The New York Jets 2021 NFL mock draft (Sabo 1.0) is all about the cheat code that comes with a top-10 quarterback.
Why does it feel wrong to put together a mock draft in February? The answer is as easy as a North Carolina University student-athlete class back in the day—arguably, if you believed the scandal hype of a decade ago.
It’s all the rage. Mock drafts in April, mock drafts in March, and obviously, mock drafts in February. Even mock drafts in January, December and November see too much of the light that’s created by the day.
While it’s obviously silly, the idea is formidable due to one constant that never ceases to exist. Sports fandom runs on hope.
Hope is what carries the fan through the day, the week, the month and even the long year that’s nearly guaranteed to be a disaster. What’s needed to get through the rough times is an abundance of hope that makes the offseason the pinnacle of the sports year for a majority of professional sports organizations.
So yeah, it’s silly, perhaps even in late February. But even silliness should be acknowledged when done properly, which takes us to the New York Jets 2021 NFL mock draft, Sabo 1.0.
Draft day trade: Sam Darnold to the New Orleans Saints for No. 60
Carson Wentz‘s employment status with the Indianapolis Colts means Joe Douglas has one less suitor for Sam Darnold‘s services. The Chicago Bears remain a legitimate destination, but we’ll opt for Sean Payton taking a shot on the USC product in 2021.
Round 1, No. 2: Zach Wilson, QB-BYU
Which sane human could possibly read Jets X-Factor and not take a stab at the brand-new Jet X Offseason Tool? Complete trades, cut players, re-sign your own, navigate free agency and cap it all off with a mock draft.
The tool helps conceptualize what the Jets’ route is from each angle—trading for Deshaun Watson, trading down from No. 2 or sticking at No. 2. And if sticking at No. 2 is the play, quarterback Zach Wilson should be in the cards.
Wilson’s traits make him a perfect candidate for Mike LaFleur’s offense. There are concerns about his smaller frame (and height), but today’s Charmin soft NFL should help ease those worries.
This strategy’s crucial element deals with the modern cheat code that is the salary wage scale. A top 10 quarterback in the draft is a movable and cheap piece that allows for a serious advantage across the rest of the depth chart.
There are legitimate arguments for Sam Darnold, but the timeline makes it too risky. What’s a general manager to do if Darnold puts up 24 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and 3,600 yards in 15 games next year? Signing him to a multi-year deal after just one decent season is something that could sink a general manager’s career before it takes off.
In today’s NFL, it’s the second quarterback contract that dooms an organization, not the first.
Round 1, No. 23: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE-Miami
There’s a tremendous chance Gregory Rousseau is gone by the time the Jets select at No. 23. But if he’s there, Douglas should jump all over the guy.
Opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Rousseau is an athletic freak who can hold down one of Robert Saleh‘s two 4-3 edges. He’s physical enough to handle himself against the run as well as rush from the interior in sub-package looks.
The other edge rusher will have to come from free agency, in the form of Trey Hendrickson, Shaquil Barrett, Bud Dupree or any one of the number of edge players who aren’t re-signed or franchise tagged.
Round 2, No. 34: Wyatt Davis, IOL-Ohio State
Another interior offensive lineman from Ohio State? Where do the Jets sign up?
Again, much like Rousseau, it’ll be interesting to see if Wyatt Davis lasts until No. 34. But again, if he does, Douglas hopping on this interior stud would do a lot to complete the evolving offensive line.
Round 2, No. 60: Nico Collins, WR-Michigan
If it’s Samuel, my preference (in order to lock down the gadget/X-factor duties the Jets desperately need), an outside threat like Collins should be drafted.
Collins is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior who needs a little work but possesses every trait necessary to win outside.
Round 3, No. 66: Jabril Cox, LB-LSU
Jayon Brown in free agency would be an excellent choice, but LSU’s Jabril Cox would help fill a major need on the second level. Cox is fast and can play coverage with the best of them.
Considering Saleh’s defense calls for more base defense and second-level backers who can handle space, Cox suits the unit perfectly alongside MIKE C.J. Mosley.
Round 3, No. 86: Kenneth Gainwell, RB-Memphis
Kenneth Gainwell’s stock is rising, which makes this pick at No. 86 tricky. It’s questionable whether or not he lasts, but yet again, if he’s there, New York must pounce.
Gainwell’s game flows with the Shanahan system. He’s a true featured back who can catch the ball from a variety of perspectives, even out wide. And yes, he can handle a wide-zone scheme at the professional level.
Round 4, No. 107: Hunter Long, TE-Boston College
Hunter Long in the fourth round would be a sneaky choice. Although Chris Herndon can enter the 2021 season as the starter, there must be competition. There also must be a No. 2 who can block.
Long’s blocking prowess makes him the perfect second tight end in LaFleur’s system. Hopefully, a Kyle Juszczyk signing complements Long in a variety of sets.
Round 5, No. 147: Ambry Thomas, CB-Michigan
Bryce Hall was the fifth-round choice in 2020, so why not turn to the cornerback again in this spot?
Michigan’s Ambry Thomas is a 6-foot, 189-pound corner who plays a physical brand of football. This makes him an ideal candidate for Saleh’s zone-heavy defense that often features a soft press corner that bails.
Round 5, No. 155: James Wiggins, S-Cincinnati
What makes James Wiggins a nice fit for the Jets is his 2-deep-safety prowess. A guy who’s neither a pure free nor strong safety, the Cincinnati product could fit well in Saleh’s Cover 4-heavy scheme (2-deep).
Round 6, No. 199: Joshua Kaindoh, EDGE-Florida State
At this point, it’s about lottery tickets. Joshua Kaindoh, an athletic 6-foot-7 edge is poised to carry incredible traits to the league that plays for pay.
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