Although the first year of the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson experiment has seen its fair share of bumps in the road and signs of smooth sailing, it could be much worse than sitting at 4-11 with just two games remaining in Wilson’s rookie campaign. In the first year of what is expected to be a lengthy rebuild as their franchise quarterback and newly-minted head coach get their feet wet, the Jets still remain one of the league’s most talent barren rosters.
While there are exciting pieces on the defensive side of the ball in Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers, the most points win games and that’s what Wilson was brought into town to do, and in bunches.
2021 draftees in ball-carrier Michael Carter and wideout Elijah Moore and have led their positional groups in production, which has presented a nice look into the window of future campaigns. But for Wilson, there’s pop needed on the outside, and plenty of it to accompany Moore. While general manager Joe Douglas signed former Titans target Corey Davis to the tune of a healthy three-year, $37.5M deal during the free agency window, he’s appeared in just nine games this fall, enjoying the worst season of his five-year career outside of his initial rookie season.
With talent in abundance in what again looks to be a deep, immediately-impactful wide receiver class, here are two perimeter talents on days one, two, and three of the 2022 NFL Draft that the Jets could add to boost Wilson’s arsenal of weaponry moving into next fall.
Jameson Williams, Alabama
A pass-catcher that dominates at the onset of a route due to his explosive quickness and short-area burst, Williams’ ability to couple his isolation skills with sure hands and YAC ability is unmatched by many in college football. With an eerily similar frame to that of former Crimson Tide standout and Denver Broncos first-rounder Jerry Jeudy, Williams’ streamlined build allows him to blow past defenders at a moment’s notice while also touting the necessary footwork and route-running prowess to break off his routes in the blink of an eye. The next perimeter product out of Tuscaloosa that won’t take long to make his presence known at the NFL level, his ability to work at all three levels of a defense, while providing true game-breaking speed, should pair awfully nice with the bazooka on the shoulder of Wilson.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas
While the Jets won’t take Williams or Burks in the top six—where their two first-round selections are currently slotted—if Douglas opts to trade back with his second top-10 selection, or trade up from No. 35, Burks could be the perfect addition as a do-it-all option for Mike LaFleur’s offense. Built in the mold of Deebo Samuel with a frame as pro-ready as any draft-eligible prospect in the entire class, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Burks is a load to bring down in open space and an acutely detailed route-runner with just enough burst that will overpower smaller corners due to his physicality at the start of the route. A potential target hog out of the slot for Wilson with Jamison Crowder set to enter free agency, Burks has the chance to catch 80-plus balls in his first season. Coupling his competitiveness at the catch point and YAC ability matched solely by Williams, Burks touts arguably the highest floor of any wideout in the class.
John Metchie III, Alabama
The ideal weapon within an offense that will continually look to sling it around the yard as Wilson becomes increasingly comfortable within LaFleur’s offense, don’t be surprised if Douglas pulls the trigger on the Crimson Tide standout despite his final collegiate season ending early due to a torn ACL. Currently on a similar track back to football as Jaylen Waddle last draft cycle, Metchie III was much more than just a possession receiver within Nick Saban’s offense. A high-IQ athlete whose ability to find the soft spot in defenses sits second to his knack for consistently beating man-to-man coverage, potential injury concerns and production that flew under the radar compared to Williams’ gaudy campaign could see Metchie slip right into the hands of Douglas. A professional route-runner with the skill set to shoulder the load of an offensive attack, he could be the ideal fit alongside Davis and Moore.
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Desmond Ridder’s top target for the Bearcats, Pierce is everything you desire in a WR2 or WR3 at the pro level. A consistent, tough, sure-handed talent whose athleticism sneaks up on defenders when asked to leap and attack 50/50 balls, Pierce’s strong hands and ability to separate as a boundary wideout has introduced a prospect that will become a quarterback’s best friend wherever he lands. Similar to the role that Dax Milne served for Wilson at BYU, Pierce would present not just a safety blanket, but a wideout he can both stretch the field with and target heavily within the shallow areas of the offense.
Honorable mention: Calvin Austin III, Memphis
An impact weapon X in all facets, it’s hard to find someone with negative reviews surrounding Austin’s tape. Looking back to last year’s draft, raw speed, as always, became a hot commodity and will be so in this year’s class as well. A former track standout whose much speed translates from the track to the perimeter, he’s much more than a “gadget” wideout whose skill set, combined with an NFL game that prioritizes positional versatility, could see Austin come off the board much higher than anyone projects. Whether he aligns at X, in the slot, or in the backfield, Austin is arguably the most electric prospect in the class that will continue to rise as we move throughout the pre-draft cycle.
Khalil Shakir, Boise State
Constructed in the mold of Moore, Shakir is another product that slots in nicely to the spread concepts within LaFleur’s offense. A prospect with three consecutive seasons of production within Boise State’s aerial attack, Shakir doesn’t do anything outstandingly well, but his best football is ahead of him. If presented the opportunity to compete for snaps, his skill set along with Wilson’s knack to lift the ceiling off of defenses will allow Shakir to slip under defenses with eyes drawn elsewhere. He’d be an excellent depth piece to add here on Day 3.
Kyle Philips, UCLA
Philips will play for a decade, it doesn’t matter who takes him. One of the toughest receivers in the class, Philips doesn’t have the speed of some of the bigger names or the ability to play above the rim like USC’s Drake London or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, but man can the kid flat out play football. As previously mentioned with Crowder expected to explore free agency, Philips has the necessary skill set to come in and compete for snaps from day one. A quick-twitched receiver with boatloads of production at UCLA and traits eerily similar to that of Las Vegas Raiders’ target hog Hunter Renfrow, it’s hard to find anything not to like about Philips’ game.