New York Jets 3-Round Mock Draft: Zach Wilson Gets His Left Tackle, Another Top WR Target Early

The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and the New York Jets have plenty of work to do. Although the long-suffering franchise selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson early in last year’s draft and recently went all-out in free agency, the Jets enter the 2022 event needing help at receiver, in the trenches, and in the secondary.

As of publication, the Jets were slated to have nine total selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, including four picks in the first 38. Now feels like the perfect time to analyze who Gang Green could select within the draft’s first three rounds.

For the sake of simplicity, we only used the Jets’ current draft selections; there are no trades here that have not already happened. We also drafted players based on need and team fit; which, in other words, means the Jets did not select a quarterback with the fourth overall pick.

Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, our three-round mock draft looks as follows:

Round 1, No. 4 overall: Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Don’t be surprised if most mock drafts suggest the Jets take a receiver with one of their top two picks. There is zero reason for Gang Green to invest in a receiver that early with how many impact players appear to be in the 2022 class. Instead, assuming the Jets hold onto both first first-round picks, the priority should be adding another offensive tackle to protect Wilson.

Enter Ekwonu, a unanimous All-American in 2021 and a dominant force who excelled at both left tackle and left guard in college. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman would be ready to start as a rookie and could force the Jets to move Mekhi Becton, who missed almost all of the 2021 season with a knee injury, to right tackle.

Forget the receivers here. Ekwonu makes perfect sense — and if he isn’t available, the Jets won’t lose by settling for one of the other top offensive tackles.

Other options: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State; Evan Neal, OT, Alabama; Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon; Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Round 1, No 10 overall: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

If Hamilton or Thibodeaux somehow fall to No. 10, I’m fine with either being the choice here. I’ll feel similarly if the Jets go defense at No. 4 and one of the top tackles, likely Cross, somehow falls to No. 10. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say the Jets draft Ekwonu at No. 4 and neither Hamilton nor Thibodeaux are available.

Walker is universally considered a top-10 prospect at this point, and the Jets will likely need help for him to fall to No. 10. However, the unpredictability of the first round, especially if a team trades up for Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, could allow the Georgia product to take the stage and hold a Jets jersey.

Don’t be fooled by Walker’s seeming lack of production (9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in three college seasons) or the fact he’ll play almost all of his rookie season at 21 years old. He has the talent to thrive in head coach Robert Saleh’s scheme and emerge as the Jets’ best pass-rusher since Muhammad Wilkerson.

Other options: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati; Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State; Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Round 2, No. 35 overall: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Jets can do whatever they want with the 35th overall pick, although we’d advise against drafting a quarterback. With a left tackle and a pass-rusher already in place, Gang Green would be wise to start adding skill players, primarily at receiver or in the secondary.

Given Saleh’s defensive background and the depth of receivers in this year’s class, we believe the Jets will add a defensive back at No. 35. Although Elam struggled at times in his junior season, he’s a flashy defensive back with a nose for the ball and a high ceiling. It’s also worth noting his father, Abram, played safety for the Jets from 2007-08.

The Jets can afford to draft Elam and bring him along slowly in hopes he’ll be ready to become a full-time starter in his second season. That alone should be more than enough for Saleh to pounce on the Florida Gators standout early in the second round.

Other options: Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati; Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State; Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor; Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

Round 2, No. 38 overall: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Our decision to draft Watson is nothing against Dotson, Pierce, Georgia’s George Pickens, or any of the receivers who could still be available at No. 38 overall. But we want to spice things up, and the Jets must draft the 6-foot-4, 208-pound FCS standout if he falls to No. 38 overall.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who now own two first-round picks, could reportedly be in play for Watson after the team shockingly traded All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. However, if the Chiefs opt to take a different path at either No. 29 or No. 30, there is a realistic chance Watson will drop to the Jets at No. 38. The NDSU star ran a 4.36 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, turned 105 catches into 2,140 yards and 14 touchdowns in 52 career games at NDSU, and impressed as both a rusher (392 yards and two touchdowns on eight yards per carry) and a returner (686 yards and two touchdowns) for the Bison.

Yes, please.

Other options: Any of the four players mentioned above

Round 3, No. 69 overall: Zachary Carter, DE/DT, Florida

Carter is an interesting prospect capable of playing either defensive tackle or defensive end, depending on the call. His physical playstyle should make him an ideal fit for Saleh’s defense, as will his durability and 6-foot-4, 282-pound frame.

“He’s a skilled, thoughtful rusher, but a fluctuating motor creates inconsistencies on tape,” NFL Media’s Lance Zlerlein wrote. “The sum doesn’t always equal the parts, but he has the size and skill to become a quality starter with splashy, interior rush potential.”

We’re not scouts, but we view Carter as a moderate-risk, extremely high-reward player to select in the third round. That should be enough for the Jets to call his name.

Other options: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama (if WR not taken in Round 2); Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama; Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State

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