Less than two weeks before the 2023 NFL Draft, many questions still surround the Jets’ future.
A month after saying he intends to play for them, the Jets still have yet to agree to a trade with the Packers for superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That complicates matters with the draft looming.
Green Bay certainly wants draft capital for Rodgers, as they could ask for picks this year and in 2024. Currently, the Jets have six picks in this year’s draft.
No matter if and when the Rodgers trade takes place, the Jets have needs to address on both sides of the ball heading into the draft. The significant questions begin on the offensive line, as the Jets had 11 different linemen start games for them in 2022.
The Jets have drafted a few tackles over the last few seasons, but the left and right spots remain a question this offseason. Veteran Duane Brown was the Jets starting right tackle but he dealt with shoulder issues all last year (missing five games) and he had offseason surgery to repair the injury. Then there’s Brown’s age, as he will turn 38 this August.
The right tackle spot remains a mystery for the Jets as they used a platoon of players in 2022. Max Mitchell, who Gang Green drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft, started five games. However, his season ended prematurely early last December as blood clots in his right calf and lungs ended his season.
Then there’s Mekhi Becton, who is a new man after shredding at least 50 pounds since suffering his season-ending knee injury during training camp last August. However, it’s difficult to depend on Becton as he has played in one regular season game in two seasons because of two separate knee injuries.
That’s why the Jets could select a tackle with the 13th overall pick. If Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski are both off the board, Georgia’s Broderick Jones or Tennessee’s Darnell Wright both could be options.
Last year en route to the Bulldogs winning their second consecutive national championship, Jones played 805 snaps in 13 games. During that time, Jones allowed just eight quarterback hurries while allowing one hit and zero sacks at left tackle.
Wright was equally impressive as a right tackle for the Volunteers, as he allowed five quarterback hurries, two quarterbacks hits and no sacks.
Along with the tackle positions, the Jets need to find a starting center. Last year’s starter Connor McGovern remains a free agent and it appears the Jets will go in a different direction next season.
At the NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix last month, Jets general manager Joe Douglas said the team is interested in former Titans free agent center Ben Jones, but a deal is currently not imminent. If the Jets look toward the draft, one player makes a lot of sense.
Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz met with the Jets brass last month and also had a private workout with Gang Green. Schmitz is the consensus top center in the 2023 draft. He’s an intelligent player that recognizes defensive schemes and can aid the quarterback at the line of scrimmage.
He is also excellent as a zone blocker as he has the quickness and power to be a future All-Pro center. If Schmitz is there at pick No. 42 or 43, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t the pick.
The Jets recently signed Quinton Jefferson and he will likely start next to first-team All-Pro Quinnen Williams next season. However, Jefferson only signed a one-year contract worth $4.25 million, so defensive tackle could still be in play for Gang Green.
Clemson’s Bryan Bresee is on the Jets’ radar. He is an athletic tackle with a high motor at the point of attack. During his 28 games at Clemson, Bresee recorded 51 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Bresee could be selected anywhere from the late first round or the second round.
The Jets still have second-team All-Pro C.J. Mosley and re-signed Quincy Williams this offseason, but linebacker remains a need. Kwon Alexander, who the Jets signed during training camp last August, is a free agent so they could look to inject some youth into the position.
Oregon’s Noah Sewell is a player with a ton of potential and he could be a target in Round 4. Sewell is a throwback player who was a tackling machine for the Ducks.
In 2020, Sewell was named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Sewell also had an outstanding 2021 season for the Ducks, registering 114 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. But his numbers dwindled (56 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks) following Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s departure to the Miami Hurricanes and the hiring of Dan Lanning as the Ducks went more to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
After missing out on Odell Beckham Jr., the Jets could draft a wide receiver despite signing Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman during the offseason.
Houston’s Nathaniel “Tank” Dell’s stock has been rising as of late after he caught 109 passes for 1,398 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Cougars in 2022. Dell’s height and weight will likely prevent him from being a higher-round draft pick, as he is listed at 5-8, 165 pounds. He reminds many of former Panthers and Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr.
Dell is an excellent route runner who plays larger than his size. He could be an impact player as a slot receiver early in his career.