NY Jets should not target RB early in the 2021 NFL Draft

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets head into this offseason with plenty of roster needs to address. Fortunately, they will have their fair share of assets to help them do so.

With six picks inside the top-100 and close to $80 million in cap space after cuts, the Jets will have plenty of ammunition this offseason. And that’s good news given their many needs.

In recent weeks, mock drafts from numerous outlets have predicted that the Jets could use one of their two first-round picks on a running back. While the team will address the position in the offseason, it’s unlikely they do so in the first round.

And with good reason to.

Why the NY Jets can’t spend any major assets on a running back

The Jets currently have just two running backs under contract — 2020 fourth-round pick La’Mical Perine and midseason waiver claim Ty Johnson. Josh Adams is a restricted free agency and could return while Pete Guerriero was signed to a reserve/futures deal.

But outside of Perine and Johnson, the Jets clearly need additional depth. However, it would be foolish to spend any significant assets on the position.

Someone like Aaron Jones, if he hits the open market, could generate some serious interest. Meanwhile, the likes of Najee Harris and Travis Etienne are widely seen as first-round talents in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

But spending big money or using a premium draft pick on a running back just doesn’t make sense.

It’s almost become a cliche at this point, but the running back position is an extremely replaceable one. The days of bell-cow running backs leading an offense are essentially over.

Just two players rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2020 — Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. Just a decade ago, 10 players managed to reach that mark.

Rushing for 1,000 yards used to be something that more than half the league’s starting running backs accomplished. In 2020, only eight reached that feat, and half of them only eclipsed that mark by 70 or fewer yards.

The “starting” running back has been replaced by committee approaches everywhere outside of a handful of backfields across the NFL. The Jets are in no position to use a premium draft pick on the position.

In all likelihood, the Jets will go into free agency targeting one of the many second-tier options. Guys like Jamaal Williams, Marlon Mack, Tevin Coleman, etc. make sense to pair with Perine and Johnson going forward.

Perhaps the Jets could even look to add another back in the middle rounds of the draft. But under no circumstances does it make sense to target one early on — not with more important positions such as quarterback, offensive line, wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback remaining just as weak.

This isn’t a knock on either Harris or Etienne as a prospect either. Both players will likely become very productive runners in the NFL before long, but they will do so for teams that have the luxury of drafting them.

Given the Jets’ many roster holes, spending a premium draft pick on a running back just doesn’t make sense.

Next. NY Jets: 5 running backs to target in 2021 free agency

Don’t expect general manager Joe Douglas to target a running back on Day 1 or 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.