The Jets roster came in as the third youngest in the NFL prior to the 2021-22 season with an average age of 25.60. A bulk of the team still has their rookie stripes with the team having the most rookie starters and key role players in the NFL. Still, the team currently sits at a record of 4-12 entering the final week of the season with the fourth worst record in football. The team has talent voids and depth issues all across the roster, but their three largest positions of need could be solved in the draft.
Position of Need #1: Wide Receiver
The Jets attacked the receiver position last season by bringing in Corey Davis on a three year $37 million dollar deal, Elijah Moore with the 34th pick in the draft and Keelan Cole on a one year $5.5 million dollar deal. In nine games, Davis had 34 receptions for 492 yards and four TDs. He added a legitimate outside threat, but between dropped passes and prior inconsistencies, an insurance policy is ideal. Moore impressed many in 11 games with 43 receptions for 538 yards, five receiving touchdowns and a rushing score, but he and Davis cannot be the only weapon in Mike LaFleur and the Jets arsenal. Cole has played in eight games with 17 receptions for 275 yards, and with the success of guys like Braxton Berrios who has 46 receptions for 431 yards, two receiving touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns, Cole’s return looks unlikely. The team has a better base of weapons than they entered the past few offseason with, but the addition of another playmaker can support Zach Wilson and help take the offense to the next level.
Solution #1: Drake London, USC
One of Zach Wilson’s biggest selling points is how well he utilizes his outside weapons and throws contested catch balls. Although Corey Davis has a large frame and can play outside, aside from that, the Jets lack another big bodied contested catch receiver in their current group. With Drake London, the Jets can nab the best contested catch receiver in this class, a legitimate threat to stretch the field as well as a high volume reception receiver with the potential to gain consistent yards after the catch. London doesn’t come without concern as he’s coming off a fractured ankle injury that has some scouts worried, but for a receiver who had 88 receptions in just eight games for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns this past year, London will present great value for the Jets and could be just the playmaker the team needs to complete a well rounded receiver room.
Solution #2: David Bell, Purdue
Bell may just be one of the most underrated receivers in this class. He’s been a constant producer from day one at Purdue. In fact, he’s been one of the most consistent receivers in this class. He’s played in 29 games in his three years with the Boilermakers, totaling 232 receptions for 2,946 yards and 21 TDs along with a rushing touchdown. This season, Bell had 93 receptions and had his second season with more than 85 receptions in his collegiate career. Bell has superb technique, he’s a strong outside threat, and at 6’2”, Bell is a good 50/50 ball presence. Bell is athletic enough to fit the scheme, and can also be the perfect versatility partner for Elijah Moore as another chess piece who can line up virtually anywhere. Bell would compliment Davis well and allow Moore to thrive, thus making him an ideal addition to the receiver room, likely with one of their two second round picks.
Solution #3: Jahan Dotson, Penn State
We go from two tall outside threats to a 5’11” 184 pound Nittany Lion. Looking at these three potential solutions, Dotson ranks in as far and away the shortest, but he still can add value as a contested catch piece and an outside weapon. Likely though, if the Jets took this approach, they could utilize Dotson and Moore the way the 49ers have used DeeBoo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as slot pieces but also outside threats. It would place Davis firmly as the X receiver with Dotson and Moore rotating between outside and the slot. This would make for a matchup nightmare, allow Wilson the comfortability to have two threats he can pepper the middle of the field with and also give the team two YAC monsters. Dotson’s got exceptional body control, he’s had more than 13.0 YPC each of his four years and he’s even proven to develop as a red zone threat posting 12 touchdowns this season. Dotson could give Mike LaFleur another chess piece to play with and alleviate some of the pressure on Moore while also giving Davis the opportunity to thrive more strictly in the outside spot.
Position of Need #2: Edge Rusher
In the offseason, Joe Douglas capitalized on a loaded free agent edge rusher class with the addition of Carl Lawson on a three year $45 million dollar deal. Unfortunately, Lawson went down with an Achilles tendon rupture over the summer. Still, the team produced a 16th best pass rush win rate of 40%. The team has 2.1 average sacks per game which places them in 19th place in the NFL. Now, their leaders in sacks this season have been Quinnen Williams (6.0 sacks), John Franlin-Myers (6.0 sacks) and Sheldon Rankins (3.0 sacks), the three have accounted for over 45% of the team’s sack total. This shows great things for the Jets and their interior pass rush moving forward, especially if they look to resign Rankins. However, the team has failed to establish a legitimate edge rush this season and although the long awaited debut of Lawson will be beneficial, giving him a running mate could help the team establish a front four that strikes nightmare in opposing offenses and replicates that of the 2019-20 San Francisco 49ers front that Robert Saleh coached to a Super Bowl appearance.
Solution #1: George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Jets have to improve both their pass rush and run defense off the edge, and although Lawson coming back will greatly improve that, the Greek freak, George Karlaftis could be the kind of pick that gives the Jets one of the best young edge rushing attacks they’ve ever had. Karlaftis has an incredibly high football IQ, he opens things up for those around him by shifting all over the line and he’s a constant disruptor. Karlaftis posted a 18.1% pressure creation rate this season which compared to a 17.7% rate from Chase Young in his final season of college ball, shows just how talented Karlaftis is. He’s got an incredibly high motor and he’s a high character guy as well, something this coaching staff and Joe Douglas value heavily. Karlaftis and Lawson together might not end up posting eye popping sack numbers but the pressure they create would allow their young secondary to thrive and the high motor Karlaftis has will allow him to be a three down player who can grossly improve a run defense that’s ranked 29th in the NFL.
Solution #2: David Ojabo, Michigan
Ojabo was a nationally recognized athlete in the country of Scotland, he played soccer and participated in track once he came to the U.S., before finding his calling on the gridiron. Ojabo is a freak athlete with some of the best natural athleticism of any edge rusher in the class. Ojabo has burst onto the scene with 12.0 TFLs and 11.0 sacks as a running mate for projected top two pick Aidan Hutchinson. Ojabo has shown a variety of pass rush moves that can only grow given he has only been playing football for three years. Ojabo is a raw prospect who will grow with time, but the athleticism he possesses, the burst he has and his closing speed are traits that can be molded into an elite edge rusher. Ojabo is a perfect pass rushing partner for Lawson as Ojabo has the closing speed to clean up where Lawson and the interior rushers can’t. Ojabo’s only draw back will be his run defense which could lead the Jets to look elsewhere as it needs to improve before he can be a true three down player at the next level. Still, the mold of a star is there, the Jets and Robert Saleh would just have to shape it.
Solution #3: Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Jermaine Johnson will likely be a day two addition if the team adds him, but he ranked as one of the top pass rushers in the NCAA with 11.5 sacks after transferring from Georgia. He’s shown growth growing that total from 5.0 sacks the year prior, and his pass rushing moves have taken strides as well. Perhaps the biggest shift though is that the 6’5” 260lbs edge rusher moved from linebacker to defensive end, playing a majority of his snaps on the defensive line. Johnson’s athleticism and closing speed as well as his pre snap anticipation could lend itself well to run defense, but his pass rushing skills will allow him to grow into a potential three down player in time. Johnson has versatility, and could be a nice chess piece for the team. Johnson is a productive player the Jets could look to add on day two to improve the pass rush if they choose to look elsewhere with their first rounders.
Position of Need #3: Safety
The Jets addressed the safety position in the 2017 NFL Draft with the 6th pick and in the second round with the 39th. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were supposed to be the next great secondary tandem, and both have turned into talented players in their own right. Adams excels in the box, but his inconsistencies in coverage proved to be a detriment at point and although talented, he didn’t fit the image Joe Douglas had for the roster moving forward. In order to recoup value, Douglas flipped Adams in a trade that has granted the Jets two projected top ten selections and landed the team a talented guard in Alijah Verah-Tucker last offseason. Maye is strong in coverage and has proven to be a team leader at points, but his price point is likely going to be above what the team is willing to pay for a 28 year old coming off a torn Achilles. The team also took a swing with their third rounder in the 2020 draft with Ashtyn Davis, a center fielder type safety from Cal. Davis has had his struggles, after missing bits of both his rookie and sophomore seasons. Recently though, Davis has begun to take strides and show a playmaking ability with two interceptions and three forced fumbles this season. Although Elijah Riley has shown flashes, the revolving door of starters at the safety positions and the general lack of depth in the safety room indicates a need for the team. If the team can add another safety, this can take the pressure off Davis, allow him to flourish and even help give the team a plan regardless of whether they choose to bring Maye or even Riley back next season.
Solution #1: Jordan Battle, Alabama
The Jets hold two second round selections and Battle could be taken with one of them. The first team All-American racked up 81 tackles, 3 INTs, two touchdowns and 3 PBUs this season. In coverage, Battle had the top opposing passer rating in the SEC, and as a run defender, Battle had top tier pre snap anticipation. Battle plays well in two high safety looks, he can handle himself well in one on one battles in coverage and he is more comfortable at strong safety which would allow the team to play Ashtyn Davis in that center fielder/clean up role they thought he could thrive in. Battle is also a playmaker who could allow the team to compensate for the lack of turnovers produced as the team has only five all year with none from starters Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II. Battle is a well rounded prospect with the instincts to truly thrive in this defense, but although he has produced some question his ball production and in a loaded safety class, that paired with inconsistencies in tackling could make some worried about his fit. Regardless Battle has proven to be a producer when need be and he could fit into the safety room nicely as a potential second round addition.
Solution #2: Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
Jaquan Brisker is a prospect who could sneak into the first round, but if the Jets can get him with one of their seconds, the debate between him and Battle could be tough if they look to go safety. Brisker is a northeast boy growing up in Pennsylvania then going to Lackawanna College before transferring to Penn State, and he’s a passionate and gritty player who plays with his heart on his sleeve. He has a high motor and has proven to come up clutch with big plays like an interception in the Nittany Lion’s season opener against Wisconsin that closed out an upset this past season. Brisker has high instincts and strong ball production. He needs to develop his closing abilities as a tackler, and his tackling production could stand to increase. He’d be an ideal running mate for Davis in two high coverage and he holds the versatility to do a lot of things Robert Saleh will love. Brisker could make sense as he has the versatility to play nickel, play deep or even play in the box. Brisker projects more as a free safety but he could work better in two high than Battle which could vault him over Battle in the Jets eyes. Brisker is a playmaker and also a strong coverage safety and in a division with Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Mike Gesicki all playing this team twice a year, the team could use a player like Brisker. Brisker is the kind of pick that can add character and energy to this defense and add a consistent presence in a safety room that has lacked that.
Solution #3: Jalen Pitre, Baylor
Jalen Pitre is not getting talked about enough. Of these three safeties, Pitre looks to go latest in projections at this point and the Jets could even nab Pitre with a third rounder according to some. If Pitre is on the board at that point, the versatile safety could earn a look. Pitre switched from linebacker to safety in 2020 and found his niche posing four interceptions and a whopping 29.5 TFLs in just 23 games at safety. Pitre excels inside the box, but where he differentiates from a guy like Jamal Adams is in coverage where he had more pass breakups than Both Battle and Brisker. Pitre helped lead Baylor to a Big 12 championship and his football IQ, leadership and versatility could all be reasons the Jets fall in love with him. Pitre could play well in two high looks, play the nickel role and also allow Davis to thrive in the center fielder role. His run defense is exceptional and can elevate the team and his playmaking ability between interceptions and three forced fumbles could add some juice to a secondary that’s failed to produce turnovers this season. Pitre’s value could be better than the Battle and Brisker, and Pitre has the potential to grow into a long term starter for this team if selected, especially under the tutelage of Saleh.