Successful NFL teams use the middle rounds of the draft to build out their rosters. Building a roster with “cheap” talent from rounds three through five can allow a team to take chances in future earlier rounds. The Jets have largely done a poor job in the middle rounds of the draft, thus leaving a thin roster with little to no depth to speak of. New York has five picks (66, 86, 107, 146, 154) in these middle rounds.
Building a wall
The Jets need to surround their new, young quarterback Zach Wilson with a wall. Last year’s first-round pick Mekhi Becton was a solid start but Joe Douglas needs to continue to work on improving the 31st ranked pass blocking line according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Wilson had the fifth most average time to throw on passing attempts last season. Gang Green needs to continue to bolster their offensive line and these middle rounds offer an opportunity to do just that.
With one of the Jet’s two picks in round three, they should look to target Illinois guard Kendrick Green. He played both guard and center in college and will be ready to start day one in a zone-blocking system. Green received a 93.7 zone-blocking grade from PFF. He did not allow a sack in 2020 and gave up just six total pressures in 238 pass-blocking snaps.
A player to watch in the fourth round is guard David Moore from Grambling. At 6-foot-3 and 320-pounds, Moore is a big human. While he did not play in 2020 due to Covid-19 causing Grambling to play a spring season, Moore was named offensive lineman practice player of the week at the Senior Bowl.
In the fifth round Kentucky center Drake Jackson could be in play for the Jets. Jackson earned a zone blocking grade of 88.0 from PFF in 2020. AT 6-foot-2 and 292-pounds the former Wildcat is a bit undersized but he is a great athlete who allowed just three total pressures on 305 pass block snaps as a senior.
Give the kid some weapons
There has been a lot of recent smoke around the Jets selecting a running back early but I think it is just that, smoke. We know the Jets have spoken to several running backs and it a position they need to address. In the third round, an exciting player they could potentially land in Memphis running back, Kenneth Gainwell. Gainwell opted out of 2020 but he put up some solid numbers in 2019. He rushed for 1,466 yards and add 610 receiving yards on 51 catches. The former Tiger has only three career drops.
Two other running backs the Jets should consider with one of their two picks in round three are North Carolina’s Michael Carter and Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert. Carter is an undersized back that averaged 7.9 yards per carry last season. He led the nation in carries of 15 or more yards with 29. He is also a weapon in the passing game catching 25 balls in 2020 and was fifth in yards per route run.
Herbert broke out as a senior after transferring from Kentucky. The former Hokie rushed for 1,172 yards on 155 carries, a 7.6 yard average. Herbert was fourth in college football last season with 734 yards after contact.
Two wide receivers that could hear their names called in the fourth round are former Auburn Tiger Anthony Schwartz and former North Texas Mean Green Jaelon Darden. Schwartz, a recent guest on Play Like a Jet Live, has speed for days. He posted a 4.27 forty yard dash at his pro day. Schwartz does not offer much more than speed and in a one trick pony at this point but that trick in pretty good. NFL teams love speed and Schwartz has it in spades.
Darden is undersized at 5-foot-9 and 174-pounds but he has a chance to take it to the house every time he gets the ball in his hands. His 23 missed tackles forced last season were the best among receivers in this class. Darden averaged 4.31 yard per route run in 2020 fourth-best in class
Will the Jets finally address corner back?
It seems likely that New York would pick a corner back early in the draft as the need in glaring. If they are unable to all is not lost as this is a pretty deep class, especially at slot corner. A name to watch in the third round is Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse. Melifonwu is a big corner at 6-foot-3 and 213-pounds. He received an overall coverage grade of 79.3 from PFF in 2020.
Eric Stokes from Georgia is another corner that could be there early third round. In 299 coverage snaps in 2020, Stokes allowed just 16 catches for 145 yards. He allowed a 43.6 passer rating against last season.
Two other intriguing players to watch are Stanford’s Paulson Adebo and Shakur Brown from Michigan State. Adebo opted out of 2020 so he may have fallen off the radar a bit. At 6-foot-1 he offers nice length for the position. As a freshman in 2018, he led college football with 24 pass breakups. At his pro day, he answered questions about his speed, turning in a 4.45 forty.
Brown is a ball hawk having picked off seven passes on just 79 targets. Last season while splitting time in the slot and as a outside corner, Brown allowed a passer rating against of just 52.4. Where the former Spartan struggled last season was as a tackler. His six missed tackles was third worst among corners in this draft. Watching him play it is easy to see he loves playing football and whatever team drafts him he will be a fan favorite very quickly.
There is a good chance the Jets could address the linebacker position early in the draft depending how the board plays out. Beyond C.J. Mosley and Jarrad Davis the linebacker room is baron. This is not a deep linebacker class but with should a big need it is hard to imagine the Jets not drafting one.
Nick Bolton is a player that may still be on the board at the top of the third round. The 6-foot Missouri junior was tied for 15th in run stops with 32 last season. Bolton will not wow you with his physical tools, thou he did post a solid 4.6 forty. Were the former Tiger will win you over is with his ability to make plays despite his less than ideal measurables. His 44 defensive stops last season was third best in this draft class.
Georgia linebacker Monty Rice has side-line to side-line ability at the next level. He posted an excellent 4.58 forty time and he plays with that kind of speed. Rice is a sure tackler with just three missed tackles in 2020 and a career missed tackle rate of under 10%.