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Draft Notes: The Linebacker Need

Ole Miss vs LSU Photo by Beau Brune/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

A very happy Wednesday to everyone, 8 days to go until we hit the NFL draft, I can almost feel the excitement. Today we’re going to dip into the linebackers and look ahead to 2022. Please click HERE to see all past issues.

The Jets are not set at Linebacker

LSU vs Auburn Photo by Gus Stark/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

“Why would the Jets take a linebacker early in the draft?” - This is a question I see on my timeline all the time, and it always puzzles me when I see it. I have to repeatedly refresh the Jets depth chart to make sure I didn’t miss the team signing 2-3 new linebackers.

Last time I checked our best linebacker hadn’t played for two years due a groin injury sustained in week one of the 2019 season against Buffalo and then an opt out for 2020. Outside of C. J. Mosley we have the likes of Blake Cashman, Bryce Huff, Sharif Finch, Noah Dawkins, Del’Shawn Phillips and new boy Jarrad Davis.

Would you really feel comfortable going into the season with that depth? I know Robert Saleh is renowned as a linebacker grandmaster, but are you so comfortable with that talent level that you would turn down one of the better backers in the draft? I’m not and I wouldn’t.

I’m not saying that linebacker is the #1 priority for the Jets heading into the draft, because it isn’t. I’m also not saying that the Jets should reach to fill a need. However, if someone like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fell to the Jets at #23, I’m not going to criticise them for making that pick.

I fully expect the Jets to pick up a linebacker at some point, my preference is to target LSU backer Jabril Cox, who would offer us elite coverage ability. Maybe they elect for Ohio State’s Justin Hilliard who offers ridiculous upside with the right coaching. Linebacker is a need for the Jets.

Ambry Thomas - The Great Unknown

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Michigan v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One position of need that we can all agree on is cornerback. There are still corners on the free-agent market, and depending on how the board falls the Jets may dip into that if they can’t secure one of the top corners in the 2021 draft.

One interesting prospect to keep an eye on is Ambry Thomas from Michigan. Thomas has the perfect combination of speed (4.37 forty) and length (32.35” arms - 80th percentile), he never allowed more than 72 yards receiving in a game and he allowed just one touchdown in his career.

The issue with Thomas is that he doesn’t have a ton of experience. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns and as such he’s only had 401 coverage snaps and 57 targets, that’s a really small sample size.

From what we saw in those 401 snaps though, it’s hard not to be impressed. He plays fast and physical, despite his relatively slim frame. He’s a sure tackler only missing 4 over his entire college career, and allowed 53.2% of his targets to be completed. There’s a ton to like in Thomas and due to his lack of experience, you may be able to get him in the late 3rd or early 4th round, if he plays to his potential, that could be an absolute steal.

2022 Draft Prospect: George Pickens

Georgia v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Chances are that if you watch college football at all, you will know the name George Pickens. The Alabama native has been a revelation for the Bulldogs in Athens and is tipped to be one of the first receivers off the board during the 2022 NFL Draft.

Pickens is a 6’3, 200lb super athlete that has every single trait you’d want from a receiver. Speed, hands, body control, an ability to adjust on the fly, a red-zone threat with physicality, and a player capable of making OBJ type catches that will have the sports centre highlight creators practically giddy.

Pickens came into Georgia, a top program in the SEC, and performed instantly as a true freshman. In 2019 he recorded 727 yards and 8 touchdowns and followed that up with 513 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 8 games.

He’ll be catching balls from JT Daniels this year, the former USC QB is being tipped as one of the best QB’s in the nation this year and I fully expect that combination to be lights out. Even if Daniels struggles, Georgia could call on 5-star freshman recruit Brock Vandargriff, a player who received 20 offers from some of the best college programs in the country.

5 Interesting Stats

  • Asante Samuel JR only allowed a 23.8 QB rating when being targeted in the red-zone.
  • In 2019 Teven Jenkins allowed 0 sacks, he also allowed 0 QB hits, keeping his QB completely clean all season.
  • Pat Freiermuth had 27.8% of the target share at Penn State, that’s a lot of the offense through the TE position.
  • Arkansas Rakeem Boyd didn’t have a single fumble on 292 touches over the last two years.
  • Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks had a 147.1 passer rating when throwing 20+ yards down the field.