Which of Jets’ biggest needs went unaddressed during 2022 NFL Draft?

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Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh talk during Jets practice
Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh talk during Jets practice

It now seems clear that the Jets had a defined strategy for the 2022 NFL Draft, with the focus being on quality rather than quantity.

Having made a few extra selections over the past few years, the Jets don’t currently have much room for developmental projects. They therefore made a concerted effort to target players with upside who can make immediate contributions, twice trading up to ensure they got their man.

It’s not impossible that they could trade a player or future pick to move back into the late stages of the draft, but at the time of writing this, that seems unlikely. They can, of course, still bring in some undrafted free agents, but these will be long-shots rather than sure-fire contributors.

The downside to this approach is that making fewer picks makes it more difficult to address all of your perceived needs. Let’s review those positions where draft analysts had been saying the Jets had a need, but no pick was made.

Defensive Tackle

The Jets, who statistically had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL in 2021, lost arguably their best run stuffer in free agency when Folorunso Fatukasi signed with Jacksonville. However, they haven’t done much to replace him with the only addition on the defensive interior being the undersized Solomon Thomas.

Having not selected a defensive tackle in the draft, Sheldon Rankins seems the most likely player to join Quinnen Williams atop the depth chart, although the re-signed Nathan Shepherd could see an increased role after a strong finish to the 2021 season. The team has also stated that they’ll use John Franklin-Myers on the inside more in passing situations, which is something he’s done in the past, albeit not last year.

The Jets might be high on one of last year’s draft picks, Jonathan Marshall, but the athletic 24-year-old struggled to hold up in the trenches last year. If the Jets were going to instead explore the veteran market, one intriguing unsigned name is former Jet Sheldon Richardson.

Safety

The Jets replaced the departing Marcus Maye with Jordan Whitehead in free agency, but who is the free safety? It’s a question the Jets failed to answer last season despite several players getting a chance to start and many expected them to select a potential starter in the draft.

Opening day starter Lamarcus Joyner was re-signed despite missing almost the entire year due to injury, but he seems like more of stop-gap.

The Jets remain hopeful one of their youngsters like Ashtyn Davis, Jason Pinnock or Elijah Riley will step up. Of the three, Pinnock, who converted from cornerback halfway through his rookie season, showed the most promise last year. Riley looks set to compete with Will Parks to back up Whitehead as strong safety.

Inside Linebacker

The Jets clearly value the leadership and experience of their leading tackler and Team MVP C,J. Mosley and coach Robert Saleh has referred to his fellow starter Quincy Williams as a potential Pro Bowler, albeit with the caveat that he needs to improve his consistency. However, many analysts still expected them to bring in someone either to compete with Williams or to groom as Mosley’s successor in the defensive quarterback role

The fact they didn’t do this perhaps suggests they remain high on 2021 draft picks Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood. However, with Sherwood coming off a serious Achilles injury, they also recently added veteran depth by signing Marcell Harris.

Slot Cornerback

Many NFL teams have been stressing the importance of having players with quickness in the slot so the Jets could have looked to upgrade from another 2021 rookie, Michael Carter II.

Again, the team apparently remains high on the youngster, though. They’ve also added some built-in flexibility this year because D.J. Reed could move into the slot in an emergency and the addition of Harris might enable the team to play more base packages.

Center

Finally, while most offensive needs were addressed, some analysts expected the Jets to replace Connor McGovern, or at least bring in an heir apparent, at center.

While some fans felt McGovern was a weakness on the offensive line, he performed consistently last season and the Jets seem comfortable with him as the starter and Dan Feeney as his backup.

While veteran JC Tretter remains unsigned, it seems more logical for the Jets to retain continuity upfront. In terms of depth, although they didn’t select a center in the draft, they apparently like Max Mitchell’s versatility and view him as someone who can be developed into a reliable backup at center and guard too.

Conclusions

It’s encouraging to see the Jets execute a coherent plan because they’ve been considered an organization without one for several seasons. Whether the plan works out remains to be seen, but they’ve certainly made every effort to ensure some talented players will be joining the team.