Finally, the 2023 NFL draft is just a day away. For the New York Jets, with Aaron Rodgers now officially a part of the team, all the focus immediately turns to what is a pivotal draft for the franchise.
With the addition of Rodgers, instantly, the Jets enter the Super Bowl conversation. That is in large part thanks to the strong draft class put together by Joe Douglas a year ago. A foundation is long, at last, in place for the Jets, and they need to add the finishing touches over the next few days.
In this year’s draft, the Jets are currently set to make five picks. Following the Rodgers trade, the Jets’ first-round pick is now 15th overall. From there, they will make one pick on day two of the draft in the second round (43rd overall). On day three, the Jets have three picks. The first comes early in the fourth round (112th overall). The final two are in the fifth round (143rd overall and 170th overall).
Coming off their first two drafts together, both of which included some terrific additions, let’s take a look at how the third draft for Douglas and Robert Saleh could go.
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- 2023 New York Jets Mock Draft
2023 New York Jets Mock Draft:
Round 1, Pick 15: Broderick Jones, OT
It is no secret that entering the draft, the Jets need an offensive tackle as much as anything on their roster. Especially with Rodgers now in the fold, the Jets must do everything they can to make sure that they keep him upright throughout the season. Adding Broderick Jones would not only be wise but very exciting.
Jones is a young 21-year-old prospect who will turn 22 in the middle of May. He spent all three of his college years at Georgia. While there, he was just a one-year starter, and per PFF, Jones accumulated only 1,392 snaps (appeared in 28 total games).
Physically, Jones is gifted. During the pre-draft process, he measured at 6-foot-5 and 3/8″, 311 pounds, with 34 3/4″ arm length and 10 5/8″ hands. These measurables give Jones an 82 3/4″ wingspan. His length places him in the 74th percentile for offensive tackles, and his hand size even greater in the 87th percentile.
Not only is Jones gifted with size, but tremendous athletic ability as well. He ran a ridiculous 4.97 40-yard dash (93rd percentile). Jones also did well in the explosion drills with a 108″ broad jump (76th percentile) and a 30″ vertical jump (73rd percentile). All in all, Jones recorded a 9.58 RAS (Relative Athletic Score).
Beyond the traits, Jones posted some great production in his one year as a starter. Over 930 snaps last season, he did not allow a sack. Jones only gave up two quarterback hits and seven hurries.
After studying two of his games on tape from 2022 (Georgia Tech and Oregon), the arm length and athletic ability of Jones clearly stood out. Those two traits are the main reason why Jones has a chance to be a successful offensive tackle.
However, beyond the physical gifts, there are some technical aspects that Jones will have to work on. As noted in the tweet shared above, his hand placement is arguably his top concern. Jones routinely landed his hands wide in the two games reviewed. Also, his timing striking his hands will have to pick up in the NFL.
In the running game, Jones did showcase power at the point of contact as well as strength to finish blocks. He is explosive out of his stance and has effortless fluidity operating laterally.
In the end, Jones has the talent and upside with more reps to grow into the starting offensive tackle the Jets need. He addresses a clear-cut top need for the Jets here and would make for a thrilling addition with the 15th pick.
Round 2, Pick 43: Tuli Tuipulotu, DL
Right there with an offensive tackle in terms of needs for the Jets going into this draft is defensive tackle. Here, they fill that concern with Tuli Tuipulotu.
Tuipulotu is a very young prospect who will turn 21 in September. His entire three-year college career was spent at USC, where he played in 32 games. He posted some quality totals, finishing his three years with 21 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. Tuipulotu broke out in 2022 with 13.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
When it comes to his frame, Tuipulotu is listed at 6-foot-3 and 1/4″, 266 pounds, with 32 1/4″ arm length and 10 1/8″ hands. Relative to the defensive tackle position, his hand size puts him in the 63rd percentile. Lastly, in terms of his size, with Tuipulotu likely playing inside in the NFL, he is listed at 290 pounds on USC’s website. Obviously, a much more prototypical weight for him to play at defensive tackle.
There is a lot to like about Tuipulotu. For a young player, he shows some advanced ability in nuanced aspects of the game, like his consistent pass-rush plan and variety of moves in his arsenal.
Tuipulotu is fast with his first step, making him a perfect in Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s attacking front. From there, he can convert speed to power. Tuipulotu possesses good strength to ultimately disengage. But not only that, in the game I studied on film against UCLA, Tuipulotu showed many different pass rush moves, whether it be a dip to a rip, a club, spin, swipe, and an arm over.
Positional flexibility is another component that Tuipulotu provides as a luxury. He would offer the Jets the ability to play all across the defensive front. But, with his shorter 32 1/4″ arms, Tuipulotu is best suited to play inside predominately.
All in all, Tuipulotu offers a combination of youth yet a developed pass rush plan and an array of moves. He is coming off a big breakout year with more room to grow. Tuipulotu would be an exciting addition for the Jets in the second round to bolster their defensive tackle position.
Round 4, Pick 112: Christopher Smith, S
The final piece that the Jets’ elite secondary could use is a free safety with some range, man coverage skills, and the ability to take the ball away. Christopher Smith could give them just that.
Smith will turn 23 years old on May 1st. He spent all five of his years in college at Georgia, where he won two National Championships. Smith gained a ton of experience in college, playing in 58 games.
In terms of his size, Smith is listed at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, with 31 1/8″ arm length and 9 5/8″ hands (72nd percentile).
Throughout the pre-draft process, his athletic testing did disappoint. He recorded a low 2.93 RAS with poor explosion and agility drill scores. Smith ran a relatively slow 40 (4.62). He did, however, record a respectable 10-yard split time of 1.56.
After studying four of his 2022 games on tape (Oregon, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio State), Smith did prove to have good processing ability. Instinctually, he can read and react to what is happening in front of him fast. From there, he consistently took good pursuit angles. Smith routinely showed his physicality as a finisher tackling.
As noted earlier, what the Jets’ incredible secondary needs is a ball-hawking free safety. At Georgia, Smith showed the ability to cover ground as a single-high safety. His knack for taking the ball away was proven by recording three interceptions in both 2021 and 2022. Also, what he offers, as a former cornerback, is the ability to play in man-to-man coverage against tight ends and, if needed, slot receivers.
Smith fits what Douglas and Saleh want to add in terms of experience playing in and winning big games. His skillset also happens to match what the Jets need at safety. He would make for a solid addition at this point in the draft.
Round 5, Pick 143: Juice Scruggs, iOL
Back to the offensive line, where we know Joe Douglas is always looking to add. The Jets could use one more interior backup to solidify the entire line and select Juice Scruggs here.
Scruggs turned 23 years old in January. All five of his college years were spent at Penn State. While there, Scruggs played in 32 games, all of which came in the last three years. Over the past three seasons, he gained reps at all three interior positions. In 2022, Scruggs played exclusively at center.
He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 3/4″, 301 pounds, with great length (33 1/4″, 75th percentile relative to center) and hand size (10 1/4″, 82nd percentile).
His RAS score of 7.96 was solid. The best score that Scruggs recorded was his 32″ vertical jump, which proved some of his explosiveness. Scruggs ran fine, posting a 1.79 10-yard split (52nd percentile) and a 5.22 40-yard dash (57th percentile).
From a talent standpoint, with his length and hand size, Scruggs plays with good power and strength. He makes his power presence felt in the running game. In pass protection, Scruggs has the required strength to anchor. He is sound technically with his pad level and hand placement. His versatility to play anywhere along the interior is a huge added bonus.
With Connor McGovern recently re-signed, the Jets do not need an immediate starter at center. But, with McGovern and Laken Tomlinson both older and with unknown futures beyond 2023, it would be wise for the Jets to look to develop someone like Scruggs this year.
Round 5, Pick 170: Lonnie Phelps, EDGE
The Jets wrap this one up with yet another pick going to the trenches. This time, Saleh and Ulbrich get an enticing pass-rush specialist in Lonnie Phelps.
Phelps spent his first three years of college at Miami of, Ohio before he joined Kansas last season. Over his four years in college, Phelps played in 42 games. He tallied 23 total sacks, with 9.5 in 2021 and seven in 2022.
Physically, Phelps has a small frame across the board, listed at 6-foot-2 and 1/8″, 244 pounds, with 32 3/8″ arms and 9 1/4″ hands. He did post an impressive 31 bench reps though (92nd percentile).
Athletically, Phelps did very well during the pre-draft testing process, recording an 8.45 RAS. His speed was his noteworthy trait. Phelps ran a 1.57 10-yard split, a 2.65 20-yard split, and a 4.55 40-yard dash, all blazing times.
As a pass rusher, Phelps has bend turning the corner, which with his low build to the ground, speed, and athleticism, makes him an intriguing prospect. We know that Saleh and Ulbrich can never have enough pass rushers. Defensive end is not a need for the Jets, but they love to rotate and could use one more player for depth purposes.