NY Jets: 5 prospects to watch at the 2021 Senior Bowl

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
NY Jets
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NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets will surely be keeping a close eye on a number of prospects at the 2021 Senior Bowl later today.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of a wild and eventful start to the offseason, the 2021 NFL Draft process has taken a backseat to the hiring of Robert Saleh and the rumors surrounding Deshaun Watson.

But this weekend marks the true beginning of that process with the Senior Bowl set to take place at 2:30 EST later today. Some of the top seniors from around the country will look to make their mark and boost their draft stock ahead of the upcoming draft.

Last year, we saw the likes of Justin Herbert, Chase Claypool, and Jeremy Chinn — just to name a few — make names for themselves. Who might step up and do the same this year?

The Jets, at least at the moment, will have nine picks to make this April including five of which that are in the top-100. And this weekend will present an excellent opportunity to get a closer look at some of the players they could target in a few months.

General manager Joe Douglas’ first draft class had a few notable standouts in 2020. From Mekhi Becton to Denzel Mims, Douglas’ first class has already laid the foundation for the future of the organization.

But there is still plenty of work to be done. And to continue turning around the franchise, Douglas will have to ensure he hits more than he misses once again.

Let’s take a look at five prospects Douglas and the Jets should watch in this year’s Senior Bowl.

Next: 5. Tylan Wallace

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5. NY Jets Senior Bowl Target: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

The Jets need playmakers on offense, it’s as simple as that. Jamison Crowder is a dynamic, reliable slot option and Denzel Mims flashed No. 1 potential in his rookie season, but the Jets’ skill-position group needs work.

They’re expected to address the wide receiver position in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look to the draft to do the same. And if they do, someone who might pique their interest is Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace.

Wallace is one of the more refined route-runners in this class and he’s been making plenty of noise at Mobile for his crisp routes and explosive athleticism.

He reminds me a bit of Tyler Lockett given his slick routes and ability to attack vertically out of the slot. Wallace excels in 50/50 situations due to his strong hands and excellent ball-tracking skills.

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It’s hard to envision a more perfect playmaker for new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s offense.

There are some concerns about his game given that Oklahoma State’s offense didn’t ask him to run a large variety of routes. Many of his yards came on manufactured touches which likely won’t be the case in the NFL.

However, he’s shown in Mobile that he has the ability to diversify his route tree. Wallace makes sense as a Day 2 target for Gang Green.

Next: 4. Aaron Robinson

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4. NY Jets Senior Bowl Target: Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF

One position the Jets are almost guaranteed to target in the 2021 NFL Draft is cornerback. With a weak crop of upcoming free agents, it would make sense for the Jets to target the position early.

And one player who has stood out more than perhaps any other defensive back this week has been UCF’s Aaron Robinson.

Originally an Alabama recruit, Robinson transferred to UCF two summers ago and immediately made his mark earning back-to-back second-team All-AAC honors.

Robinson makes a living in the slot where his physical, scrappy approach makes life difficult for opposing receivers. At only 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, most believe Robinson will be confined to the slot in the pros, which is why he could see his stock fall a little.

But the work he’s done at Mobile this week will certainly earn him some extra money. And his physicality and effectiveness in press coverage make it so the transition to outside corner could be easier than many assume.

Brian Poole is a free agent this offseason and the 28-year-old will likely be looking for a sizable payday after taking a team-friendly deal a year ago. If Poole’s market explodes and the Jets don’t find a suitable replacement in free agency, Robinson makes a ton of sense.

Or if they feel that he can effectively transition to an outside role, he still could be a target on Day 2.

Robinson is a versatile, physical defensive back who plays with a purpose on every down. The Jets could use someone like that in their secondary.

Next: 3. Creed Humphrey

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3. NY Jets Senior Bowl Target: Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma

The Jets upgraded their offensive line a year ago with the addition of Mekhi Becton, but the rest of the line remains shaky at best. Expect them to address the position again this offseason.

In particular, the interior of the offensive line needs plenty of work. Center Connor McGovern underwhelmed in 2020 but will be back due to his contract. The same can’t be said for the lackluster guard duo of Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, however.

And one player the Jets could target to address their interior offensive line is Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey.

Humphrey is one of the best center prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft having anchored Oklahoma’s offensive line for the past three years. The Oklahoma native was named Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2019 and has earned first-team All-Big 12 honors each of the past two seasons.

While not the greatest athlete, Humphrey is a strong, built, high-IQ lineman who uses his frame and powerful base to open holes for running backs. On top of that, he’s one of the most technically-sound pass-blockers in the country.

Humphrey didn’t allow a single sack over 1,297 pass-block reps during his three years as a starter at Oklahoma. A brick wall in the passing game, the Big 12 standout has been perhaps the most dominant lineman at Mobile this week.

As good as he is, it’s fair to say that he wouldn’t be the best fit in the Jets’ new offensive system that leans more on athletic linemen. His lack of athleticism also might mean that a move to guard could prove difficult.

Humphrey is an excellent all-around prospect who should be a long-term starter in the NFL. But he might not be the best fit for the Jets.

Nonetheless, he could still be a target toward the end of the first or top of the second round.

Next: 2. Patrick Jones II

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2. NY Jets Senior Bowl Target: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh

One player who is a superb scheme fit, however, is Pittsburgh edge rusher Patrick Jones II.

The Jets will be shifting to more of a 4-3 defensive scheme under new head coach Robert Saleh. While former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams mixed in some 4-3 looks, the Jets have primarily run a 3-4 for over a decade now.

And their current roster reflects that.

Outside of 2020 rookies Jabari Zuniga and Bryce Huff, the Jets don’t really have anyone on the roster with much experience as a 4-3 defensive end. If the Jets decide to bring back Jordan Jenkins, he could perhaps reprise the role he played in college.

But Jenkins is an unexciting option, to say the least. Jones, however, could make a lot of sense for the Jets.

The 22-year-old was a Consensus All-American in 2020 after amassing nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss in his senior season. A well-rounded defensive end prospect, Jones is productive as both a pass-rusher and run defender.

He’s an intelligent run defender who uses his quick hands to combat blocks and plug up running lanes. And his varied pass-rush moves make him a dangerous pass-rusher despite his lack of athleticism.

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Jones will be a scheme-dependent player in the NFL due to his lack of experience dropping back into coverage or playing a stand-up rusher role. But he would be a perfect fit for Saleh’s new scheme.

That’s especially true if Saleh brings over some elements of the Wide 9 scheme he deployed in San Francisco. Jones could thrive in that Arik Armstead-esque role in New York.

His stock is rising though, and it’s likely he won’t fall past the Jets’ selection at No. 34 overall.

Next: 1. Kadarius Toney

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1. NY Jets Senior Bowl Target: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

We noted earlier that the Jets need playmakers on offense. Tylan Wallace is a playmaker. But Kedarius Toney — he is the literal definition of a human highlight reel.

He’s been called a human joystick due to his uncanny ability to shake would-be tacklers with never-before-seen elusiveness. And as expected, he’s wasted little time making an impact at the Senior Bowl.

A native of Mobile, Toney has put on a show for his hometown crowd flashing Tyreek Hill-like athleticism and route-running ability. Few receivers have as quick of a first step as Toney as he explodes out of his route before the defensive back could even react.

Going into the 2020 season, Toney was seen as little more than a gadget player whose ceiling would be limited by his lack of refinement. But he proved to everyone that he could be a viable receiving threat, even outside of manufactured touches.

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Toney saw most of his production out of the slot where he was able to overcome his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 189 pounds). The Jets do already have Jamison Crowder, but there’s no reason you can’t get both players involved in the offense.

And if Mike LaFleur takes anything away from his time under Kyle Shanahan, he’ll find a way to maximize both of their strengths.

Toney’s stock continues to skyrocket, especially after his performance this week at Mobile. If he has a big game later today, it’s easy to see him solidifying himself as a first-round talent.

If the Jets want Toney, they may have to snag him with the No. 23 overall pick, or else risk him not falling to 34.

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But it might just be worth it to add an exciting playmaker of his caliber that the Jets’ offense hasn’t seen in a very long time.