Jets' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL Draft
This past week, there's been a lot of movement at the top of the order for the 2021 NFL draft. The San Francisco 49ers (No. 3 overall), Miami Dolphins (No. 6) and Philadelphia Eagles (No. 12) all own different first-round selections after a pair of trades featuring the three teams.
However, the New York Jets have stayed put. They own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, and while it's possible they could end up trading the selection, they'll have a big decision to make if they end up using the pick themselves.
With the draft set for April 29-May 1, the Jets still have needs to address on their roster. They've filled a few holes since the start of free agency, bringing in some noteworthy players such as wide receiver Corey Davis, defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, among others. But New York still has work to do before the 2021 season arrives.
Here's a look at the Jets' biggest needs in the NFL draft this year.
If the Jets decide to stick with Sam Darnold as their starting quarterback, then this will be less of a need, as they'll just need to add a backup, either via the draft or free agency.
However, it's possible New York will look to go in a different direction, especially after BYU's Zach Wilson impressed at his pro day last week.
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets were represented by general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur at the 21-year-old's pro day in Provo, Utah, on Friday. The scouts who were in attendance appeared to be impressed by Wilson's showing.
"He's special," one NFL scout said, per SNY's Ralph Vacchiano. "He makes some throws that are just ridiculous and he barely breaks a sweat doing it. I get why everyone rates [Clemson's Trevor] Lawrence No. 1. But if this kid played against better competition, he might be going No. 1 instead."
Quarterback isn't the biggest hole on New York's roster, as Darnold is only 23 and still has time to live up to his potential, especially if he had a better offense around him.
However, Wilson could be too enticing to the Jets as a player who could help improve the future direction of their franchise, and that's why it wouldn't be surprising to see him go to New York at No. 2.
If the season started today, the Jets' offensive line would likely look about the same as it did at the end of the 2020 campaign. And last season, that unit ranked 29th in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, so it could continue to be a weakness.
The Jets need to get stronger up front, but they haven't done much to address that situation during free agency. The only offensive lineman New York has signed has been Dan Feeney, who spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, but he'd be better suited in a backup role rather than as a starter.
The Jets already have one strong player to build around on the offensive line in Mekhi Becton, who they selected in the first round of last year's draft. But they need to get better at the guard positions, with Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten being the current projected starters there.
New York missed out on the top free-agent guards, including Joe Thuney (who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs). So it needs to add an offensive lineman or two early in the draft, and it could find a starting-caliber player during the first few rounds.
The Jets have a pair of young cornerbacks in Bryce Hall (23) and Bless Austin (24) who should continue to develop into strong players, and they signed Justin Hardee during free agency. Still, New York's secondary could use a boost, and if it can add a cornerback in the draft, it would help the unit improve for the long term.
Saleh is entering his first season as Jets head coach after spending the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. New York also has a new defensive coordinator in Jeff Ulbrich. They'll be looking to find players who fit their defensive scheme so they can begin turning around a struggling unit.
In addition to the No. 2 overall pick, the Jets also own the No. 23 overall selection. While the top few cornerbacks in the draft class could be gone by then, there could be some strong players available when New York is back on the clock, such as Georgia's Eric Stokes and Northwestern's Greg Newsome II.
Even if the Jets wait until the second or third round, there should be some solid cornerbacks for them to consider. They'll need to do that if they want to start turning the corner on defense, as they haven't done much to boost their secondary so far this offseason.