One last mock draft from Mel Kiper Jr. before the first round gets underway later Thursday evening. For the Jets, the ESPN NFL draft insider saved his most eventful mock for last.
At first, Kiper was hesitant to even pick Zach Wilson second overall. That was earlier in the offseason when he had New York selecting DeVonta Smith with the No. 2 pick. Since then, he's changed his stance on New York's quarterback situation, but Kiper has never had the Jets doing anything like this later in the first round.
Instead of staying put at No. 23, and taking a player like cornerback Greg Newsome II or edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, Kiper has New York trading up to get the "top-rated guard" in this loaded draft class.
Here's the insider on his mock trade, and which offensive lineman Kiper projects to be taken by Gang Green 16th overall:
Projected trade: Jets climb seven spots to get their guy
The Jets have extra picks from the Jamal Adams trade, and they could use them to trade up for an offensive linemen. In this case, it would likely take their pick at the top of Round 2 (No. 34) and one of their third-rounders (Nos. 66 or 86) to get this far. Arizona would move down to No. 23 and pick up other valuable selections.
16. New York Jets (via mock trade with ARI through SEA)
Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
The Jets could upgrade at both guard spots, and Vera-Tucker is my top-ranked guard. They need to protect Zach Wilson.
This isn't the first time we've seen the Jets trade up to get Vera-Tucker in a mock draft. The Athletic's Connor Hughes recently predicted New York would take the USC product after moving up to No. 20, trading two selections to swap first-round spots with the Chicago Bears.
There's a chance Vera-Tucker falls all the way to No. 23—we saw that in this year's Sports Illustrated Team Publisher mock draft—but if he starts slipping, general manager Joe Douglas might take matters into his own hands just to make sure the Jets get their guy.
After all, Douglas alluded to the possibility of trading up in his pre-draft presser, explaining that he's laying the groundwork with other teams. We'll see if he makes the call, or stays put at No. 23.
To view the rest of Kiper's final mock draft, click here to head over to ESPN.
- Why Zach Wilson is the Right Choice For the Jets at No. 2
- Former Offensive Line Coach: Four Linemen the Jets Should Target in the NFL Draft
- What History Says About the Jets' Likelihood of Drafting a Running Back