The No. 23 overall selection in the upcoming draft will be another critical opportunity for the Jets to build ahead of the new season.
We’re potentially months away from witnessing the Jets acquire a new quarterback in Zach Wilson. While it’s not confirmed New York will select the BYU standout at No. 2 overall nor will actually keep that draft pick, there’s a decent chance Wilson finds himself moving to Florham Park, which means Sam Darnold would depart the organization that acquired him in 2018.
In a trade scenario, Darnold could potentially go for a late first-rounder, but that occurrence isn’t exactly confirmed either. There’s a possibility he doesn’t.
So in the event the Jets acquire Wilson at No. 2 and then end up just possessing the No. 23 overall selection they already own due to the Jamal Adams trade, which side of the ball could the team target with the latter draft choice?
There are arguments for both ends.
The case for an offensive player
Simply speaking, Zach Wilson will require the necessary amount of time to develop in the NFL, just like all rookie quarterbacks do. A reliable and talented offensive skill player could help speed up said development — a significant reason why the Jets could ultimately look to acquire one with the 23rd pick.
You also need to take into account the Jets’ overall offensive success last season (or lack thereof). New York finished last in both total offense and scoring, 31st in passing, and 23rd in rushing.
Having said that, the Jets might pounce on the opportunity to utilize both opening-round selections to build towards a better offensive product.
Talent wins games. Right now, the Jets offense doesn’t possess an abundance of that quality but could work on changing that narrative on the night of Thursday, April 29 (the commencement of the draft).
Potential targets include Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Clemson running back Travis Etienne, and Alabama running back Najee Harris.
The case for a defensive player
New head coach Robert Saleh will want to improve a defense that additionally struggled last season and may utilize the latter first-round pick to do so. Gang Green’s unit was 24th in total defense, 26th in scoring, and 28th in passing defense.
There are also multiple voids that could arise on that side of the ball. Amid a number of expiring contracts, both the cornerback and outside linebacker spots might require new bodies. It’s unclear if corners Brian Poole and Arthur Maulet or outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham will be returning in 2021.
Both these position groups simply need major assistance as well. The Jets allowed 275.6 passing yards per game last season and notched just 31 sacks (tied for 20th in the NFL).
The past struggles on the defensive end could lead to the Jets desiring someone like Jaycee Horn (South Carolina cornerback) or Gregory Rousseau (Miami edge rusher), should either one be available when the Jets are on the clock.
The ultimate decision in late April
It’s understandable to say the Jets should focus on their defensive unit when their latter first-round selection comes along, given the prior struggles and potential contract-related voids.
But in this hypothetical scenario, with the Jets acquiring a new quarterback early in the draft, the team must build around him. The Jets will need to find a weapon that can consistently step up on the field, speed up Wilson’s development, and enhance the talent level of the offensive unit. Simple as that.
A wide receiver or running back is likely the way to go at No. 23.