There is one New York Jets decision that outweighs all the others this offseason — what direction and prospect should the Green & White spend their No. 4 overall pick on?
There are four clear paths GM Joe Douglas may take with this selection:
- Draft a top edge rusher in Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux.
- Draft a top offensive tackle in Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, or Charles Cross.
- Draft the “unicorn” defender, Kyle Hamilton.
- Trade down from No. 4.
Barring something totally out of left field like a different edge rusher, a cornerback, a wide receiver, or another position altogether, these are the four most likely scenarios as of now. Obviously, the Jacksonville Jaguars will impact this choice with the No. 1 pick but a crucial free-agent move could tip Gang Green on what Doug Pederson’s new regime might do.
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Cam Robinson Decision Is on the Clock
During a recent ESPN article, staff writer Michael DiRocco noted that protecting Trevor Lawrence will be paramount for Pederson and their front office in 2022.
Before deciding on the first overall pick though, Jacksonville has to decide on impending free-agent left tackle Cam Robinson. Strangely, the blindside blocker should be the initial domino that falls in the NFL draft.
“The Jaguars’ [draft] decision, however, depends on left tackle Cam Robinson,” wrote DiRocco. “Do they use the franchise tag for the second year in a row? Sign him to a long-term deal? Let him walk? If they bring him back, the first pick isn’t likely to be an offensive tackle. If they don’t, they may pick a tackle – but it could be another month before that becomes clear.”
Let’s be real, Pederson and Douglas won a Super Bowl together in Philadelphia based on trench warfare — a model Douglas is attempting to recreate in New York. Assuming they don’t sign a different veteran to replace him, the Jaguars are drafting an offensive tackle if they let Robinson walk. That means the Jets should receive a major hint in March either way.
To reiterate, no free-agent move for a left tackle is a clear indicator that Neal, Ekwonu or Cross will be the first pick in the 2022 NFL draft. If the Jags decide to go the other way, hypothetically tagging or extending Robinson — or a different free agent — things are a little less of a guarantee.
2019 second-round pick Jawaan Taylor was decent at right tackle last season with a 72.1 grade from Pro Football Focus as a pass protector, but he was poor in the run game at 42.8. In theory, Pederson could elect to keep Robinson and draft an offensive tackle to replace Taylor, although that’s less likely.
Ekwonu is the major outlier here due to his versatility. There is definitely a world where Robinson, Taylor and Ekwonu all start on a beefed-up Jaguars offensive line in 2022.
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Draft Impact — What Does It All Mean?
I know, this type of speculation can scramble your brain after a while, but if you made it this far let’s finish the thought.
Let’s assume for a moment that the Detroit Lions are drafting defense. They could use a ton of help on that side of the football and they drafted a top offensive tackle prospect in Penei Sewell in 2021.
That means one of three players will likely come off the board at No. 2 — Hutchinson, Thibodeaux or Hamilton. Going one step further, it will probably be Hutchinson if the Jags draft a franchise left tackle for Lawrence.
Next up is the Houston Texans. Many have linked GM Nick Caserio to Hamilton due to the ailing secondary in Houston but he could easily go with Thibodeaux if the explosive pass rusher is still available. Of course, the Texans O-line isn’t in great shape either.
Caserio is a bit of a wildcard but in the scenario where Jacksonville drafts a tackle, the Jets have a better shot at a top-two EDGE. In the alternate universe where Pederson keeps Robinson and drafts a defender, the chances of Douglas drafting an offensive lineman skyrocket at four.