Jets' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Jets' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets

0 of 3

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The New York Jets are closing in on a potentially franchise-altering event at the 2022 NFL draft. 

    Armed with the fourth and 10th picks, they have an opportunity to add two cornerstones at key positions. 

    It's an incredibly important event for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2015. After drafting Zach Wilson in the first round last year, it must now focus on building a roster that will give the second-year quarterback the best chance to succeed. 

    This draft class doesn't have the same group of star QB prospects, but it does contain a few potential game-changers. 

    Here's a look at three of the top targets the Jets should be considering with their first two picks. 

Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

1 of 3

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Kayvon Thibodeaux (scouting report) might be the best overall player in the draft class but the Jets have a legitimate shot at finding him available with the No. 4 overall pick. 

    The over/under for the 21-year-old's draft slot has been set at 4.5 by DraftKings Sportsbook, officially designating the Jets pick at No. 4 as the fulcrum.

    Where Thibodeaux will go in the draft is one of the harder predictions to make. He has all the physical tools you'd like to see in an elite edge-rusher prospect. He's a terror on the perimeter and was productive at Oregon with 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles in 10 games in his final season. 

    However, there are concerns about his motor and motivation. Todd McShay of ESPN noted in February that teams have concerns about his "fire." That's a serious concern for any club that's about to hand him millions of dollars over the next four-five years. 

    The Jets certainly have more intel on that than your average draftniks and analysts. If the organization is comfortable with Thibodeaux's maturity and drive, he's a no-brainer as the fourth pick. 

CB Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, Cincinnati

2 of 3

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas hasn't gotten too specific about positions the team will target with their two top 10 picks. However, he did offer a brief description recently. 

    "You're looking for unusual people," he told reporters. "You want to add some freaks to the roster whenever you can. I don't know if that's special to us. I would say every team is looking for those unusual traits that will help your team."

    Sauce Gardner (scouting report) certainly fits the description. 

    The 21-year-old cornerback's measurables are off the charts. According to Mock Draftable, he's in the 96th percentile for height, 97th percentile for arm length while posting a 79th percentile 40-yard dash time. 

    His production resume should be considered "freakish" as well. He did not allow a single touchdown in three years of significant playing time at outside corner for the Cincinnati Bearcats, per Pro Football Focus

    Jets head coach Robert Saleh continues to need difference-makers to build the kind of defense he was known for at San Francisco. A lockdown corner like Gardner would make that job easier. 

OT Evan Neal, Alabama

3 of 3

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    One of the best things a franchise can do for a young quarterback is to invest in its offensive line, and the future success of the Jets relies heavily on the development of Zach Wilson. 

    So, while New York has a promising tackle on the roster in Mekhi Becton, it shouldn't be out of the question to grab an elite tackle in the draft to give the team a young duo. 

    Evan Neal (scouting report) has experience playing both right and left tackle during his time at Alabama. He's neck-and-neck with North Carolina State product Ikem Ekwonu (scouting report) for the honors of the top tackle in the class. 

    However, Neal's experience playing on both sides of the offensive line and his advantage in pass pro should give him the nod on the Jets' big board. 

    Building from the inside out is usually a good strategy, so while the 21-year-old might not be as flashy a pick as the other possibilities it is the kind of selection that wins games.