NFL Draft Expert Presents Jets With Franchise-Altering Decision

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Getty Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux on October 15, 2021.

We are smack-dab in the middle of NFL mock draft season and that means the New York Jets have already been linked to just about every potential selection in 2022.

I’m exaggerating, but it can get a bit wild this time of year if you’re attempting to plan out an entire April draft before the combine. That’s what experts like Todd McShay are paid to do and although the later rounds are borderline unpredictable, the first handful of picks tend to be a bit easier to map out.

At the moment, Joe Douglas and Gang Green are on the clock at No. 4 and the list of prospects they might select seems to be narrowing by the day. Although Derek Stingley Jr. was the most popular NYJ mock early on, it’s become increasingly likely that — barring a trade — one of these five college studs will become a Jet.

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Recent Trend Sets NYJ up With Massive Choice

Over the past couple of weeks, Thibodeaux stock has been plummeting around NFL circles. Some believe the explosive pass rusher didn’t perform against top competition, others are concerned about his work ethic and motivation.

In a draft buzz article from February 5, McShay reported: “Based on a handful of conversations, it wouldn’t shock me if Thibodeaux fell out of the top five.” The ESPN expert added that he doesn’t always “play with the same fire” as other top prospects and although “his ceiling is high… the floor is lower than what you want for a top-five pick.”

McShay doubled down on those rumors in his latest mock draft, dropping Thibodeaux — the consensus number one last fall — to the bottom of this group. At that point, the New York Giants selected the potential game-wrecker at No. 5 but one slot before that, it set the Jets up with a dream scenario.

The top-three order went Neal (Jaguars), Hutchinson (Lions), Hamilton (Texans). That left two of the most valuable “trench” prospects (Thibodeaux and Ekwonu) sitting there for the Jets at No. 4 and we all know how much Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh value the offensive and defensive line.

Outside of both Hutchinson and Thibodeaux falling to the Jets, this might be the number one fantasy for supporters right now and it’s feeling more and more like a real possibility by the day.

Unfortunately, it also creates this potential franchise-altering decision that you do not want to get wrong. The safer bet is probably Ekwonu, and that’s the route McShay chose to go. He explained:

Ekwonu’s size makes him tough to get around, he plays with the power to bury defenders, and he’s a mauler in the run game. In fact, some people around the NFL even like him more than Evan Neal… Given some unknowns here, Ekwonu’s versatility matches what the Jets need. Coach Robert Saleh would have options with Ekwonu in the fold, including but not limited to bumping the rookie inside or sliding Becton to the right side.

Of course, the Jets have not had a consistent double-digit sack threat since John Abraham. Carl Lawson was supposed to change that but after a torn Achilles in 2021, this verdict would not come easy.

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Likelihood & Weight of This Scenario

For those that will immediately argue this would never happen, there’s no proof of that. To me, the key is Jacksonville.

If the Jags go with Hutchinson because they feel he’s the best player available, that might end any chance of a Thibodeaux drop since most believe Detroit will go edge rusher at No. 2. At the same time, it makes sense that the first overall pick will be a left tackle.

Trevor Lawrence is the most important person in Jacksonville right now and Doug Pederson was hired to build an offense around him. The Super Bowl champion HC is famous for his wall of an O-line in Philadelphia and with Josh Allen already on the roster at EDGE, this selection should be Neal, Ekwonu, or Charles Cross.

The other key is Houston. The Texans need just about everything and they could easily go with whichever offensive lineman or pass rusher drops to them. However, many inside the business have been linking them to Hamilton, who some see as a unicorn prospect.

For the sake of this debate, let’s say it shakes out this way. I ask you then — who should the Jets draft at No. 4?

No matter how consistent Ekwonu becomes at the NFL level, if Douglas passes on the next Nick Bosa and he ends up terrorizing quarterbacks for the cross-town rival Giants, it will be looked back on as a failure. At the same time, you could choose Thibodeaux and realize that all the aforementioned red flags were true.

This would be a tremendously crucial decision for this regime if McShay’s mock comes to fruition. Pick wrong and this fantasy turns into a nightmare in the blink of an eye.

Follow @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25 on Twitter for all the latest New York Jets breaking news, rumors, fresh takes and more!


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