New York Jets GM seemingly tips hand about 2021 NFL Draft plans

The New York Jets will have 10 selections in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. That includes two first-round picks as well as an additional late-round selection as part of the three-pick bounty New York received from the Carolina Panthers in the Sam Darnold trade earlier this week.

Sure. A lot of the focus has been on what the Jets plan to do with the No. 2 overall pick. The vast majority of recent reports indicate that general manager Joe Douglas plans on selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson to be the face of the franchise in Jersey moving forward. Trading a former top-three pick in Darnold adds another layer to this.

However, Douglas seemingly tipped his hand over what the Jets’ plans are for the 2021 NFL Draft during a post-trade presser with reporters on Tuesday.

“We have to surround our next quarterback with as much talent as possible,” Douglas told the media.

Obviously, the front office head is not yet ready to proclaim that Wilson will be the pick at two. Heck, there’s an off-chance New York goes with either Justin Fields or Trey Lance. Regardless, there’s a huge need to build skill-position talent on an offense that averaged a laughable 15.2 points per game under recently-fired head coach Adam Gase last season.

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New York Jets to target skill positions early in the 2021 NFL Draft

New York Jets NFL Draft: Najee Harris
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) stiff arms Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner (20) as he runs during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines here. Despite adding wide receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole during NFL free agency, that position remains a need. Meanwhile, the Jets really don’t have a legit three-down running back for an unnamed rookie to rely on.

The likes of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman — New York’s top-three running backs right now — combined for 539 rushing yards last season. That’s a whole lot of ouch.

The good news? These Jets have the assets to add to both of these positions as well as the tight end unit during the 2021 NFL Draft. They boast the 23rd overall pick in the first round stemming from the Jamal Adams trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Add in the second-and-fourth round selections New York acquired in 2022 from Carolina for Darnold, and this team could potentially move up for a skill-position talent.

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Even if the New York Jets stand pat at 23 in Round 1, there’s a chance former Alabama standout running back Najee Harris will be available. The reigning Heisman finalist is seen as the consensus top back in the draft and could be a plug-and-play starter.

It’s all about what Douglas and new head coach Robert Saleh deem to be the best fit under first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He comes from the San Francisco 49ers and worked under Kyle Shanahan for the past four seasons. If that’s any indication, LaFleur’s scheme could value a more all-purpose back. Perhaps, Travis Etienne from Clemson could be an option in Round 2. New York is slated to pick second in that round.

Either way, it now seems clear that the New York Jets are going to focus on the offensive side of the ball early and often in the 2021 NFL Draft. That has to be music to the ears of downtrodden fans of Gang Green in Jersey.