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Mel Kiper Jr. Makes Surprising First-Round Prediction For Jets in Latest Mock Draft

ESPN's NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Jets trading back from the second overall pick in his latest mock draft, taking Florida's tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall
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This might not go over well with Jets fans.

For the first time in his career, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. included trades in one of his mock drafts. It just so happens that the very first trade involves the No. 2 pick.

Kiper is predicting that the New York Jets will trade down with the Falcons, moving back to fourth overall while Atlanta takes highly-touted quarterback Zach Wilson. Here's Kiper on what the Falcons will need to send New York to pick at No. 2:

So for Atlanta to move up two spots, it's going to have to send the Jets the No. 4 pick, likely its second-round picks this year and more picks. That's a lot to give up, sure, but there is going to be competition. The Jets should take the best deal on the table, and this one means they only drop two spots and pick up prime assets after that.

Moving down only two slots, there are still plenty of valuable assets available for general manager Joe Douglas and the Jets. Who Kiper has the Jets taking here may come as a bit of a surprise:

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

So the Jets move down, add priority picks and end up with one of the best players in this class. I still believe they're better off giving Sam Darnold another year and improving the talent around their quarterback. The 23-year-old is too talented to give up on. Darnold has never had a pass-catcher like Pitts, either. The 6-foot-6 Pitts can line out wide and in the slot, and I'd target him like a No. 1 wide receiver. As I mentioned on the First Draft podcast, he is going to end up as my highest-graded tight end ever. He's also extremely young -- he was born in 2000 and will be 20 when he plays in Week 1. By the way, since the common draft era began in 1967, there has never been a tight end go this high. Pitts could be the first.

If Pitts goes off the board fourth overall, he would be the first tight end EVER selected before the fifth pick of the NFL draft. There's no question Pitts is a talented prospect, one of the most valuable of this entire draft class. The question, however, is does this selection make sense for the Jets?

Pitts had a monster year in 2020, his third season at Florida, compiling 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 43 catches in just eight games. As Kiper alluded to, Darnold has never had a target at his disposal quite like Pitts. Chris Herndon has been New York's tight end for the last few years since he was taken in the fourth round back in 2018, but he's struggled to break out beyond a few solid games here and there.

The logic here is to build around Sam Darnold with weapons that will make him better, adding to the franchise's overall draft capital by trading back and hope the new coaching staff can bring the best out of this unit going forward. With players like stud wideout Ja'Marr Chase and offensive linemen Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater still on the board at No. 4, however, Douglas and his team would have to really believe in Pitts to make this move. 

It's worth noting that Kiper had the Jets taking wide receiver DeVonta Smith second overall in his previous mock draft (without trades). Clearly he's an advocate for keeping Darnold in green and white rather than going after a quarterback like Wilson, Justin Fields or Trey Lance.

Here's Kiper on what the Jets will do with the No. 23 pick later in the first round:

Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

I went with a tight end to the Jets with their first pick, and this pick could be for the best defensive prospect available. Robert Saleh's defense could use help at all levels. Paye is next up on my board. He had only 11.5 career sacks at Michigan, but he has athletic traits that NFL teams crave, which should push him into Round 1. You won't find many 270-pound defensive ends who can move like him.


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