NY Jets build around Sam Darnold in 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

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The NY Jets opted to build around Sam Darnold in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft.

The NY Jets are going to have a very difficult, yet intriguing decision to make in the coming months. Do they stick with Sam Darnold and build around him or look to replace him in the 2021 NFL Draft?

That will be the million-dollar question this offseason, and it isn’t one that has a definite answer at this point. There’s an argument to be made for both scenarios.

That said, the likeliest — and probably the wisest — decision still seems to be moving on from Darnold and drafting his replacement. From a logistical and financial standpoint, it just makes the most sense.

But what if they don’t do that? What if Joe Douglas is willing to bet his and the Jets’ future on Darnold turning things around? It remains a possibility.

We’ve been doing weekly mock drafts since September and every single one of them has had the Jets taking a quarterback with the second overall pick. But seeing as that’s far from a guaranteed decision, we figured it was time to switch things up.

There will be no trades — so the very likely possibility of a trade down won’t be in play — but we won’t be selecting a quarterback. Instead, the Jets will attempt to build around Sam Darnold in an effort to salvage his once-promising career.

As usual, we used The Draft Network’s “Mock Machine” to put together a hypothetical scenario of April’s draft. And it’s safe to say that if Darnold is going to find success, our mock gives him as good a chance as any.

Let’s take a look at the talented players we were able to land.

Next: 1. Jets add a generational offensive tackle prospect

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Round 1, 2nd Overall, NY Jets: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

If the Jets do stick with Sam Darnold this offseason, the likeliest option remains a trade down. But in a mock without trades, we did the next best thing selecting Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

Sewell is everything you want in an offensive tackle prospect and more. Considered by many to be an even better prospect than any tackle in the last few classes, Sewell has an unreal blend of power, athleticism, and technique matched by very few prospects in recent memory.

While he didn’t play this season, Sewell established himself as the best offensive lineman in his class with a dominant 2019 season that saw him named a Unanimous All-American and receive honors such as the Outland Trophy and Morris Trophy.

At just 20-years-old (he doesn’t turn 21 until October), the sky is the limit for the Oregon tackle. The Jets drafted Louisville standout Mekhi Becton in the first round last season and it didn’t take long for him to show future All-Pro potential.

If the Jets were to draft Sewell, the only difficult question would be who they should play at left tackle.

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Round 1, 23rd Overall, NY Jets: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

The cornerback market is expected to be fairly thin this offseason which is bad news for a Jets team desperate for help in the secondary. For that reason, it would make sense for the team to target a cornerback with their second first-round pick.

Fortunately, now that they’re locked into the 23rd overall selection courtesy of a Seattle playoff loss, they might have a chance at someone like South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.

The son of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn is one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s class with the size — at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds — and speed to match up with any NFL receiver.

Horn excels in zone coverage where he can use his impressive length and instincts to jump routes. Moreover, his physicality allows him to succeed more often than not in press coverage, even against some of the most physical X receivers in the country.

The Jets need someone with No. 1 cornerback potential and Horn provides that, even if there are some questions about his tackling ability.

Next: 2. Continuing to bolster the offensive line

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Round 2, 34th Overall, NY Jets: Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State

If the Jets are truly committed to Sam Darnold, then they must prove their devotion by building around their young quarterback. And what better way to do so than by building a wall of young offensive linemen in front of him?

After snagging a generational tackle prospect in Sewell in Round 1, the Jets come back and land a plug-and-play guard prospect in Wyatt Davis a round later.

Davis is a well-rounded guard prospect who screams “Joe Douglas guy.” A true mauler in every sense of the word, Davis dominates at the point of attack and has no trouble finishing his blocks.

A two-year starter at right guard, Davis is the grandson of NFL Hall of Famer Willie Davis and was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2020.

Davis could immediately provide an upgrade over the stop-gap Greg Van Roten at right guard and give the Jets one of the best young offensive lineman trios in the NFL when paired with Becton and Sewell.

The value was too much to pass up.

Round 3, 66th Overall, NY Jets: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh

The Jets have needed pass-rush help for the better part of the past two decades. And while they could look to address the edge-rush position in free agency (Bud Dupree, Shaquil Barrett, Matt Judon, etc.), someone like Patrick Jones II could be an interesting Day 2 target.

Jones is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. He’s a well-rounded player with no notable weakness who can get to the passer at an efficient rate and double as a productive run-stopper.

Over the past two seasons, Jones has totaled 17.5 sacks in 22 games en route to being named first-team All-ACC and a Consensus All-American in 2020.

He isn’t the most gifted athlete and has virtually no experience as a stand-up pass-rusher, but the Jets will be in a new defensive system in 2021. If the Jets run a base 4-3, Jones could be in play on Day 2.

But if the new defensive coordinator is committed to the 3-4, it’s likely the Jets will look elsewhere. Still, he’s a good option if the new scheme allows for it.

Next: 3. Two talented wide receivers

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Round 3, 86th Overall, NY Jets: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

The Jets will likely add a wide receiver in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore the position in the draft. And someone who’s a worthy mid-round candidate is Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace.

Wallace has been a frequent resident of our mock drafts due to his impressive route-running skills and standout YAC ability. Few players are as dangerous after the catch as Wallace is and he made a living out of it while at Oklahoma State.

With 900+ receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, Wallace is one of the more experienced and productive receivers in this year’s class. And his outside/inside versatility should make him very appealing to general manager Joe Douglas.

Wallace is a dynamic route-runner who wins with speed more than physicality. But that doesn’t mean he shies away from contact at the catch point.

The Jets could do a lot worse than Wallace as their third or fourth receiver in 2021.

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Round 4, 103rd Overall, NY Jets: Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn

But why draft one receiver when you could draft two? In another deep wide receiver class, the Jets should take full advantage and consider doubling up at the position.

And if they do, Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz could be a perfect fit for an offense desperately in need of a speedy field-stretcher.

Breshad Perriman has been a dud and is unlikely to return next season opening up the need for a deep threat in the offense. And few players in this class are more dynamic downfield than Schwartz.

A nationally-ranked high school sprinter, Schwartz has the speed to keep defenses honest combined with some surprisingly refined route-running that allows him to get open pretty regularly.

His slight frame will worry scouts and his lack of elusiveness after the catch limits his ability as a YAC receiver, but you can’t teach speed. And speed just so happens to be something the Jets desperately need more of.

Next: 4. Three potential future starters

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Round 5, 142nd Overall, NY Jets: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State

Perhaps no Jets player was a bigger disappointment in 2020 than tight end Chris Herndon — and that’s saying quite a lot. For that reason, the team should look to upgrade the tight end position in the offseason, even if they don’t outright replace him.

One player who could provide that upgrade is Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert. A Long Island product, Ruckert is a sure-handed, well-rounded tight end prospect who projects as a future NFL starter.

He’s only a junior so there’s no guarantee he declares, but if he does, the Jets should seriously consider him as an early Day 3 option. A dynamic receiving threat and willing blocker, Ruckert is similar to what the Jets thought Herndon would eventually develop into.

He isn’t quite the matchup nightmare that many NFL tight ends are nowadays, but he makes up for that with his blocking chops.

Ruckert could be a fun homecoming story if the Jets select him in this year’s draft.

Round 5, 151st Overall, NY Jets: Tariq Thompson, S, San Diego State

No player is more important to re-sign this offseason than standout safety Marcus Maye. It’s too early to predict whether or not Maye will be back, but the Jets do seem prepared to pay him a hefty sum in free agency.

But whether Maye returns or not, the Jets could use some additional safety depth. And San Diego State’s Tariq Thompson makes more sense than most would initially think.

Thompson has experience at both safety and nickel cornerback and he has the versatility to intrigue Joe Douglas. He’s a very efficient tackler who rarely whiffs and has ample experience on special teams.

While he’s not the most dynamic athlete, Thompson’s versatility and instincts will make him a highly-coveted Day 3 player. Consider him the anti-Ashtyn Davis — a below-average athlete with good instincts but a limited ceiling.

If Davis fails to improve in his second season, perhaps the Jets could give someone like Thompson a shot if he develops. He’s certainly someone worth a look here in Round 5.

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Round 6, 193rd Overall, NY Jets: Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida

The Jets could also look to bolster their linebacker depth in the draft and Florida’s Ventrell Miller makes a ton of sense as a late-round, high-upside target.

At 6-foot and just 222 pounds, it’s easy to see why Miller won’t be a high-round pick this April. He’s undersized for the position and struggles to shed blocks in the run game.

But if you’re looking for an athletic, rangy linebacker with plenty of experience as a blitzer, Miller is your guy.

The Jets will return C.J. Mosley in 2021 and have a decision to make on Neville Hewitt this offseason. Blake Cashman is still hanging around but injuries have derailed his career and he’s no lock for the roster next season.

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Miller could take Cashman’s place as the athletic backup linebacker with special-teams upside. At the very least, he could develop into a quality third linebacker in due time.