Will the NY Jets draft an edge rusher at 4?
A lot has changed since February. The early days of projecting the draft had edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux at the top of every expert's draft board, but the college all-star bowl season and the NFL Combine arrived to shake up that initial projection.
Players like Florida State's Jermaine Johnson and Georgia's Travon Walker have seen their stocks soar during the run-up to the draft, while at the same time, there have been reports casting doubt about Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux was considered a lock to go in the top three to four picks for a long time, but now, rightly or wrongly, questions have emerged about his production (7.0 sacks in 2021) not matching his blue-chip skillset while his football character ("outside interests") has also come into question.
This could all be a smokescreen or some gamesmanship going on to trick teams into passing on Thibodeaux so that he slides in the draft.
However, one must wonder how the Jets' front office and scouting department truly feels about Thibodeaux. We might find out when the Jets are on the clock starting him down at pick No. 4.
We know that one of the Jets' primary needs is an elite outside pass rusher. The team hasn't had that for a long time. Although they are hoping that prized free-agent acquisition Carl Lawson returns to form after seeing his 2021 season wiped out due to injury, the Jets desperately need to upgrade the team's pass rush.
Even if Lawson is back being the player he was, having multiple elite edge rushers in a Robert Saleh defense is a must. This is particularly true for a defensive scheme and coaching staff that is not flexible.
The Jets don't have a defensive staff that relies on game-planning for their opponents' tendencies, nor do they rely on blitzing offenses to create confusion and pressure. Having two formidable pass rushers on the edge is a must for Jeff Ulbrich and Robert Saleh's defense.
The Jets may have hung around the periphery in free agency, sniffing around some of the big-name pass rushers on the market, but they didn't make an aggressive play, so it stands to reason that they are saving that crucial move for the draft.
Whether at pick No. 4 or No. 10, it's just a matter of where they have the edge rushers not named Hutchinson ranked on their big board, and whether or not the Jets are willing to wait until the 10th spot or later to select one.