2021 nfl draft jets mock

Which positions of need should the New York Jets focus on and who could they target with the 2021 NFL Draft approaching?

Ryan Honey

Following a two-win 2020 season, general manager Joe Douglas is on a mission to improve the New York Jets roster.

He did a phenomenal job during the free agency period with the acquisitions of wide receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole along with defensive end Carl Lawson. But, as the late, great Kobe Bryant famously uttered, “job’s not finished.” There’s still much work to do to construct a team that’s capable of notching victories in Florham Park.

Luckily, the Jets own 10 draft picks this year and could solve a number of issues.

The quarterback position will most certainly be the top spot to focus on following the trade of Sam Darnold to Carolina. But what other needs will the Jets address? And who could they target to fill those positional voids?

Look no further: ESNY has the answers.

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Quarterback

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 1 (No. 2)
  • 6 (No. 226)

Potential Targets (First Round)

Potential Targets (Sixth Round)

  • Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello
  • Notre Dame’s Ian Book
  • Texas’ Sam Ehlinger

Analysis

It’s pretty much set BYU quarterback Zach Wilson will be the No. 2 overall selection and the new signal-caller for New York. The draft is always full of surprises, sure, but the Jets not taking Wilson with the second pick would be a legitimate shock.

But could the Jets also target a quarterback in the sixth round purely for depth purposes?

It’s possible, and there are actually numerous guys who were talented at the collegiate level who could drop to that period of the annual event.

Notre Dame’s Ian Book earned third-team All-ACC honors this past season while Texas’ Sam Ehlinger was a second-team All-Big 12 selection.

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Wide Receiver

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 1 (No. 23)
  • 2 (No. 34)
  • 5 (No. 146 or 154)

Potential Targets (First Round)

Potential Targets (Second Round)

  • Purdue’s Rondale Moore
  • USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown

Potential Targets (Fifth Round)

Analysis

Following the very likely selection of Wilson at No. 2, the Jets could continue to build his slate of weapons with the acquisition of a receiver at No. 23 overall in the first round. Any of the aforementioned first-round targets, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, and Keelan Cole would make for a tough receiving unit to gameplan against.

One or two of the above first-round targets could also drop to the second round, so the Jets may still be able to snag one of them at No. 34.

Or, if Joe Douglas wishes to wait until later in the draft, he could pick someone like Florida’s Trevon Grimes, who may carry significant upside (the young wideout is 6-foot-4 and could be a goal-line threat).

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Edge Rusher

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 1 (No. 23)
  • 2 (No. 34)

Potential Targets (First Round)

Potential Targets (Second Round)

  • Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr.

Analysis

Expect the Jets to draft an edge rusher to complement Carl Lawson in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 scheme — if they don’t target one at No. 23, they should at No. 34 in the second round.

The early portion of this draft will be filled with talented edge rushers, such as the pair of Miami Hurricanes listed above. There’s a chance each of the aforementioned first-round targets may be available at No. 23 and there’s also the possibility a few of them drop to the second round; the Jets may be able to acquire Jayson Oweh out of Penn State or Ronnie Perkins out of Oklahoma at No. 34.

Carlos Basham Jr. is extremely talented and would fit well in Saleh’s scheme, but he may not be a first-round-caliber talent like the others, which is why he’s listed in the second round category.

Basham underwent a great career at Wake Forest, earning first-team and third-team All-ACC honors in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

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Running Back

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 1 (No. 23)
  • 3 (No. 86)
  • 5 (No. 146 or 154)

Potential Targets (First Round)

Potential Targets (Third Round)

  • UCLA’s Demetric Felton
  • North Carolina’s Michael Carter

Potential Targets (Fifth Round)

  • Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson
  • Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard

Analysis

Free-agent pickup Tevin Coleman isn’t exactly an every-down back.

Whether La’Mical Perine is ready to take on that type of role is unclear at this moment in time — one might say he isn’t.

If the Jets wish to upgrade the running back position and want a legitimate No. 1 back, they could target — in the first round — either Alabama’s Najee Harris or Clemson’s Travis Etienne. Both are versatile backs with knacks for the end zone, which would be great for a Jets team that finished last in scoring in 2020.

Alternatively, the Jets could just elect to add depth to the position group and utilize a running back committee. This would lead to them potentially utilizing a third- or fifth-round pick on someone who carries notable upside.

Some believe Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard could drop to the seventh round, but targeting him in the fifth may not be so much of a reach. Despite a down year in 2020, the talented back rushed for over 2,000 yards with 21 touchdowns in a 13-game 2019 season and could additionally be used as a return specialist.

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Defensive Back

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 2 (No. 34)
  • 3 (No. 66 or 86)
  • 4 (No. 107)
  • 6 (No. 186)

Potential Targets (Second Round)

  • Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II
  • Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr.
  • Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu

Potential Targets (Third Round)

  • Michigan’s Ambry Thomas

Potential Targets (Fourth Round)

  • South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu

Potential Targets (Sixth Round)

  • Oklahoma State’s Rodarius Williams
  • LSU’s Kary Vincent Jr.

Analysis

It’s unconfirmed if Bryce Hall or Bless Austin is primed to be a long-term answer at the cornerback position. The Jets, therefore, may need to address this spot and acquire a depth piece that could become a starter some time down the road.

If they do so, expect the pick to possibly be early in the second round.

Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II was one of the top corners in the Big Ten this past season (first-team selection) while Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse was third-team All-ACC.

The Jets targeting a defensive back in the fourth or sixth rounds would strictly be for depth and situational purposes. Kary Vincent Jr. is an attractive prospect in the sense that he brings a level of versatility to the field — he carries the ability to perform as both a cornerback and safety.

Vincent recorded 47 combined tackles, four picks, and eight pass breakups for LSU in 2019.

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Offensive Tackle

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 2 (No. 34)
  • 3 (No. 66 or 86)
  • 4 (No. 107)

Potential Targets (Second Round)

  • Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield
  • Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg

Potential Targets (Third Round)

  • Cincinnati’s James Hudson
  • Stanford’s Walker Little
  • Clemson’s Jackson Carman

Potential Targets (Fourth Round)

  • BYU’s Brady Christensen

Analysis

Mekhi Becton is a star in the making at left tackle and is expected to continue developing at that spot during his second NFL season in 2021. The right tackle’s long-term status, however, is foggy. George Fant has just two years remaining on his current three-year contract.

If the Jets wish to put their bookend tackles in place sooner than later, they could target the aforementioned Jalen Mayfield or Liam Eichenberg, the latter of whom was a consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC selection for Notre Dame in 2020.

Targeting one of the above third- or fourth-round targets would lead to the Jets employing them as a reserve swing tackle, at least initially.

An interesting choice for this position group would be Brady Christensen out of BYU. Christensen was Zach Wilson’s left tackle and could be deemed a “steal” in this draft, given his talent and success at the collegiate level.

Christensen was a first-team All-American and the highest-graded offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus in 2020.

He also allowed a .8% quarterback pressure rate this past season, the lowest mark from an offensive tackle since the 2014 campaign, per PFF.

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Inside Linebacker

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 3 (No. 86)
  • 4 (No. 107)
  • 5 (No. 146 or 154)

Potential Targets (Third Round)

  • Missouri’s Nick Bolton
  • Alabama’s Dylan Moses

Potential Targets (Fourth Round)

  • Boston College’s Isaiah McDuffie
  • Ohio State’s Pete Werner
  • TCU’s Garret Wallow

Potential Targets (Fifth Round)

  • Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher
  • Ohio State’s Justin Hilliard

Analysis

Will C.J. Mosley be reliable after opting out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19 concerns?

Is Jarrad Davis going to consistently produce after inking a one-year deal with New York this offseason?

The Jets may need linebacking depth but may not target the position group with any of their first- or second-round selections due to the need for offensive weapons and edge rusher help.

Nick Bolton was a tackling machine with Missouri and recorded 103 and 95 total tackles respectively in 2019 and 2020. Isaiah McDuffie was the same type of player and notched 107 combined tackles with Boston College last year.

If the Jets wish to wait until the fifth round to snag a depth piece, a legitimate target could be Paddy Fisher, who underwent an impressive collegiate career at Northwestern and experienced a pair of seasons in which he racked up over 100 total tackles.

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Tight End

Potential Rounds and Picks

  • 3 (No. 86)
  • 6 (No. 226)

Potential Targets (Third Round)

  • Boston College’s Hunter Long
  • Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble

Potential Targets (Sixth Round)

  • Michigan’s Nick Eubanks
  • Bowling Green’s Quintin Morris
  • Central Missouri’s Zach Davidson

Analysis

Building the slate of offensive weapons in order to assist in the development of Zach Wilson should be one of the organization’s top goals — landing a tight end in the third round to produce alongside Chris Herndon or in the sixth to be a depth piece would help fulfill that objective.

Hunter Long proved to be a highly talented pass-catcher for Boston College last year (57 receptions, 685 yards, five touchdowns) en route to earning a first-team All-ACC honor.

While Michigan’s Nick Eubanks’ 2020 numbers weren’t eye-popping (10 catches, 117 yards, one touchdown in five games), his experience going up against Big Ten talent with pro-level potential could help his case in this draft.