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These potential Jets draft targets shined in the CFP semifinals

Evan Neal, Mock Draft, Alabama, NY Jets, Film
Evan Neal, NFL Draft, Getty Images

At least one future New York Jet may have been among Friday’s CFP stars

New Year’s Eve featured the two semifinal contests of the College Football Playoff. Alabama defeated Cincinnati by a score of 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl while Georgia defeated Michigan by a score of 34-11 in the Orange Bowl. Alabama and Georgia will meet in the National Championship Game on Monday, Jan. 10.

The two games featured some standout performances from a handful of prospects who could hear their names called by the New York Jets in the NFL draft this spring. Here is a roundup of how the top prospects at the Jets’ positions of need performed.


OT Evan Neal

A potential top-five pick in this year’s draft, Alabama left tackle Evan Neal had plenty of viewers fixated upon his No. 73 jersey on the left side of the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. He delivered under the spotlight.

Neal earned a 75.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his Cotton Bowl performance, including a 71.2 grade in the run game and a 76.4 grade in the passing game. It was the highest overall grade accumulated by any of the game’s 10 starting offensive linemen.

The junior allowed two pressures (no sacks) over 34 snaps in pass protection while spearheading a Tide rushing attack that amassed 309 yards.

Alabama rushed for 12.4 yards per carry when attacking the left edge, their best average in any particular direction. They picked up three rushers for 10+ yards in that direction, also their best total of any direction.

Neal has also played right tackle and left guard in his collegiate career.

At the moment, Neal is unanimously considered a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Some mocks have him going first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

WR Jameson Williams

Jameson Williams led the game with seven catches, picking up 62 yards and four first downs. He has caught 75 passes for 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games for Alabama this year after transferring over from Ohio State. Williams is generally considered a mid-first-round prospect.

S Jordan Battle

A high-second/low-first round prospect, Alabama safety Jordan Battle didn’t have the greatest game in coverage as he allowed two catches for a team-high 39 yards on a day where the Cincinnati offense was completely stagnant. Battle allowed first-down grabs for 11 and 28 yards.

However, Battle finished plays very effectively as he made seven tackles and missed none.

Battle has 81 tackles and three interceptions this season. Two of those picks were returned for touchdowns.


CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner

Projected mid-to-high first-round cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was dominant for the Bearcats despite the blowout loss.

Over 34 coverage snaps, he was targeted four times and allowed three catches for only 14 yards and one first down. Gardner’s 74.1 coverage grade at PFF was the highest of the game by any defender on either team.

Gardner concludes his 2021 season allowing 20 catches on 40 targets for 131 yards (3.3 per target), zero touchdowns, and three interceptions – a passer rating of 26.1. Gardner never allowed a touchdown over his three years with Cincinnati, a career spanning 33 games, 138 targets, and 1,124 coverage snaps.


LB Nakobe Dean

Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean was mostly considered a late-first-round pick prior to the Orange Bowl, but after his dominant performance against Michigan, his stock is quickly rising.

Dean had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble in a highlight-filled outing. In coverage, Dean allowed two of four passes thrown his way to be completed for negative-2 yards and no first downs.

Dean has 68 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, two interceptions, and four passes defended this year.


EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is in a duel with Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the title of the draft’s No. 1 prospect.

Hutchinson lost a lot of ground in that debate with his Orange Bowl performance.

Over 32 pass-rush snaps, Hutchinson had only one pressure, posting a season-low pressure rate of 3.1%. It was a shockingly out-of-character performance for Hutchinson – his season average is 17.2% and his previous season-low was 9.3%.


Hutchinson finishes the season tied for third in the nation in sacks (14.0) and total pressures (74).

EDGE David Ojabo

Hutchinson’s fellow edge rusher, David Ojabo, is considered a mid-to-late first-round prospect. He also struggled in the playoff game, earning zero pressures over 19 pass-rush snaps.

Ojabo had 11.0 sacks and 41 total pressures this year.

S Daxton Hill

Considered a low-first/high-second round prospect, Wolverines safety Daxton Hill was one of the few Michigan defenders to have a competent performance. His overall PFF grade of 71.4 ranked second on the team. Over 37 defensive snaps, Hill had no missed tackles and gave up only one first down reception through the air. He also had one pressure as a blitzer.

Hill picked up 69 tackles, eight passes defended, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions for Michigan this year.

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Jonathan Richter
2 years ago

Might want to replace a couple of those film clips. I didn’t even see Hutchinson in his clip. and the one on evan Neal went for no gain, so hardly an example of his dominant blocking.

2 years ago

Neal and Ham is a must draft for me. I consider both top 10 worthy picks and big huge needs with the injury uncertain status of Bechton and Fant you have to draft a Neal he is a monster tackle

2 years ago

Hey if we take the top safety out of ND and Nakobe Dean…. I bet we can stop a screen pass next year.

2 years ago

With so many quality Edges and OLinemen in this draft, I could envision trade down possibilities if the QB desperate teams below us get antsy (think New Orleans, Washington and Pittsburgh among others). Prioritized positions in R1 and 2 would be Edge, OL, LB, TE, S and WR. Not interested in CBs above those other positions this high.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

The CB’s have been better than expected but let’s be honest, they have been protected and the defense is about to be the worst in team history. I think a top CB is critical. I think JC Jackson would be worth the money.

Jonathan Richter
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

I think the CBs will look even better when we start getting pressure on the QB consistently. I want George Karlaftis with our pick and Tyler Linderbaum with Seattle’s.

Keith Beckett
2 years ago
Reply to  Psi

I feel if you can manage to draft the best LT and best IOL in this “Strong “ draft for lineman. you should. This is why I would go OT E. Neal followed by OC T. Linderbaum. A HR and its only rd1.

2 years ago
Reply to  Psi

yes PSI! YES!!! I’ve been thinking buy offense – free agent receiver, tight end, and maybe an O line piece, get a CB in FA, and trade down and just load the o-line and defense. With those extra picks the choices could be mind boggling and I still think we’d get 2 blue chippers in the 1st round

2 years ago

I’m haven’t watched much college football this year but Dean looked like a star last night. Very interested if the jets could grab him in a trade down with the first or trade up with the second scenario or maybe he falls to us.

2 years ago

Dean is the clear winner here. The Jets NEED a player like him in the LB group. Yes some of the others would certainly help but they absolutely need a player like Dean. He could lead the defense for a decade…if things fall right. I also love Hutchinson, that was before he shot to the top prospect, but I’m leaning against the DL early. They need “hitch” guys right now which makes me want LB’s CB’s and S’s. I’m not saying don’t add a DL but given the choice, I’d like a LB. Cam Thomas, could be a later pick.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

I agree, I wouldn’t be surprised if they move on from Mosely.