The early stages of Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ rebuilding plan has been all about financial flexibility and acquiring draft picks. He’s even managed to get two first-round picks in the next NFL draft for the second year in a row.
And thanks to the collapse of the Seattle Seahawks – who sent him their 2022 first-rounder in the one-sided Jamal Adams trade – both of those picks could end up in the Top 10.
That’s more than Douglas could have imagined, and exactly what the Jets need. They are filled with holes on their roster, even though they are loaded with promising young talent. Two Top 10 picks, plus whatever they can get with their abundance of salary cap room in free agency, could turn this unending rebuild into a surprisingly quick fix.
So, with their season almost over, here’s a very early look at the Jets’ draft situation and the instant help they might be able to get:
CURRENT DRAFT POSITION: 4th (with their own pick) and 6th (with the pick they acquired from Seattle in the Adams trade).
HIGHEST PICK THEY COULD GET: Their strength of schedule is weak enough that they could still get the No. 1 overall pick if they lose out, Jacksonville and Detroit win out (good luck with that), and the Houston Texans win at least one game (ties go to the team with the worst strength of schedule).
LOWEST PICK THEY COULD GET: It would be close and might come down to tie-breakers, but the Seahawks’ pick they own could be as low as 13th. That might happen if the Seahawks win their last two games (vs. Detroit, at Arizona), Washington loses twice, and four of these five teams lose their last two games — Atlanta, Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans, and Cleveland.
WHAT THEY NEED: So much. A pass rusher to line up opposite a healthy Carl Lawson next season. Another top receiver to help Zach Wilson. A pass-catching tight end. A safety to replace Marcus Maye. More corners and offensive linemen wouldn’t be terrible ideas, either.
WHAT THEY CAN GET:
Oregon DE/LB Kayvon Thibodeaux – He may be the best player in the draft and figures to be a Top 2 pick. Maybe, if a QB sneaks in to the top spots, he falls to 3, but no further. The 6-4, 250-pound edge rusher would seem to be an ideal fit on the opposite end of a healthy Lawson. That would instantly transform the Jets’ defense into something dangerous, and give Robert Saleh the kind of front he had in San Francisco.
Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson – Ditto everything written above about Thibodeaux. This 6-6, 265-pounder is coming off a 14-sack season and right now it’s a coin flip as to which is the best pass rusher and maybe best player in the draft. It’s hard to see the Jets passing either one if they’re available. With one of them the Jets’ D would look a whole lot different next year.
Purdue DE George Karlaftis – He’s a notch or two below the Thibodeaux/Hutchinson level, but he’s still a powerful, 6-4, 275-pound pass rusher who can come at the quarterback from anywhere. He doesn’t have the same production as the Top 2 (just 4.5 sacks last year), but the skills are there. He should be a top option if the Jets’ pick lands outside the Top 4.
Arkansas WR Treylon Burks – There are as many as five receivers vying for the title of “Best WR in the 2022 draft” and all of them would help out Wilson. Imagine a healthy Elijah Moore and Corey Davis getting someone like the 6-3, 225 Burks to draw some attention away. He was a dynamic playmaker, catching 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. He was even 7-129-1 against the tough, Alabama defense.
Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson – He’s not as big as Burks (5-11, 186) but he might be faster. He also caught 60 passes for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite having another legit candidate for the draft’s best receiver on his own team (Chris Olave). Take your pick, really. And throw in Alabama’s Jameson Williams – an Ohio State transfer – too. They’ll all be there and the Jets could choose between a couple of them, even with their second first-round pick.
Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton – He’s the most disruptive secondary player in the draft and could be the perfect replacement for Maye, who seems unlikely to be re-signed by the Jets. He’s 6-4, 210, has great speed, is said to be really smart, and has eight interceptions, 7.5 tackles for loss and 16 pass deflections in 31 career games. A knee injury limited him to just seven games this season, but he’s expected to be fine, though he’s skipping the Fiesta Bowl.
LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. – The Jets look like they have some young corners who can play in Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols. But Stingley’s talent may be on another level. The issue with him, though, is much of that is based on his spectacular, six-interception freshman season in 2019. Due to various injuries, including a foot injury that required surgery in October, he’s played just 10 games over the past two seasons. So the upside is high, but the risk is real.
Ole Miss T Charles Cross – The Jets’ offensive line has looked pretty good in the second half of this season and they still have their anchor left tackle, Mekhi Becton, presumably coming back healthy next season after losing most of this year to a knee injury. Tackle might not be their biggest offseason priority. Still, Douglas loves offensive linemen, and if their pick is low enough, the 6-5, 305-pound athletic Cross is a good fit for their wide zone blocking scheme – maybe even better than the top tackle in the draft, Alabama’s Evan Neal (6-7, 360).