The New York Jets are believed to be set on selecting Zach Wilson second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they also have another first-round pick, a high second-round pick and two third-round picks that could be used to move up the board.
Wilson will hopefully be the next franchise QB for Gang Green, who haven’t really had a true star at the position since Joe Namath. In order to maximize Wilson’s chances for success, New York general manager Joe Douglas must build a strong team around the BYU signal-caller.
Here are three prospects the Jets should target after they make the relatively easy decision to choose Wilson.
New York Jets add speedy outside cornerback in Round 1
There’s a chance that new Jets head coach Robert Saleh could be more inclined to bet on Georgia’s Tyson Campbell on Day 2 instead of using a first-round pick on his teammate, but cornerback Eric Stokes’ elite speed and strong play in the SEC suggest he’ll be more than ready to make the NFL leap quickly.
Stokes ran a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which is hard to find for someone with his polished skill set. This may not be the flashiest pick, or the trendy one, since Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II is a recent, rapid riser who New York could very well take at No. 23 overall.
Whatever the case may be, it’s vital for Saleh to find a viable outside cornerback for his scheme. The Jets really don’t have any proven players at the position, and in lieu of a veteran leader like Richard Sherman coming aboard in free agency, blue-chip talent is required for this defense to improve in 2021. Stokes fits that description.
New York Jets land instant starter opposite Carl Lawson
One of the biggest splashes of free agency came when New York paid a pretty penny to lure pass-rusher Carl Lawson away from the Cincinnati Bengals. Lawson showed out well in Cincinnati particularly last season when he was the only viable option on the team’s defensive front after DJ Reader’s injury, but he needs some help.
With Quinnen Williams already in place and Lawson now joining the fold, it’d behoove the Jets to target someone with the 34th pick who has inside-out versatility. One prospect who’s gaining a lot of buzz of late is Houston’s Payton Turner, yet it feels a little early to take him given his prior relative obscurity.
Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr. has been on draft radars for much longer and has multiple years of prolific production to back up his hype. Basham is 6-foot-3 and 274 pounds, so he has the size to get it done on the interior, yet is also strong enough at the point of attack to play the run effectively.
Maybe Saleh and Douglas opt for potential over proven ability to fill the position, taking someone like Miami one-year wonder Gregory Rousseau or Penn State freak athlete Jayson Oweh, who should still be available early on Day 2. That’ll all be a matter of preference.
New York Jets trade up for playmaker in Round 2
- 2021 NFL MOCK DRAFT TRADE: Jets send 66th, 146th and 186th picks to Chicago Bears for 52nd pick.
Adding former Tennessee receiver Corey Davis in free agency isn’t quite enough for the Jets’ aerial attack to really take off in Wilson’s rookie year. Given his uncanny downfield accuracy and ability to extend plays, it’d be great for New York to give him another weapon who can take the top off the defense.
Another route Douglas could go here, in the event of a trade up, is to target a dynamic tailback if there’s one the Jets really like. While it seems like receiver is the better way to go, it is true that New York doesn’t exactly have a surefire feature back and must address that position at some point in the draft. Otherwise, the offense won’t be very well-balanced in 2021.
So, who is New York moving up for? After running this through successfully through the The Draft Network’s mock simulator, it turns out to be a difficult decision with those aforementioned position groups, because North Carolina Tar Heels stars Dyami Brown and Javonte Williams are still on the board.
Brown averaged over 20 yards per catch in each of the last two seasons, and Williams is viewed on the same tier as the likes of Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. Guess what, though? Tar Heels back Michael Carter should still be available in the third round, as should Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell.
That means Brown joins a receiving corps already featuring Davis, Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. Suddenly, that’s a really strong, diversely-skilled corps for Wilson to work with.
New York Jets mock draft: First four picks include trade up
- First round, 2nd pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
- First round, 23rd pick: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
- Second round, 34th pick: Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest
- Second round 52nd pick (via CHI): Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina