ikem ekwonu
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Who could the Jets select with their pair of opening-round picks?

The 2022 season needs to see wins at Florham Park.

We knew the 2021 campaign wasn’t going to introduce overwhelming success for the Jets. The team gave the keys to a rookie head coach in Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson, along with a number of other new faces.

Last season was all about development and the start of something new — but legitimate results must arrive this coming year.

General manager Joe Douglas will have crucial decisions to make in the 2022 NFL Draft in order to accomplish this monstrous goal. Luckily, he has two early first-round picks at No. 4 and 10 overall.

Who does Todd McShay have the Jets selecting with these picks in his latest ESPN mock draft?

4. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

McShay’s Take: “Ekwonu’s size makes him tough to get around, he plays with the power to bury defenders, and he’s a mauler in the run game. In fact, some people around the NFL even like him more than Evan Neal. Ekwonu would help New York protect Zach Wilson in the passing game and spring Michael Carter in the running game. The Jets allowed 53 sacks in 2021 (fourth most), but New York’s offensive line issues aren’t as massive as they seem. I think the team is one impact player away there. Morgan Moses played well last season, but he’s a free agent due for a pay bump. Mekhi Becton, the Jets’ 2020 first-rounder, has struggled to stay healthy but still has a ton of upside.

“Given some unknowns here, Ekwonu’s versatility matches what the Jets need. Coach Robert Saleh would have options with Ekwonu in the fold, including but not limited to bumping the rookie inside or sliding Becton to the right side. Alternatively, the Jets could consider Kayvon Thibodeaux to address the edge rush after generating just 33 sacks last year (tied for 28th).” 

Our Take: I wouldn’t be totally on board with this pick (even if the Jets were to move him inside, because it wouldn’t be reasonable to spend a No. 4 overall pick on an eventual interior lineman).

I like Ikem Ekwonu and think he’ll shoot up the draft boards in the coming months, but the Jets shouldn’t be utilizing such a precious resource on a position that’s not entirely of need.

Gang Green already employs its two starting tackles for 2022 in veteran George Fant (who underwent a strong 2021 season) and Mekhi Becton (who the team drafted in 2020’s first round).

There will likely be a competition for the left tackle spot, with the loser of that position battle heading to the right side.

No need for Ekwonu in Florham Park, even if Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is off the board before No. 4 (which is the case in McShay’s mock).

10. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

McShay’s Take: “The Jets went offense with their first four picks in 2021, and we just handed them an offensive tackle (Ikem Ekwonu) at No. 4. So yeah, this is defense all the way, especially with safety Marcus Maye facing free agency. The Jets could certainly get by with Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols at corner, but Stingley could be the steal of the draft if things go this way. The big question is whether the LSU product can return to form and produce as he did in his 2019 freshman year, when he had six interceptions. A left foot injury held him out of all but three games in 2021, but if he realizes his potential, Stingley would certainly improve a defense that gave up 8.0 yards per pass attempt and hauled in just seven interceptions in 2021.”

Our Take: One could argue the Jets should use the tenth pick on a wide receiver, and it would certainly be reasonable to do so.

But I wouldn’t mind them improving the back end of the defense here.

New York’s secondary was horrendous last year and finished 30th in the NFL with 259.4 passing yards allowed per game. Needless to say, the Jets need plenty of assistance in this area of the field, which would make Derek Stingley Jr.’s potential selection very appropriate.

Also, depth in the defensive backfield is extremely important — it would be logical to add Stingley to the mix alongside Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, and Bryce Hall.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.