After a promising start to the 2022 season, the New York Jets went out with a whimper, not a bang. New York lost its final six games of the season after a 7-4 start and was eliminated from playoff contention by the end of Week 17 action.
Still, there were a lot of positives to take away from this season, particularly in their rookie class. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson is a top contender for this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Running back Breece Hall played like a stud before his season ended prematurely with a knee injury. Cornerback Sauce Gardner should run away with this year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award after becoming the first rookie cornerback to be named a First-Team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott in 1981. Other young players like defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker moved the needle in a big way this season.
So even after a devastating end to the season that led to the team’s mutual decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, the Jets look like they’re just a quarterback and upgraded offensive line away from being real playoff contenders as soon as next year. With that being said, here’s a look at what I think New York should do come the draft, keeping in mind that it’s early in the draft cycle and a lot could change before April.
Round 1 (No. 13 overall): Paris Johnson Jr. OT, Ohio State
Only three quarterbacks in the NFL faced a higher rate of pressure than Zach Wilson did last year, and all three of those quarterbacks play on teams that also need offensive line upgrades. That the Jets’ offensive line has been lacking all season is not a secret, and keeping Wilson—or whoever starts under center this coming season—upright will be a primary goal in order for New York’s offense to find more success in 2023.
Enter Johnson Jr., a left tackle that would provide a clear upgrade to every option the Jets put out there this season. With a 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame, the Ohio State star has the frame of an offensive tackle built in a lab, and the mobility and athleticism he pairs with it are enough to make him one of the top tackle prospects in this draft class. He’s a powerful, rangy run-blocker and an excellent pass-blocker as well. New York really needs an anchor on the left side of their offensive line to pair with Vera-Tucker, wherever he plays. If Johnson makes it to the 13th pick, he could absolutely be that guy.
Round 2 (No. 44 overall): TRADE
LV receives: 2023 2nd-round pick (No. 44 overall) + 2024 conditional 3rd-round pick
NYJ receive: QB Derek Carr
The Jets just bolstered the left side of their offensive line in the first round and doubled down on upgrading their offense by shipping their second-round pick to Las Vegas for a quarterback upgrade. This deal is similar to the Carson Wentz deal the Washington Commanders made last offseason, but the Raiders get a bit less in return thanks to a lack of leverage—namely the fact that they need to find a trade partner or cut Carr by Feb. 15 to avoid paying him his 2023 salary. With other veteran quarterbacks also available (*cough* Jimmy Garoppolo *cough*), it could force a desperate Las Vegas organization to lower their price as well. If the price is right, Carr would be a fantastic upgrade for the Jets in 2023.
Round 3 (No. 75 overall): Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB, TCU
Picture this, Jets fans: two elite cornerbacks in Gardner and D.J. Reed locking down receivers on the outside and in the nickel spot, one of the most exciting cornerback prospects in the 2023 class falls into their lap in the third round because of his shorter stature. Hodges-Tomlinson is the epitome of a guy who doesn’t play to his size. He’s a fierce competitor with the athleticism, physicality, and technique to lock down receivers in man coverage, even with his 5-foot-9 frame.
Though he could play on the outside in the NFL as he did at TCU, Hodges-Tomlinson has the versatility and speed to lock up smaller, shiftier receivers in the slot. For a Jets defense that already has two great outside cornerbacks going into next season, the TCU product would fit in perfectly as the starting slot guy. If Gardner or Reed get injured, Hodges-Tomlinson would also provide the Jets some depth outside if necessary.
Round 4 (No. 112 overall): Mohamoud Diabate LB, Utah
Diabate is an athletic linebacker that has the range to excel in man coverage on passing plays and the physicality to take on blockers and finish tackles in the run game. In addition, Diabate got some good experience rushing the passer in his time at Florida before transferring to Utah. In his total collegiate career, he recorded 11 sacks and 27.5 tackles for a loss. Five of those sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss came this season at Utah, where he played the “Mac” linebacker role that Devin Lloyd played in his time with the Utes. For a Jets team that could use some help in the middle of their defense, Diabate could be their guy.
Round 5 (No. 144 overall): Steve Avila IOL, TCU
The offensive line upgrades continue for the Jets, except this time it’s on the interior. Avila was an All-American guard in 2021 and 2022 and has tons of experience (30-plus games) as a redshirt senior for the Horned Frogs. He’s got a big frame and tons of natural strength that he takes advantage of in both run blocking and pass protection, displacing defenders at the line of scrimmage and beyond, and winning physical matchups to prevent backfield penetration. With Johnson taken in the first round and Vera-Tucker returning from injury next year, Avila adds another impressive young blocker up front for the Jets’ offense.
Round 6 (No. 179 overall via HOU): Tykee Smith SAF, Georgia
The Jets’ secondary continues to get stronger as they finish this mock draft with another addition, this time at safety. Smith, a Third-Team All-American safety for West Virginia in 2020, would bring another physical presence with some alignment versatility to New York’s defensive backfield. He can play split, single-high, and in the nickel spot in run support and playing man coverage on tight ends. Smith has good ball skills and fluid hips that allow him to track receivers and be disruptive at the catch point. He’s also a physical tackler who can punish receivers in the quick game and stop running backs in their tracks.
- Feb 07, 2023
- Feb 07, 2023