Jets: Wide Receiver or Lineman in The First Round?
The Jets came into the offseason with two huge needs in mind: the offensive line and wide receivers.
Joe Douglas and the Jets’ front office has done a tremendous job in rebuilding Sam Darnold‘s pocket. Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten were brought as top additions in the interior part of the line. In addition, George Fant also became the team’s brand-new left tackle. The offensive line seems like it could provide sustainably satisfying turnout come September. That would make a huge difference compared to last year’s debacle.
Then we have the group of wide receivers. It hasn’t been the easiest of roads in that department. The Jets took a patient approach towards the Robby Anderson situation. However, that wasn’t enough and he eventually put his signature on a Panthers deal worth $20 million over two seasons. Instead, the Jets brought in former Bucs wideout Breshad Perriman.
That way, a critical and difficult decision regarding their pick at 11th overall in the NFL Draft is still in place. The big question remains: should the Jets keep on re-establishing a dominant offensive line or perhaps get another weapon for Sam Darnold?
That is by no means an easy choice. Both classes are extremely talented, probably the most stacked at the two positions in years at least. Both are huge needs for the Jets. What’s the right path for New York?
The Case for an Offensive Lineman
The Jets are in need, if not desperate, to register a significant improvement when it comes to protecting their quarterback. Moreover, bad O-Line play also affected Leveon Bell’s debut year at MetLife Stadium. In 2019, the Jets allowed 52 sacks, ranking 4th-most in the NFL. They also had the 2nd-fewest yards (78.6) on the ground, better only compared to Miami’s 72.2.
A nice running back pick in the middle or late rounds would be a steal and a possible impactful selection. However, it’s more likely that the running issues from 2019 stemmed more from the offensive line continuing to fail. The need for a good tackle is obviously but the Draft still poses some challenges.
Let’s get to the class. There are three prospects at OT that could be available at No. 11 – Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas. The Giants could be the first to select a lineman in Jedrick Wills, and then Arizona, Jacksonville and Cleveland could all follow them just before the Jets hit the clock. The most likely outcome is that either Becton or Thomas will be there when the Jets are on the clock.
The challenge: both are left tackles and the Jets need a right tackle. With George Fant pretty much a liability naturally at left tackle, Adam Gase will be tempted to move a young tackle instead.
And still, not many people realize what kind of difference a good offensive line makes. The Jets never made a real “splash” on free agency. Apart from McGovern, you could see everyone having a huge letdown year just as easily as they could have a career year. Alex Lewis and Van Roten have been relatively consistent don’t have the “shutdown potential” a star like Jack Conklin or Bryan Bulaga is set to deliver.
Another argument in this position’s defense is that the WR draft class in so deep that you could get a solid, young and fast pass-catcher in early-second round, aka the Jets at 48th.
Main candidates: Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs
The Case for a Wide Receiver
Although guys like Laviska Shenault and Jalen Reagor are exceptional second-round talent, they’re far from what Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs, or Tee Higgins could provide.
All three of them could be valuable to a team that just lost it’s starting long-threat receiver from the last three seasons. Ruggs even has the ability to thrive on shorter passing plays.
The Jets’ receiving corps is in an interesting spot. They just lost Anderson but gained Perriman who averages even more that Robby per reception, 17.9 to 15.0. The concern is that Perriman has never taken on a workload of even a second-choice target as he’s played alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the past few years. Jamison Crowder will be Darnold’s top target but Parriman will need to elevate what he’s previously shown. Quincy Enunwa also has lots to prove after two injury-ridden seasons. The rest doesn’t even provide primary depth that can make the Jets feel like they have a reliable core.
One of the three above-mentioned prospects could fill the void perfectly. In a player like Jeudy, they get a consistent receiver that made 77 receptions and, seemingly, the best in 50/50 situations and short routes. Also, he might be the most mature of the three. Ruggs provides a solid dose of Yards After Reception (YAR), while Higgins simply poses a long-threat danger. What’s sure is that all three can give the Jets a sudden upgrade that they can’t find on the current free-agent market.
Chuma Edoga could finally get to exploit his chance as a starting right tackle. Meanwhile, the interior part of the offensive line has big potential that could make one argue that the line is already greatly improved. And also that the Jets are short on proven targets, which is also close to the truth.
Main candidates: Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Tee Higgins
What’s the Right Choice?
As with every pick, it’s vital and can pay immediate dividends. Then, as with every pick, no success is certain. While the Jets will improve either the line or the receiving group, it’s bad news for the Jets that they can’t upgrade both components in an equal fashion.
However, if you want to play it out smart, you choose a tackle at 11th and complete the offensive line of the future. Then, Joe Douglas selects a receiver (Reagor or Denzel Mims, preferably) with pick No. 48.
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