Despite an early-season effort to “Tank for Trevor,” the New York Jets couldn’t get out of their own way. They finished 2-14 and “earned” the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. With Trevor Lawrence likely off the board to the Jacksonville Jaguars, there are many ways for the Jets to take their franchise.
That second overall pick could dictate what they do for the entire draft, and that’s what makes it so interesting. The front office has accumulated draft capital by trading away some talent, but it’s coming to fruition in April. The Jets will have six picks in the first 100 and plenty of ammunition to move anywhere they want on the draft board.
So with some work still to do and some possible moves to still be made, there are many options for the Jets heading into the draft. This could all be for nothing if a Deshaun Watson trade pops up on Adam Schefter’s Twitter in two seconds, but, for now, we will assume the Jets keep their first-round picks.
Justin Fields – QB, Ohio State
That’s when I thought it was destiny for Trevor Lawrence to end up in the Meadowlands. Alas, it was not meant to be as the Jets ended up winning a football game in 2020 ON PURPOSE.
So, with the second pick, they will have the chance to draft Justin Fields. The Ohio State quarterback isn’t viewed as a sure thing like his Sunshine counterpart from Clemson, but he’s got all the tools to make it at the NFL level.
Drafting Fields will mean that New York has or will move on from Sam Darnold, and that’s not a bad thing. New Head Coach Robert Saleh brought Mike LaFleur with him from San Francisco and will surely implement some aspects of Kyle Shanahan’s offense to the Jets system in 2021. Fields will thrive in that style of offense. His accuracy, decision-making ability, and overall poise will lead to a fruitful relationship in the Big Apple.
Zach Wilson – QB, BYU
While Fields may be the safer choice among the remaining quarterbacks, no one can argue Zach Wilson having a higher ceiling. The BYU standout rocketed up draft boards during the 2020 season and has gone from selling car insurance to incoming first-year students in Utah to a top-five lock in the 2021 draft.
His ascension is similar to Joe Burrow from last season, but Wilson is nowhere near as polished as the now-Bengals signal-caller. His skill to keep plays alive will be alluring to any NFL GM, and especially the Jets. Their fans watched Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold manage their offense over the last decade, and adding an explosive leader like Wilson could do wonders for this franchise.
Ja’Maar Chase – WR, LSU
There is an arms race to grab a rookie quarterback this season. The Jets already have a quarterback in Sam Darnold. It’s not a secret that Joe Douglas is still deciding between keeping Darnold or starting over. If the former happens, the Jets should trade down (still inside the top-10) and take the best available receiver for Darnold’s future.
For now, we will say that Ja’maar Chase makes it to wherever the Jets pick. The football world seems to have forgotten what an incredible receiver he is after sitting out 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. During LSU’s title-winning season, Chase corraled 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 14 games. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! That kind of weapon does not come along in every NFL draft, and the Jets would be wise to add him to their arsenal should they get the opportunity.
Adding Chase to a receiving corps with Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and newly-signed Corey Davis would vault the Jets up the rankings for pass-catching talent. If this team is really set on building around Sam Darnold for the foreseeable future, they HAVE to give him the type of talent to succeed at the pro level.
Asante Samuel Jr. – CB, Florida State
The Jets have a second, first-round pick this year after trading Jamaal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks last offseason. With that pick, they should desperately address the defensive side of the ball. Pulling the trigger on a defensive player at the top of the first round is not a good use of resources. There is too much offensive talent to pass up. Therefore, the 23rd pick would be an ideal spot to bolster their defense.
Asante Samuel Jr. was a top-10 corner in the country. He would instantly start for a Jets secondary that was terrible at outside coverage in 2020. Across his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida St., the defensive back recorded 79 tackles, 20 pass defenses, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
Pro Football Focus has Samuel Jr. as the fourth-best cornerback in this draft and the 29th-best prospect overall. Finding young, athletic playmakers is the name of the game in the NFL, and Samuel could be an immediate difference-maker in Robert Saleh’s defense.
Azeez Ojulari – OLB, Georgia
Do you know what would help out a terrible secondary? A half-decent pass rush. The Jets didn’t have that in 2020, and adding Ojulari to their front seven would be a huge step in the right direction. Coming in at 6’5″ and 230 pounds gives him the frame to be the best speed rusher in the entire draft class. His measurements seem to be scaring teams, and getting him at 23 should be viewed as a steal.
Pro Football Focus rewarded his final season with a well-deserved 91.7 pass-rushing grade. He enters the pros as a red-shirt sophomore and was fantastic in his two full seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs. Ojulari produced 15 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, and 45 hurries over 24 games and showed exactly how he could torture NFL offensive lines as soon as this season.
Josh Allen isn’t leaving the AFC East anytime soon. Once the Jets get this franchise back to winning ways, taking down Allen and the Bills may be a final hurdle to jump in pursuit of a division crown. Ojulari can’t do it on his own, but he’s a solid addition to any team with pass-rushing needs.