After surprisingly selecting edge rusher Will McDonald in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Jets likely will try to address a position of need in Round 2 on Friday.
However, don’t expect the approach that led to McDonald’s selection to change for New York.
“We let the [draft] board come to us,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas explained Thursday.
In other words, New York won’t draft for a position but instead will focus on selecting the best player.
Selected 15th overall by the #Jets in the 2023 #NFLDraft, DL Will McDonald IV (@WILL_JUN1OR) registered 34.0 career sacks at Iowa State, the most in school history and tied for the most in Big-12 history. pic.twitter.com/fLXIAvcHxD
— NYJ Communications (@NYJetsPR) April 28, 2023
That was the case with McDonald after the top four offensive tackles were chosen before the Jets were on the clock with the No. 15 overall selection. Though they have a strong group of edge rushers, led by Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff, New York didn’t pass on this stud.
That said, the Jets have holes to fill on their roster at defensive tackle and offensive tackle, and could use a safety, center, linebacker and/or another playmaker on offense to make Aaron Rodgers happy. And they only have one Day 2 pick — their second-round selection (No. 43 overall) — and three on Day 3.
Let’s examine the Jets’ best options in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Brian Branch – S – Alabama
It’s surprising Brian Branch was not selected in the first round, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll last very long in Round 2. But if he’s there, the Jets seriously must consider taking him.
#Alabama DB Brian Branch makes his way on the red carpet. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/5QomzMuuSe
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) April 27, 2023
Branch is a plug-and-play safety, who could start from Day 1. The Jets have veterans Chuck Clark and Jordan Whitehead, but the latter could be cut to create serious salary cap savings if Branch is the pick here.
Drew Sanders – LB – Arkansas
Like McDonald, Drew Sanders would be a bit of a luxury pick for this season, with eyes set on 2024 when veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley likely will be a cap casualty. But Sanders could be their third linebacker this season and groomed as a long-term starter after that.
In our Jets 2023 Mock NFL Draft, we had Sanders going to New York at No. 43 because he’s a stud finisher, who hunts down quarterbacks and is a solid tackler.
Steve Avila – G/C – TCU
Not sure there’s an offensive tackle remaining worth the No. 43 pick, but the Jets do need help on the offensive line. Steve Avila is more of a guard but has played center and would compete with veteran Connor McGovern at that position, while providing the kind of flexibility along the line that the Jets love.
New York could also consider centers Luke Wypler (Ohio State) and Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin) or tackle Matthew Bergeron (Syracuse) with this pick.
Keeanu Benton – DT – Wisconsin
The Jets have a big hole next to Quinnen Williams on the interior of their defensive line. Veteran Quinton Jefferson was brought in as a one-year stopgap after Sheldon Rankins and Nathan Shephard departed in free agency.
One common response when talking to NFL scouts about @BadgerFootball DT Keeanu Benton is that he “had more pass rush than we thought before seeing him at @seniorbowl”.
Teams feel like Benton is one of few in this IDL class who could develop into quality three-down starter. pic.twitter.com/beTqO1sjuK
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 19, 2023
Keeanu Benton could provide a long-term answer at the position. He’s a terrific pass rusher and is the best interior lineman remaining.
Jalin Hyatt – WR – Tennessee or Michael Mayer – TE – Notre Dame
It’s very possible neither of these playmakers will be available at No. 43. But the idea behind each is to give Rodgers another weapon on offense. The Jets are deep at receiver, led by NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, offseason adds Allen Lazard (a Rodgers favorite from Green Bay) and Mecole Hardman, and veteran Corey Davis. But they pursued free agent Odell Beckham Jr and, hey, did we mention they may want to give Rodgers another toy to play with on offense?
Tight end is also not a position of great need. They have veterans C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin and second-year pro Jeremy Ruckert. But Mayer looks like a stud and would make the new face of the franchise quite happy.