The Jets are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history. New York started the season 0-13 and occupied dead last in almost every offensive category. By that time, much of Jets nation was content with losing if it meant receiving the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft and selecting Trevor Lawrence. But then the Jets won two in a row — against two playoff teams, no less — and ended up with the No. 2 overall pick.
With the Jaguars all but a lock to take Lawrence at No. 1, it’s been said for months now that “the 2021 draft starts at pick No. 2.” So what exactly can we expect out of Gang Green’ come April?
Some quick history: The following are the Jets’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks:
- 2020: Mekhi Becton (T)
- 2019: Quinnen Williams (DT)
- 2018: Sam Darnold (QB)
- 2017: Jamal Adams (DB)
- 2016: Darron Lee (LB)
Joe Douglas’ first draft class was promising. Becton has the potential to be an All-Pro if he can stay healthy. Denzel Mims looked to be a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver. With the amount of draft capital New York has not only in this draft but in 2022 as well, the roster could be completely turned over. Hitting on a few players at key positions could completely turn this team around. The No. 2 pick this year is the first of two first-round picks they have. The Jets will also pick at No. 23, the pick they receive as part of the compensation from Seattle for Jamal Adams.
The Jets have already released DL Henry Anderson in a cap-saving move. The following are other players who could possibly be traded or being cut due to their 2021 cap hit (age in parentheses):
- Jamison Crowder (27)
- George Fant (28)
- Alex Lewis (28)
- Greg Van Roten (31)
- Ryan Griffin (31)
According to Overthecap, the Jets had just under $68 million in cap space for the 2021 season before releasing Anderson.
With their two first-round picks, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for New York to trade back and scavenge more draft picks, while also still getting someone they really like a little later in the first round. Not factoring in trades, listed below are two players the Jets should target at pick No. 2 and pick No. 23:
Pick No. 2
Possibility #1: BYU QB Zach Wilson
2020 stats: 12 games, 73.5 completion rate, 3,692 yards, 33 TDs, 3 INTs, 11.0 Y/A, 70 rushes, 254 yards, 10 TDs
Why: It is unclear whether or not the Jets are ready to move on from Sam Darnold, given the inconsistencies that have surrounded him over the course of his young career. Drafting someone to be your franchise guy, only to move on from him after three seasons isn’t exactly ideal. Whatever their opinions of Darnold, drafting Wilson would be a smart move for the future.
Wilson is what you want in a starting quarterback. He elevates the level of play of every player around him. Wilson understands defensive pressures and gets the ball out quick. For an offensive line that will still be getting pieced together in New York, having a quarterback that can read and work through defensive pressures is invaluable. Wilson is a complete athlete and will be ready to step into a starting role immediately upon entering the league.
Possibility #2: Oregon OT Penei Sewell Career: 20 starts, allowed 1 sack over 1,376 snaps; 2020 Opt Out
Why: New York has to do a better job protecting up front, regardless of the quarterback under center. The Super Bowl proved that regardless of the amount of firepower possessed on offense, the quarterback needs time to find these weapons. This is especially true of young quarterbacks. The combination of Becton and Sewell up front, might be too sweet of an opportunity for New York to pass up.
Sewell will be just 20 years of age when he presumably takes his first NFL snap. To be that young and this highly regarded is something extremely rare, especially at the tackle position, where experience is key. He possesses extreme athleticism and quickness for a man his size. He will step in on day one and have an impact along the offensive line unit for seasons to come.
Pick No. 23
Possibility #1: Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
2020 stat line: 10 games, 31 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 2 PDs, 1 FR, 4FF
Career: 23 games, 39 solo tackles, 68 total tackles, 18.5 TFLs, 15 sacks, 2 PDs, 1 FR, 5 FF
Why: The Jets have lacked an imposing pass rush for years. They finished 21st in the league with 31 sacks in 2020. With Robert Saleh coming in as head coach, the Jets will be incorporating his 4-3 defense. They will be in need of a 9-technique — someone who can use speed to get to the quarterback.
Enter Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari has been climbing draft boards as more and more scouts dive into his tape. He wins with leverage, flexibility, pass rush polish and speed. Ojulari could step in for the Jets and be a valued member of the defensive line rotation in a year, playing on all three downs. With more experience under his belt, Ojulari will continue to develop his pass rush moves and counters. Although he may be relatively undersized (lean) for an EDGE rusher, he certainly does not play like it.
Possibility #2: USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
2020 stat line: 6 games, 41 receptions, 478 yards, 11.7 YPC, 7 TDs
Career: 30 games, 178 receptions, 2,270 yards, 12.6 YPC, 16 TDs
Why: While many blamed Darnold for the Jets’ lack of offense last year, the receiving corps should share a good deal of the blame. The group battled injuries all season and never showed enough consistency as a unit. With Crowder as a likely cut candidate and Breshad Perriman hitting the free-agent market, New York is going to need to build out its weaponry, regardless of who is at quarterback.
Amon-Ra St. Brown could very well become what they believed they were getting when signing Perriman. His speed and explosiveness don’t jump off the page, but he is one of the better route runners in this class of receivers. St. Brown fights to get open on every play, and is a handful to contain off the line of scrimmage. At 6-1, 195 pounds, he certainly has room to grow; but his smaller stature hasn’t been a problem in terms of coming down with contested catches. St. Brown would be steady and dependable in a starting role for New York.
SEE ALSO: On the Clock archive