Let's get one thing straight first — Will McDonald might very well turn into a great player for the NY Jets. While the Jets didn't see much of McDonald in 2023, there's still every chance the talented pass rusher becomes a long-term building block for the franchise. This isn't an obituary on his career.
That said, there are reasons to be concerned or at least question the pick after one year. McDonald played the fewest snaps of any Jets first-round pick since Vernon Gholston in 2023. He flashed at times but wasn't overly dominant in his limited playing time.
More importantly, McDonald is stuck in a loaded position group. He's either going to be relegated to a backup role for the duration of his rookie contract or be used to justify letting Bryce Huff walk in free agency. One of those two things will happen this offseason.
But what if this wasn't the case? What if the Jets went a different route with their 2023 first-round pick? Here are five players who, as of the time of writing, would've been better selections for the Jets last April.
5. The NY Jets could've drafted Sam LaPorta instead of Will McDonald
The Jets mismanaged their offense last offseason — there's no way around it. The team highly overvalued the skill players on their roster and passed when presented with the opportunity to upgrade at certain spots.
While the tight end position was one of the lone bright spots for the offense in 2023, it's clear that the team still needed more playmakers on offense. Sam LaPorta would've given them just that.
The former Iowa star made a Pro Bowl in his first season with the Detroit Lions, finishing with 86 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named a second-team All-Pro and is firmly established as one of the best tight ends in football after just one year in the NFL.
LaPorta would be drafted 19 spots later than McDonald and would've been a realistic first-round target for the Jets. Instead, they went with a backup defensive end who played just 184 snaps as a rookie.