What should the New York Jets do with their two first-round picks in 2022?
That’s the popular question fans are debating right now and NFL draft analyst Matt Miller suggested a polarizing strategy for Gang Green on January 14. He tweeted: “There’s an argument to be made about cap hits for this, but I’m not sure the Jets shouldn’t just draft [OT] Charles Cross and [C] Tyler Linderbaum in Round 1.”
After a plethora of mostly negative responses came in, Miller followed up: “I see Jets fans aren’t happy. Surprise. You can’t just manufacture a pass rusher or elite WR and poof they’re available or a value [pick]. It’s highly unlikely there isn’t an EDGE or WR with a top 10 grade that makes it past pick [three].”
This hot take comes after the news that Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams has suffered a torn ACL and anticipates Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux to go top three. Miller does not appear to be as high on Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis as some analysts are.
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What to Do, What to Do…
I do not doubt that there are plenty of Jets supporters that feel the job is not done on the offensive line. I agree with you, it’s not.
However, an argument can also be made that spending two more first-rounders on the offensive line in 2022 would be excessive. Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets O-line 11th in the NFL this season — to the surprise of many. That’s just outside the top 10.
A lot of that should be a credit to OL coach John Benton for his work with players like center Connor McGovern and offensive tackle George Fant. McGovern’s 75.8 overall was the Jets’ top blocking grade from an offensive lineman in 2021 according to PFF (minimum 200 snaps).
The worst scores came from the right guard position, which was split by Greg Van Roten and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. It’s expected that the Jets will shore up this position in 2022 but do they still need to upgrade other areas of this unit?
Miller seems to think so, but I’m not so sure.
I agree that if Morgan Moses departs in free agency, the Jets should bring in another offensive tackle in the draft but I’m not sure you need to do this in round one. Fant is under contract until 2023 so long as Douglas wants him to be — no guaranteed money owed in 2022.
Mekhi Becton also is expected to return. Whether he can stay healthy or not is another story but the Jets cannot assume his status one way or the other.
Having said that, Cross is a first-round talent that excels as a pass protector according to The Draft Network. He profiles as an NFL left tackle, which would create even more of a logjam at the position being that Fant appears to be more comfortable on the blindside as well.
The more obvious move here is to bring back Fant and assign Becton a round-the-clock personal trainer. You could then draft a tackle later for depth but Cross does not match the Jets’ priorities.
The case could be made for the can’t miss center, Linderbaum, at No. 10 — especially if McGovern is willing to shift over to right guard. That may have even been the original plan for Douglas long-term but with the way McGovern has improved, you could also look into extending the 28-year old into 2023 and beyond.
One first-round option that Miller doesn’t mention might make more sense than Cross and Linderbaum though, and that’s prospect Ikem Ekwonu. The NC State product offers the versatility needed to start at right guard and serve as a potential right tackle if Becton or Fant suffer an injury.
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Media, Fans React to Miller’s Proposition
This tweet certainly got some attention from the fanbase. Beat reporter DJ Bien-Aime has been vocal in his stance that the Jets should not draft a center in round one. He replied: “I respect your opinion. So I’m curious what’s your reasoning[?]”
Others were less diplomatic in their responses. Takeflightnation wrote: “There’s just simply no need. Fant [and] Becton are fine. And I don’t want a center 10th overall. This team needs offensive playmakers besides Elijah Moore and Michael Carter and pretty much a whole new defense.”
Then a fan with the handle “@forevershinin” commented: “Pure Trash. Jets need to go all defense immediately stop this o-line business we ok there we can add in free agency only time Jets are good is when they have a top [eight] or better defense go get [playmakers] on defense.”
A fan named Bryan Fields added: “[Four] out of [five] first-round picks [on] O-line seems [like an] excessive use of resources. With holes almost everywhere else is this the best way to do it? Also [Douglas’] background is O-line and the scheme is friendly fair to say, he should be able to find a mid-round starter?”
Some did agree with Miller, however. A fan by the name of Louie admitted: “I’m actually low key cool with this as long as they add a playmaking TE and WR in free agency.”
Another named Mikey T loved the plan. “Great OLs change teams. Onboard with this 100%. Would have to fit this into a broader plan where we take care of the D/pass rush in FA [and] trades, and grab a WR at the top of [round two].”
While there are many opinions on this, I feel there’s one clear strategy for Douglas and Robert Saleh. If no one stands out at No. 4, trade down.
Don’t force yourself into a box by drafting two offensive linemen you don’t need in 2022 — just because they’re the best players available — and don’t reach at a position of weakness if the right player isn’t there.
I’ll repeat: Assuming there’s no one that Douglas and Saleh see as a perfect fit at No. 4, the only move is to trade down.