Sam Darnold is out of Florham Park. We now know what the Jets will do at No. 2 overall. But what about at No. 23?
For months, we witnessed a back-and-forth debate in regard to who would be under center for the Jets next season. Many wanted the organization to undergo a full restart and draft a quarterback (likely BYU’s Zach Wilson) at No. 2 overall. Some believed the Jets could roll the dice with Sam Darnold and either draft an offensive tackle or receiver with the aforementioned selection, or even trade back.
But as of Monday, we finally know the route the team will be taking. The Jets decided to trade Darnold to the Panthers for a number of draft picks, opening the door for them to take Wilson at No. 2.
But they also own the No. 23 overall pick courtesy of the 2020 trade of Jamal Adams to Seattle. While some may wish for them to address a defensive unit that struggled mightily last year, the answer is clear: they must focus on the offensive side of the ball with that late first-round pick.
Yes, the Jets did improve the talent level among their group of offensive weapons this free agency period; general manager Joe Douglas ultimately opened the wallet for receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole as well as for running back Tevin Coleman.
But that’s not enough, because when you decide to employ a rookie quarterback who’s supposed to be the future of the franchise, the amount of offensive assistance garnered to eventually help that first-year player is never enough.
The Jets must further develop that side of the ball for Wilson, should they actually draft him. They’ve done a great job acquiring talent for their defense in free agency and could continue to add pieces in the mid-to-late rounds, so the offense needs to be the focal point on that first night of the draft.
Having said all that, which specific offensive position could they address?
Despite the fact he’ll be experiencing elements of Kyle Shanahan’s offense with Mike LaFleur as his coordinator, it’s unlikely former 49er and current Jet running back Tevin Coleman will be able to take on the role of an every-down back. He’s coming off an injury-plagued season in which he rushed for just 53 total yards through eight games.
It’s additionally unclear if pending second-year man La’Mical Perine is prepared to be the team’s No. 1 back after carrying the ball just 64 times through 10 games last year.
If the Jets truly wish to upgrade this position in order to take pressure off their new quarterback, they could opt to draft someone like Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne. Either carry first-round-caliber talent — it’s just unknown who will be available at No. 23.
While Harris sports a larger frame and is more of a workhorse back, Etienne carries a knack for the end zone and set the NCAA record for most career games with a touchdown (46). Acquiring Travis would prove beneficial for a Jets offense that finished last in scoring in 2020.
Another wide receiver? After the Jets signed multiple in free agency?
It’s possible — didn’t we just mention how you can’t have enough offensive help for your rookie quarterback?
Obviously at No. 23, the Jets would very likely be out of the running for any of the top three receivers in this draft — LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith.
Gang Green would be looking more towards a group that includes Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, and LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. Purdue’s Rondale Moore is more of a second-round talent, so we won’t include him in the conversation.
Toney would bring speed and elusiveness to the receiver room and be an alternative slot option alongside Keelan Cole. Marshall, on the other hand, would provide height to the receiving corps at 6-foot-3; so would Bateman at 6-foot-2.
Regardless, a group that includes one of the three aforementioned realistic draftees, Cole, Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Denzel Mims would be a tough unit to defend.
The Jets are set at the left tackle position after selecting Mekhi Becton in last year’s opening round. But what about that right tackle spot? George Fant is only getting older and has just two years remaining on his deal, a contract he may not even finish in Florham Park.
In order to draft the other bookend tackle after 2020’s superb acquisition of Becton, the Jets could target Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors this past season.
Could USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker drop to 23? ESPN’s Todd McShay has the 2020 first-team All-Pac-12 honoree going No. 16 to Miami in his latest mock draft (following a mock trade with Arizona), but it wouldn’t be an unheard-of scenario for him to fall to the Jets — crazier events have occurred.