Jets 2018 NFL Mock Draft: Gang Green selects Saquon Barkley
By Matthew Lownes
The New York Jets have a lot of roster needs this offseason but here’s a pre-free agency 2018 NFL Mock Draft that has them address their running back situation right from the start.
The New York Jets have three of the first 49 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft after trading defensive end Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks before the 2017 season. The Jets finished the season on a bad note after veteran quarterback Josh McCown was put on injured reserve.
I personally think the Jets will sign Kirk Cousins during free agency, which means they have to upgrade skill positions and the offensive line. Needless to say, having a premier running back that can do it all on the ground or as an eligible receiving option out of the backfield would push the envelope for the Jets offense.
It’s hard to predict what will transpire come draft time, but the Jets have seven draft picks in this year’s draft which is a solid amount to continue rebuilding the right way. General manager Mike Maccagnan will undoubtedly have his work cut out for him between now and when the Jets are on the clock.
In addition to all the draft coverage you will find here at The Jet Press, please also visit Walter Football, DC Pro Sports Report, and EDS Football. Here’s a full 7-round Jets mock draft that will provide Gang Green a positive future moving forward.
Next: Round 1 - RB Saquon Barkley
With the 6th overall pick the Jets cannot bank on drafting a quarterback, so who did they add? The best running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Saquon Barkley is easily the best player in this year’s draft. At 5-11 and 233 pounds, Barkley jumps over defenders, has tree-trunk legs, and can reportedly run a sub 4.30 40-yard dash. I consider him a bigger and more physical version of Barry Sanders. Yes, Barry Sanders.
A consensus AP All American this past year, and back to back Big Ten offensive player of the year, Barkley will be the best running back in the NFL for the next 10+ years. No, I am not being over-dramatic. Barkley can return kickoffs, run the ball from any formation, be a versatile running back who can catch the ball, and he’s extremely hard to tackle.
In 38 games as a Nittany Lion, Barkley ran for 3,843 yards, had a long run of 92 yards, and had 43 rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, Barkley had 102 receptions for 1,195 yards, a long of 85 yards, and eight total touchdowns. Finally, he had two kickoff return touchdowns in his career, both in 2017.
Barkley would immediately give the Jets their best running back since arguably Curtis Martin, and allow Gang Green to work the play-action game better than they have in the past few years.
Barkley SHOULD be the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft but we all know quarterbacks make that change, as the Jets have gotten the “best player available” in previous drafts which include drafting Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams, both of whom they didn’t think would end up on the board with their respective pick. This is why Barkley has a chance to fall to the Jets, and if he is available they will undoubtedly draft him.
Next: Round 2 - LB Leighton Vander Esch
Leighton Vander Esch is an aggressive tackling linebacker and has the ability to cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs, something the Jets have struggled with over the past few seasons. Especially against tight end Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots.
At 6-4 and 240 pounds, the Boise State linebacker was only a starter in 2017 and had 141 tackles this past season, four sacks, and two interceptions. The Mountain West defensive player of the year has very good athleticism, wonderful tackling ability, and his motor is something linebacker coach Kevin Greene needs on the 3-4 defense that the Jets run.
Add in his leadership abilities, instincts and vision, Vander Esch could be an immediate starter for the Jets as a weakside linebacker or even middle linebacker depending on if Demario Davis re-signs with the Jets this offseason.
Next: Round 2 - OG Will Hernandez
Will Hernandez probably won’t even be on the board at this pick come April, but he’s an aggressive offensive lineman who could immediately start at the right guard spot for the Jets.
The 6-3 and 330-pound guard received 2017 AP 2nd team All-American honors after starting all 49 games during his career at the left guard position. Against quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners, Hernandez allowed one sack, but UTEP had it’s worst season arguably in the history of the program.
What does he add to the Jets? Immediate depth on the offensive line and could very well be an immediate starter for the Jets come 2018. With three offensive guys with the first three picks, the Jets would finally address their weak offense. You can’t win football games without major offensive weapons and a good offensive line to keep those chains moving and score touchdowns.
Next: Round 3 - CB Tarvarus McFadden
The Jets desperately need to add depth to their cornerbacks and Tarvarus McFadden would do that. He’s a smart defensive back that will only get better over time.
McFadden’s draft stock plummeted after failing to record an interception for the mediocre and disappointing Florida State football team. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, McFadden has great ball skills, as he recorded eight interceptions as a sophomore in 2016.
There is no guarantee McFadden is on the board at pick 72, but if he is, the Jets will get a 1st-2nd round talent who slipped after a disappointing Junior season. With Morris Claiborne hitting free agency, it leaves the Jets with a lot of questions in the secondary. McFadden could help ease the pressure of other cornerbacks and have a chance to get major playing time as a rookie.
Next: Round 4 - WR Anthony Miller
The 5-11 and 190 pound senior has a strong work ethic. Miller has an interesting career as he didn’t even step on the field until his Junior season, with quarterback Paxton Lynch (now with the Denver Broncos) in charge.
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Miller will more than likely slip in this year’s draft due to his size, mostly because there are other wide receivers worth drafting prior, although Miller did receive AP 1st team All-American honors.
In 12 games Miller caught 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 17…yes 17 touchdowns. He even averaged 15.3 yards per reception, and if the Jets do sign Cousins in free agency, Miller could and would get a lot of reps as a rookie especially after Robby Anderson‘s second arrest in eight months that includes felony charges.
The Jets have to add wide receiver depth at some point during this year’s draft, after the Anderson news and Quincy Enunwa‘s season-ending neck injury prior to the start of last season. Miller would be a great pickup for the Jets even if he is undersized and looks like he’d play in the slot a majority of the time.
Next: Round 5 - TE Adam Breneman
The former Penn State tight end transferred to UMass once fellow draftee and tight end Mike Gesicki took over as the tight end for the Nittany Lions.
The 6-5 and 255 pounds tight end is only a receiving tight end and could be exactly what the Jets need, especially if they do not re-sign Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The Senior caught 64 catches for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. If he has a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, he won’t even be available in the 5th round, but I cannot see in the future, so, for now, he could be here and the Jets should no doubt take him if he’s on the board.
Next: Round 6 - CB J.C. Jackson, Maryland
The 6-1 and 193-pound corner made 23 starts for Maryland. The All-Big Ten honorable mention corner had 33 tackles, three interceptions, and seven pass breakups.
With great speed, but serious off-the-field issues, J.C. Jackson has upper round talent but like I said, serious question marks off-the-field. He admitted that head coach DJ Durkin helped turn him around and mature himself to stay on track in his football career.
The Jets need to add cornerback depth regardless of what happens in free agency or in the earlier rounds of the draft. The Jets should select the best player available during a majority of this year’s draft, if Jackson is on the board it would be a great pick by Gang Green to end their draft on a high note.
Must Read: Top 5 quarterback options for the Jets in 2018
As of right now, the Jets do not have a 7th round pick after the Richardson trade, and that could change at any point this offseason. We are a long way from the draft as free agency will clear up many of the question marks on the Jets roster. By then, it should bring some much-needed clarity as to which direction the Jets will go in to improve their team by drafting high-quality players ready to take care of business in 2018 and beyond.