Now that the NFL Draft is complete, analysts are giving grades to the full Jets Draft class. They will likely continue to come in over the next few days. Let’s take a look at the grades the Jets are scoring.
As you go through these, remember one thing. Draft grades are stupid...unless they praise the Jets.
The Jets had two first-round picks last year, but 2023 was much more of a low-key draft — unless you expand that out to the few days before, when they finally completed the Aaron Rodgers trade. In that deal, they swapped Round 1 selections with Green Bay, dropping down two spots. They also gave up Nos. 42 and 207 plus a conditional second-rounder in 2024 (that likely will be a first-rounder). The Packers sent back No. 170, as well.
We had connected New York with the offensive tackles in the class, but four already were off the board by the time it got on the clock at No. 15. I’m a fan of whom general manager Joe Douglas opted for; edge rusher Will McDonald IV(15) can fly to the football. He is one of my favorite prospects in the entire class. He had 33 sacks over the past four seasons. Expect McDonald to be a menace in passing situations as a rookie as he bulks up to improve as a three-down player.
I preferred John Michael Schmitz over Joe Tippmann (43) in the center class, but I know several teams that had Tippmann at No. 1 on their boards at the position. This was a clear need area for the Jets. Running back Israel Abanikanda (143) likely is insurance for Breece Hall returning healthy, but Abanikanda was productive in college, tallying 21 scores last season. Tight end Zack Kuntz (220) lit up the combine workouts, and he is a worthy risk in Round 7.
The lingering question about this Jets class is: Are they sure they’re OK at offensive tackle? They must trust that Mekhi Becton will return healthy and productive after back-to-back lost seasons. I don’t know that Carter Warren(120) is a candidate to play as a rookie.
Day 1: McDonald had the best season of his college career in 2022 and flashed incredible lateral quickness. PFF’s Sam Monson views him as the second-best pass-rusher in this draft class, but the Iowa State product was just the 29th-ranked player on the PFF big board. He finished his college career with 127 total pressures across 862 pass-rushing snaps.
Day 2: The Jets eliminated their need to take center by bringing back Connor McGovern on a cheap, one-year deal, but Tippmann gives them another long-term option at the position. He brings a unique combination of size and athleticism to the middle of New York’s offensive line, along with an 84th-percentile run-blocking grade at center on zone runs since 2021.
Day 3: The Jets finally take their tackle. For now, Warren projects as more of a depth piece. He has the requisite build and length but needs some work in his technique and consistency in pass protection. The Jets will hope to develop him behind some veterans in the early going.
With reports the Jets were considering drafting Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs at 15th overall, they add a speedy depth piece to their backfield in Abanikanda, who earned a 90.6 rushing grade in 2022 and is a threat to break off a big gain on any given carry. Abanikanda’s 10-yard split, vertical jump and broad jump all placed him in the 95th percentile or better. His hip flexibility and bend are not great, but if he can plant his foot in the ground and get upfield he will rip off chunks as a rotational piece.
Barnes is an undersized linebacker with great speed, landing in the 88th percentile for his 4.54-second 40-yard dash. Barnes’ sideline to speed shows up with his 88.9 run defense grade in 2022.
Kuntz is a freakish athlete at 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, as he put together one of the best combine performances we’ve ever seen. His 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle and three-cone all ranked above the 90th percentile. At this point in the draft, you bet on these traits.
McDonald’s plus length and flexibility off the edge enticed the Jets in the first round, and he’ll be dangerous if he’s able to consistently get off the blocks of strong NFL linemen. Tippmann has the size and mobility to clear lanes for what the team hopes is a healthy Breece Hall. Aaron Rodgers also factors into the grade here, as the team gave up a ‘23 second-rounder as part of the trade with Green Bay.
Warren meets the Jets’ desire for athletic offensive tackles; if he had been healthy for all of last season, he would have gone on Day 2. If Hall isn’t back for the start of the season, Abanikanda’s speed might help him find the field early on. Kuntz is a superior athlete for his size, making him one of the best seventh-round selections.
The Jets added a rotational pass-rusher in the first round in Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, but his lack of bulk and advanced prospect age (he’ll turn 24 in June) make him a risky pick to take that early. I am lower on the team’s second-round pick, center Joe Tippman, than most, and thought he struggled to play with leverage at times and fell off too many blocks. I did like the team’s fifth-round selection, running back Israel Abanikanda, who offers breakaway speed as a complement to Breece Hall. And Zack Kuntz is a great seventh-round flier, offering rare speed and explosiveness at the tight end position.
On its own, the first-round selection of pass rusher Will McDonald IV caused some NYJ fans to flash back to so many years of draft trauma. (In fairness to McDonald, he may turn out to be a fine player ... if not worthy of a top-15 slot.) But let’s keep perspective here – GM Joe Douglas used this year as a means to acquire four-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers, who more than addresses New York’s main problem (and at very reasonable cost), which is why the Jets’ grade is so high. Still, you wonder if Douglas had a mulligan whether he would just let go of an unconditional 2024 first-rounder and keep No. 13 this year ... because it’s hard not to believe he wouldn’t have taken either of the two players (Iowa DE Lukas Van Ness or Jones) who went right in front of him Thursday. Offensive linemen Joe Tippmann (Round 2) and Carter Warren (Round 4) have major upside – though not as much as Jones – yet it’s hardly a surety they will play extensively in 2023.
The Jets entered a new world this week after trading for Aaron Rodgers. They immediately upgraded his situation by taking Tippmann from Wisconsin, who is arguably the best center in this class. General manager Joe Douglas doubled down up front with his next choice, landing Warren in the fourth round. McDonald is an older first-round pick after spending five years with the Cyclones, but if he works out, the Jets have a nice group up front featuring McDonald, Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and others. Finally, Kuntz is a good value in the seventh round, a talent some thought would go significantly earlier in Day 3.
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