The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and the New York Jets will have a difficult decision to make with the fourth overall pick. A year after selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and Southern California offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round, Gang Green is back with another two first-round selections in the upcoming draft.
What will the Jets do with the fourth overall pick? That’s the pressing question we’re here to address as the draft nears ever closer. As of publication, the Jets were widely expected to select either an offensive tackle, a pass-rusher, or Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Although social media users and draft pundits alike have suggested the Jets target a receiver that early, we’re questionable against such an idea.
So, who should the Jets draft at No. 4? As with our mock drafts, we picked players based on need and team fit. In other words, the Jets will not use the fourth overall pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis or Pittsburgh signal-caller Kenny Pickett, given Wilson’s presence on the active roster. Also, all prospects are ranked alphabetically as opposed to preference or potential.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, we believe the Jets should target the following players with the fourth overall pick:
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
At this time, it appears Alabama left tackle Evan Neal won’t be on the board here, so we’ll leave him off and address other potential offensive linemen. I’m admittedly higher on Cross than most, even as more mocks have him being selected anywhere within the first 15 picks. Although he’s only been a starter for two seasons, the 6-foot-5, 307-pound tackle will bring impressive strength and size to the NFL.
Cross isn’t the most athletic offensive tackle, but he’ll pound opponents into the ground and, perhaps most importantly, keep his quarterback standing. That’s enough for me as an objective viewer, but will that be enough for the Jets?
Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Don’t be surprised if Ekwonu easily ranks among the 2022 NFL Draft’s top players when all is said and done. The NC State standout is an intelligent bruiser who passed up on playing in the Ivy League to instead thrive in the ACC. Although the 6-foot-4, 310-pound former wrestler has had low points in pass protection, his violent and aggressive skill set should take him far in the NFL.
For a time, it appeared the Jacksonville Jaguars would target Ekwonu with the No. 1 overall pick. However, there looks to be a realistic chance he could fall to the Jets at No. 4, and they should be ecstatic.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The long-suffering Jets fans might not be pleased with the idea of selecting Hamilton here, especially after the decision to draft LSU safety Jamal Adams so early in 2017 didn’t pan out. Those fans likely, and understandably, want the team to target an offensive lineman like Cross or Ekwonu.
There are two key differences here, the first being these Jets might already have a franchise quarterback. Also, Hamilton is a legitimate safety. Conversely, Adams is a linebacker playing safety.
Outside expectations are high for Hamilton, and NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein even compared him to former Seattle Seahawks star Kam Chancellor.
“It’s rare to find such a ferocious striker and intimidator who has the football intelligence and athletic prowess to go make plays in the passing game, but Hamilton provides it all. He thrives playing downhill or sinking into a robber alignment on the back-end but will have occasional missteps in coverage when in retreat from his pedal.”Lance Zierlein
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Walker’s stock has skyrocketed in recent months, especially as former Oregon Ducks pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux faces maturity concerns. The possibility still exists that the Jets could select an offensive lineman (or Hamilton) at No. 4 before selecting Thibodeaux with the 10th overall pick.
Unlike Thibodeaux, Walker likely won’t fall out of the top five.
If Walker is still on the board at No. 4, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see the Jets scoop him up and work the 6-foot-5, 272-pound edge rusher into the starting lineup. Whether or not the team should take a pass-rusher that early is another conversation, one the organization is likely still having as you skim through this article. At least the Jets have a defensive-minded head coach in Robert Saleh to potentially bring Walker along as a rookie.
Or, the Jets could waste the fourth overall pick on a receiver. Which they probably will in spite of everything we’ve said above.