Robert Saleh’s first season as head coach of the New York Jets ended with a 4-13 record. New York, like most teams, encountered a lot of adversity, such as losing premier free agent signing Carl Lawson to injury before the season and dealing with a variety of other in-season injuries to young contributors like Zach Wilson, Mekhi Becton, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter.
There were some positive developments to take from the season, however. Fans should be excited about a young nucleus that includes offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, Becton, Moore and Carter. In two seasons as general manager, Joe Douglas’ philosophy has been clear: bring in a quarterback and strengthen the offensive and defensive lines.
What is the next step for this Jets organization?
The focus of this article is the 2022 NFL Draft but that is one piece to the puzzle. The AFC East franchise has $53,654,414 in salary cap space, according to Spotrac.com, which is the fourth most in the league. In an ideal world, they would re-sign offensive tackle Morgan Moses for depth. Safety Marcus Maye is playing on the franchise tag and the team would most likely want him back at a reasonable price. From there, they could address a bevy of needs: cornerback, edge rusher, linebacker and tight end.
The Jets have a healthy salary cap situation so they are not one of the teams that will be looking to shed contracts. If they land an upgrade at offensive tackle in the draft, then maybe they consider parting ways with George Fant but he played well enough this season that it is not a necessity. Realistically, there is no moving on from linebacker C.J. Mosley’s deal this offseason.
2022 NFL Draft
No. 4 overall: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley gives New York a lockdown boundary cornerback but the biggest reason for excitement is that it takes some of the burden off other young players like Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. It is a trickle-down effect that allows those players to play in more comfortable roles.
No. 10 overall (acquired from Seattle): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis may not make it to this point but it is all pure conjecture three months out of the draft. He is a mature pass-rusher that can win with strength but also has the hands to get off blocks and make an impact in the run game. For New York to be able to address two critical positions early in the draft, it bodes well for the future of the defense.
Round 2: Darian Kinnard, OG, Kentucky and Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
These two picks are No. 35 and No. 38 overall; the latter coming as part of the Sam Darnold trade with Carolina. New York adds Kinnard to play offensive guard rounding out a unit featuring Becton, Vera-Tucker, Connor McGovern, Kinnard and Fant, from left to right. Kinnard is a wide-bodied, road-grading lineman with the versatility to play offensive tackle.
The selection of Wyatt gives New York a plug-and-play defensive tackle next to Quinnen Williams. With a healthy Lawson returning and the addition of Karlaftis, the defensive front should become a strength for Saleh’s team. Wyatt is often overlooked among that Georgia defensive front with names like Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis and Travon Walker looming over him but the Georgia native is quick for his size and can collapse the pocket with ease.
Round 3: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
New York owns a pick near the top of the third round and Harris would be an ideal choice. While he did not live up to the lofty preseason expectations placed upon him, it was quite evident in the National Championship game what he brings to the table. He was attacking gaps and blowing up plays sideline to sideline in the loss. Former Crimson Tide linebacker Mosley would be able to take Harris under his wing.