The Jets’ front office has made zero attempt to hide its desires to acquire a stud wide receiver this offseason. After doing “due diligence” on Calvin Ridley prior to his suspension, Amari Cooper before his trade to Cleveland and most recently being a finalist for now-Dolphin Tyreek Hill, the Jets have made it abundantly clear that adding another weapon to this young offense is one of the final pieces needed to finish off an impressive and encouraging offseason.
After the well-known “three strikes, you’re out” we’ve seen thus far, it’s time for New York to turn its focus to the NFL Draft — where several dynamic playmakers await — with all most likely being available at the 10th selection for the Jets. The choice, now, is where it can get tricky.
The conversation on who the top-ranked wide receiver of this class has been a rotating list all year long, with the likes of Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Arkansas’s Treylon Burks, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and USC’s Drake London all earning their shine at one point or another as “the guy” of this draft. Each, deservingly so, possess a unique skillset that the others can’t match: Williams has the speed, Olave has the route-running, Burks has the physicality, Wilson has the elusiveness and London the size and body control.
At the end of the day, it’s not who’s the best receiver in this class that matters most, rather what’s the flavor of receiver you’re looking for. For New York, it’s the 6-foot-5 with a catch radius unlike any other; Southern Cal’s Drake London.
Why the Jets Should Pick USC's Drake London in the 2022 NFL Draft
Who Is Drake London?
The four-star recruit from Moorpark (Cal.) High School didn’t burst onto the scene the way you’d assume most top NFL prospects would, fighting his way through a very talented depth chart with current pros Michael Pittman of the Indianapolis Colts and Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions.
When his opportunity to become the guy came this past season, however, London answered the bell in terrific fashion — hauling in 88 grabs for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. What’s even more astounding is that was just in an eight-game span, before a broken ankle ended his season short, yet he still finished 28th in the nation in yards and 15th in receptions despite playing three or more fewer games than everyone ahead of him in both categories.
Beyond the production we saw on the field, it’s the size and the way he carries his body that’s so astounding. His height and weight grade in the 87th percentile among wide receivers coming into the league, with his arm length placing in the 78th percentile. He led college football in contested catches (19), was sixth in missed tackles forced (24) and 10th in deep catches (15). That unique combination of his stature and hip fluidity is not common among professional wideouts: he has both the size to grab the ball over your head and the ability to break your ankles in open space. Big corners will be too slow to guard him, and fast corners will be too small to guard him.
He’s not perfect, of course, with his most frequent cons being his release, vertical speed and route running. While there’s no arguing his release and vertical speed, his route running is considerably impressive given the body he’s carrying around. It’s not the most precise or twitchy, but it will easily be among the better for larger receivers in the NFL from Year 1.
For my money, London resembles a sturdier and more aggressive version of the Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike Williams or, for an older and more familiar reference for Jets fans, Brandon Marshall. All possess great catch radiuses that make just about any pass catchable, but London seems more like a more willing and engaged blocker who enjoys sending defensive backs into the turf. After rotating between Burks and London the last few months, I’ve finally settled in on London as my top flavor of receiver in this class.
His Fit with The Jets
Just as abundantly clear the Jets have made their desires to bring in an elite receiver this offseason, they’ve been just as clear regarding the style of play they want from their offense in 2022 — a mean, physical, run-oriented unit. It’s the San Francisco way, yet their personnel this past season hindered those capabilities. After signing guard Laken Tomlinson and tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, this unit will be far more equipped to run the ball in 12 personnel and open the passing offensive through intricate play-action designs.
The first obvious connection between London and the Jets is his run-blocking ability. With Corey Davis already being one of the better run-blocking receivers in football, having London opposite him will form one of the more physically imposing offenses in all of football. Being able to seal off defensive backs will be an immense help for running back Michael Carter when he reaches the second level, and even more important will be him sealing the edge for the misdirection plays that are so common in this offense.
Outside of his physical style of play, London’s ability to work through the field after the catch is bread and butter for what Mike LaFleur needs out of his receivers. Dating back to 2016, encompassing the years in San Francisco, every wide receiver drafted to play in this offense was among the nation’s best in both yards after the catch and missed tackles forced. Trent Taylor, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Brandon Aiyuk and Elijah Moore were all top-40 in terms of yards after the catch and missed tackles forced. London, in 2021, was 33rd in yards after the catch and sixth in missed tackles forced; again, in only eight games.
Not only does he have the frame and aggression to serve as a tweener tight end in the run game, but the vision and fluidity with the ball in his hands to extend plays beyond the reception. If that isn’t enough already, he’ll also be one of the more relied-on red zone targets and an early favorite of second-year quarterback Zach Wilson because of his ability to haul in catches over defenders.
There are plenty of ways to make life easier for this offense in the draft as it heads into its second year together, but as far as options go that both (1) fit the style of the offense and (2) add a reliable target for Wilson it’s Drake London that makes the most sense. He very well may not end up being best in class, but his blend of physicality, body control and movement after the catch certainly make him “best in flavor” for what the Jets need.
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