Complete grades and analysis for the NY Jets 2023 NFL Draft class
Round 5, 143rd Overall, NY Jets: Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh
The Jets added another home-run-hitting running back with Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round. After releasing Ty Johnson, the Jets needed to add a running back, so this makes sense.
Abanikanda is another great athlete, posting a 9.88 RAS. He had an amazing season at Pittsburgh last year, finishing with 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns. Per PFF, he had a 90.6 rushing grade and an 88.9 zone grade.
Abanikanda also has the ability to be a kick returner. Mecole Hardman is another option, but he might have too big of a role in the offense to risk on returns.
With Breece Hall still recovering from his torn ACL, a running back group of Abanikanda, Michael Carter, and Zonovan Knight will still be a productive group.
Round 6, 184th Overall, NY Jets: Zaire Barnes, LB, Western Michigan
Yet another plus athlete for the Jets in this draft class. Although a bit undersized, Zaire Barnes brings a RAS of 9.12 and 4.56 speed at the linebacker position.
At the moment, the Jets' linebacker room includes C.J. Mosley and Quincly Williams as starters with Barnes, Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen, and Chazz Surratt competing to fill Kwon Alexander’s spot.
The Jets could still bring back Kwon Alexander, but either way, they needed some depth at linebacker and on special teams. Barnes provides both of those things. In 2022, Barnes had an impressive 88.9 PFF run defense grade.
Barnes is a fine Day 3 pick as a special teamer and possible contributor on defense due to his athleticism, but there were some players that had better chances of contributing on defense this season.
After trading up to pick 170 with the Jets, the Las Vegas Raiders selected Georgia safety Christopher Smith, who would have been a good fit at safety and great value.
There were also some other interior defensive linemen, a position the Jets did not address in the draft, that might have been better options due to their lack of depth at the position.