New York Jets: A checklist for Day Two of the NFL Draft

New York Jets

With their quarterback quandary solved and a blocker in tow, perhaps a bigger challenge awaits the New York Jets on Friday.

Zach Wilson’s aerial talents have landed in Florham Park. He’ll have some protection working with him in the form of Alijah Vera-Tucker, who came by in the 14th overall selection obtained from the Minnesota Vikings. The New York Jets’ problems aren’t fully solved, but at least there’s a path toward officially making things right.

But the immediate stages of that journey leave little opportunity to rest. The NFL Draft continues on Friday night, with the next two rounds being staged in Cleveland (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network).

The Jets accomplished their goals on day one; how can they keep the good weekend vibes going?

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The arrival of Alijah Vera-Tucker came at a major price: the Jets went from three Friday picks to one: the 34th overall choice, also known as the second pick in the second round.

It’s probably silly to assume that the Jets would be willing to send their fans to bed early with only a single pick, especially when their defensive woes haven’t been addressed at all (more on those in a minute). Douglas said in his first-round aftermath that he wasn’t willing to rush things.

“We’ve been able to acquire a lot of picks and you saw the flexibility that that gave us tonight. We’ll see how tomorrow goes,” Douglas said, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “Obviously, we’re going to have discussions, we’ll see if the phone rings, we’re open to any discussion, as I’ve told you guys in the past. We’ll see how it plays out over the next two days.”

The odds are slightly stacked against them for the time being, but with so much strong talent left on the board, it would be an absolute sin for the Jets to choose only once on Friday night. Even if it means moving out of the 34th slot, something has to be done.

Address the Defense

It’s great the Jets have created a new offensive identity after bringing in Wilson and Vera-Tucker with their opening picks. But it doesn’t mask the issues they have on defense. Their defensive woes…ones that mostly centered on inexperienced projects like Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall…probably should’ve been addressed during free agency, but they should definitely try to find an instant defensive contributor on Friday. In the final lead-up to the draft, Douglas insisted that the Jets couldn’t afford to focus on one side of the ball and needed a sense of balance in their 2021 draft plan.

“There is a balance you’re trying to strike,” Douglas said, Brian Costello of the New York Post.“You’re trying to build the best team that you can possibly build. That’s offense, defense, and special teams. There also is an importance to really doing everything we can to provide what we can to make a young quarterback successful. There is some balancing that goes into that.”

The Jets did a solid job of adding veterans of the 4-3 defense in the earlier parts of the offseason (Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis) and could help the presumed transition under Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich go a bit smoother if they find rookies who have worked in the formation as well. Zaven Collins, who went two picks after Vera-Tucker, would’ve been a strong fit after his time at Tulsa. Notable names on the draft board include Joseph Ossai of Texas and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham.

Keep Helping Wilson

This draft obviously centers on Wilson, and rightfully so. Every move the Jets make over the next few days should be dedicated to making him as comfortable as possible. They failed to help Sam Darnold, and now his fifth-year option is getting exercised in Carolina. The best way to do that is to trade back into the second and third rounds tonight, as Friday has often been a perfect place to find instant contributors and depth options alike.

The Jets must also remember to keep the proverbial balance that Joe Douglas has sought. A good defense can help keep manageable game situations for Wilson to work with and improvements on that end should thus not be ignored. New York should also keep building the wall in front of Wilson. His old Provo teammate Brady Christensen would be a match made in gridiron heaven. Even special teams could find their way into the day two proceedings. A player like Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge (who previously worked with Jets assistant Jake Moreland) is not only one of the MAC’s top receivers but also made a name for himself in the Broncos’ return game.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: Final mock drafts from ESM’s experts

As the commissioner prepares to take the podium, ESM’s New York Jets experts put names in the ten slots offered to them in Cleveland.

You’ve endured countless mock drafts leading to this weekend…what’s three more?

As the NFL Draft prepares to welcome 260 names into their league, beginning with 32 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network), ESM’s New York Jets experts temporarily assume the role of general manager as they map out a plan for Gang Green’s ten picks spread over the next three days…

Geoff Magliocchetti

  • Round 1 (2nd overall): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
  • Round 1 (23rd overall): WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
  • Round 2 (34th overall): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  • Round 3: (66th overall): CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
  • Round 3 (87th overall): T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
  • Round 4 (108th overall): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
  • Round 5 (147th overall): G Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
  • Round 5 (155th overall): S Ar’Darius Washington, TCU
  • Round 6 (187th overall): TE Matt Bushman, BYU
  • Round 6: (227th overall): K Jose Borreagales, Miami (FL)

The macabre, yet inspiring truth of the matter is that the Jets sunk to depths so low last season that it’s almost impossible not to emerge from draft weekend on a positive note.

Barring an absolutely jaw-dropping transaction or selection with the second overall pick, Zach Wilson is going to be a New York Jet. Every pick made after that should be dedicated to making his life easier. One would assume that could lead to drafting a lot of offensive talent, but general manager Joe Douglas has stressed the importance of striking a balance with their draft surplus, and it’s hard to argue with that logic. The last thing the Jets should do is expect Wilson’s arrival to immediately change things. He’s going to need help to get the Jets back on track.

Eskridge, who holds a special connection to the Jets (assistant offensive line coach Jake Moreland served as the offensive coordinator in Kalamazoo), could be a young weapon for Wilson to work with and also help solve the problems the Jets have had in the return game since Andre Roberts left. Day two adds blocking reinforcements from the unlikely source of Football Championship Subdivision while they also handle their defensive woes. If Collins drops to Friday, the Jets cannot hesitate for a second. As they prepare to likely implement a 4-3 set, they added veterans of the formation like Jarrad Davis and Carl Lawson. A young veteran of the system like Collins can help the transition go even smoother.

The addition of Tevin Coleman to their triumvirate of young rushing projects allows the Jets to wait until Saturday to address their rushing situation, and Stevenson can potential be their first legitimate fullback project since the days of Tony Richardson. Bringing in Bushman, one of Wilson’s favorite targets in Provo, can help Wilson get even more comfortable in the offense. The leg of Borreagales can ensure that drives that reach the red zone can end in points…a desperate need for a developing offense…while also ending the cycle of post-Jason Myers kickers. Banks can be a day three gem as a left guard, competing with Alex Lewis for primary reps.

Brendan Carpenter

  • Round 1 (2nd overall): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
  • Round 1 (23rd overall): RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
  • Round 2 (34th overall): CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
  • Round 3: (66th overall): EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
  • Round 3 (87th overall): OL Ben Cleveland, Georgia
  • Round 4 (108th overall): WR Cade Johnson, South Dakota State
  • Round 5 (147th overall): OL Brenden James, Nebraska
  • Round 5 (155th overall): EDGE Jonathan Cooper, Ohio State
  • Round 6 (187th overall):  WR Austin Watkins, UAB
  • Round 6: (227th overall): S Brendon White, Rutgers

After the inevitable pick of Zach Wilson at second overall, the Jets elect to give him a premier weapon at No. 23. Clemson RB Travis Etienne is one of the top two backs in the entire draft and brings both rushing and receiving prowess to the offense.

The Jets need help on defense too, though, and bring in pieces in the next two rounds. At 34th, they bring in Asante Samuel, Jr. after electing to not go for one of the top-three corners in the opening stages. Samuel showed the ability to annoy receivers, but he has to cut down on the penalties. In round three, they add to the defense with Rashad Weaver out of Pittsburgh and bolster the offensive line with Georgia’s Ben Cleveland in two spots that need addressing.

With their final four picks of the mock, the Jets add two wide receivers, taking Cade Johnson out of South Dakota State and Austin Watkins out of UAB in rounds four and six, respectively. Sandwiching those picks are Brenden James out of Nebraska, and another edge rusher in Jonathan Cooper of Ohio State. The team’s needs are clear, and they stay within those lines in this final mock draft.

Dylan Price

  • Round 1 (2nd overall): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
  • Round 1 (23rd overall): IOL Alijah Vera Tucker, USC
  • Round 2 (34th overall): IOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
  • Round 3: (66th overall): CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
  • Round 3 (87th overall): RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
  • Round 4 (108th overall): EDGE Victor Dimukeje, Duke
  • Round 5 (147th overall): S James Wiggins, Cincinnati 
  • Round 5 (155th overall): LB Monty Rice, Georgia 
  • Round 6 (187th overall):  FB Ben Mason, Michigan
  • Round 6: (227th overall): WR Dax Milne, BYU

Let’s be real, even if you’ve been living under a rock you should know Wilson is the pick. His arm talent is unreal and he has the potential to be a superstar in the league if all goes right. The Jets have to surround him with talent and allow that to happen though, if they do, the Jets could finally have a franchise guy.

At 23, Alijah Vera Tucker is an immediate plug-and-play guy who excels in both the run and pass game. He can be a stalwart of the line for the next decade alongside Mekhi Becton. Eleven picks later, the Jets double dip with Dickerson. He’s one of the best linemen in the class, in my opinion, and he’s a freak of nature. If his right knee stays healthy he can be the right guard for the next decade alongside Becton and Tucker. He also brings versatility as a center.

Melifonwu and Wiggins are secondary additions. The Syracuse alum has the length to excel as an outside corner and his coverage skills are heavily underrated. He can be a steal at 66th. Meanwhile, Wiggins will be a special teamer with the potential to develop into a competent starter. Dimukeje and Rice are two athletes with developmental capabilities that couldn’t be overlooked. Both will be situational pieces to start, but their potential is sky high. Gainwell is my favorite running back in this class. He’s a productive back who can play in the slot and out of the backfield. Ben Mason joins him as another scheme fit at fullback, ideally becoming the Kyle Juszczyk of the offense.

This draft gives the Jets depth all over the board. Weapons out of the backfield. Two potential defensive back pieces for the future, two franchise linemen, and hopefully…finally…the franchise quarterback.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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