The New York Jets have some positions of need currently on their roster that can cause concern heading into what is a massive year for the franchise. With the first wave of free agency now in the books, the most ideal route for the Jets to add players that can be difference-makers is in the upcoming draft, particularly with the 13th overall selection the team has.
Despite having needs at various positions across the roster, the Jets could still look to fortify a strength and just take the best player on the board. Whether it be Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson, Breece Hall, or Elijah Moore, as a few recent examples, Joe Douglas has shown a willingness to spend premium draft capital on players at positions that were not necessarily major worries.
From their days working together with the Baltimore Ravens, Douglas has a relationship with one of the top NFL Draft scouts in the media, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network. Jeremiah just published his mock draft 3.0 and had the Jets making one very intriguing selection with their 13th overall pick.
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Daniel Jeremiah has the New York Jets taking EDGE Nolan Smith:
If there is one thing we know for sure about Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich, it is that they can never have enough pass rushers. With the way they rotate the defensive line, as much depth as possible is needed upfront. And in his mock draft, Jeremiah had the Jets adding Georgia edge defender, Nolan Smith. Jeremiah stated that Smith is “the most explosive edge rusher in the draft.”
Smith’s athletic ability and testing numbers at the Scouting Combine certainly would indicate just that. His speed is generational. Smith ran a 4.39 40-yard dash with a 1.47 10-yard split and 2.51 20-yard split (all three times in the 99th percentile). Not only his speed but Smith’s explosion was also special. He had a 41.5″ vertical jump (98th percentile) and a 128″ broad jump (95th percentile). Smith did not do any agility drills.
The reason for Smith’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) dropping to a 9.22 is because of his size. He is just over 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, with 32 5/8″ arm length and 9″ hands (all 17th percentile or lower).
From a production standpoint, Smith did break out the last two years. He gained quality experience in college, appearing in 38 games over four years (at least seven every year) played at Georgia. Smith recorded 2.5 sacks in both 2019 and 2020. He took a huge step in 2021, posting four sacks and eight tackles for loss. He recorded three sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2022 because he played in just eight games.
From a skill set perspective, Smith has all the athletic traits, a fast first-step get-off, quickness, lateral movement ability, and closing speed. As a pass rusher, he can turn the corner and get low, no surprise with his low-center gravity. He may not possess the size to be a power rusher or edge setter against the run, but Smith does play with exceptional toughness and active hands, which allow him to create power and defend the run.
This pick likely comes as a surprise. All along, it has been an offensive tackle that most Jets fans are expecting with the 13th overall pick. However, unfortunately, there is a worst-case scenario that could play out in which the top three tackles, Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., and Broderick Jones, are all off the board, leading to the Jets having to look elsewhere. Edge rushers are premium position players that the Jets could then turn to, especially with Carl Lawson not under contract for next year.
Smith is a young prospect who just turned 22 years old in January. His athletic ability gives him some immense upside on the edge. Should the top three offensive tackles be off the board and Jets draft Smith at 13, they would be adding another talented young defensive end to go along with Bryce Huff, Jermaine Johnson, and Micheal Clemons, giving Saleh and Ulbrich even more depth to work with.