Given Joe Douglas's preference to build through the trenches, it's very possible Ikem Ekwonu will make it three consecutive Jets' drafts with a first-round offensive lineman. For now, though, let's operate under the premise the Jets will start George Fant at left tackle, shift Mekhi Becton to right tackle and "throw a lot of money" at a free-agent guard, as predicted last month by SNY's Ralph Vacchiano.
A rangy playmaker with elite size (6' 4" and 219 pounds), Hamilton has the versatility to be used as a defensive chess piece and the coverage ability to erase top pass-catching tight ends. Hamilton had eight interceptions over three seasons in South Bend. Meanwhile, only the Raiders (six) picked off fewer passes than the Jets (seven) last season.
Later in this mock, you'll see four Georgia defenders, but is it possible that a former Bulldog will be selected before any of them? In his lone season after transferring from Georgia, Johnson led the ACC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (17.5) and was named the conference's 2021 Defensive Player of the Year. After his stellar week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Johnson may have put himself in the top-10 mix come April.
Part of us thinks GM Joe Douglas wouldn't draft a safety this high. But another part thinks they can use all the dynamic playmakers possible. And this position needs an overhaul, with Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner both unrestricted free agents coming off significant injuries. They don't have anyone like Hamilton on the roster, and he could be special in Robert Saleh's defense.
We're not quite as high on Ojabo right now as others might be, but the Jets almost certainly will add multiple rushers this offseason. With time and development, Ojabo could be a special talent off the edge. The Jets might also consider OL or WR help here, depending on how free agency goes.
Landing Thibodeaux at this spot might have seemed impossible a few months ago, but it wouldn't be surprising at this point. If it happens, the Jets would get a huge steal at a position of need, landing an explosive edge defender with limitless potential.
After getting an elite pass rusher with their first pick, the Jets add another big-play machine for the secondary here. It might surprise some to see Gardner as the first corner off the board, but his rare combination of size, length and ball skills makes him more than worthy.
Ekwonu's size makes him tough to get around, he plays with the power to bury defenders, and he's a mauler in the run game. In fact, some people around the NFL even like him more than Evan Neal. Ekwonu would help New York protect Zach Wilson in the passing game and spring Michael Carter in the running game. The Jets allowed 53 sacks in 2021 (fourth most), but New York's offensive line issues aren't as massive as they seem. I think the team is one impact player away there. Morgan Moses played well last season, but he's a free agent due for a pay bump. Mekhi Becton, the Jets' 2020 first-rounder, has struggled to stay healthy but still has a ton of upside.
Given some unknowns here, Ekwonu's versatility matches what the Jets need. Coach Robert Saleh would have options with Ekwonu in the fold, including but not limited to bumping the rookie inside or sliding Becton to the right side. Alternatively, the Jets could consider Kayvon Thibodeaux to address the edge rush after generating just 33 sacks last year (tied for 28th).
The Jets went offense with their first four picks in 2021, and we just handed them an offensive tackle (Ikem Ekwonu) at No. 4. So yeah, this is defense all the way, especially with safety Marcus Maye facing free agency. The Jets could certainly get by with Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols at corner, but Stingley could be the steal of the draft if things go this way. The big question is whether the LSU product can return to form and produce as he did in his 2019 freshman year, when he had six interceptions. A left foot injury held him out of all but three games in 2021, but if he realizes his potential, Stingley would certainly improve a defense that gave up 8.0 yards per pass attempt and hauled in just seven interceptions in 2021.
Branded a defensive guru, Jets coach Robert Saleh has to be upset that his team surrendered four times as many touchdown passes as it intercepted, the worst ratio in the league. The long-armed, silky smooth "Sauce" Gardner has the frame, name and game built for Broadway.
After using their two first-round picks on offense last year (QB Zach Wilson, OG Alijah Vera-Tucker), the Jets should focus on the other side of the ball in this defensive-loaded draft. Walker's flashes were star-bright for the Bulldogs, but he wasn't the consistent dominator that his size and athleticism suggest.
This selection in the top 10 is certainly a roll of the dice, but Saleh was brought in to develop talents like Walker. If he hits, the UGA and Senior Bowl standout could be the star off the edge to turn a good linebacker corps into the AFC East's best.
He arguably has a higher ceiling than Hutchinson but is currently a more unrefined product. In 30 games with the Ducks, the 6-5, 258-pounder had 19 sacks and 35½ tackles for loss. His burst and tools would be a boon to a Jets defense that's long lacked an elite pass rusher and can only hope veteran DE Carl Lawson (Achilles) will be ready to go in 2022.
New York, owner of the NFL's worst defense in 2021 (both in terms of points and yards allowed), would be wise to invest both of its top-10 picks on that side of the ball – and Stingley will almost certainly be under consideration at No. 4, too – and not give in to any temptation to get QB Zach Wilson more toys. (GM Joe Douglas has two second-round picks, so Wilson will get help eventually.) Stingley's talents as a cover man are undeniable and were apparent for the 2019 national champions, for whom he had six interceptions, earning All-American honors for his efforts. But foot surgery limited him to three games in 2021. Still, it would be hard for the Jets to bypass this kind of talent, especially if Stingley is still there at No. 10 and given the team's weakness at the position.
The Jets's pass defense finished in the bottom three in passing yards (259 per game), yards per attempt (8.4), passer rating allowed (103.2), and interceptions (seven) last season. With Hutchinson and Thibodeaux off the board, Stingley makes a lot of sense. Opposite Bryce Hall, Stingley would be a massive boost to a defense that needs some playmakers.
After picking up an extra few picks in a trade back with the Steelers, the Jets still get one of the top receivers in this class. London is a perfect complement to Corey Davis and Elijah Moore; he's a big-play X receiver who can give Zach Wilson a jump ball specialist and red-zone threat. The Jets need as many playmakers as they can get around Wilson, and London has the skill set to make an immediate impact.
Yes, there will be talk about poor work ethic and a lack of competitiveness, but turn on the tape and Thibodeaux was a dominant force for three seasons at Oregon. If he throttled down on a subpar Ducks team to protect his future in the NFL, it's hard to blame him or claim that he lacks the competitive juices to win the pros. The Jets should be thrilled that he's available here.
6'3" cornerbacks with sweet feet are hard to come by. That's why the Jets pull the trigger on Gardner even if head coach Robert Saleh's defenses have in the past featured non-premium picks at the position. In Gardner--who didn't allow a touchdown in college--Saleh just might see a young Richard Sherman.
Hamilton missed the final six games of last season due to a knee injury, but that shouldn't be an issue as long as his medical exams check out. The former Irish star's height, agility and ball skills remind me of the Bengals' Jessie Bates.
London's ankle injury won't dissuade teams from picking him early in the draft. Last year's second-round pick, Eljiah Moore, could do a lot of damage in the slot with the tall, agile London and a healthy Corey Davis on the outside for the Jets.
London is quite easily the one receiver from this draft class who I'd want to pair with a young quarterback. Even when he's not open, London is open. He hauled in an NCAA-high 19 contested catches in only eight games last season.