6 NFL Combine standouts Jets should have interest in drafting
The 2023 NFL Combine has come to a close, and Jets GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh will now look ahead to pro days and official team visits as the scouting process continues.
Let's take a look at six players who either raised or solidified their draft status at the Combine...
Iowa TE Sam LaPorta
Although the Jets have two solid veterans at tight end and will be expecting more from last year’s day two pick Jeremy Ruckert in 2023, they still don’t have a George Kittle type of player who could unlock the full potential of their offense. Saleh has said that there will be a carryover on offense in 2023 despite recent coaching changes, so this could still be something they covet.
LaPorta will draw comparisons with Kittle, who also went to Iowa and is basically the same size. The 22-year-old showcased his athleticism by being one of only three tight ends to run sub-4.6 in the 40-yard dash. Kittle was a terrific blocker at Iowa but still lasted until the fifth round due to doubts about his pass-catching abilities, which he subsequently dispelled at the NFL level. In many respects, LaPorta is the opposite of Kittle because he needs to develop as a blocker, but had two 50-catch seasons whereas Kittle had fewer than 50 catches in his college career.
TCU WR Quentin Johnston
Johnston is widely regarded as the best receiver prospect in the draft, and while this isn’t a position that is seen as a priority for the Jets following the emergence of Garrett Wilson, it’s not out of the question that they could opt to provide whoever their new starting quarterback is with another pass-catching threat.
With Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims having requested a trade last season and Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios regarded by some as possible cap casualties, this group could look very different in 2023.
In his workouts, Johnston – who had a 1,000-yard season in 2022 – posted a 40.5-inch vertical and 134-inch broad jump, demonstrating his superb athleticism. Some analysts have suggested that if the Jets trade for Aaron Rodgers, they could also look to bring in the 6-foot-3 Allen Lazard, but Johnston is an even more athletic player at the same size. The one area he could improve is in the red zone because he never posted more than six touchdowns in a season at the college level.
WSU LB Daiyan Henley
After an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl, Henley’s stock has been on the rise and he boosted his profile further by running a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. He also looked good in drills, especially in coverage. That’s a role he could potentially play with the Jets, who need to decide whether to re-sign free agent Quincy Williams.
Henley is an older prospect having dealt with some injuries in the past, but that could work in the Jets’ favor because it might mean he is more likely to be ready to contribute sooner while also causing him to drop on day two.
Pitt DL Calijah Kancey
Kancey has been drawing some comparisons with Aaron Donald after he ran an impressive 4.67 in the 40-yard dash despite weighing over 280 pounds. The 2022 All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year has likely solidified himself as a first round pick.
The Jets need depth on the defensive interior and Kancey should fit their system, which requires the interior linemen to get upfield and be disruptive. He had 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in 23 games over the past two years. Is it enough of a need to warrant spending a first-rounder, though?
Illinois S Sydney Brown
One thing the Jets definitely lacked in the second half of the 2022 season was defensive playmaking. They struggled to create turnovers down the stretch, so a player like Brown -- who intercepted six passes and returned a fumble for a touchdown last year -- could appeal to them. He showcased his athleticism by running an impressive 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at 211 pounds.
The Jets could have a starting role up for grabs at the safety position with Lamarcus Joyner a free agent, so bringing in a rookie to fill that role could create a good opportunity for a player like Brown on day two of the draft.
Georgia T Broderick Jones
Jones is a player many draft analysts have projected as a possible first-round selection for the Jets, who currently own the 13th pick. He’s in contention to be the first tackle selected and helped his chances of going early when he posted the fastest 40-yard dash of any offensive lineman at Indianapolis by running a 4.97.
Recent news that Duane Brown intends to return for the 2023 season could reduce the urgency for the Jets to bring in a potential starting tackle, especially with Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell returning. However, the talented Jones, who also impressed during positional drills, could be a player Douglas targets to shore up the line for the long term.