As the New York Jets get closer and closer to the beginning of the 2021 edition of the NFL Draft, the stakes climb higher and higher. The Jets have the second overall pick, which they have possessed ever since their historically disappointing 2-14 campaign, and are now guaranteed to use that selection on a quarterback after trading Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. However, despite everything that looms in the offseason discussions, the team’s needs go much deeper than just under center heading into the 2021 Jets Draft.
The sixteen games the Jets played in their latest season saw New York post the second-worst record in the history of the franchise. Furthermore, the main cause for that major downfall was NY’s highly unbalanced roster, some of the components of which earned a spot at the bottom of the league in a truly embarrassing manner. For instance, the Jets’ air raid, running faction, and secondary were all amongst the NFL’s least productive units. Meanwhile, the pass-rush and the offensive line could use some serious improvements.
All of that makes picking just three categories which Joe Douglas and his staff will have to prioritize quite the tough task. However, even after a fairly solid free-agency period that saw the Jets lay down the foundation of a greater focus towards their shortcomings, as well as specifically from the standpoint of spending efficiently, there’s still a lot of work left to be done. Therefore, the early rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft could prove vital as regards finishing the business started by Douglas in mid-March. Moreover, New York’s late selections could provide some much-needed depth or underpriced quality assets.
That’s why assessing the Jets’ top priorities entering the draft is crucial. Here are their three most severe needs.
2021 Jets Draft Needs: Wide Receiver
Except for the quarterback position, which is guaranteed to get addressed with the Jets’ first pick, the receiving corps was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most lacking group on the whole New York roster. This offseason, Joe Douglas took matters into his own hands and added assets that promise to turn into reinforcements in the Jets’ quest to provide air weaponry. Nevertheless, the work is still not done and the club is likely not satisfied yet with the outlook of the receiving core.
However, the story shall be told from its very beginning. Last year, after they let Robby Anderson go and join the Panthers, the New York Jets were left with an air raid that lacked depth and options to perhaps an extreme extent. Furthermore, the early injuries that limited Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims also didn’t do the team any justice, and neither did the abysmal display both turned in.
Although it is normal for deep-threats to average lower catch-percentage figures, both Perriman and Mims ended their first campaigns with Gang Green under the 55.0-percent mark. Moreover, the intermediate portion of the unit only featured the likes of Braxton Berrios, Jeff Smith, and Chris Hogan beyond Jamison Crowder, the ace of Sam Darnold‘s air raid.
The numbers painted the most objective picture. Over the course of the 2020 NFL season, the Jets had the third-lowest accumulated passer rating and the third-worst completion percentage, as well as the second-fewest total yards through the air. Meanwhile, Sam Darnold’s numbers were clear as regards his pleasant output with solid weaponry and the opposite phenomenon with a lack thereof.
This is why trading him and starting from scratch with an incoming quarterback such as Zach Wilson, instead of using their highest selection on a WR, is a reckless and woeful move that could slow down the Jets’ rebuild towards a higher position on the NFL pyramid. But that’s an entirely different conversation. However, it does show, yet again, the vulnerability of the Jets’ receiving corps and why the unit is universally considered as the team’s top need.
Despite the usual market inefficiency, as well as the inefficiency of assessment not only amongst front offices but also media pundits and fans, few people anywhere can deny that the passing offense, and the WR post, in particular, resemble a noticeable weakness ahead of the 2021 Jets Draft and New York’s upcoming campaign.
Furthermore, the acquisitions completed by general manager Douglas, former Titan Corey Davis, coming off a campaign as one of the intermediate-distance targets in the NFL, and Keelan Cole, a promising light-workload piece, have done a lot to narrow the margin. However, the only other reliable assets currently are Crowder and tight end Chris Herndon, while Mims needs time to further come close to unveiling a bigger chunk of his full potential. Overall, even if the Jets adapt, per their talent, to a focus on intermediate throws, they will still need more versatility to feed the air raid with depth.
The Options: DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Kadarius Toney (Day One); Rondale Moore, Amari Rodgers, Amon-Ra St. Brown (Day Two); Seth Williams, Dez Fitzpatrick, Dazz Newsome, Shi Smith, Jaelon Darden, Sage Surratt (Day Three)
2021 Jets Draft Needs: Cornerback
Pass-catching is surely at the top of the 2021 Jets draft needs hierarchy of components with severe problems. Still, as already noted, this unit is not alone in requiring immediate upgrades, portions of which have to inevitably come via the 2021 NFL Draft. The secondary will also have to be addressed come late April, with the outside cornerback post receiving a specific focus.
Throughout all of 2020, the Jets put on one after another awful performance when it comes to stopping opposing passing units. New York conceded the fourth-highest passer rating in coverage and joined six other clubs which exceeded the 100.0 mark. Moreover, the Jets allowed the fourth-highest opposing completion percentage as well as the fifth-most yards in total surrendered by air raids during the 2021 team’s 16-game slate in 2020.
New York’s secondary was underwhelming from top to bottom if you subtract Brian Poole on the inside as a nickel corner. Firstly, Bradley McDougald had a terrible year alongside Marcus Maye at safety, which eventually led to the Jets passing on the former Seahawk when his deal expired and instead bringing in Lamarcus Joyner.
Furthermore, the potential for contributions by less-frequently-used depth cornerbacks was nullified by one of the worst signings of last year’s edition of the NFL Free Agency. That was, of course, former Colts outside corner Pierre Desir, who didn’t fail to disappoint in the half-season he played before getting released. Undrafted rookie Lamar Jackson, whose playing time soared after Desir’s demise, didn’t increase his value or strengthen his reputation either.
Now, with one of the worst secondaries in the National Football League entering a process of finding a new look, the future promises improvement given that the right moves come through. As the 2021 offseason stands right between the active part of Free Agency and the anticipated annual draft event, 2020 fifth-rounder Bryan Hall and 2019 draftee Blessuan Austin are positioned to earn the two corner jobs on the outside. Both Hall and Austin, within the first two years of their respective professional careers, held their allowed ratings in the very steady 97.0-range.
While that is fairly solid considering the other options the Jets had on their roster during the 2020 campaign, there is still much to be expected by both as they would need to shift their numbers further into positive territory to give the Jets and their market perception alike a significant boost and stability. In the meantime, a proper path towards ensuring depth should either player decline, or if the team doesn’t re-sign Poole, is adding an asset at the position by virtue of the early-to-middle rounds in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
The Options: Patrick Surtain II, Greg Newsome II (Day One); Asante Samuel Jr., Keith Taylor Jr., Caleb Farley, Paulson Adebo, Aaron Robinson, Elijah Molden (Day Two); Tre Brown, Ambry Thomas (Day Three)
2021 Jets Draft Needs: Running Back
The Jets entered the 2020 NFL season with big smiles on their faces at the thought of the potential of their running stable. And can they ever be blamed – they were bound to rely on a former star back with Pittsburgh in Le’Veon Bell. Oh, how the tables have turned twelve months later.
Bell ended up landing on the IR after just two appearances and 19 carries, got cut, and ultimately joined the eventual AFC champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Then, veteran runner Frank Gore and fourth-round pick La’Mical Perine weren’t particularly successful in providing a spark either. They were the offense’s two primary ball carriers with the most attempts on the ground, averaging 3.5 yards per rush on 251 carries. Moreover, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams both had impressive brief stints at the end of the year.
However, it had already been too late, with the offense’s figures and the embarrassing 2-14 record speaking loudly of that. When it was all said and done, the New York Jets turned in a 4.1 yards per carry average, tied for the sixth-worst in the NFL. Joe Douglas made sure to address that field as well as, bringing in Tevin Coleman on a one-year, $2-million contract. However, he cannot quite possibly be relied on by himself, with the only alternatives being Johnson and Adams, who lack the workload to justify their limited production.
The running faction isn’t going to be a priority for the Jets early on in the draft, with better players available at other shorthanded departments of the New York roster. Nonetheless, expect Douglas to select a valuable and productive running back sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, further upgrades after the conclusion of the 2021 edition of the oldest sports draft event shouldn’t be ruled out too.
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