NFL Draft 2019: High-caliber WR, OT options for Jets as they build around Sam Darnold
The Jets have to start building around their young quarterback, and the pass-rush must be addressed
The Jets went into the bye week in essentially the worst way imaginable.
At 3-7, now losers of four straight, it's an appropriate time for New York to glance ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Let's pinpoint first-round pick candidates for the Gang Green as they'll attempt to construct a quality roster around No. 3 overall selection Sam Darnold, who'll only be 22 when next season begins.
Potential first-round picks
If the draft were today, the Jets would have the No. 5 pick. With two games against Tom Brady sandwiching contests against the Titans, Packers, and Texans along with a road trip to Buffalo, it'll be surprising if New York ends the year with more than five wins. So, holding a selection in the No. 4 overall to No. 7 overall range seems the most likely.
(A vital caveat: The Jets are in line to have $95.5M in cap space next year, per OverTheCap.com, so some (or most?) of their roster building may come on the free-agent market. But nothing's more valuable than hitting on an early draft pick, so for the time being, let's evaluate their biggest needs and fill them with draft choices.)
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Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
because he's proven to be a dominant player in the SEC and the team that drafts him won't have to hope for technical development. He's about as pro-ready as it gets, from his kick-slide in pass protection to the timing and accuracy of his "punch" and the ability to thwart counter moves with relative ease.
Size and length are nice luxuries for the offensive tackle position, not concrete necessities. Williams will be viewed as a guard by some teams. I think he can be a high-level starter at left tackle early in his career. Kelvin Beachum is under contract through 2019, but it'd be prudent for the Jets to plan ahead at that spot. Even if Williams starts his pro career on the right side -- like he did at Alabama -- that'd work. One more thing ... outstanding pass-rushers align everywhere in today's NFL. Even if Williams is ultimately a guard in New York, the Jets will be happy to have him.
Other option at same position: Greg Little, Ole Miss
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Both Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse are impending free agents, and even if they were set to return or are re-signed by Gang Green this offseason ... Darnold needs a talent infusion in his receiver group. While he's battled injuries, Robby Anderson has been productive when on the field, and he's predominantly a perimeter wideout.
Brown flourished mainly in the slot in 2017 and for the first half of this year before moving around more following the season-ending injury to his teammate D.K. Metcalf. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds with running-back like skills after the catch, strong hands, and impressive ball skills, Brown would be an instant best friend of Darnold over the middle and in the short-to-intermediate portions of the field. Unless he disappoints at the combine, the Ole Miss star should be in play for the Jets in the first round.
Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
If they Jets are picking outside of the top 3, Nick Bosa probably won't be there. And they have a gigantic need on the edge. Huge. Jordan Jenkins has given New York underrated contributions this season but isn't an "alpha" rusher for the long-term.
How the Jets address the edge-rusher spot will likely depend on scheme, which could change if Todd Bowles is fired at the end of the year, which right now seems likely. If the next head coach wants a defense with 3-4 principles, Allen should be considered in Round 1. He's a stand-up outside linebacker with an impressively versatile skill set. Allen's very comfortable and effective in coverage and has a lot of juice flying around the corner. If the Jets want more of a "classic" 4-3 defensive end, Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, a long-armed 6-5, 265-pounder, would make more sense. Neither Allen nor Ferrell are masters with their hands but both possess the high-caliber athleticism and motors to become No. 1 pass-rushers on their team in the NFL.
Potential non-Round 1 sleepers
Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia: At 6-5 and a somewhat chiseled 322 pounds, Cajuste looks the part of an athletic NFL left tackle. He has light feet that allow him to mirror pass-rushers and long arms to keep them off his frame. He's had plenty of experience in pass protection and thrives in that area because of his athleticism, fundamentally sound work his hands, and a good amount of anchoring strength. Cajuste has routinely displayed a mean streak as a run-blocker too. It'd be a great get for the Jets to land him at the top of Round 2.
Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri: Hall is going to be one of the fastest receivers at the combine ... and he's listed at 6-3 and 195 pounds. He's an absolute burner on the field and has some wiggle in space on catches at the intermediate level. Hall and Anderson would formulate a dynamic deep-threat duo for Darnold, which would give safeties fits for a while and take an extra defender out of the box. Hall should go sometime on Day 2.
Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU: Like Allen, Banogu leans on explosive athletic movements more than refined hand usage at the point of attack. But at 6-4 and 250 pounds with what looks like long limbs, Banogu could be a problem for offensive tackles at the next level, and he already plays the run well because of a strong edge-setting skills. The Jets would add an experienced, athletic player to their pass-rushing group at good value if they got him somewhere from the second to fourth round.
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