The 2022 NFL Draft is less than four weeks away and few teams are as equipped to make an impact as the New York Jets. General Manager Joe Douglas has four picks in the top 40. Here’s a scenario that could play out for the AFC East franchise:
No. 4 overall: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Offensive tackle has been a popular projection for the Jets, but that depends on how the organization views Mekhi Becton, who was drafted No. 11 overall in 2020. Whether he’s healthy and fit for get in shape, it is less necessary to invest such a high choice in the position. Becton isn’t even 23 yet, and George Fant has been effective in his role.
Gardner’s selection allows New York to improve from top to bottom on the depth chart. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II and DJ Reed Jr. complete a suddenly deep and talented unit. Gardner is a long and confident cornerback.
10th overall: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
Cornerback and edge rusher are top defensive positions. The first had already been covered and now the same goes for the second. The return of Carl Lawson and Johnson to good health gives New York a dynamic couple. Despite using the two first-round picks on defense, there will still be opportunities to improve on offense. Johnson is a prospect who should be able to contribute immediately.
No. 35 overall: Travis Jones, DT, UCONN
Jones is a physical monster compared to his height. He’s a tall inside player who should raise the floor of the run defense from day one. Looking at how the defensive front has been constructed, the Jets have three players capable of applying some pass rush in Quinnen Williams, Johnson and Lawson. . They don’t need a fourth pass rusher as much as they need to improve the run defense. The linebacker core is still a work in progress, so it’s important that the game in the running game be picked up elsewhere and Jones accomplishes that task.
No. 38 overall: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Jets failed to surround Sam Darnold with talent and it would be foolish to do the same with Zach Wilson. They used a second-round pick on wide receiver Elijah Moore last year after taking offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round. Corey Davis was signed to not only be an outlet for Wilson, but also to do the dirty work in this offense. By selecting Pickens, the team has a wide receiver capable of winning contested shots in the field. Pickens is one of the less discussed prospects who has the ability to become a No. 1 wide receiver.
No. 69 overall: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
Jurgens is an ultra-athletic interior offensive line prospect. He’s still a little rough around the edges when it comes to technique, but he plays with a medium whistle streak and is a good fit for the wide area blocking scheme. It might seem a bit early to take on Jurgens, but many are going to have to come to terms with the idea. They added other offensive contributors through free agency with tight end Tyler Conklin, tight end CJ Uzomah and offensive guard Laken Tomlinson.
No. 111 overall: Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
No. 117 overall: Neil Farrell Jr., DT, LSU
No. 146 overall: Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham
No. 163 overall: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana
Pierce is a bigger back that will complement Michael Carter well. Florida hasn’t done a good job of maximizing its opportunities and so it enters the league with reasonable leg wear. Farrell just adds depth to the defensive room with Williams and Hall. Zakelj is a mobile lineman with good athleticism and flexibility. He is a good development prospect to have in a wide area scheme. McFadden is a smart linebacker who is able to add a little passing rush to defense. The Hoosier is a strong leader and someone Saleh should feel comfortable having on the pitch.