Jets 7-round 2023 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Post-Aaron Rodgers trade edition

Jets GM Joe Douglas
Jets GM Joe Douglas / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Now that we know what it cost the Jets to land Aaron Rodgers, we wanted to run it back with one more mock draft to look at what might be coming.

Here’s the post-trade breakdown. We used ProFootballFocus’ mock draft simulator to piece it together, putting a heavier emphasis on the site’s big board than fan submission. There is a trade feature in the mock where opposing teams can offer you packages of picks for your selection. Offers were enticing, but no deals were struck.

Round 1, Pick 15- Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.

Why was he the pick: Douglas might do cartwheels down the halls of One Jets Drive if Johnson is there even after trading back two spots. A run on quarterbacks (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson) the first 13 picks is a big reason why he fell.

Johnson gives the Jets insurance in case something happens with Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton or Max Mitchell, along with their future franchise left tackle.

What they’re saying (The Athletic’s Dane Brugler): A two-year starter at Ohio State, Johnson moved from right guard to his more natural left tackle spot as a junior in head coach Ryan Day’s zone/RPObased offense. He struggled at times against better competition (his only sacks allowed in 2022 came against Michigan and Georgia), but he played at a high level most of the season and became the first Buckeye tackle to earn consensus All-American honors since 2015 (Taylor Decker). Johnson is quick out of his stance with the movement skills to mirror pass rushers around the arc or show off his pulling range in run game. He must be more consistent with his sinking, settling and striking, but he has the athleticism to recover quickly and his mistakes are fixable over time. Overall, Johnson must replace bad habits with more trust in his technique, but he is an athletic move blocker with the size, fluidity and character of a future starting NFL left tackle. With his quickness, he is ideally suited for a zone-based scheme.

Nov 5, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) headshot during the second half at Ryan Field
Nov 5, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) headshot during the second half at Ryan Field / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Round 2, Pick 43: Wisconsin DL Keeanu Benton

Why was he the pick? The Jets are on cloud nine after acquiring Rodgers, but the quarterbacks’ arrival shouldn’t distract the team from their alarming hole in the middle of their defense. Yes, they have a ton of pass rushers, but aside from Quinnen Williams, the cupboard is bare when it comes to run-stuffing big men. That was an issue last year and the Jets really didn’t add anyone in free agency.

Benton might be a little bit of a reach here, but he fills a massive need. He’ll be in the team’s rotation the moment he arrives in Florham Park.

What they’re saying ( draft profile): Benton is a powerful interior defensive lineman with size and persistence. However, he needs to play with consistent explosiveness early in the rep for decisive wins at the point of attack at the pro level. Block engagements become drawn-out brawls at times, but he does a nice job of defeating block sustains and often finds himself near the play. He lacks a wide base and sturdy anchor, so he’ll need to improve his pad level to prevent double teams from moving him around too easily. He’s solid and has flashed starting potential, but he needs to become a more consistently impactful force in the middle to make noise as an NFL starter.

Round 4, Pick No. 112: Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace Jr.

Why was he the pick? The Jets struck gold with the last Cincinnati defender they drafted (cornerback Sauce Gardner), so why not run it back with Pace? Their linebacking situation is solid right now with C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, and a reunion with Kwon Alexander isn’t out of the question, but it might be time to start thinking of both depth and the future at the position. Pace is an inside linebacker and could be the eventual replacement for Mosley, who is likely in his final year with the Jets.

What they’re saying (The Athletic’s Dane Brugler): A one-year starter at Cincinnati, Pace was a downhill MIKE linebacker in defensive coordinator Mike Tressel’s 3-3-5 base scheme. A few months removed from having nine players drafted, including Sauce Gardner, Pace became the first player in Cincinnati history to earn unanimous All-American honors and was the only player in college football to register at least 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2022. With his sheriff’s mentality and recognition skills, Pace trusts what he sees and runs around the field like my toddler on a sugar buzz after a weekend at grandma’s house. Although his frenetic play will take him out of plays at times, he is scrappy, strong and competes like a UFC fighter. Overall, Pace is undersized and faces questions about his ability as an every-down player in the NFL, but he is instinctive with the play speed, urgency and contact balance to consistently affect the game with his effort. His exact NFL position fit will be different from scheme to scheme, but it will be important for him to carve out a role on special teams to secure a roster spot.

Round 5, Pick No. 143: Penn State C Juice Scruggs

Why was he the pick? The Jets were able to re-sign Connor McGovern this week. They never thought that was possible earlier in the offseason, but his market never materialized. This does not take them out of the running for veteran Ben Jones; in fact many in the building expect that still to get done. With McGovern, though, the Jets aren’t forced to use an early selection (second-round pick) on a center.

Scruggs in the fifth round is just great value. He can sit behind Jones and McGovern (who also has the ability to play guard) and learn before potentially taking over as the team’s long-term answer at the position.

What they’re saying ( Draft Profile): A two-year starter with center/guard versatility, Scruggs is dependable and consistent in carrying out his assignment to the best of his ability. He plays like a block of granite that is difficult to push back or knock off-balance, but he’s more of a neutralizer than road grader. He plays with solid technique and possesses the play strength to hold his own in the middle. The lack of foot quickness shows up with athletic defenders leaking around his edges and that issue could be exacerbated if teams play him at guard. Scruggs has the potential to go from backup to eventual starter if the situation is right.

Round 5, Pick No. 170: UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Why was he the pick? Douglas spoke glowingly about what Rodgers’ arrival might mean for Zach Wilson, whose two years with the Jets have been a massive disappointment. Douglas isn’t lying, either, when he says the Jets aren’t ready to give up on Wilson yet. One problem, though: The Jets expect to get at least two years from Rodgers … which lines up with the expiration of Wilson’s rookie contract. Basically, it’s tricky.

Thompson-Robinson won’t push Rodgers for reps or steal the spotlight from Wilson, but he is another player the Jets can get in their building and try to develop. This would allow the Jets to create a quarterback situation similar to New England’s a few years ago when they had Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett all under contract.

What they’re saying (The Athletic’s Dane Brugler): A five-year starter at UCLA, Thompson-Robinson showed steady improvements each season in Chip Kelly’s balanced offensive attack and had his best season as a “super senior” with a school-record 69.6 percent completions. He departs Westwood as the school’s all-time leader in several categories, including total offense (12,537), completions (860), touchdown passes (88) and total touchdowns (116). With his live, accurate arm, the ball spins clean off his hand and his dualthreat skills allow him to create off-schedule plays. Thompson-Robinson handled quite a bit in Kelly’s offense (checks at the line, multiple play options based on presnap reads, etc.), but he is still prone to youthful mistakes, especially when things get hectic. Overall, Thompson-Robinson plays panicked at times and must take better care of the football, but he has an NFL-quality arm with the toughness and ability to create that will appeal to pro teams. His veteran presence will help him compete for a backup role very early in his NFL career.