just two games as a reserve. He took on more of a role as a sophomore and allowed just five QB hurries, one QB hit, and two sacks on the year.
The big man finally took on a full workload, appearing in all 15 games this past season, and he helped the Georgia Bulldogs secure their second consecutive championship.
Jones didn’t allow a single sack all year and gave up just one QB hit and eight QB hurries. He was selected to the AP’s All-SEC First-Team.
LB Trenton Simpson (Clemson)
Simpson put together a solid freshman year, but he really established himself as a standout at the linebacker position for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers over the past two seasons.
Simpson finished his sophomore year third on the team with 78 tackles. He also was second on the team with 12 tackles for loss and six sacks. He performed well enough to earn a Second-Team All-Conference selection from PFF.
Simpson was outstanding again this past season, finishing the year as a Butkus award semifinalist and Lott IMPACT Trophy semifinalist. He finished tied for third on the team with 77 tackles, and recorded 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games.
The weak-side linebacker did miss the Orange Bowl matchup with Tennessee while recovering from an ankle injury, but it's not considered serious.
Simpson's not just a solid football player, but also a good student, as he's a two-time Academic All-ACC Team selection.
S Antonio Johnson (Texas A&M)
Johnson appeared in just seven games his freshman year, but he started every game his second season with the team. He finished that year with a total of 79 tackles (second on the team) and recorded five pass breakups, 8.5 tackles for loss, and a team-leading 53 solo tackles.
The team rewarded with him with their Defensive Mr. Dependable Skill Award and the Defensive Playmaker Award.
Johnson missed three games this past season due to injury, but otherwise remained an impactful defender for Texas A&M. On Sept. 24 against Arkansas, he made a season-high 13 tackles and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
He finished the year with 71 tackles, a sack, and had a knack for creating turnovers with three forced fumbles. Johnson was recently praised by former NFL quarterback Brock Huard as a "Deebo Samuel on defense" of sorts.
OT Anton Harrison (Oklahoma)
Harrison was an excellent pass protector during his three years with the Oklahoma Sooners.
During his freshman year he missed only two games, and allowed just one sack on the season. Harrison appeared in all 13 games in 2021, and all 12 of his starts came at left tackle. On the year, he conceded just one QB hit and two sacks.
This past season, he played right tackle in the season opener, but the remaining 11 games he moved back to the left-side. Harrison was dominant again, allowing just one sack and no QB hits on the year. He was selected to All-Big 12 First-Team by the league’s coaches and the AP.