Another team nearly stole Will McDonald from the NY Jets in the draft

NY Jets, Will McDonald
NY Jets, Will McDonald / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The NY Jets received their fair share of criticism following their selection of Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald with the 15th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

McDonald was widely seen as a potential late Day 1 prospect, and most analysts didn't even have him as the top available edge rusher at the time the Jets drafted him. That honor would likely have gone to Georgia's Nolan Smith, who would be drafted 15 picks later by the Philadelphia Eagles.

The media doesn't always see players the same way as teams, however. That seemed to be the case with McDonald. In fact, one NFL team was prepared to trade up and select McDonald had the Jets not beat them to the punch.

Mike Kaye of The Charlotte Observer reported shortly after the draft that the Carolina Panthers "were high on" McDonald and planned to trade up into the back half of the first round to select McDonald if he was still available.

As fate would have it, the Panthers wouldn't get that opportunity. The Jets made sure he didn't fall any further than the 15th pick in the draft.

Will McDonald and the NY Jets are hoping to prove their doubters wrong

It was easy to question the McDonald pick at the time. The Jets were a year removed from selecting a rotational edge rusher in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and adding McDonald to an already stacked defensive end room seemed counterproductive.

The team didn't address a position of need, and they "reached" on a prospect who most mock drafts had going in the late first round. Some mock drafts had him falling out of the first round entirely. But again, the NFL values players differently than the media.

The Jets saw McDonald as a player worthy of the 15th overall pick. He wasn't a fallback option, either. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah reported last week that the Jets planned to select McDonald, even if Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones was still on the board.

Jones, who was selected one pick earlier by the Pittsburgh Steelers, was seen as one of the top offensive tackles in this year's draft. You'd be hard-pressed to find a player who was mocked to the Jets more frequently throughout the pre-draft process.

Despite this, the Jets fell in love with McDonald and saw him as someone who hadn't even come close to reaching his potential at Iowa State. The hope is that McDonald can prove them right in due time.

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The Jets were higher on Will McDonald than most in the media, and as it turns out, other NFL teams were as wel