Underrated Prospects Jets Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 5, 2021

Underrated Prospects Jets Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Steve Cannon/Associated Press

    A lot of the speculation surrounding the New York Jets leading up to the 2021 NFL draft has been about what they'll decide to do with the No. 2 overall pick. And at this point, it appears quite possible that they could take BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and potentially move on from Sam Darnold.

    But there's a lot more work for New York to do during the three-day draft, which is set to take place April 29-May 1. In addition to the No. 2 pick, the Jets own eight other selections that they'll use to try to find talented young players to build around for many years to come.

    New York has made some solid additions during free agency, and the team already looks a bit different from how it was constructed before Robert Saleh was hired to be its new head coach earlier this offseason. If the Jets have a strong draft, they could be well on their way to turning around the franchise and ending their 10-year playoff drought.

    Here's a look at some underrated prospects who New York should consider taking during the second and third days of the upcoming draft.

Quinn Meinerz, OG, Wisconsin-Whitewater

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    One of the Jets' biggest priorities during the early-to-mid rounds of the draft should be improving the interior of their offensive line. New York has a franchise left tackle (Mekhi Becton) and some other solid players up front, but it needs to improve at the guard spots to protect whomever its quarterback is moving forward.

    Quinn Meinerz isn't as well known as some other top offensive linemen in this year's draft class, likely because he played at Wisconsin-Whitewater, which is a Division III program. But the 6'3", 320-pound guard had a dominant showing at the Senior Bowl in January, which should have put him on the radar of some NFL teams.

    NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah predicted that Meinerz will get drafted in the second round after Wisconsin-Whitewater's pro day last month, which was attended by representatives from all 32 NFL teams. That was another important opportunity for Meinerz to showcase his skills, as the team's 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Whether it's in the second round or a bit later, the Jets would likely benefit from drafting this underrated offensive lineman, who could potentially become part of their core up front. So while Meinerz's name may not be listed at the top of draft boards, he's an underrated prospect for New York to consider adding.

Tay Gowan, CB, UCF

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Tay Gowan opted out of the 2020 season, so he wasn't on the field for UCF. But when the 6'2", 185-pound cornerback suited up for the Knights in 2019, he established himself as a legitimate NFL draft prospect worthy of getting selected in the middle rounds.

    After transferring from Butler Community College (El Dorado, Kansas), Gowan played in 12 games for UCF in 2019, making nine starts. He had 31 tackles, eight pass deflections and two interceptions. However, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted in his scouting report that there are some areas in which Gowan can improve.

    "He does a nice job of crowding underneath routes and has the length and ball instincts to make receivers really work for it on contested catches. Gowan needs to get stronger, but he has good size and length to work with," Zierlein wrote.

    The Jets have a pair of solid young cornerbacks in Bryce Hall and Bless Austin, but the secondary has been an area of weakness for them in recent memory, particularly on the outsides. That's why New York should look to add a corner at some point during the draft, and Gowan could be a solid addition on the second or third day.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

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    Bill Sikes/Associated Press

    Having added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole during free agency, the Jets' receiving corps has already improved this offseason. It may not be a top-tier unit, but New York already had Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, among several others, so it now has a solid group.

    Still, the Jets have enough draft picks that they should look to add a wide receiver in one of the later rounds, potentially finding a sleeper prospect who could eventually develop into a playmaker for their offense. And there may not be a player who fits that bill better than Tamorrion Terry.

    There was a point when Terry was expected to be a top draft prospect. He was a second-team All-ACC selection as a redshirt sophomore in 2019, when he started 13 games for Florida State and had 60 receptions for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns.

    However, Terry was limited to five games in 2020 because of left knee surgery, hauling in only 23 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown, which has allowed him to slide under the radar in this year's deep receiver class. As Zierlein pointed out in his scouting report, Terry is "a high-upside prospect with undeniable home run potential and WR2/3 talent, but the floor is on the low side."

    It's possible Terry never becomes a contributor at the NFL level, but there's also a chance he does more than that. And the Jets should take that risk in a later round, hoping he ends up becoming a pleasant surprise in the future.