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Re-ordering the Jets draft needs after initial free agency period

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Linebacker Josh Allen of Kentucky works out during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Linebacker Josh Allen of Kentucky works out during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 03: Linebacker Josh Allen of Kentucky works out during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 03: Linebacker Josh Allen of Kentucky works out during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. New York Jets (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

While free agency isn’t officially over, the initial wave of signings has come and past. With that, let’s take a look and re-order the New York Jets draft needs given what we already know.

The dust has settled on another thrilling first week of free agency and the New York Jets undeniably came away with some excellent pieces. Sure there were a few key misses, but overall, it’s hard to argue that free agency hasn’t been a success for the Jets so far.

However, that doesn’t mean that their work is done.

The team’s roster still has a ton of holes at crucial positions that they will need to address. You can’t fix every need in free agency so the Jets will have to turn to other methods to fill out their roster for 2019.

That’s where the 2019 NFL Draft comes into play.

The Jets currently possess the No. 3 overall pick and with a plethora of needs and only six total draft picks, the team will have to get creative in order to address everything. A trade down scenario is always in play but if not, expect the Jets first three picks to be used to fill immediate needs as opposed to a “best player available” approach.

With that, let’s quickly run down some of the Jets top remaining needs after the first wave of free agency.

LANDOVER, MD – DECEMBER 09: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder #80 of the Washington Redskins runs for a touchdown after a catch in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at FedExField on December 9, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. New York Jets (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD – DECEMBER 09: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder #80 of the Washington Redskins runs for a touchdown after a catch in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at FedExField on December 9, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. New York Jets (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

5. Skill Position Depth

The Jets have done a great job this offseason addressing their skill position group to improve upon last year’s mess of a supporting cast. Quarterback Sam Darnold was hampered by dealing with the likes of Andre Roberts, Trenton Cannon, and Eric Tomlinson as a part of the regular offensive rotation.

The organization made it abundantly clear that they would not allow that to happen again in 2019.

With the signings of Jamison Crowder and, of course, Le’Veon Bell, the Jets have added two key players to major positions of need on offense. Now the skill position core around Darnold looks a lot better on paper.

The starters on offense now consist of Bell, Crowder, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Chris Herndon which looks significantly improved from what the Jets were dealing with last year. But even though the offense looks improved, the unit still lacks depth.

Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon are currently penciled in as change-of-pace backs behind Bell but the Jets could likely do better at that position. Outside of the top three receivers, the unproven Deontay Burnett and glorified special teamer, Josh Bellamy are next on the depth chart.

And perhaps the worst of all is the tight ends behind Herndon. The only other tight end currently under contract is Jordan Leggett but he remains a roster-bubble player at best.

It’s clear the Jets have done a great job securing an improved supporting cast for Darnold in 2019, now they just need to add some much-needed depth.

Next: 4. Offensive Line Depth

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Brian Winters #67 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Brian Winters #67 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

4. Offensive Line Depth

Aside from adding skill position players to help out Darnold, the Jets also went into the offseason with a focus on shoring up a lackluster offensive line. They started the process days before free agency with the acquisition of former All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele but the process is far from over.

While there still may be a glaring hole at another position — more on that later — the Jets roster remains void of any reliable offensive line depth. In a league where only one offensive line remained intact for all of 2018 (the Los Angeles Rams), depth is pivotal for success.

The top reserve offensive linemen from last season are all set to be free agents. The likes of Dakota Dozier and Brent Qvale are currently on the open market and there’s no guarantee that even one of them will return to the team in 2019.

Backup interior lineman Jonotthan Harrison was retained but at the moment, he’s penciled in as the starting center. While that could still change, the Jets regardless lack depth anywhere else on the offense line.

Expect the Jets to address that in the draft’s mid-to-late rounds by selecting an offensive lineman or two, something general manager Mike Maccagnan has whole-heartedly ignored since joining the team back ahead of the 2015 season.

That will need to change come this year’s draft as it’s high time the Jets address the offensive line in the draft. Given the barren state of their depth chart, it’s a necessity.

Next: 3. Cornerback

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 25: Darryl Roberts #27 of the New York Jets rallies the fans during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 25: Darryl Roberts #27 of the New York Jets rallies the fans during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

3. Cornerback

With all the great things the Jets have done so far in this year’s free agency period, the most confusing decision has been their handling of the cornerback position.

The Jets said goodbye to longtime slot cornerback Buster Skrine in free agency and will almost certainly do the same with Morris Claiborne. However, the replacements that have been brought in don’t exactly seem like major upgrades.

Former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brian Poole has been brought in to replace Skrine in the nickel, but this isn’t exactly a home-run signing. The Jets got Poole on the cheap agreeing to a one-year deal for just $3.5 million, a contract that should immediately be indicative of his caliber.

Poole entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2016 and while he impressed a ton in his rookie season, his next two NFL campaigns have been lackluster. He’s a good blitzer and is excellent in run support but his over-aggressive tendencies in coverage make him prone to penalties.

Basically, Poole’s a younger, cheaper Buster Skrine.

Is that an improvement? Yes, slightly. But it’s not exactly the improvement Jets fans were looking for.

Elsewhere, the Jets re-sign cornerback Darryl Roberts in a move that initially looked like a great depth signing. But his three-year, $18 million contract would indicate otherwise and he’s currently slotted as the team’s No. 2 outside cornerback opposite Trumaine Johnson.

Roberts flashed at points in 2018 filling in for the Jets many injuries in the secondary but the 28-year-old has never been counted on as a starter and it would be reckless to just hand him the job in 2019. Especially given the disappointing play of Johnson at times in 2019, a trio of Poole, Roberts, and Johnson doesn’t inspire too much confidence.

The draft will be the time to address this need. Barring a trade back and the acquisition of more mid-round picks, expect the Jets to attack this position with one of their third-round selections.

Next: 2. Center

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets talks with Jonotthan Harrison #78 before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New York Jets (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets talks with Jonotthan Harrison #78 before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New York Jets (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

2. Center

The Jets handling of the cornerback position was confusing, but the way the Jets addressed the center position remains perhaps the most perplexing of all.

Much like the signing of the aforementioned Roberts, the Jets signing of versatile interior lineman Jonotthan Harrison was met with widespread praise. Harrison had filled in admirably in 2018 starting the final eight games of the season in place of injuries to the departed Spencer Long and James Carpenter.

The former Indianapolis Colt represents an excellent backup option in a league that struggles with offensive line depth. But by no means should Harrison be counted on as a starter for 2019 and beyond.

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However, that’s exactly what the depth chart reads as of the time of writing.

Harrison is a fine player who gives the Jets versatility and competency as a reserve offensive lineman. But counting on him as a staring option would be unwise.

The Jets failed to sign either of the top free agent options available in Mitch Morse and Matt Paradis leaving them with slim pickings on the rest of the free agent market. Even if the Jets were to sign a stop-gap veteran such as John Sullivan, the position would still need a long-term solution.

The 2019 NFL Draft would be the perfect opportunity for the Jets do find that solution and hopefully put an end to their one-year center experiments.

Next: 1. Edge Rusher

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 16: Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after sacking Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. New York Jets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 16: Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after sacking Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. New York Jets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

1. Edge Rusher

It’s become redundant at this point, but the Jets desperately need an edge rusher. This has been the case for years and you could argue that the team hasn’t had a true dominating presence on the edge since the days of John Abraham.

And he left the team almost 15 years ago.

The Jets tried to address the position in free agency with the signing of Anthony Barr. While Barr played exclusively off-ball linebacker while with the Minnesota Vikings, he was expected to move back to the pass rusher role he played while at UCLA and play a hybrid linebacker/edge role.

Unfortunately, we all know what happened next.

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With Barr spurning the Jets, the team still has made no move to address pass rusher in free agency. Currently, the two starting edge rushers on the team remain Jordan Jenkins and……Frankie Luvu?

Last year’s rotational edge rushers in Brandon Copeland, Josh Martin, and Jeremiah Attaochu remain free agents but none of them should be considered true starting options, although Copeland would be nice to bring back as a depth piece.

With that, the Jets will need to address the position in the draft, preferably in the first round. Barring a trade back, there’s a good chance that Kentucky’s Josh Allen will be available and if so, the Jets should snatch him up immediately and plug him in opposite Jenkins at edge rusher.

A trade down would increase the likelihood of players like Florida State’s Brian Burns, Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, or even Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell being taken. Even if the Jets were to sign a remaining free agent edge rusher like former Kansas City Chiefs standout Justin Houston, the team would still be wise to address the need in the draft.

Next. Dee Ford trade could impact Jets chances at Nick Bosa

This draft class gives the Jets the opportunity to land their first stud edge rusher since the aforementioned Abraham. Now, they just need to play their cards right and select the right one.

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