New York Jets: Offensive mid-major prospects (beyond Zach Wilson)

New York Jets

The New York Jets could use all the help they can get at the NFL Draft and should thus leave no stone unturned.

When you’re coming off a two-win season in the latest addition to a playoff drought that’s getting old enough to see a PG-13 movie on it’s own, you probably can use all the help you can get.

The New York Jets, fresh off a brutal season even by their own star-crossed standards, should thus leave no proverbial stone unturned as the NFL Draft commences on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Sure, talent from the “Power Five” conferences (and Notre Dame) rules the draft boards across the league, but prospects from the unsung mid-major conferences and schools deserve their fair share, especially with their seasons shortened or outright cancelled.

Jets fans have certainly had their share of this phenomenon, as many believe that Zach Wilson from independent BYU will hear his name called after Trevor Lawrence. But a plethora of mid-major talent resides beyond Provo and the Jets aren’t in a position to turn down assistance from any source.

ESM has six names to keep an eye on as the walk to the commissioner’s podium nears…

T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

The Jets apparently have the new quarterback’s blind side taken care of in the form of Mekhi Becton. But the right side is a bit less certain with George Fant and Chuma Edoga the current names on the depth chart. Brown didn’t partake in UNI’s shortened season (which ended earlier this month) but put the lost time to good use: he’s been working out and training under the guidance of former San Francisco mainstay Joe Staley.

Brown’s draft stock, perhaps unfairly, dropped after he opted out of the 2021 proceedings, which could allow the Jets to scoop him up on the latter days. They’re currently on pace to roll out the same starting five blockers they had in last season’s opener. Adding Brown could at least apply some heat on the right side come training camp.

WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan 

Eskridge has a bit of history with the Jets or at least a member of their new coaching staff. While a shared WMU experience with Corey Davis surely can’t hurt, All-MAC first-teamer’s term in Kalamazoo coincided with assistant offensive line coach Jake Moreland’s time as offensive coordinator with the Broncos.

As a former defensive back and track star who became renowned for his speed, Eskridge could define the balance that general manager Joe Douglas is looking for. He even became an accomplished special teams contributor, serving as the Broncos’ primary kick returner during their six-game endeavor last fall. The Jets have ranked 22nd and 28th in return average over the last two seasons after losing Pro Bowler Andre Roberts. It seems like a trivial matter, but starting with good field position could make the job of the new franchise quarterback much easier.

QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

The consensus No. 2 pick appears to be Wilson, but Lance deserves his due diligence from Thursday’s early choosers. As the latest NFL hopeful emerging from the gridiron dynasty in Fargo, Lance won the 2019 Walter Payton Award the FCS equivalent of the Heisman whose previous winners include Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, and Cooper Kupp. Lance was responsible for 3,886 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2019 and threw no interceptions in 287 attempts.

Recency bias may work against Lance, as he struggled in a de facto exhibition against Central Arkansas last fall (he sat out of NDSU’s ongoing spring season). Teams have also become increasingly wary of one-season wonders (i.e. Mitchell Trubisky) as Lance started only one year with the Bison. But his rushing talents could tantalize the Jets, who have never worked with a mobile quarterback for an extended period of time (Geno Smith being a rare exception).

C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Division III draft picks are few and far between, though Jets fans may remember Joe Fields (Widener) and undrafted Bruce Harper (Kutztown) fondly. Meinerz, a D3 All-American, could be next and could as an instant contributor if the Jets were to inquire for his services. The outright cancellation of the Warhawks’ season made it difficult for Meinerz to make an impact, but took advantage of an invite to Mobile’s Senior Bowl, where he showcased strong hands and athleticism.

Finding the right center will be vital to the Jets’ new operations under the incoming quarterback. Sam Darnold went through three different primary centers during his three-year term. The last, Connor McGovern, is set to return but the Jets could probably still look to upgrade the interior through this diamond in the rough.

TE: Quintin Morris, Bowling Green

If the Jets are looking to put some heat on Chris Herndon beyond Tyler Kroft, they should look for a tight end who can contribute to the box score.

Morris, a three-year starter who also worked as was a bright spot for an otherwise dismal BGSU program, earning first-team All-MAC honors in the Falcons’ shortened season. In the last two full seasons, Morris earned 11 touchdown passes, including seven during a turbulent sophomore season in 2018 (which saw an in-season coaching change). Morris’ propensity for scoring could help him develop a niche as a goal-line option, which the Jets could sorely use after ranking dead last in the league by scoring touchdowns on 42 percent of their red zone possessions.

RB: Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

Whether it’s through standard MACtion or downright historic efforts, even casual college football fans are aware of Patterson’s efforts in Western New York. A 409-yard, eight-touchdown tally in November against Kent State officially put him on the map, part of a stellar, shortened season (1,072 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns in six games).

Thanks to the signing of Tevin Coleman and a group of young projects, the Jets can probably wait until the latter stages of the draft to address their running back situation. Patterson could be a solid find through his strong build (195 lbs.) that makes up for his height (5’6). As a bit of a hesitator with strong speed, Patterson could become what Le’Veon Bell was supposed to be if he were to join the Jets.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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