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The 2021 offseason is already shaping up to be quite the eventful one for the NY Jets, and we haven’t even reached March.
Rampant rumors surrounding the quarterback position have dominated offseason headlines. Whether they’ve been about Sam Darnold, Deshaun Watson, or one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the QB position has been the talk of the town.
And while the decision the Jets make at that position will, in many ways, shape the rest of the offseason, it isn’t the only decision the team will have to make over the next couple of months.
Realistically, the vast majority of the roster needs a complete overhaul.
With a new coaching staff headed by Robert Saleh, the Jets will usher in a new era in 2021. And by the looks of things, that new era will come with a new quarterback (more on that in a moment), a bolstered roster, and a renewed sense of optimism.
We’ve been doing these mock drafts almost weekly for the better part of the last four or five months. And during that time, we’ve explored a variety of different scenarios.
This time, we’ll be revisiting the scenario that sees the Jets move on from Darnold in favor of one of the top signal-callers in this year’s draft class. That said, in this mock scenario with no trades, they won’t have the benefit of that compensation.
Nonetheless, the Jets still have 10 picks (or nine depending on who you ask) to play with as general manager Joe Douglas looks to reshape the roster to his liking.
Using The Draft Network’s Mock Machine, as always, let’s take a look at our latest seven-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Next: 1. A new franchise QB and a promising pass-rusher
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, 2nd Overall, NY Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
There has been an ongoing debate as to who the true QB2 of this draft class is. And don’t expect that debate to be resolved any time before draft day — or even after that.
But while BYU’s Zach Wilson has been the quarterback most often connected to the Jets, it’s important not to rule out the possibility that the team selects Ohio State’s Justin Fields instead.
Fields is, by all accounts, an exceptional quarterback prospect. But for whatever reason, many have seemingly overthought him as a player.
The 21-year-old is a superb athlete with ample arm talent, accuracy, and collegiate success that projects him as a franchise quarterback at the next level. He’s a natural thrower who excels when on the move where he could show off his impressive accuracy and arm strength on the run.
The concerns about his ability to go through progressions or read defenses are completely overblown. Watch the tape — I assure you it will tell a very different story.
Fields is a phenomenal prospect who would fit like a glove in new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system. The Jets really can’t go wrong with either Wilson or Fields, but in this case, they choose the latter.
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Round 1, 23rd Overall, NY Jets: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
A former five-star recruit, Jaelan Phillips was a complete dud at UCLA through his first two seasons before transferring to Miami ahead of the 2020 season. And just when everyone was ready to write him off, he finally lived up to his high-school hype.
Phillips finished with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 10 games en route to being named second-team All-American. Playing in a stacked Miami front-seven, Phillips proved that he could be the player many believed he would be coming out of high school.
At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Phillips is a well-balanced pass-rusher and run-defender who would be a perfect fit as a five-technique in Robert Saleh’s defense. He has the size and athleticism you look for from a first-round pass-rusher, but his lone year of production could scare some teams away.
Phillips dealt with various injury issues at UCLA which partially contributed to his struggles. But if he could replicate the success he had in his senior year at Miami, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the best edge rusher in this class.
After years of whiffing on pass-rush prospects, Phillips could be the player that breaks the curse.
Next: 2. Building around their new QB
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Round 2, 34th Overall, NY Jets: Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State
If the Jets are going to draft a new quarterback, they’re going to need to surround him with talent. That starts in free agency and it continues here with the selection of Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis.
Davis is one of the best guard prospects in this class with the size, athleticism, and technical refinement to be a plug-and-play starter at the NFL level.
The former five-star recruit started two full seasons at right guard for the Buckeyes being named a unanimous All-American in both seasons. He was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2020 and helped his team reach the National Championship Game.
Davis is everything you want in a guard prospect. He’s powerful, agile, and technically sound all while being a mostly scheme-versatile player. Perhaps he’d be best in an inside-zone-heavy offense, but he should fit just fine in Mike LaFleur’s outside-zone system.
Davis could step in and start at right guard from day one giving the Jets an easy opportunity to upgrade over Greg Van Roten in the offseason.
Round 3, 66th Overall, NY Jets: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
The Jets are likely to address the wide receiver position in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore it in the draft. And one player who’s seemingly gotten overlooked in a stacked class is Ole Miss wideout Elijah Moore.
Moore has experience playing both on the outside and in the slot and is one of the most explosive receivers in this year’s class. Following an impressive sophomore campaign, Moore broke out in 2020 hauling in 86 catches for 1,093 yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games.
That helped earn him a consensus first-team All-American nod as well as being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s top wide receiver.
At just 5-foot-9, there’s a good chance that Moore is mostly relegated to the slot at the next level. But his combination of speed, explosiveness, and crisp route-running make him one of the most dynamic receivers in this class.
Moore could be used in a semi-featured role early on before eventually taking over for Jamison Crowder in the slot in 2022. Or, if the Jets are really confident in Moore, they could even opt to cut ties with Crowder and his non-guaranteed salary.
Either way, Moore would be an excellent pickup if still on the board at the beginning of Round 3.
Next: 3. Two future defensive starters
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Round 3, 86th Overall, NY Jets: Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
One of the most underrated needs on the roster is at the linebacker position. C.J. Mosley should return and fill the MIKE role in Robert Saleh’s defense, but the Jets will realistically be looking for two new starters at the SAM and WILL positions.
Someone who makes sense as a possible Day 2 target is LSU linebacker Jabril Cox. Cox spent the first three years of his collegiate career at North Dakota State solidifying himself as perhaps the best linebacker at the FCS level before transferring to LSU in 2020.
And at LSU, Cox continued to prove his worth. The Missouri native is an excellent coverage linebacker who has outstanding range. At 6-foot-3, 233 pounds, Cox fits the mold of a modern NFL linebacker and combines his speed/athleticism with an unrelenting motor.
He’s a little inconsistent in run defense at the moment, but his tackling has rarely been called into question. And given how well he could cover, it’s likely that he’ll be highly coveted by some NFL teams.
Cox could realistically slot in as either the starting SAM or WILL and would likely be viewed as a three-down starter at the next level. The Jets would be wise to make him a priority if he’s available this late in the draft.
Round 4, 107th Overall, NY Jets: Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
If there ever was the prototypical definition of a “freak athlete” at the cornerback position, it would be South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu.
Standing at a whopping 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Mukuamu is a physically-imposing cornerback with ample athleticism and long legs that allow him to make up for his lack of truly elite deep speed.
He certainly used his height to his advantage at South Carolina racking up seven interceptions over just 22 career games. Mukuamu also notably has excellent ball skills that, when combined with his length, could be deadly for opposing offenses.
The biggest concern with Mukuamu will be his change-of-direction skills. At 6-foot-4, it’s understandable that he may have a hard time flipping his hips to turn and run with receivers, especially when compared to shorter, more nimble cornerbacks.
But if he could overcome that and continue to work on his technique, the sky is truly the limit. Ideally, Mukuamu could sit and develop for a year or two before being asked to play a featured role.
His upside alone makes him a great pick here in Round 4.
Next: 4. Two offensive playmakers
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Round 5, 147th Overall, NY Jets: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
What’s better than one explosive wide receiver? You get the point.
After taking Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore two rounds earlier, we decided to double-up at the position with the selection of Iowa standout Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Smith-Marsette is the perfect example of a player who should be much better in the NFL than he was in college.
At Iowa, Smith-Marsette was often left hanging as the struggling Hawkeyes passing game ultimately limited his production. In four years at Iowa, he never topped 750 receiving yards, and his career-high in receptions was just 44 back in 2019.
But he has the traits needed to be a much more productive professional player.
Smith-Marsette is a speedy deep threat who can be a dynamic difference-maker as the Z-receiver in the Jets’ offense. Iowa did everything they could to get the ball in his hands using him on jet sweeps, sending him in motion, and even deploying him in the return game.
And at 6-foot-2, Smith-Marsette has the size/speed combo that will make scouts drool. If given the opportunity, he could be one of the mid/late-round steals of the entire draft.
Round 5, 155th Overall, NY Jets: Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo
The Jets will also look to address the running back position in the offseason. And why not do so by adding a little local flair to the roster in the form of Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson.
Patterson put together a historic career at Buffalo where he put up numbers that may never be matched. In a now-famous game against Kent State in 2020, Patterson tied the FBS record with eight rushing touchdowns and fell just 18 yards short of the record with 409 rushing yards.
In total, Patterson rushed for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2020. In just six games.
His lack of true breakaway speed will be one of the biggest knocks against him, but Patterson is a highly-effective between-the-tackles runner who has excellent balance and a strong lower half.
He rarely goes down on first contact and has the vision and pass-catching ability to excel in a Mike LaFleur offense. In a pretty deep running back class, Patterson might be overlooked even in spite of his production at Buffalo.
And if that’s the case, the Jets could make a strong push to select him early on Day 3.
Next: 5. Two late-round offensive projects
Round 6, 199th Overall, NY Jets: Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
A four-year starter at one of the most prestigious offensive line schools in the country, Alaric Jackson is a well-rounded tackle prospect who lacks elite traits, but could develop into a solid pro.
Jackson started 42 games at Iowa being named second-team All-Big Ten on two occasions before earning first-team recognition in his senior season. He was also widely regarded as one of the leaders of the program — a trait Joe Douglas could hold in high regard.
Jackson has excellent lateral mobility that allows him to extend up into the second level and make blocks on linebackers or defensive backs. He’s a solid athlete, but his struggles in pass protection could hold him back.
The Detroit native is inconsistent as a pass-blocker and would be best served in a West Coast offensive system that emphasizes quick passes to mask his weaknesses as a blocker.
Ideally, you’d like a little more upside out of a late-round pick and Jackson already seems pretty maxed out. But he has a quality base skill set, is a highly-regarded leader, and comes from a true offensive line factory in Iowa.
If anything, Jackson could be quality offensive line depth — something that comes at a premium in today’s NFL.
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Round 7, 245th Overall, NY Jets: Tony Poljan, TE, Virginia
Tony Poljan is one of those intriguing prospects that you might as well draft as a late-round flier. A former quarterback at Central Michigan, Poljan was forced to change positions after failing as a QB.
He spent a year at Central Michigan as a tight end in 2019 before transferring to Virginia in 2020. And in the 22 games that he’s played at his new position, there have been flashes of greatness.
Standing at a whopping 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, Poljan has monstrous size that helps him excel as an in-line blocker despite his inexperience at the position. And he’s shown the ability to be a reliable receiving threat as well hauling in 71 catches over the last two years.
While he’s not a dynamic athlete by any stretch of the imagination, there seems to be some untapped potential in his receiving game. Poljan could be a weapon up the seam where he puts his size and large frame to good use.
The Jets could stash Poljan as a developmental blocking tight end with red-zone potential early on while he continues to learn the position. Why not spend a late-seventh-round pick on a 6-foot-7 quarterback-to-tight-end-convert?
*Note: This draft pick is unconfirmed as it’s unclear if the conditions of the Parry Nickerson trade from August of 2019 (!) were met. The Draft Network slots this pick to the Jets hence why it is included.*