As the Jets trudged through one of their worst seasons in franchise history this year, it always felt like New York would take a quarterback with their first-round draft pick.
If the Jets were able to secure the top selection, then great. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence would be there for the taking. If New York fell back out of pole position for the No. 1 overall selection, then talented quarterbacks will still be available. Zach Wilson out of BYU is quite the tempting prospect and Ohio State's Justin Fields appears to have a bright future at the next level as well.
Days after the regular season came to a close, however, one draft expert believes the Jets will go in a different direction with the No. 2 pick next spring.
In a mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay predicted that New York will pick offensive tackle Penei Sewell out of Oregon.
Here's McShay's explanation as to why Sewell is the right guy to add, rather than starting anew by drafting a quarterback.
General manager Joe Douglas has a lot of decisions to make ahead of free agency and the draft, not the least of which is what to do at quarterback. The Jets' pair of late-season victories made it an even more difficult call. BYU's Zach Wilson or Ohio State's Justin Fields could be in play, as could a trade back to stockpile more picks. Moving down would really be the ideal move.
Since we're not mocking trades this far out, and with Lawrence off the board, I think the Jets will stick with Sam Darnold as their guy under center and build around him. That begins with a game-changing offensive tackle. New York allowed 43 sacks this season, and its rushing attack tied for sixth worst in yards per carry (4.1). Sewell, a 2020 opt-out, would do wonders for both weak spots. And after taking Mekhi Becton in Round 1 in April, the Jets would have a pair of elite tackles bookending the line.
Not every Jets fan wants the franchise to head into 2021 with Sam Darnold at quarterback, but McShay makes some good points here.
Take Sewell—unquestionably one of the best players available—to stockpile the offensive line. With Sewell and Mekhi Becton up front, it doesn't matter who is under center. They'll be protected for years to come.
Plus, there are other teams in the market for an offensive tackle like Sewell, or quarterbacks like Wilson and Fields for that matter, so odds are New York will get some calls going forward about what it'll cost to acquire the No. 2 pick in a trade.
It isn't necessarily the sexiest pick—going with Sewell after taking Becton in the first round last year too—but the Jets are building from the ground up. Quarterback situation aside, general manager Joe Douglas articulated earlier this year that he will strive to bring this team back to contention through the development of young players, working through the offensive and defensive line. Becton and Sewell, along with Quinnen Williams at defensive tackle, is a tremendous place to start.
McShay goes on to predict that the Jets will add a player from Ohio State in the first round after all. With the first-rounder acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in the Jamal Adams trade, this mock draft has New York drafting wide receiver Chris Olave 25th overall.
In an effort to continue giving Sam Darnold a better supporting cast -- remember, we gave the Jets an elite offensive tackle at No. 2 -- let's go to the wide receiver well. No one in this class separates as well as Olave does, thanks in part to tremendous wheels. He was terrific against Clemson (two touchdowns), and he has gone for 100-plus receiving yards in five of six games so far this season. The Jets' passing attack ranked second worst in the NFL despite trailing a good deal of the time. No receiver went over 700 yards for them. Jamison Crowder has struggled to stay healthy. Breshad Perriman is potentially headed out of town. And the Jets haven't had a 1,000-yard wideout since 2015.
Check out the rest of McShay's mock draft by clicking here. If you're curious, he's got Wilson going to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 and Field slipping all the way down to the New England Patriots at No. 15.