Thanksgiving is behind us and once again, the New York Jets are favorites to come away with a top-three pick in the NFL draft.
Being that the 2021 season has been so disappointing for Gang Green, many fans have turned their attention to college football stars and early mock drafts, meaning Jets speculation is already in full swing. Will Joe Douglas select another offensive lineman in the first round for the third straight offseason? Or will the GM assist head coach Robert Saleh on the defensive side?
The four clear positions of need that could warrant a top-three pick in 2022 include:
- Edge rusher.
- Offensive tackle.
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Wolverine Continues to Dominate in 2021
The Ducks star has been a coveted prospect for quite some time. He has six sacks and 41 total tackles this year but made a name for himself in 2019 when he accumulated nine sacks.
Hutchinson is the 2021 riser — a byproduct of his ridiculous season. The Wolverine currently has 47 total tackles and a career-high nine sacks, including three today (Nov. 27) against Ohio State.
The Wolverine flat-out steamrolls left tackle Thayer Munford who gets run over by the edge rusher. No offense to the blocker but I’ve seen tackle dummies put up more of a fight.
This isn’t some scrub offensive lineman either, Munford is projected to be drafted in the second round in 2022 and some mocks even have him going first round as an NFL guard. This tape might hurt those chances but it should boost the stock of Hutchinson even higher.
For a player that has shot up the draft board from second-round talent to surefire top-five pick over the past few months, it now feels like the sky is the limit for the Michigan product who could end up rocking green and white on draft night.
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Why Edge Rusher Makes Sense in 2022
You might look at the Jets roster and say — another defensive end? Where would he play? — but in all honesty, drafting an edge rusher makes sense for a lot of reasons.
First off, if 2021 has taught us anything it’s that you can never have enough depth. Big money acquisition Carl Lawson tore his Achilles and veteran pass-rusher Vinny Curry ended up missing the season with a rare medical condition.
That forced Saleh and DC Jeff Ulbrich to make some major adjustments before Week 1. For example, John Franklin-Myers was moved to the outside permanently. Originally, the versatile piece was supposed to rotate inside and outside on the defensive line.
It also prompted a trade for run-stuffer Shaq Lawson and a waiver claim for promising DE Tim Ward. Prospects like Bryce Huff, Jabari Zuniga, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Kyle Phillips (recently) have even received longer auditions because of all the injuries.
Second, Saleh is known for utilizing a heavy rotation on the defensive line. The Jets HC loves leaving his pass-rushers in attack mode and that means keeping them fresh throughout the game.
Third, it would be nice to have the aforementioned Franklin-Myers as an option on the interior again. The Jets have been very weak up the gut this season and Folorunso Fatukasi is currently an impending free agent. Even if they re-sign him, you really need four solid defensive tackles in Saleh’s system and Gang Green currently has three.
Nathan Shepherd deserves to be cut with the way he’s performed and rookie Jonathan Marshall doesn’t seem ready for a major role. The combination of ‘JFM’ and Marshall could make up the fourth spot behind Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Fatukasi if he’s extended.
Speaking of extensions, the Jets technically have both Lawsons, JFM, Curry and Huff under contract next season but you’d expect practice squad guys like Zuniga and Ward to have a strong chance of returning in some capacity.
Having said that, a ferocious bookend of Carl Lawson and Hutchinson might be too tantalizing to pass up. That would mean having Franklin-Myers, Shaq Lawson and Huff for depth in an embarrassment of riches on paper.
Coach Saleh once made it to the Super Bowl with a similarly stacked pass-rushing unit that featured a rookie first-rounder by the name of Nick Bosa.