Robert Saleh's first season as head coach of the New York Jets ended with a 4-13 record. The Jets, like most teams, encountered a lot of adversity, such as losing premier free agent signing Carl Lawson to injury before the season and dealing with a variety of other in-season injuries to young contributors like Zach Wilson, Mekhi Becton, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter.
There were some positive developments to take from the season, however. Fans should be excited about a young nucleus that includes offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, Becton, Moore and Carter. In two seasons as general manager, Joe Douglas' philosophy has been clear: bring in a quarterback and strengthen the offensive and defensive lines.
Here is one scenario that could play out through the 2022 NFL Draft:
No. 4 overall: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Jets basically get two first-round picks at the edge rusher position this year with the return of a healthy Carl Lawson and Thibodeaux. The AFC East franchise has a pair of edge rushers capable of applying pressure. When it is all said and done, head coach Robert Saleh's defense should be able to apply pressure from all levels.
No. 10 overall: Drake London, WR, USC
There are a few ways to approach New York's potential interest in wide receiver help. On one hand, the team did express interest in acquiring Tyreek Hill before he was dealt to Miami. Based on that alone, it would suggest the team covets speed. However, Hill is a unicorn. He is not replicable. What is replicable is the relationship that Wilson developed with wide receivers at BYU. As a prospect, he was praised for his ability to extend plays and throw off-platform. The quarterback was known to throw the ball up and allow his bigger wide receivers to make plays. When considering that aspect of his past, it stands to reason that London may be of interest. With a basketball background, the USC product understands how to use his body to create separation and attack the ball at its peak. His combination of size and physicality is a nice compliment to having Moore on the roster.
Round 2: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia & Breece Hall, RB, Texas A&M
These two picks are No. 35 and No. 38 overall -- the latter coming as part of the Sam Darnold trade with Carolina. Walker is an athletic freakshow who can play sideline to sideline. The Jets were very interested in Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis last year because of the athleticism he brings to the table. As New York continues looking for difference makers to fill out the defense, Walker is someone who should get the team excited.
Hall is a bigger back who would compliment Carter nicely. The trend in the NFL is no longer having one feature back but rather a few running backs capable of sharing a workload. Hall gives New York a little more physicality to grind out wins in the AFC East.
Round 3: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
New York brings in Mathis to plug in next to Quinnen Williams. It brought in Sheldon Rankins last season and he performed admirably. John Franklin-Myers played on the edge but has the size to play inside. Those three players combined for 15 sacks last season. The Jets very well may not have a need at the position upon drafting Thibodeaux in the first round, but having a young, flexible defensive line is a good problem to have for this team.
Round 4: Mario Goodrich, CB, Clemson and Logan Bruss, IOL, Wisconsin
Supposedly, the Jets are comfortable with D.J. Reed at cornerback along with a talented group from last year's draft class. San Francisco really did not invest heavily in cornerback when Saleh was there, so perhaps it is part of a larger team-building strategy. Goodrich gives them more depth. The same is true of Bruss. As Day 3 commences, it is worth noting that fans should not be expecting players to come in and be difference makers. Best-case scenario, teams find depth and role players.
Round 5: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana and Percy Butler, S, Louisiana
McFadden is a really smart, savvy player. He is not Fred Werner, but New York is adding a player with special teams potential. Butler has significant special teams experience, so he checks the box of doing whatever is necessary to make a roster. The hope is that teams find players capable of sticking on the roster through special teams and developing into a larger role.