It’s finally draft week New York Jets fans! Quite frankly this has been our Super Bowl for the last 50 years or so because it’s been a lot of disappointment since ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath.
Forget all that. The NFL Draft is a time for hope and optimism. It’s the perfect vehicle to take any team from zero to hero and that’s what Jets general manager Joe Douglas is hoping to do starting this Thursday, April 29 in the first round all the way through Day 2 (Friday, April 30) and Day 3 (Saturday, May 1).
Before we get there it’s time to honor a weekly tradition for the last time: Mock Draft Monday! This will be a seven-round New York Jets-centric mock draft for all 10 of their selections in the 2021 NFL Draft.
First-round (2nd overall); Zach Wilson, quarterback, BYU
No this isn’t a shocker. It’s been speculated for weeks if not months that this would ultimately be the selection for the New York Jets.
When Gang Green traded incumbent starter Sam Darnold on April 5 the second overall pick being a quarterback became as close to a sure thing as you can get during lying season.
In Joe Douglas’ second draft with the Jets, he’ll determine his legacy with this organization. He hand-picked his head coach (Robert Saleh). Now he gets to handpick his quarterback as a general manager. How we perceive Douglas’ reign solely depends on how good Wilson ultimately becomes.
Darnold flopped for a variety of reasons. Several of those were team-related issues with personnel, coaching, and instability. Douglas has the rest of this seven-round mock draft to surround Wilson with as much talent as possible.
Before we move on to the next pick, a couple of quick scouting notes on Zach Wilson. He’s best when he gets out of the pocket and goes off-script. Accuracy is deadly. Something else league insiders are really digging per Todd McShay of ESPN is his intelligence:
“There’s a lot of love inside the league for the way he thinks about the game. Specifically, that means Wilson’s recall during games and his understanding of what defenses are trying to do to scheme against him.”
First-round (23rd overall); Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, Notre Dame
There are a lot of different ways the Jets can go with this pick because they have so many needs and it depends on how the board falls.
While this pick may surprise some, it shouldn’t. JOK is a swiss army knife that can literally do anything you ask of him. Whether it’s blitzing, coverage, or lining up all over the field.
Robert Saleh is going to have some influence in the NFL Draft room as a first-time head coach hoping for some toys on Christmas. If Douglas puts Owusu-Koramoah under the tree, Saleh should be elated.
For the Jets, he’d line up at outside backer in their 4-3 scheme. Which would give the Jets Cj Mosley in the middle. Jarrad Davis would line up at the other outside spot. There’s a lot to like there.
The other move to consider is the Jets trading up into the mid-teens to go get one of the elite offensive linemen or wide receivers that may be falling. You have to help out your young quarterback and the team should be very aggressive to do so.
Second-round (34th overall); Creed Humphrey, center, Oklahoma
This is one of my favorite picks in the 2021 NFL Draft for the New York Jets. After Day 1 ends (first-round), the team can sit back and reset the board. This will also be a massive hot spot to potentially trade back to acquire more capital.
There’s no other way to put this. Selecting Creed Humphrey at the start of Day 2 would be a homerun selection.
Humphrey would stay at center ideally at the next level and the Jets would kick Connor McGovern to one of the guard spots (where he has over 30 games of prior experience, per Pro Football Reference).
How realistic is Humphrey falling out of the first round? Interior offensive linemen aren’t valued as highly as offensive tackles. It happens in every class, players sit at the top of the second round you would’ve never expected because of crazy runs on positions and value.
Don’t question it. Just accept it.
Humphrey is a plug-and-play guy that’ll be starting at center for the next 10-15 years. He’s got a super high floor (low bust potential), a two-time captain at Oklahoma, and oozes leadership ability. The relationship between a young quarterback and a center is vital to the offense operating at full capacity.
Over the last couple of decades, the Jets have been spoiled rotten as it pertains to the center position. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae held things down from 1998 through 2005. Then some guy named Nick Mangold (future Ring of Honor member) played a decade all with the green and white from 2006 through 2016. Time to get back to that.
Third-round (66th overall); Ifeatu Melifonwu, cornerback, Syracuse
If Ifeatu Melifonwu is still on the board at this point in the 2021 NFL Draft, we may have to sprint to the podium ourselves.
Melifonwu has one of the widest potential draft ranges of any prospect in this class. He could be a sneaky first-rounder that surprises people. Or he could fall to Day 2. Truly it’s anyone’s guess. Melifonwu should be in consideration for the 34th overall spot as well.
If Robert Saleh could build the perfect Frankenstein cornerback prospect on an operating table, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that matches that vision more perfectly than Ifeatu.
6-foot-2. 80 1/8″ wingspan. 32 1/8″ arms. He’s just a physical freak that is lanky, athletic, and versatile. Checks off all the boxes. Would be a plug-and-play starter at outside cornerback for the Jets.
Third-round (86th overall); Jackson Carman, guard, Clemson
It’s time for the New York Jets to double-dip on the offensive line. The selection of Creed Humphrey was perfect earlier for two reasons: the player is fantastic and it hit two birds with one stone. By snagging Humphrey the Jets filled the void at center and solved a guard spot by kicking Connor McGovern over.
Now it’s time to add some more brutus beefcake on the interior.
Jackson Carman is a 6-foot-5, 317-pound behemoth. While he played tackle in college, he’s better suited to slide inside at the next level. Also, it never hurts in a pinch to have some offensive tackle insurance if anything were to happen to Mekhi Becton or George Fant.
The Jets can either move on from Alex Lewis and Greg Van-Roten. Or let them all compete with Carman and the best man wins the job. Either way, competition is never a bad thing in the trenches.
Speed is something you can’t teach
Fourth-round (107th overall); D’Wayne Eskridge, wide receiver, Western Michigan
The Jets have a much improved wide receiving corps from last year, although that’s not saying much. Now they can reunite a couple of Western Michigan boys in Corey Davis and D’Wayne Eskridge.
What the green and white lack at the position is a true No. 1 and speed. Make no mistake about it, Eskridge isn’t a bonafide top wideout, but he provides insane athleticism and raw speed. Anytime he touches the ball he could take it to the house.
He started off his career as a cornerback then jumped to the other side of the ball and found a way to produce. In this Mike LaFleur offense, he’s going to get creative with jet sweeps, motions, and pop screens. The possibilities are endless.
He struggles with contested catches but that’s okay because the Jets have plenty of those receivers on the roster in the aforementioned Davis and Denzel Mims. Keep adding different skill set guys to the pantry and the offense will be in good hands.
Fifth-round (146th overall); Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
The New York Jets have struggled to rush the passer over the last 15 years (three double-digit sack seasons during that span). With that in mind, the team invested heavily at the position in free agency.
$45M was handed to Carl Lawson, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals. The pass-rushing woes of the green and white won’t be solved by one man, he’ll need some help. Patrick Johnson out of Tulane is a wildly intriguing prospect to add to the EDGE rush rotation.
While initially, the scheme fit may not make immediate sense, as Bleacher Report’s Connor Rogers noted in his draft guide: “watch Dee Ford and the dominant San Francisco 49ers defense of 2019, it’s easy to find the role.”
When you have a defensive mastermind like Robert Saleh, you just give him talent on a silver platter, and let him figure it out. Johnson gives Jordan Jenkins like blue-collar effort and can be a rotational guy that brings a refined technical skill-set to the table from day one.
Fifth-round (154th overall); Javian Hawkins, running back, Louisville
No one argues like New York Jets fans on how important or unimportant the running back position is. If the team decided to take one of the top guys at 34th overall (Najee Harris or Travis Etienne) it would be grossly irresponsible, but how could you not be excited about it?
Obviously, that didn’t happen, so if you can’t add one of the top guys add someone with a specific set of skills. Let’s go Liam Neeson here for a moment. In today’s day and age you either want a bell cow or a running back by committee.
If you go with the committee approach, you want a bunch of different weapons that can do different things.
Javian Hawkins brings unadulterated speed. Despite his diminutive size (5-foot-8), he brings elite 4.4 speed to the table. 0-to-60 Ferrari start and stop acceleration. A gadget guy that can be another dream toy for this Mike LaFleur offense.
Sixth-round (186th overall); Trill Williams, defensive back, Syracuse
Trill Williams is a versatile weapon of mass destruction. He can line up all over the field. Williams can play safety and align at nickel. The aptest description for him is playmaker.
During his three-year career at Syracuse: he forced three forced fumbles, four interceptions, and he was the architect of what locals in the salt city call ‘The Rip Six.’
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) November 30, 2019
In the last game of the 2019 season, Syracuse played Wake Forest and it went to overtime. On a 2nd and goal play with the game on the line, Demon Deacons wide receiver Kendall Hinton tried to make a move and Williams grabbed the ball ripped it away from him, and took it coast-to-coast for the walk-off winner.
One draft analyst texted me saying he’s a top-100 pick in this class. While NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein pegs Williams as sixth-rounder. Hopefully, for the Jets’ sake, it’s the latter because he could be one of the best steals of the 2021 NFL Draft.
New York Jets get creative on draft day with a trade
Sixth-round (226th overall); traded to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for tight end David Njoku
Last year in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jets general manager Joe Douglas traded a sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Quincy Wilson. It’s a small sample size, but it seems like Douglas’ calling card is trading late rounders for veterans with upside.
In this year’s class, the tight end position is Kyle Pitts of Florida and then everyone else.
It would behoove Gang Green to pair another super athletic freak in David Njoku with Chris Herndon on the roster.
Last offseason Njoku asked for a trade from the Browns after they signed Austin Hooper to a record-breaking deal in free agency. He apparently made another request by the trade deadline last year, but it didn’t go anywhere, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Clearly, he’s unhappy and is ready for a change of scenery. Njoku is on the last year of his rookie contract ($6M) and will be super motivated to live up to his original first-round potential. Plus in this offense with Mike LaFleur, Njoku could have George Kittle dreams of what could materialize in New York with the Jets.
This is the kind of flier that would be more than worth it to take at the end of the NFL Draft. If he hits, you have an All-Pro talent at tight end to build around that’ll push Chris Herndon to hopefully reach his full potential. It’s a win-win.