The combine is approaching and that means it’s mock draft season. Time to look into the crystal ball and predict the New York Jets’ future.
The NFL Combine is less than a month away. It’s set to begin on Feb. 23 and, obviously, that’s when draft season begins officially ramping up.
Players will participate in athletic and positional drills. Teams will also get their first chance to talk to many of the players. The combine is where connections are made and draft boards start coming together.
For example, last year, Garrett Bradbury went from the third center on the board and a likely second or third-round pick, to a top-20 pick. He’s not the only one. Darnell Savage shot up from the third round to the first due to his combine and private workouts.
Any draft projections before the combine are going to need some tweaking. The only thing evaluators have at this point is their own set of eyes and evaluation.
With that in mind, this pre-combine mock draft looks at how the New York Jets could best fill out their roster. Many of these are need over value picks. That’s simply because nobody knows what the Jets are going to do to fill needs in free agency yet.
Round 1, 11th overall – Mekhi Becton, LT, Louisville
The Jets are desperate for offensive line help. They haven’t taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 2006 when they took two—Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
That’s an unacceptably long time to leave the offensive line unaddressed. General manager Joe Douglas will almost certainly rectify that in 2020. The only way he won’t is if there is a flurry of offensive linemen taken in the top 10. For what it’s worth, there is a legitimate possibility that four offensive linemen go before the Jets pick at No. 11.
In this mock draft, Mekhi Becton falls to the Jets. Becton is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, 369 pounds. Don’t let the size fool you, Becton is also the most athletic tackle in the class. His agility and strength combine to make one of the most athletically gifted tackles to enter the draft in years.
The big issue is that his technique is still slightly raw, especially in the run game. Becton struggled with hand fighting and counter moves at Louisville. Technique based rushers gave him a fit, while athletic rushers got shoved to the side, literally.
Becton has the highest ceiling of any tackle in this class, but his floor is the lowest. That low floor is why he’s still available at 11. With no other offensive lineman worthy of going this high, Douglas pulls the trigger.
Round 2, 48th overall – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
With their second-round pick, the Jets surprise most by passing on a wide receiver. They have a huge need at cornerback and Bryce Hall is a perfect fit for Gregg Williams’s defense and Douglas’s culture.
Hall isn’t a perfect cornerback. Ideally, he would go later in the second round or maybe the third round, but the Jets can’t afford to wait in the hopes that he falls.
Hall excels in zone coverage and in the run game. He’s athletic and aggressive, but most notably, he’s an infectious leader who became the heart and soul of Virginia’s defense. He’s very similar to Jamal Adams in that way.
The issue is that Hall struggles in man coverage when it’s not press-coverage. Not because he doesn’t have the athletic ability, but because his technique isn’t there yet. He’s similar in a lot of ways from a technique and ability standpoint to the Arizona Cardinals’ second-round pick, Byron Murphy, except Hall’s better athletically.
Considering Gregg Williams prefers to play zone coverage, and loves corners who can blitz and make plays in the run game, Hall is a perfect fit. Even with his deficiencies, he’s the right guy for this team.
He can be a day one starter at number two cornerback and he should be a locker room leader. There will be growing pains but Hall could be long-term piece Jets.
Round 3 (New York Giants pick), 68th overall – Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
Gang Green is lucky that Tyler Johnson fell this far. If he’s available in the third round come April, it’ll be because of his athletic ability.
Johnson isn’t a burner nor is his agility top-notch. He’s average or worse in most athletic tools, but that’s the only real downside to Johnson.
What does Johnson do well? He has exceptional hands, runs tremendous routes, and possesses insanely high IQ. In short, Johnson knows how to beat his man. For these reasons, he could develop into a prototypical middle-round receiver who finds his way into a second wide receiver or slot role.
Johnson mostly played slot for Minnesota, but he has the versatility to play outside and there isn’t a route he can’t run. He’s a lot like former Jets and Minnesota alum Eric Decker.
He could slot in as a starter Week 1 either outside or in the slot. Don’t expect Johnson to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, but he should be serviceable. That’s better than what the Jets had at that spot in 2019.
Round 3, 79th overall – Josh Uche, Edge, Michigan
The Jets have lacked speed off the edge for years. Josh Uche is the cure.
The Michigan product is far from perfect as an edge rusher. He lacks counter moves, his strength is weak, and he’s a poor run defender. That said, he’s one of the most athletic edge rushers in this class.
His speed and bend coming off the edge are special. It’s easy to see him finding a role as a situational pass rusher early on in his career. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially for a mid-third-round selection. Josh Allen and Brian Burns both played that role in 2019 after being first-round selections.
The only real concern here is that Uche is a one-trick pony the league will solve immediately. That’s where Gregg Williams’ brilliant defensive scheme comes into play.
Williams found a way to turn Jordan Jenkins into a guy on pace for nearly 10 sacks in 16 games in 2019 and helped Jamal Adams collect 6.5 sacks in 2019. He understands how to utilize his pass rushers.
Give him a player with the raw athleticism that Uche has and it could be special. That is if Uche is willing to put in the work. New York tried this in 2019 with Jachai Polite, but the work ethic and poor attitude led to him being cut before he ever played a game.
If Uche puts in the work and lets Gregg Williams coach him up, there’s a chance he could be a starting weakside edge rusher one day. In the meantime, he would provide much-needed speed of the edge for the defense.