You may be surprised to see who the ESPN NFL Draft analyst has the Jets taking at No. 4 overall…
The Jets are coming off another disappointing season — the 11th straight one that didn’t include a playoff berth.
Luckily, thanks to the 2020 trade of Jamal Adams to Seattle, New York owns two picks in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. The Jets could look to improve a defense that was 32nd in average yards allowed last year (397.6 per game) and/or locate another weapon for young quarterback Zach Wilson.
In the eyes of ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, what will Gang Green do?
4. Drake London, WR, USC
Kiper’s Take: “The Jets have had a nice start to free agency, filling voids at tight end (C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin), safety (Jordan Whitehead), cornerback (D.J. Reed) and guard (Laken Tomlinson). They haven’t yet added an outside wide receiver to help Zach Wilson, though, which means they could be eyeing one with either of their top-10 picks. They could get their choice of the best receiver in the class here, and really, if they want to take one, there’s no need to wait.
London, 6-foot-4 and my top-ranked wideout, had 88 catches for 1,084 yards in eight games in 2021 before a broken right ankle ended his season. He can be a weapon in the red zone. With London and Corey Davis on the outside and Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios working out of the slot, New York would have a young and talented receiving corps for Wilson’s second season.”
Our Take: I’m sorry…what?
I’m for the Jets drafting a wide receiver in the first round, but it needs to be with their latter opening-round pick if anything.
Drake London would be a great complement to Corey Davis/Elijah Moore and another talented target for hopeful franchise quarterback Zach Wilson. But he’s also a prospect that will likely be available when the Jets are on the board at No. 10.
With edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) and cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU) and Sauce Gardner (Cincinnati) still available at No. 4 in this mock, Joe Douglas would be beside himself to draft a receiver with such a prestigious pick.
10. Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Kiper’s Take: “I think the Jets would be thrilled to get a shutdown corner with their second Round 1 pick, improving a secondary that allowed quarterbacks to put up a 53.5 QBR last season, which ranked 31st in the league. Signing D.J. Reed will help, but I still see cornerback as a need. They also need a safety, but I don’t have another one with a first-round grade after Kyle Hamilton.
Gardner is a shutdown corner with outstanding tools. He showed in the College Football Playoff against Alabama that he can hold his own against elite talent. I’m a huge fan.”
Our Take: I don’t think Sauce Gardner is going to be available at No. 10 overall, realistically.
But if he is, Douglas better pull that damn trigger.
Gardner, to many, is the best cornerback in the draft, and the Jets need a day-one starter at this position after allowing 259.4 passing yards per game last year (30th in the league). Sauce would instantly start on this defense alongside free-agent pickups D.J. Reed (cornerback, Seahawks) and Jordan Whitehead (safety, Buccaneers).
If Douglas was to really make a mistake at No. 4 and select Drake London, he could make up for it (at least partially) by addressing the defensive backfield at No. 10.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY