FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. To-do list: General manager Joe Douglas delivered an Aaron Judge-like performance in last year’s NFL draft, knocking it out of the park in historic fashion.
“Joe obviously nailed it,” said Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and a former longtime NFL scout. “Anytime you land the two rookies of the year in the same class, that’s pretty awesome. I can’t imagine that’s been done very many times.”
What can Douglas & Co. do for an encore? The Jets own six picks, including three in the top 43. It would be a successful draft weekend if they:
Complete the Aaron Rodgers trade. It’s a win for the Jets if they can do it without surrendering any nonconditional first-round picks.
Address their offensive line needs. Tackle and center are big ones. They could wind up with Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State) or Broderick Jones (Georgia) at No. 13 — both left-tackle prospects. The Jets are lucky because this is an unusually strong center class; they should find a good one in the second round. John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota) and Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin) are the names to watch.
Bolster their defensive tackle depth: They signed Quinton Jefferson but lost Sheldon Rankins and Nathan Shepherd. They need to add a young player to the pipeline. They don’t have a third-round pick (sent to the Cleveland Browns in the Elijah Moore trade), but don’t be surprised if Douglas picks up a three with some maneuvering.
Add another wide receiver: Yes, they’ve made a lot of moves at receiver, but they’re not done yet. The goal is to surround Rodgers, their presumptive quarterback, with as many playmakers as possible. If the value is there, they could add a wideout at any point in the draft. Josh Downs (North Carolina), ideal in the slot, could be an intriguing option on Day 2. If they pick one, they could look to trade Denzel Mims.
Find a linebacker (if necessary): They’re fine at linebacker if Kwon Alexander re-signs. If the Jets deem his return unlikely, they need to add competition for the LB3 spot.
The draft represents another at-bat for Douglas.
“To me, stick to the same blueprint. It worked last year,” Nagy said. “Whatever value system you used last year, I would just reapply it. Obviously, you got results — immediate results. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
2. Middle men: Some drafts produce only a couple of decent centers, but this one includes at least five with starting potential, according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. He identified three plug-and-play prospects — Tippmann, Schmitz and Luke Wypler (Ohio State). His other two favorites are Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas) and Olusegun Oluwatimi (Michigan).
The Jets got spoiled at center. From 1998 to 2016, they had elite-level play from Kevin Mawae and Nick Mangold. Since then, it hasn’t been the same. Connor McGovern had some moments from 2020 to 2022, but he remains a free agent — which is telling.
3. Potential wild card: It would be an upset if the Jets don’t draft a tackle in the first round. We all know Douglas has an affinity for offensive linemen. The same could be said for defensive linemen, especially with the defensive-minded Robert Saleh as coach. So if you’re looking for a defensive curveball in Round 1, the name to remember is Nolan Smith (Georgia).
Smith (6-foot-2, 238) is undersized to play defensive end in a 4-3 front, but he has rare speed (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and explosiveness (1.47 for his 10-yard split). Some evaluators say Smith could play the Leo position — a stand-up defensive end, closer to what he played in college. Saleh is familiar with the Leo, having coached under Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks.
On paper, they don’t need another edge rusher, but if Smith somehow slips to 13 …
4. Mini-mock 2.0: Setting up the Jets’ pick at 13 …
1. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama; 2. Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State; 3. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., edge, Alabama; 4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida; QB; 5. Seattle Seahawks: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia; 6. Detroit Lions: Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech; 7. Las Vegas Raiders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois; 8. Atlanta Falcons: Nolan Smith, edge, Georgia; 9. Chicago Bears: Peter Skoronski, T/G, Northwestern; 10. Philadelphia Eagles: Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa; 11. Tennessee Titans, Will Levis, QB, Kentucky; 12. Texans: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon.
In this scenario at 13, the Jets would be pleasantly surprised to have a choice of three tackles — Johnson, Jones and Darnell Wright (Tennessee). Jones might have the highest ceiling, but Johnson has the highest floor — so he would be the pick.
5. Jets draft trivia: Can you name the oldest former Jets draft pick still active in the NFL? Answer below.
6. Flippers? Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik, now an analyst for SiriusXM, offered his opinion on the holdup in the Rodgers trade.
“I get the sense that we’re going to see the Packers move from 15 to 13, and Aaron Rodgers is going to be in that, as well as another draft pick,” Dominik said. “I don’t know of any other reason why it wouldn’t be done — unless they’re trying to use a draft pick to do it.”
A drop from 13 to 15 is the equivalent of a low third-rounder/early fourth-round pick, according to the commonly used trade value chart. Obviously, the Jets would have to give up more than that to complete the trade. The more likely outcome: The Jets trade one of their 2023 second-round picks and a 2024 conditional pick. The 2024 compensation is reportedly the crux of the dispute, with the Packers thought to be seeking a nonconditional first-rounder.
7. Quiet Zach: Quarterback Zach Wilson, who was present for the start of voluntary workouts, has kept a low profile this offseason. He hasn’t talked to the media since the end of the season, when he vowed to “make that dude’s life hell in practice” — referring to the possibility of backing up a veteran (pre-Rodgers speculation). It will be interesting to hear what he has to say now.
Here’s one positive: Wilson, through communication with Rodgers, received a glowing report on new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. That should help soften the blow of being demoted.
8. Cheesy text: Sauce Gardner tells Jason and Travis Kelce on their podcast (“New Heights”) that he tried to recruit Rodgers by texting him a photo of his cheesehead — the one he took from last season’s game at Lambeau Field. Gardner said Rodgers replied, “Why do you have that? lol.”
At least he didn’t text back, “Lose my number.”
9. Two islands: Gardner has some interesting things to say on the podcast about comparisons to former Jets great Darrelle Revis — a window into his mindset as he prepares for season 2.
“He was a great corner and everything, but I want to be better than him,” Gardner says. “When people talk about Sauce Island, they’re just thinking about Darrelle Revis Island. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on an island as well, but that’s why the fans, they created ‘Lost in the Sauce.’ I didn’t even make that up. I saw it in the comments on Twitter and I was like, ‘We’re gonna use this.'”
10. Did you know? The Jets have only one safety under contract for 2024 — Tony Adams. Four safeties, including starters Jordan Whitehead and Chuck Clark, will be free agents. It could factor into their Day 3 decisions.
Trivia answer: Linebacker Demario Davis, 34, a third-round pick in 2012. He has spent the past five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, a former All-Pro (2019) who made his first Pro Bowl last season.
How Jets GM Joe Douglas can deliver encore after last year’s historic draft – New York Jets Blog