The NY Jets made Zach Wilson the pick in this seven-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
The NY Jets are going to have a very important decision to make this offseason. A decision that once seemed as straightforward as any draft decision could be suddenly isn’t so obvious.
If the Jets had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — as they were projected to have for nearly 90 percent of the season — the team would have wasted little time running to the podium with their choice of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Now locked into the No. 2 pick instead, the choice has become a much more contentious one.
Do you stick with Sam Darnold and attempt to build around him or do you continue on with the plan to draft a new quarterback? It’s a question that general manager Joe Douglas will have a few months to ponder.
If the plan is to select a quarterback, two players have emerged from the pack as the likely favorites. Ohio State’s Justin Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson are at the forefront of the QB2 debate.
And seeing as though we opted to go the quarterback route in this mock draft, this was a decision we ultimately had to make. As usual, we deployed the use of The Draft Network’s “Mock Machine” to help us gauge one possible scenario for this April’s draft.
We decided to go with the fast-rising Wilson over the more volatile Fields, as you probably could have surmised by this point. But what other players did we land in this star-studded mock?
Let’s take a look at our results.
Next: 1. The Jets make a franchise-altering decision
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Round 1, 2nd Overall, NY Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Fields/Wilson debate will rage on for the next few months, and contrary to the opinion of a large portion of Jets fans, it isn’t a straightforward one. But in this case, we do side with the majority and select BYU’s Zach Wilson.
Perhaps no player has improved their stock as much as Wilson has this season. Barely seen as a blip on most scouts’ radars going into the year, Wilson has broken out in 2020 and could find himself the second player off the board come April.
A true gunslinger in every sense of the word, Wilson has no shortage of arm talent that he combines with excellent athleticism and escapability. If you’re looking for a flashy, exciting, highly-regarded leader, Wilson is your guy.
He has a tendency to play hero ball and will need to accept check-downs more often as opposed to forcing passes into traffic. Turnovers will be a concern as will his prior injury history.
But Wilson has endeared himself to Jets fans rather quickly and would be more than a worthy selection here at No. 2 overall.
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Round 1, 27th Overall, NY Jets: Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC
The Jets draft their new prospective franchise quarterback and immediately provide him with some offensive line help in the form of USC offensive guard, Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker has started each of the last two seasons at left guard and is one of the more well-rounded prospects in this offensive line class. Lacking a true weakness, Vera-Tucker is sufficient in both pass protection and as a run-blocker.
The junior lineman is technically sound with excellent body control and balance that make it difficult to throw him off his anchor. But while he’s an all-around solid prospect, he lacks the elite athleticism and explosiveness to make him a top-tier option.
Vera-Tucker is strong, but not especially explosive and he’s an inconsistent finisher at best. He isn’t a people-mover in the mold of a Mekhi Becton, but rather excels as a rock-solid prospect with no glaring holes in his game.
As a result, he would be an improvement over Alex Lewis at left guard both in the short-term and in the long run.
Next: 2. Helping out the new QB
Round 2, 34th Overall, NY Jets: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The offensive line overhaul continues here with the selection of Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg. A three-year starter at left tackle, Eichenberg might not be receiving the same level of hype as some of his fellow classmates, but he’s going to be a darn good player at the NFL level.
Much like Vera-Tucker, Eigenberg isn’t a rare prospect in terms of his overall athleticism or power. He isn’t exactly a mauler in the run game and he isn’t going to wow anyone with incredible displays of strength.
But he’s just such a natural pass-blocker that none of that stuff really matters. Eichenberg has some of the smoothest feet in the class with a great base and superb punch timing.
At 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, he has more than enough size and length to play tackle in the pros and should hold up fine if asked to switch to the right side — which is likely where he’d play with the Jets.
Eichenberg isn’t going to be the top offensive tackle in this class simply because his athleticism isn’t on par with a player like Penei Sewell, but he should continue the tradition of successful Notre Dame offensive linemen in the NFL.
Round 3, 66th Overall, NY Jets: Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
The third round has become our favorite spot to address edge rusher in these mock drafts and Miami’s Quincy Roche has become perhaps our preferred target.
Roche is a high-upside, explosive pass-rusher who made the successful transition from Temple to Miami in his senior season. After a 13-sack performance as a junior, Roche tallied 45 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 10 games with the Hurricanes in 2020.
But his true on-field production isn’t measured by his sack total. Roche is Pro Football Focus‘ highest-graded collegiate edge defender over the last two years and packed on some extra weight to contribute to his stout play this season.
There are still concerns about his overall size/strength despite him weighing in at 245 pounds, but Roche’s athleticism and burst should get him plenty of looks.
If he can continue to add some weight while maintaining his speed, Roche could become a dangerous three-down player at the next level.
And with the Jets desperate for edge rush help, he makes a ton of sense here in Round 3.
Next: 3. Addressing two much-needed positions
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Round 3, 90th Overall, NY Jets: Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
Ideally, we would have liked to have addressed cornerback before this spot. But there’s always one position that gets left behind in these mocks.
At the very least, we managed to snag a pretty good outside cornerback prospect here in Oklahoma State’s Rodarius Williams. Williams was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State who was long considered one of the true stars of that defense.
At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Williams is very effective in off-man coverage where he can use his instincts and length to get in position to break up the pass.
Some will be concerned about his lack of experience in press coverage. And the fact that he doesn’t have the quickest hips nor the most agile backpedal feed into those concerns.
But Williams could be an instant contributor in any NFL defense with the ability to improve into a rock-solid starter if he could show proficiency in press-man coverage.
His impressive size and length would seem to indicate that he has that potential in him. It just needs to be unlocked.
Round 4, 103rd Overall, NY Jets: Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
The Jets surprisingly seem to have a bright future at the wide receiver position. Denzel Mims is already a starting-caliber wide receiver with No. 1 potential while Jamison Crowder should return in 2021 as an explosive, reliable slot option.
Assuming the Jets land at least one starter in free agency, the wide receiver position becomes much less of a need. That said, the Jets need speed and Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz has plenty of that to offer.
With experience playing outside and in the slot, Schwartz has been utilized in a variety of different ways in Auburn’s offense. While he might struggle in traffic due to his slight frame, Schwartz makes his living on go routes and plays that get him the ball in space.
Schwartz is equally as effective downfield as he is on pitch-and-go hitch routes or slants. He can make an impact both in the short and downfield passing games.
At only 179 pounds, Schwartz might struggle in the intermediate game when asked to make contested catches, but if he could improve in that area, we could be looking at one of the best receivers in this class.
Either way, the Jets need a speed guy with Breshad Perriman unlikely to return in 2021. Schwartz could be an ideal mid-round target.
Next: 4. Picking for upside
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Round 5, 142nd Overall, NY Jets: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Chris Herndon has shown steady improvement in recent weeks and will undoubtedly be a part of the team next year, but the Jets could certainly use some additional help at the tight end position.
Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson is a high-upside mid/late-round target who is already one of the more accomplished pass-catchers in his class. With soft hands and good athleticism, Ferguson has been an effective safety blanket for the Badgers over the last three years.
The junior tight end was on pace for his best collegiate season but was limited to only six games due to his team’s shortened 2020 schedule. But he could be one of the late-risers of this tight end class.
While he’s raw as a blocker, he has the size (at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds) to be a very capable in-line tight end at the next level. And if he could improve as a blocker, he should have no problem finding a starting role before long.
Ferguson could immediately challenge Herndon for playing time and give the Jets a true difference-making, pass-catching tight end that they are in need of.
Round 5, 148th Overall, NY Jets: Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
The Jets really need help at edge rusher, so we decided to double up at the position selecting a small-school project in the form of Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith.
Smith burst on to the scene as a redshirt junior in 2019 totaling 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. And instead of holding out hope for a potential spring season, he decided to opt-out to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
At 6-foot-7, 245 pounds scouts dream of Smith’s blend of size and production. But while the tools are there for Smith to be a productive player at the next level, he still has a long way to go.
Smith isn’t the most explosive or powerful player and he regularly struggled with his pad height — likely due to his height. It’s hard to see his production translating unless he is able to find a more consistent approach as a pass-rusher.
The Senior Bowl will be especially important for Smith as he looks to prove that he’s more than just a late-round flier.
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Round 6, 193rd Overall, NY Jets: Rakeem Boyd, RB, Arkansas
The Jets will likely look to free agency to add another running back this offseason, but don’t be surprised if they address the position at some point in the draft as well. In this case, Rakeem Boyd out of Arkansas made sense as a late-round selection.
Boyd’s upside comes with his patient, yet explosive approach that allows him to accurately recognize running lanes and burst through them.
He’s also a very capable pass-catcher as evidenced by Arkansas’ tendency to use him both out of the backfield and in the slot as an additional receiver. His soft hands give him upside as a third-down back at the next level.
And that might be his ceiling as Boyd’s lack of balance and tendency to fall down at first contact limit his potential in the NFL. But if he is to transition to more of a third-down role, he will first have to work on his poor pass protection.
Boyd’s explosiveness and pass-catching ability make him a worthwhile selection here in Round 6, but he has some deficiencies to overcome if he is to contribute on offense in the NFL.