Mike Williams, NY Jets, Free Agent, LA Chargers, Stats
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Getty Images

A quality receiver like Mike Williams is one of 5 things the New York Jets need to acquire for Zach Wilson

The New York Jets are facing a critical offseason in which they must build around their young quarterback, Zach Wilson. In his second season, a massive jump from Wilson will be expected universally.

New York’s roster has some pieces around Wilson offensively, but more are needed. In both free agency and the draft, general manager Joe Douglas will have an abundance of premium resources to build around his second-year signal-caller.

Let’s evaluate the pieces that will have to be placed around Wilson to position him for a successful year two.

Depth at running back

In Michael Carter, the Jets know they have a talented, young running back who proved he can make plays and be utilized on all three downs. After Carter, though, there are concerns.

Tevin Coleman is going to become a free agent. Among players under contract, the group is rounded out by Austin Walter, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine. A reliable contributor will have to be added.

In free agency, look for the Jets to possibly reunite another former San Francisco 49ers running back with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, similar to the Coleman signing last year. Former 49ers running backs Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Jeff Wilson will be unrestricted free agents. They are each experienced and bring a speed element that fits the LaFleur scheme.

When it comes to the draft, the Jets could look to select another running back in the middle rounds similar to what they did with Carter a year ago. Some of the top names worth monitoring for Jets fans in rounds two and three are Breece Hall (Iowa St.), Kenneth Walker Jr. (Michigan St.), Kyren Williams (Notre Dame), and Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M).

Whether it be through free agency or the draft, a quality backup to Carter will be needed.

Another starting wide receiver

The Jets have two wide receivers they can feel confident in: Elijah Moore and Corey Davis. Each player was a major investment for the organization in the 2021 offseason and showed why when they were healthy.

Aside from Moore and Davis, the next three wide receivers on the 2021 depth chart are all unrestricted free agents: Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder, and Keelan Cole.

Berrios could be brought back. If so, he is more than proven as a reliable receiving option. Crowder and Cole will likely sign elsewhere.

On the pro side of the roster construction process, Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, and Mike Williams headline the unrestricted free agents at wide receiver. Calvin Ridley may be available through trade.

If the Jets pass on paying a big-time veteran, expect one of their first four draft selections – all of which fall in the draft’s top-38 – to be used on a game-breaking pass-catcher.

Garrett Wilson (Ohio St.), Treylon Burks (Arkansas), Jameson Williams (Alabama), Chris Olave (Ohio St.), Drake London (USC), and Jahan Dotson (Penn St.) are the top names to keep an eye on in the early part of the draft.

Whether it be a possession, speed, or true “X” receiver, a starting-caliber player must be acquired through free agency or the draft for Wilson.

A red-zone tight end threat

With the second-year struggles of wide receiver Denzel Mims and no reliable options at tight end, the Jets did not have a big-bodied target who could help them finish drives in the end zone.

For far too long, the Jets have lacked even average tight end play. It’s time for Douglas to change that.

New York is thin at the tight end position going into 2022. Tyler Kroft will be a free agent and Ryan Griffin has a strong chance of being released. That leaves Trevon Wesco and Kenny Yeboah as the only tight ends under contract.

In free agency, there will be multiple options for the Jets. The obvious headliner is Dalton Schultz of the Dallas Cowboys, who had eight touchdowns this season and 12 over the last two years.

Robert Tonyan has played for coach LaFleur’s brother, Matt, with the Green Bay Packers. He scored 11 touchdowns in 2020, although he had a down year in 2021 with two in eight games.

Tyler Conklin of the Minnesota Vikings is another solid option even with only three touchdowns, as his production in the passing game overall would provide a boost. Conklin caught 61 passes for 593 yards in 17 games this season.

Even with a stellar free-agent signing, the Jets may still look to acquire a second tight end in the middle rounds of the draft who can eventually be the lead option.

A few of the top prospects to keep an eye on in rounds two and three are Trey McBride (Colorado St.), Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), Cade Otton (Washington), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M), and Jets fan Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio St.).

In terms of touchdown production from these prospects, Likely was the best with 27 over his four years of college. This season, he scored 12 times.

McBride had four touchdowns in both 2019 and 2020 but just one in 2021. Otton only recorded nine through four years but has the size to be impactful. Throughout his three college seasons, Wydermyer recorded 16 touchdowns. Over the last three years, Ruckert scored 12.

It would be wise of the Jets to pursue doubling-down to bolster this huge position of need.

Starting right guard

The Jets finally do have an offensive line they can feel better about. With that being said, there is still more to add.

At right guard, incumbent starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is going to be a free agent. Third-year player and former fourth-round pick Cameron Clark is coming off a missed season due to a serious neck injury.

Through free agency, the Jets could show interest in proven veterans like Alex Cappa (Tampa Bay), Austin Corbett (Los Angeles), James Daniels (Chicago), and Connor Williams (Dallas).

In the draft, there is a possibility of the Jets adding an offensive lineman with the first selection they own. Evan Neal (Alabama) and Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina St.) are top-tier tackle prospects and both offer the flexibility to play guard.

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Offensive tackle insurance

Retaining Morgan Moses will be a challenge. With George Fant and Mekhi Becton set to hold down the Jets’ starting spots, Moses will likely find a better opportunity elsewhere. This presents a need for a third offensive tackle behind Fant and Becton, both of whom are coming off knee injuries.

Through free agency, one name worth keeping an eye on is Chris Hubbard of the Cleveland Browns.

Hubbard has been in the league for nine seasons, appearing in 81 games (48 starts). He missed most of this season due to a triceps injury, being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 12. Hubbard has played at least one game at all five of the offensive line positions in his career, but he has appeared most often at right tackle, where he started for Cleveland from 2018-19.

With his offensive line background, Joe Douglas will likely continue to try to build the group up in the trenches in front of Wilson.

Collecting all of the final pieces is crucial

Overall, the Jets are at a good point currently in terms of supporting Wilson. However, accumulating more talent in the 2022 offseason is necessary to push his progression forward.

If a solid backup running back, a starting wide receiver, a red-zone threat at tight end, a starting right guard, and a reliable third tackle can be added, Wilson will have everything he needs to become a good starting quarterback in 2022.

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Ryan Moran is a writer for Jets X-Factor providing in-depth analysis on all things related to the team. Email: ryan.moran310[at]gmail.com
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cole
cole
10 months ago

Great overview! I’ve loved Conklin as a value option at TE, and his TE / 1D production could likely rise away from Thielen. The other name I’ve really liked that seems to be overlooked is D’Ernest Johnson at RB — despite a small sample size this year, he’s excelled with top-10 performances in YPA, yards after contact, and broken tackle rate. With no massive runs and only 4 carries >20 yards, his success seems repeatable and makes him a strong fit as the thunder to Carter’s lightning.

Jets71
Jets71
10 months ago

You nailed it Ryan, the good news is that’s all reasonable. I think the top need is a #1 WR. I legit threat will open up so much for the entire offense including Zach. I prefer a draft pick so they can grow together.