NY Jets: The options at pick 23 and why a trade up could happen

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets are drafting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second pick overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. At least, it appears that way, barring some last-second change of heart.

The Jets have identified who their franchise quarterback is going to be. The mystery of whether or not the Jets would take a quarterback at No. 2 was revealed the day Sam Darnold was traded.

The real mystery has shifted to what the Jets will do with their next pick in the first round.

The Jets have so many needs that you could make a legitimate argument for several players or positions that they should target at 23. It’s a take-your-pick scenario at almost every area of the team — the byproduct of coming off a two-win season.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jets at 23 could address adding a game-breaking running back, or another edge rusher, or even an every-down linebacker in the mold of Fred Warner.

But one long read of the tea leaves of what the Jets have and haven’t done thus far this offseason leads many into two specific target areas — offensive line and cornerback.

The Jets went out this offseason and landed a dynamic edge-rusher in Carl Lawson and a top target for the passing game in Corey Davis.

There have been several other additions, but none have stood out more as significant long-term investments than the moves made to acquire Lawson and Davis at two premium need areas.

The Jets did not, however, address two other prominent needs on their roster — a premium starting offensive lineman and a genuine No. 1 cornerback. The fact they didn’t address those two positions in free agency is a strong hint of what’s to come on draft day.

The dilemma with picking in the second half of the draft, like the Jets will be if they stand pat at 23, is waiting and hoping that players will fall to you, especially as it pertains to players who play premium positions in the NFL.

Waiting for the board to fall your way is as risky as trading resources to make a move to get who you desire. The waiting game has its own share of opportunity costs.

Once upon a time, back in 2006, then Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum had to sweat out the possibility of Nick Mangold falling to him at pick No. 29. The Jets and Tannenbaum got lucky when the future seven-time Pro Bowl center fell to them.

As Mike Tannenbaum recently revealed in an interview at NewYorkJets.com, the former Jets GM didn’t know how lucky he was until then Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome called to congratulate him after the pick. Newsome told Tannenbaum that Baltimore nearly picked Mangold at 13 before selecting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Because centers are often overlooked in the first round of the NFL Draft, luck was on the Jets’ side for a change, Mangold fell to 29, and the rest was history.

Another history lesson comes from the draft a year later. With Gang Green in desperate need of a cornerback, Mike Tannenbaum and his scouting staff identified Darrelle Revis as their top target.

The problem was that the Jets were picking 25th. The team also identified cornerbacks Leon Hall and Aaron Ross as fallback possibilities.

Still, the preference was Revis and the Jets at 25, didn’t feel secure about their options at that spot in the draft to get any of the top-ranked corners on their board.

So they were dead set on making a move up the board — and they did. Getting to 14 to draft the franchise’s greatest defensive back in Darrelle Revis.

As it turns out, in that draft, Leon Hall went 18th to the Bengals, and Aaron Ross was selected 20th by the Giants. So the calculation that standing pat at 25 would prove fruitless for the Jets was the correct call by Tannenbaum.

The decision to trade-up, arranged a night before, on the condition that Revis was still available, was arguably the greatest draft move in Jets history as ‘Trader Mike’ sent the Jets 25th selection, a second-round and fifth-round pick to Carolina to move up to the 14th spot and select Darrelle Revis.

Tannenbaum moved heaven and earth to land on Revis Island. Had the Jets stayed at 25 and decided to keep their picks, the next highest-rated cornerback on the board was Chris Houston, who went 41st to the Atlanta Falcons.

That brings us to the present day and this year’s draft. The Jets are sitting at 23, and the same dilemma that the Jets faced in 2006 and 2007 could play itself out on draft day.

While diehard NFL and Jets fans update their mock drafts daily, the truth is that NFL teams are doing the same thing. The Jets front office is going through every scenario in draft meetings to attempt to figure out who will be available to them when they are on the clock at 23.

The best-player-available strategy is certainly in play for a team like the Jets that has so many holes on their roster but for the sake of this, let’s assume that the Jets’ goal at 23 is prioritizing the two areas that the Jets didn’t in free agency — offensive line and cornerback.

Here is a look at the scenarios that could play out at those respective positions in the first round and the realistic options for the Jets at 23.

Next: Offensive line options at 23