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New York Jets analytics-based 7-round 2021 mock draft (Vol. 3)

Alijah Vera-Tucker and Asante Samuel Jr
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Here is what a New York Jets seven-round mock draft could look like if it were based primarily on analytics.

This is the third of a few analytics-based New York Jets mock drafts I will be concocting. These mocks will be a bit different from anything else out there. I will be relying on advanced statistics to make each selection for the Jets across all seven rounds, consistently going with the best player available according to their production from an analytics perspective (yes, team needs will still be taken into account).

These mocks are conducted using the Jet X Offseason Tool. No trades are made.

Keep in mind that these picks are not necessarily my personal preferences and are based entirely on statistics, so don’t knock me too harshly! The main purpose of this mock is to identify some of the most analytically impressive prospects who could be available at various points of the draft.

Round 1, Pick 2

Intermediate passing and play-action passing are two things that figure to be a big part of the Jets’ passing attack under Mike LaFleur, and Zach Wilson thrives in both areas.

In the 49ers’ 2019 Super Bowl season, Jimmy Garoppolo threw 25.6% of his passes in the intermediate range (10-19 yards downfield), tied for the fifth-highest rate among qualified quarterbacks. He ranked eighth with a 23.6% rate in 2020, while his backup, Nick Mullens, was right behind him at No. 11 with a 23.3% rate.

San Francisco heavily utilized play-action as well. Garoppolo ranked fourth with a 31.9% play-action rate in 2020. In 2019, Garoppolo placed ninth (32.3%) while Mullens placed 12th (29.9%).

Wilson was elite in both facets of the game this past season. On intermediate throws, he completed 69 of 100 passes for 1,132 yards (11.3 Y/A), six touchdowns, and one interception (122.6 passer rating), also earning a 93.9 passing grade at Pro Football Focus that ranked fourth-best in the nation. On play-action passes, he completed 89 of 123 attempts for 1,548 yards (12.6 Y/A), 20 touchdowns, and no interceptions, posting a 154.0 passer rating that led the nation.

Round 1, Pick 23

  • The pick: IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
  • Volume 1 selection: LB Zaven Collins (Tulsa)
  • Volume 2 selection: EDGE Azeez Ojulari (Georgia)
  • Key names off the board: CB Greg Newsome (#21, Colts), OT Teven Jenkins (#20, Bears), LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (#19, Washington)

It can be argued that Alijah Vera-Tucker is the dream pick for the Jets at No. 23 overall. He solves arguably the team’s biggest need and would be a tremendous value at this spot.

Vera-Tucker had a very good season as USC’s left tackle in 2020. He allowed a 2.77% pressure rate (86th percentile among OT) even while handling a true pass set (pass blocking snaps that are not screens, rollouts, bootlegs, or quick releases) on 39.3% of his pass blocking snaps, a high rate (86th percentile among OT). As a run blocker, he posted a 76.3 grade at PFF that placed at the 80th percentile.

Vera-Tucker’s NFL future is likely going to come at the guard position, which is where he had an elite season as the Trojans’ left guard in 2019. That year, Vera-Tucker allowed a 1.02% pressure rate, placing second-lowest among Power-5 guards. His 76.7 run blocking grade ranked at the 94th percentile among qualified guards.

Round 2, Pick 2 (#34 overall)

  • The pick: CB Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida St.)
  • Volume 1 selection: RB Javonte Williams (North Carolina)
  • Volume 2 selection: CB Eric Stokes (Georgia)
  • Key names off the board: RB Javonte Williams (#33, Jaguars), RB Najee Harris (#32, Buccaneers), LB Zaven Collins (#30, Packers), EDGE Azeez Ojulari (#29, Bills)

Some might see Asante Samuel Jr. as a reach at this spot, but the son of the former Patriots, Eagles, and Falcons cornerback has a track record of production that should easily have him in the second-round discussion.

What makes Samuel Jr.’s production most impressive is the fact that he did not benefit from much luck. Only 15.6% of the targets thrown Samuel Jr.’s way in 2020 were considered dropped or poorly thrown, a portion that ranked way down at the 22nd percentile among cornerbacks.

The only player in the 2021 cornerback class who beat out Samuel in all three of passer rating allowed, yards per cover snap allowed, and PFF coverage grade in the 2020 season was Greg Newsome, but Newsome ranked way up at the 81st percentile in terms of luck as he benefited from an opponent miscue on 29.4% of his targets.

Round 3, Pick 2 (#66 overall)

  • The pick: EDGE Carlos Basham (Wake Forest)
  • Volume 1 selection: IOL Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
  • Volume 2 selection: TE Brevin Jordan (Miami)
  • Key names off the board: EDGE Joseph Ossai (#64, Buccaneers), IOL Wyatt Davis (#63, Chiefs), TE Pat Freiermuth (#61, Bills), EDGE Gregory Rousseau (#58, Ravens)

In a shortened 2020 season, Carlos Basham’s production declined from his previous heights. Over only six games, he ranked at the 72nd percentile among qualified FBS edge rushers with a 12.5% pressure rate and tumbled way down to the 45th percentile with a 62.4 PFF run defense grade. Both marks were some of the worst among his peers in the 2021 draft class.

However, over a much larger sample of 13 games in his 2019 redshirt junior season, Basham had an unstoppable season. He ranked sixth among FBS edge rushers with 60 pressures (three spots behind future Jets edge rusher Bryce Huff, who had 64) and placed at the 98th percentile with a 90.6 PFF pass-rush grade.

Round 3, Pick 22 (#86 overall)

  • The pick: IOL Trey Smith (Tennessee)
  • Volume 1 selection: EDGE Jordan Smith (UAB)
  • Volume 2 selection: RB Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis)
  • Key names off the board: CB Paulson Adebo (#85, Titans), TE Tommy Tremble (#81, Dolphins), IOL Quinn Meinerz (#80, Raiders),

Trey Smith had a great season of pass protection at left guard in 2020, allowing a 1.77% pressure rate (90th percentile among OG) while taking on a true pass set rate of 40.4% (89th percentile).

Round 4, Pick 2 (#107 overall)

Rhamondre Stevenson was one of the most efficient backs in college football this past season, thriving in both phases of the game. In six appearances, he rushed for 665 yards on 101 carries and caught for 211 yards on 23 targets.

As a rusher, Stevenson broke 36 tackles over 101 carries, an average of 0.356 per carry that ranked at the 98th percentile among qualified FBS running backs. In the passing game, Stevenson racked up 211 receiving yards over only 91 routes run, giving him an average of 2.32 yards per route run that also placed at the position’s 98th percentile, even edging out Travis Etienne’s mark of 2.26.

Round 5, Pick 2 (#146 overall)

It was a small sample size of only 358 defensive snaps over eight games, but Cooper was fantastic as a pass rusher in 2020. He posted a 15.2% pressure rate (89th percentile among qualified FBS EDGE) and a 20.7% pass-rush win rate (93rd percentile), doing so with legitimacy as 75.8% of his pressures were not considered unblocked or cleanup (85th percentile).

Round 5, Pick 10 (#154 overall)

Thomas Graham is a really good value at this spot, so we’ll go with him yet again.

Graham was putting some good reps on tape at Oregon before opting out of the 2020 season. He ranked at the 95th percentile among qualified FBS corners with an 82.9 coverage grade at PFF in 2019. Graham was similarly excellent in 2018 as he placed at the 88th percentile with a 79.8 grade.

Making plays on the ball is Graham’s forte, as he collected 33 pass deflections and interceptions across 151 targets from 2018-19, a 21.9% rate. That number is more than double the 2020 NFL average for cornerbacks (10.8%). The primary issues for Graham are missed tackles and penalties, as he had 21 of each over his 40 career games with the Ducks.

Round 6, Pick 2 (#186 overall)

Drake Jackson had an outstanding season at center for Kentucky in 2020, posting an overall PFF grade of 86.4 that ranked sixth-best in the nation among centers. He allowed only three pressures over 305 protection snaps (0.98%). A four-year starter in the SEC who improved each season, Jackson’s technique and movement skills flash on tape.

Round 6, Pick 42 (#226 overall)

  • The pick: WR Jaelon Darden (North Texas)
  • Volume 2 selection: WR Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Jaelon Darden shredded his Conference USA competition in 2020, having one of the most dominant seasons of any receiver in the country. In nine games, he caught 74 passes for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Darden’s efficiency was insane. He ranked at the position’s 99th percentile with 4.31 yards per route run and also ranked at the 98th percentile with a rate of picking up a first down or a touchdown on 16.7% of his routes run.

For the Jets, Darden makes sense as a late-round flier because he offers the one skill that the Jets don’t have much of at the wide receiver position: elusiveness. Darden led all wide receivers in the country with 23 missed tackles forced after the catch. You cannot help but think of someone like Tyreek Hill when you watch the 5-foot-7 dynamo juke his way through traffic with ease.

Here it is: Our third analytics-based New York Jets draft class.

  • R1, #2 overall: QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
  • R1, #23 overall: IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
  • R2, #34 overall: CB Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida St.)
  • R3, #66 overall: EDGE Carlos Basham (Wake Forest)
  • R3, #86 overall: IOL Trey Smith (Tennessee)
  • R4, #107 overall: RB Rhamondre Stevenson (Oklahoma)
  • R5, #146 overall: EDGE Jonathon Cooper (Ohio St.)
  • R5, #154 overall: CB Thomas Graham (Oregon)
  • R6, #186 overall: IOL Drake Jackson (Kentucky)
  • R6, #226 overall: WR Jaelon Darden (North Texas)

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3 years ago

I would sign up for this draft RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!

3 years ago

The problem with this draft is that it’s wishful thinking. I looked at the nflmockdraft.com where they collect mocks from everywhere. The most recent drafts have Alijah Vera-Tucker going as follows:

17 CBS
17 SI
15 NFL.com
13 Walter Football
13 Yardbarker
17 The Huddle
16 Newsday
14 SI
17 Draftwire
16 CBS
13 The Huddle Report
16 North Jersey
19 Sun Sentinel
13 USA Today
14 LA Times
14 Sporting News
13 NBC Sports Philadelphia
30 Pro Football Focus
16 Grueling Truth
23 Pro Football Network
13 Walter Football
13 Baltimore Sun
19 CBS
13 NBC Sports Philadelphia
13 Horseshoe Heroes
14 NFL Spin Zone
17 Pro Football Network
14 CBS
23 Tankathon
14 Mile High Report
17 The Huddle
16 NFL.com
14 Last Word on Pro Football
16 Cleveland.com

I think, if I’m Joe Douglas, that I move up to 12 from 23 during the draft. It’s likely going to take #23 and one of next year’s 2nds.

3 years ago
Reply to  GoNYGoNYGo

If the Jets were 1 guard away from being a playoff team it would make sense to move up to take AVT, but given all the holes I don’t think we should trade up for him.

3 years ago
Reply to  Klue

I’ve debated this before. The Jets can move up and down at the same time and leverage assets from next year. So quantity is not the issue; quality is. It all depends on how the draft unfolds. The Jets have to avoid positional lock-out. IOL is a critical need and the problem is that they are scarce. In comparing CBs to IOL, there are double the number of CBs rated in the top-100. We whiffed in free agency, which was barren to begin with. What makes the problem bigger is that the Jets need a certain type of IOL, one that fits the scheme they are running.

Joe Douglas #1 job is to protect the young QB.

3 years ago

After the first 3 picks, I’m not a fan of this draft at all. Two DEs? Seriously? DE is the strongest, deepest position on the Jets already. They don’t need one DE, much less two.

Trey Smith is not a fit, nor is Stevenson.

Darden won’t be there at #226, and Jackson is a wasted pick imo.

I give this draft a D.

3 years ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

Just because they are being drafted as DE’s doesn’t mean they cannot plan one of the OLB positions. Most of the these guys need to add a lot of weight/muscle to play an NFL DE. And that wont all happen before their rookie years start.

3 years ago

Not a fan of this mock beyond the first two picks. Analytics notwithstanding, Saleh seems to like longer, taller and heavier corners than Samuels, so I’d be shocked if Asanta ranked that high on JD’s board. Although Boogie Basham is a great fit for strongside DE in Saleh’s system, and Trey Smith would be a great fit for our IOL I don’t think either will make it to where you have us taking them. Both are almost certainly gone by the late 2nd Round. They’re great picks, but probably unrealistic at those spots. I also question whether we’d double-up at IOL so high in the draft, (and pick three IOL, overall) while overlooking LB, one of our most pressing needs.

3 years ago
Reply to  Milesahead

Smith is not a fit in our blocking scheme imo. He doesn’t have the mobility, lateral movement or blocking on the move skills. The Jets don’t need another DE.

I agree that I’m not a fan of this draft. I think it’s pretty awful. No WLB, the wrong type RB, two DEs, etc.

3 years ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

I think Trey Smith is plenty athletic for our ZBS…he and Becton would make a nice pair on the left side. And no, we don’t ‘need’ another DE, but Boogie would be an ideal bookend to Lawson long term. The real question is would JD and Saleh use an early pick there? I’d say probably not. They’d probably wait until later rounds to get a developmental DE for the future.

3 years ago
Reply to  Milesahead

You may be right, but every other analysis I’ve read of him says that he’s not a good fit for our wide zone scheme. NFL.com says “When putting together a guard built for an NFL power-based scheme, the blueprint would probably look like Smith. He’s big, wide, strong, long and will flash an aggressive streak when he gets geared up. The lack of body control and technique he put on tape suggests it may be difficult for him to overcome his limited athleticism.”

Tony Pauline of profootballnetwork.com says, “He’s not a flashy or overly athletic lineman, rather he’s a stoutly built and competitive blocker who will start for a power-gap offense at the next level.”

Marino of thedraftnetwork.com says, “He brings exceptional power to the table and dominates in a phone booth, but his lack of mobility and flexibility leads to some restrictions. While Smith is a massive and powerful people-mover, his high-hipped frame makes it challenging for him to play with consistent leverage and takes away from his functional strength, which is his best asset. Smith has room for technical growth, but his ceiling is as a starting guard in a gap/power run scheme with little appeal for any other scheme or position.”

With so many others saying that he’s not a scheme fit, I have a hard time believing that he is. He also struggles in pass protection and that’s the #1 thing we need since we’re drafting and starting Wilson. They also say he should play on the right side, not the left.

I like Basham, but don’t think DE is a need, and I think the wiser course is to build around Wilson this year to ensure that he develops and succeeds, then in 2022 when there will be 2-3 blue chip DEs in the draft, and we have two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks, that will be the time to take a DE if we need one. I think we need to find out what we have in Huff, Zuniga, JFM and Phillips first. Then if none look like anything more than a backup or situational pass rusher, then we can grab a blue chip prospect next year rather than a 2nd or 3rd tier DE this year.

I hope that JD and Saleh wouldn’t waste a pick on a DE this year. I’d rather they use most of their draft picks on offense. At most, I think the Jets should only draft 1-2 CBs and and 1 WLB, or instead of 2 CBs, take a SS in Wiggins of Cincinnati. IMO we need to draft at least one IOL, even if it’s a RT who we play at RG for a year or two until Fant’s deal is up, then move him to RT. I really want Teven Jenkins, but would settle for Alex Leatherwood, Jalen Mayfield, or James Hudson. This is ideal because they are all excellent RT prospects. It would give JD a year or two to find another RG, and we wouldn’t have to worry about RT once Fants’ contract is up.

We also need a RB, TE, and I think it would be wise to add a speedy slot WR/PR who excels in YAC. This is a great draft for slot WRs. There’s Kadarius Toney, Jaelon Darden, D’Wayne Eskridge, Shi Smith, Tutu Atwell and others.

We have more than enough needs that we could use picks up until our last pick to address needs, rather than adding developmental prospects. For instance, we could possibly wait until the 6th round to address RB and Javian Hawkins of Louisville. We need a K so could add Jose Borregales of Miami with our last pick.

I think our first 4 picks should be QB, CB and 2 OL. With our additional picks, I think we should add a TE, RB, slot WR/PR, WLB, K, and either a SS or another CB. I think the developmental prospects need to wait until next year.

3 years ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan


Only catching up with your reply now.

Despite the many projections for Trey Smith to a power gap scheme, I still think he’s more athletic than many contend. He’s got the highest RAS 9.91, out of all the OG’s in this draft class, but you’re right, the consensus is he’s not a good fit for Benton’s ZBS. I’d only consider him if we missed-out on AVT or Jenkins at 23. (To clarify, though, I’d be drafting either AVT or Jenkins as OG, not OT’s, although either could move to RT if and when needed, and would consider moving Leatherwood inside, as well. if we took him. I’m fine with Fant at RT this year, and think JD is fine with McGovern at OC. Our pressing need is at OG.)

I actually agree with most of the rest of your post. I like Basham, think he’s a great fit for strongside DE in Saleh’s system, but agree it’s not a pressing need. I do lean towards continually drafting a position until you absolutely have it filled which — with JFM, Curry, Zuniga and Phillips — we do not unless one takes a major step up. I can easily see us drafting a developmental DE in the mid-later rounds every draft until we find a bookend to Lawson.

Hall and Austin seem to meet Saleh’s criteria for outside corner, so agree, too, that we probably only need to draft one, and probably not as high as many think. Saleh is a trench-warfare guy, and doesn’t seem to need elite corners the way Rex and Bowles did. We might want to draft a slot corner, though, to cover that base. Not many options left there in FAcy, especially if Poole doesn’t return If we add a Safety, it’ll probably be on Day 3.

We need LB’s, our highest priority, imo, after OL, and probably more than one. CJ’s our MIKE, and Davis can probably be either WILL or SAM, but we definitely need another starting caliber backer. Take your pick: Collins, Cox, Browning or Surratt, and maybe another LB late.

Also agree RB’s & WR’s are not high priorities, although I do expect us to take one of each. Too many options to name here. I also expect us to add a blocking TE or a FB…think Tommy Tremble and Ben Mason, respectively, as our version of Kyle Juszczyk.

So, in closing, I’d say our first three picks should be QB, OL, LB, after which we play the board. I’d also aggressively look to trade down and acquire more picks beginning at #34.

3 years ago
Reply to  Milesahead

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Regarding Smith, fair enough. I much prefer Jenkins or AVT as well. I really hope Jenkins is there at #23. I agree that Jenkins or AVT would play OG for us for a year or two, and then possibly slide out to RT. The same goes for Leatherwood. I agree that Fant and McGovern are fine and our pressing need is at OG. Jenkins is ideal for me. He would fill our need at OG for a year or two while Wilson gets his bearings, then could slide to RT and we’d have great bookend OTs.

I think Basham would be a great fit too and like him. I don’t disagree with drafting a position until you have it filled, but I don’t think you do that over positions that really have little, if anything. The thing is, I want to see what we have in JFM, Huff, Zuniga and Phillips before we do that. I think there’s a good chance that one of them will prove to be very good. I think Huff is a very good football player and he could be the guy. If not, with two 1sts and two 2nds next year, why take a mid- or late-round DE this year? With 2-3 blue chip DEs expected in the draft next year, we would have a very good chance of getting one of them, even if needed to trade up. That would be better imo than taking a lesser DE this year.

You may be right about Hall and Austin, but I’d be surprised if they don’t look to take a CB high, especially before they take a LB. I think they’ll probably take a LB in the 3rd or 4th round. I love Collins, but am not interested in using #23 or #34 to get him. I like Cox a lot, but he’ll probably go in the 2nd, and I’m not taking a LB that high. It’s my understanding that the LBers in SF were drafted in the 3rd round or later, so I could see that happening here. I like Nick Bolton, Surrat, Monty Rice, and Tony Fields II.

I don’t think we add a blocking TE. We have that in Wesco and Kroft. Griffin should go, he’s toast. Herndon is the only good receiver at TE we have. IMO unless there’s some character issue that I’m unaware of, we need to add Brevin Jordan. He’s a perfect fit for the scheme. Failing him, then maybe Kenny Yeboah, but he doesn’t give much effort as a blocker, so don’t know if the Jets would want him or not.

I hope that they don’t draft a FB. Wesco can fill that need, or they can use one of their DL, or sign a UDFA.

I wouldn’t have a problem trading down at #34, or even at #23 if neither Jenkins or AVT isn’t there.

We’ll have to agree to disagree on taking two LBs or that LB should be our 3rd pick. With Maye, Joyner and Davis, I think our D will use a lot of 3 safety looks, and only 2 LBs, and I think that will help our pass coverage. I think CB is more important, and Saleh said that he wants a CB who can win in man. I’d use #66 on a LB as long as #86 was used to take Brevin Jordan or a WR or maybe another OL.

I really believe that the defense is way ahead of the offense already. I think most of this draft should be used on offense with only a couple of defensive players taken (one CB and one LB), or at most 3 picks (CB, LB and SS), as I don’t see Davis as a SS. Then next year, if need be, most of that draft could be used on D to add a DE, a couple of LBers, and another CB or two.

3 years ago
Reply to  ncjetsfan

Great exchange. I don’t think our approaches are any more different than our end places…a very competitive Jets team.

Our differences re CB before LB or the reverse could prove unimportant if the draft falls our way. My thoughts re CB’s are just this: Saleh’s preferences for criteria for corners seems to have been influenced by his time with Pete Carroll and the Seahawks…corners who are athletic but physical, 6’1″+, 190 lbs+, with 33″+ arms and a sub 4.5 forty. There are only a handful of those guys in this draft, and most of them will go R1. Saleh also took a largely less-than-stellar secondary to the SB, mainly because he likes to be so dominant up front.

But he can’t be dominant up front without a solid LB corps. We’ve got CJ, who I like and hope returns to form, but he hasn’t played much in two years. Then we have the newly signed Jarrad Davis, who, though tantalizing, has yet to fulfill his potential as a pro. After that what do we have to count on? Cashman’s a mobile MASH unit, and lots of question marks. We need another starter and ideally, another quality backup while we see what the other LB’s show out.
I’d look for Collins or Cox at 34 (or a little later for Cox, allowing a trade down), and then double dip in later round.

Finally, as important as Juszczyk was for LaFleur in SF, it’s almost certain we’ll use a FB in one form or another. Ben Mason is the best FB in the draft, maybe the only one suitable for what we probably want to do, and Tremble is already an upgrade over Wesco, Griffin and Dan Brown (who’s mostly useless and I don’t know why he was re-signed). I think we draft one of the two for the Juszczyk role and replace one of the guys just named on the final roster.

Again, I think we both get to the same end place, just by slightly different routes, which is cool. In less than two weeks Joe & Co. will show us just how little we know.


3 years ago

I do like these mocks.

I don’t think we should pick two Edge (esp if one is before Round 5).

I also think we need to try and add (at least one) LB.

3 years ago

Def my favorite Mock of the 3. It’s not flashy, but it addresses all our needs.