Jets have multiple options with draft picks after Zach Wilson

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The focus in the lead-up to the NFL draft for the Jets has naturally centered around what they will do with the No. 2-overall pick.

Now that it has become clear, in the wake of the Sam Darnold trade, that they will be taking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with their first pick, it is time to look closer at the Jets’ next two picks in the draft, which begins on April 29.

Those two picks come at a fascinating point in the draft and will give general manager Joe Douglas multiple options. The Jets hold the No 23-overall pick, their second first-rounder, which they received from Seattle in the Jamal Adams trade. They have another pick 11 slots later at No. 34, the second pick in the second round.

As critical as Wilson’s development will be for the Jets’ future, how these two picks turn out will be nearly as important. The Jets will expect to draft two immediate and longtime starters.

Douglas has done a great job of acquiring draft picks. Now, he has to hit on them.

“We do have a lot of assets as we sit here now, but we have to make the most of this opportunity,” Douglas said this week.

The Jets’ roster is one of the worst in the NFL, and that was on display in their 2-14 record in 2020. The silver lining for Douglas of having such a bad team is that the GM has many options with these picks.

These are what I think the Jets’ biggest needs beyond quarterback will be entering this draft, listed in order: cornerback, guard, linebacker, running back, edge rusher, tight end and wide receiver. With a list that long, there are plenty of different directions in which Douglas can go.

Cornerback is at the top of the list because their starters at the moment are Bless Austin, Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry at the slot position. The Jets need to infuse that position with more talent. The top corners will likely be off the board by 23. But with all of the quarterbacks and skill players projected to go early, players such as Jaycee Horn of South Carolina and Greg Newsome from Northwestern might be there. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley has health concerns that could push him down, and Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. could be there in the second round.

The Jets also need to improve the interior of their offensive line, and USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker is the top-ranked guard in the draft. The Jets could hope he falls to 23 or use some of that draft capital (21 picks in the next two years) to move up a few spots if they truly like him. Two players from Alabama moving to guard — Landon Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood — are candidates at No. 34.

Other players to watch at these spots are: edge rushers Azeez Ojulari (Georgia), Kwity Paye (Michigan) and Jaelan Phillips (Miami); running backs Najee Harris (Alabama), Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Javonte Williams (North Carolina); linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame), Zaven Collins (Tulsa) and Jamin Davis (Kentucky); and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (Florida), Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) and Elijah Moore (Mississippi).

Douglas also has flexibility at both of these spots to trade back. Last year, there were three trades between picks 23-26 on draft night. The Patriots actually dealt pick 23 last year to the Chargers for a second-rounder and a third-rounder. Douglas could acquire more picks, and with as many needs as the Jets have, he could still feel good about filling a hole lower in the draft.

The top of the second round is also an area that usually features some movement. Teams spend all day Friday thinking about what players slipped out of the first round, and a team might be motivated to move up. The Jets could be in position to again acquire more picks.

While this draft will ultimately be remembered by Jets fans for how Wilson turns out, Douglas could move his team forward if he can maximize picks No. 23 and 34 into starting players either by drafting them there or using those picks to load up on even more draft capital.

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