Week 8 of the NFL Season has passed, and with the trade deadline looming, the NFL regular season has reached its mid-way point. At around this point, it is a good time to start evaluating the prospects that the New York Jets have taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. Especially when considering the present and the future, it is important to take a look at the progress of each player.
Grading Scale For Jets’ Rookie Class
Now, keep in mind, that if I grade any selection as a HACKENBERG, that means the grade is an F. This is a tribute to one of the worst draft choices in New York Jets history, as they drafted Christian Hackenberg, who is arguably the worst draft choice in New York Jets history.
If a pick is labeled as N/A, that means the pick is not available, and I won’t be giving a grade to the player.
So, let’s get into the grades…
1st Round, 15th Pick – DE/EDGE Will McDonald, Iowa State
This pick was a perplexing move for the Jets to make then, and even today, this pick makes no sense at all. Why did this team take a DE/EDGE Rusher when the Jets had plenty of players at that position already? There were much more pressing needs for the Jets, yet they used a first-round pick on a depth piece. In fact, when scouting Will McDonald, I had labeled him as a third-round prospect in this draft as well, so the New York Jets really reached with this pick.
So far, McDonald has done very little, mainly playing on special teams. In fact, in some games, he has been a healthy scratch. However, I am not completely giving up on McDonald, as he could be a slow learner and might get more playing time once Carl Lawson is traded or cut from the team. It looks like Lawson is on the outs with the Jets. Despite this, I have to give the HACKENBERG grade here, I’m sorry.
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2nd Round, 43rd Pick – OG/C Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
Easily the best prospect from the class this season. When healthy, Joe Tippmann has been a strong contributor to the Jets’ offensive line. His strength as a run blocker can’t be denied, and he has opened up holes for Breece Hall to take advantage of. Tippmann even is seen pancaking defenders and has been a great pass blocker for the Jets. It is perplexing that Tippmann was not the Week 1 starter to begin with.
The thing that sucks is that Tippmann suffered a quad injury and is going to be out for a bit of time. When healthy, though, Tippman was performing at a high value. I am going to grade this an A-. The A is for the player, but the – is for the injury setback.
4th Round, 120th Pick – OT Carter Warren, Pittsburgh
Carter Warren has been injured for most of the season as he was recovering from a torn meniscus and also picked up a shoulder injury. Warren was activated on IR, and he has mainly been a backup for the Jets.
It is likely, with the many injuries the Jets’ o-line picked up, that he will play in the second half of the season. As of now, I just don’t think it is fair to grade him yet. Check back at the end of the season.
Round 5, 143 Pick – RB Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh
Isreal Abanikanda showed some flashes in the preseason, but he suffered a quad injury that has kept him out of multiple games. Even when healthy, Abanikanda has been on the inactive list for almost every game, which is a head-scratcher, especially considering how Dalvin Cook has declined, and Michael Carter has been inconsistent. It’s puzzling why the Jets haven’t given Abanikanda an opportunity to play, as he showed promise in the preseason. As of now, I’ll have to give Abanikanda an N/A grade.
Round 6, Pick 184 – LB Zaire Barnes, Western Michigan
Zaire Barnes has been a notable name on the inactive list and he has not played a game for the team. This felt like a depth selection when the pick was made and unless injuries occur, it would not shock me if Barnes remains on the inactive list. This pick for now is going to remain an N/A for the time being.
Round 6, Pick 204 – CB/S Jarrick Bernard-Converse, LSU
I can’t give a grade yet to Jarrick Bernard-Converse. He has mainly been injured the entire season with a foot injury. As of recent news, Bernard-Converse has been activated and will be playing with the Jets soon.
Round 7, Pick 220, TE Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
This one will be brief. The Jets already had C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, and Jeremy Ruckert on the roster, so Zack Kuntz was a long shot to make the roster and he did not. While Kuntz did not make the active roster, he is currently on the New York Jets’ practice squad. If one of the Jets’ Tight ends is out long-term, Kuntz will likely get called up. Kuntz still has a promise, but because he did not make the roster, I have to give the HACKENBERG grade here. Hopefully, things change in a few years looking back on it.
2023 NFL Draft Grade: C-
Overall, there is still a lot of uncertainty with this class. Most of the prospects taken have either not played or have been injured. The only solid draft selection the Jets made in this class so far is Joe Tippmann.
The Jets did get a gem, though, as they managed to sign Xavier Gipson as an undrafted free agent, and he has been pretty solid on the Jets’ special teams.
Besides that, the Jets’ draft class has been a disappointment. Hopefully, the Jets’ 2023 draft class will finish the season strong and develop for the future of this team. As of now, I have to give the grade of this class a C-.