Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Jets seven-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Head coach Robert Saleh upgrades defense with first three picks

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 inside the top 40. Here is one 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 sees Mekhi Becton, who was drafted No. 11 overall in 2020. If he is healthy and in shape to return to form, there is less of a need to invest such a high pick in the position. Becton is not even 23-years-old yet and George Fant was effective in his role. 

The selection of Gardner allows New York to improve up and down the depth chart. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II and D.J. Reed Jr. round out a suddenly deep and talented unit. Gardner is a long, confident man coverage cornerback. 

No. 10 overall: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

Cornerback and edge rusher are premier positions on defense. The former had already been addressed and now the same is true of the latter. The return of a healthy Carl Lawson and Johnson gives New York a dynamic pairing. Despite using both first-round choices on the defense, there are still going to be some opportunities to improve the offense. Johnson is a prospect that should be able to contribute immediately. 

No. 35 overall: Travis Jones, DT, UCONN

Jones is a physical freak relative to his size. He is a big-bodied interior player that should increase the floor of the run defense from Day 1. When looking at how the defensive front has been constructed, the Jets have three players capable of applying some pass rush with Quinnen Williams, Johnson and Lawson. They do not 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 is important for slack in the run game to be picked up elsewhere and Jones accomplishes that task.

No. 38 overall: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

The Jets failed in surrounding 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 do the dirty work in that offense. By selecting Pickens, the team has a wide receiver capable of winning contested throws down the field. Pickens is one of the lesser discussed prospects that has the ability to develop into a No. 1 wide receiver. 

No. 69 overall: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

Jurgens is an ultra athletic interior offensive line prospect. He is still a bit rough around the edges when it comes to technique but he plays with a mean streak to the whistle and is a perfect fit for the wide zone blocking scheme. It may seem a bit early to take Jurgens but many are going to have to come around to the idea. They have added some other contributors to the offense through free agency with tight end Tyler Conklin, tight end C.J. 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 did not do a good job of maximizing his opportunities and thus he enters the league with reasonable wear and tear on his legs. 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 developmental prospect to have in a wide zone scheme. McFadden is a smart linebacker that is capable of adding a little pass rush to the defense. The Hoosier is a strong leader and someone that Saleh should feel comfortable having on the field.

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