In the midst of swirling quarterback rumors, the Jets are not only focused on improving one position on their team; enter the 2023 NFL Combine. Outside of quarterback, the team still needs to add talent to multiple areas on the roster. While the free agency will be used to address some of their needs, many of the improvements will likely come through the NFL Draft.
For many of these positions of need, the 2023 NFL Combine, located at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, gave the Jets a shot to look at some key draft prospects.
One of the most significant needs for the Jets is the offensive line. In his press conference in Indianapolis, Joe Douglas spoke about the prospect of adding to the team’s offensive line unit.
“Yeah, we have a lot of moving pieces, in season too. So that’s definitely a position where we’d like to create some more stability and continuity, especially with the injuries we sustained last year, so Duane’s (Brown) under contract, Max Mitchell’s coming back. Max is doing great, and another player that’s recovering. He’s doing great and Mekhi (Becton) is doing great. So, you know, feel good about those three guys coming back…but again, you know, as I’ve said before, O-line, D-line is going to be a high priority for us always and so if there’s an opportunity to upgrade tackle, center, guard, d-tackle, d-end, we’re always going to look at doing that.”
With their first-round pick slotted at number 13 overall, the organization has been linked to offensive tackle. The uncertainty of the position group has caused the position to be connected to the team’s draft needs. George Fant is a free agent, and as Douglas stated, Mekhi Becton, Max Mitchell, and Duane Brown are all coming off injuries from last season.
2023 NFL Combine: Offensive Linemen, Linebackers Highlight Potential Draft Targets
If the Jets opt to use their first-round pick on an offensive tackle, there are three solid options that the team could select. Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, and Broderick Jones are first-round talents that would all vastly improve the team’s skill at the position. All three prospects were at the Combine this past week; Jones and Skoronski went through workouts, while Johnson Jr. only participated in the broad jump and bench press.
Jones had an impressive workout, starting with running a 4.97 40-yard dash with a 1.74 ten-yard split. He also had a 9-foot broad jump and a 30-inch vertical. Skornonski had a good workout, starting with a 5.16 40 yard-dash and a 1.75 ten-yard split. He also had a 34.5-inch vertical jump and a nine-foot-seven-inch broad jump. Johnson Jr., in his limited workouts, impressed with 29 bench press reps and a 9-foot-7-inch broad jump.
All three tackle prospects measured in above 6 feet-3 inches and over 300 pounds; Skoronski measured in at 6 feet-4 inches and 313 pounds, Johnson Jr. measured in at 6 feet-6 inches and 313 pounds, while Jones ended up being 6 feet-5 inches and 311 pounds. In terms of arm length, Jones and Johnson Jr. both passed the expected tackle threshold of 33 inches. Jones had 34 and 3/4′ inch arms, while Johnson Jr. had 36 and 1/8′ inch arms. Skoronski, on the other hand, came in under 33 inches, measuring out at 32 and 1/4′ inch arms.
Outside of the top three tackles, Blake Freeland and Darnell Wright had good Combine performances. Freeland had, according to RAS Football, a 9.82 Relative Athletic Score. He also dominated the Combine, posting an offensive linemen-record 37-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-10-inch broad jump, and a 4.97 40-yard dash. Wright also had a RAS above 9, mainly due to his positive showings in the 40-yard dash and the broad jump.
Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence and Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz are two potential targets for the Jets on the interior offensive line. Neither player blew their Combine testing out of the water; both players ran over 5.3 seconds in their 40-yard dash. Yet, their performance as overall players in college and performances in the offensive line drills showed their steadiness as players. Due to their steadiness, both players would bring a sense of stability to a Jets’ unit that has been the complete opposite.
In addition to the offensive tackle position, linebacker is another need for the Jets. There were multiple standouts at the position, many of which the Jets could have a shot to draft in April. Iowa’s Jack Campbell, one of the top linebacker prospects, stood out with his measurables and athletic testing. He measured in at just over six feet-four inches and weighed 249 pounds. In terms of testing, Campbell had a 37.5-inch vertical jump, a ten-foot-eight-inch broad jump, and a 1.59 ten-yard-split in the 40-yard dash. Combined with his shuttle and 3-cone times, coming in at 4.24 and 6.74 seconds, respectively, Campbell’s RAS was just about perfect at 9.98.
Clemson’s Trenton Simpson, Auburn’s Owen Papoe, and Oregon’s Noah Sewell also performed well at the Combine. Simpson and Papoe had their forties come in at 4.43 and 4.39 seconds, while all three players had ten-yard splits under 1.60 seconds. All three players also had 25 or more reps on the bench press, while Papoe and Sewell were 33 inches and 35.5 inches on their respective vertical jumps.
Another need, while not as glaring as offensive line and linebacker, is wide receiver. While the team does have a superstar in the making in Garrett Wilson, the likely release of Corey Davis opens up the Jets to pursuing a new addition to the position group.
A first-round option would be Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wilson’s former Ohio State teammate. While not running the 40-yard dash, Smith-Njigba looked sharp in the agility drills, posting a 3.93 shuttle drill time and a 6.57 time in the three-cone drill. Even without imposing size, he is a crisp route runner with an impressive feel for the game and a solid ability to get open.
With the Jets, at this point in time, unlikely to select a receiver in the first round, other options in the later rounds could improve the Jets’ receiver core. One such player is Combine standout Bryce Ford-Wheaton, a receiver out of West Virginia. Measuring six feet-four inches and 221 pounds, Ford-Wheaton posted a 4.38 forty with a 1.54 ten-yard split, a 41-inch vertical jump, and a ten-foot-nine-inch broad jump.
Another option is Tennesse receiver Cedric Tillman, who posted a 4.54 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical during his workouts. Princeton receiver AndreI Iosivas, who measured in at over six feet three inches and at 205 pounds, also impressed during workouts. He posted a 9.92 RAS on the back of a 4.43 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical jump, and a ten-foot-eight-inch broad jump.
Whether in the first or later rounds of the draft, the Jets have a decent amount of options at positions of need. The priority needs may change what the Jets seek in the draft, though. For example, a key signing on the offensive line could prompt the Jets to prioritize receiver and linebacker early in the draft. Likewise, any wide receiver addition could push a different position, such as safety or edge, into more of a priority selection.
Ultimately, seeing the standouts at the Combine and combining their performances with those players’ film will be one of the Jets’ main priorities as the offseason begins. In doing so, the team will seek to select the best prospects to help end the organization’s playoff drought in 2023 and bring the Jets even closer to constant contention.