Who could the Jets target with the No. 2 overall pick if they roll the dice and keep Sam Darnold for year four?
The offseason is just commencing, free agency has yet to begin, and the draft is months away. Heck, the new league year won’t even arrive for over a month.
So at this moment in time, it’s very much unclear who will be under center for the Jets in 2021. The team could send a significant haul to Houston for superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson or it may use its prestigious No. 2 overall draft pick to acquire the potential new face of the franchise.
But what if the Jets don’t implement either strategy? What if they roll the dice, bring Sam Darnold back for his fourth season, and bank on his development more than ever?
It would definitely be a risky move and one that would also come with a crucial decision:
In the event Darnold remains in Florham Park for 2021, the Jets keep their second overall pick, and they don’t seek a quarterback early in the draft, who could they acquire with that selection?
LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
Darnold staying in green means the Jets might need to utilize their notable draft ammo on offensive weapons to help build around him. As a young quarterback, he can’t do it all and will need the necessary assistance in order to develop on the field.
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase could provide that assistance in a notable way. The LSU Tiger is projected by many to be the top wideout taken and portrayed extreme talent during the national championship-winning 2019 campaign (84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 touchdowns).
He provides some size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, sports the athleticism to make the tough catches, and has the speed/elusiveness to be effective after the catch.
Grouping Chase with guys like Jamison Crowder, 2020 second-round pick Denzel Mims, and potentially Breshad Perriman (whose contract is expiring) would help offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur spread the field, a would-be benefit for Darnold.
An issue, however, is that the Jets may not be willing to take a wide receiver at No. 2. The same concept could arise for the next potential draft target.
Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner to Florham Park?
Just like Chase, Alabama wideout DeVonta Smith would provide Darnold with a consistent go-to passing-game target, something he’s needed for quite some time.
Smith carries the potential to change the overall tempo of the game with one play, and his speed allows him to be a threat from anywhere on the field. Few believe he’ll be drafted this high though and many project Chase to be taken before him. This is due to concerns regarding his size — Smith is just 175 pounds, which could make him prone to injury at the professional level.
Regardless, if the Jets keep the No. 2 selection and don’t draft a quarterback, Smith will certainly be of consideration by Joe Douglas and his staff. The bottom line is that Darnold needs help; he needs a highly productive weapon.
The Crimson Tide standout could fulfill those requirements.
Oregon OT Penei Sewell
Protection. Protection. Protection.
No matter the weapons the Jets employ (or don’t employ) on the offensive side of the ball, Darnold won’t be able to operate if he’s on the ground courtesy of opposing front sevens.
The Jets acquired their left tackle of the future in Mekhi Becton last year. Now might be the time to snag the other long-term bookend: Oregon tackle Penei Sewell.
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Sewell isn’t as large as Becton but could man the inferior tackle position. And given his talent and potential, the Jets would then own the flexibility to switch Sewell to Darnold’s blindside if Becton somehow struggles down the road.
Sewell’s on-field success is evident — he was the AP Pac-12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, and a unanimous All-American in 2019.
New York would then have the opportunity to still snag a receiver or running back (possibly Clemson’s Travis Etienne or Alabama’s Najee Harris) with its No. 23 overall pick.