Building an analytically-minded New York Jets mock draft after free agency
If you have read any of my articles before or follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a stats and analytics guy first and foremost when it comes to evaluating football players. I love watching film, too, and I always make sure to blend both film and stats in my player evaluations, but numbers are my bread and butter.
With that in mind, I want to shake up the New York Jets mock draft landscape a bit.
I will be running a series of three-round Jets mock drafts throughout this offseason with a different spin on things: Each pick will be made with the mentality of taking the best player available from a statistical perspective.
Of course, I will still take team needs and previous picks into account – I’m not going to draft any quarterbacks or select four wide receivers in a row. But analytics will be the prime factor in these selections.
This is not a prediction of what the Jets will do. It’s also not my personal preferred mock draft – if that were the case, I would obviously be taking a lot more into account than just the analytics. Trust me, I’m not someone who thinks analytics are the end-all-be-all.
Our main goal with this article is to simply identify some of the Jets’ best options from an analytical perspective.
With the biggest splashes of free agency in the rearview, let’s dive into my second analytics-based Jets mock draft of the 2022 offseason (check out the January edition here). You can play along with the Jet X Offseason Simulator.
Play: 👉 the Jet X Offseason Simulator
Round 1, Pick 4: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
A few months ago, it seemed unrealistic to suggest that Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux would fall to the Jets at No. 4. However, there now seems to be a real chance that Thibodeaux falls to the fourth pick.
If Thibodeaux is available at No. 4, he is the no-brainer top prospect on the board from an analytics perspective (and probably a real-life perspective, too). His pass-rushing production is about as good as it gets.
Thibodeaux recorded 48 total pressures (9 sacks, 11 hits, 28 hurries) on only 289 pass-rush snaps in 2021. That gives him a pressure rate of 16.6%, which ranked third-best out of 99 qualified Power-5 edge rushers.
Possible first-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan ranked one spot ahead of Thibodeaux with a 17.4% rate. Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto ranked first with a 19.8% rate, although he played some off-ball linebacker and benefited from simulated pressures, so his pressures aren’t as legitimate as Hutchinson’s or Thibodeaux’s. That’s why he’s considered a Day 2 prospect in this year’s draft despite his production.
Further evidencing the legitimacy of his production and his ability to win pure one-on-one battles, Thibodeaux had great numbers in “true pass set” situations, per Pro Football Focus. Thibodeaux’s 92.1 pass-rush grade in true pass sets trailed only Hutchinson (93.5). Among Power-5 edge rushers with at least 100 true-pass-set rush snaps, Thibodeaux’s 37.1% win rate in those situations was the best, narrowly beating Hutchinson’s 37.0%.
Round 1, Pick 18 (via New Orleans): Drake London, WR, USC
The Jets could take a wide receiver with the 10th overall pick, but I think they’d be forcing the pick to address a need while passing up on better talent at the other positions. So, I decided to trade back to a spot where I believe a wide receiver could be considered the best player available.
New Orleans jumps from No. 18 to No. 10 to grab a quarterback. In exchange for the eight-spot drop, the Jets get New Orleans’ second-round pick (49th overall). The Jets also send over a fifth-round pick via Pittsburgh (163rd overall).
Now, we can take a wide receiver while feeling good about the value.
In this simulation, Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson was the only player at the position taken in the top-17, so we have our pick of any other wide receiver.
That’s great news, since Drake London is the wide receiver who offers the best analytical resume, anyway.
The Trojans star was a force in 2021, catching 88 of 119 targets for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns – in only eight games.
London’s efficiency on such a high volume was incredible. His average of 3.52 yards per route run ranked fourth-best among FBS wide receivers to see at least 100 targets (52 qualifiers). Among players in the 2022 draft class, only Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson (3.56 Y/RR) fared better while seeing over 100 targets.
London offers multiple tools that the Jets need. He can be a jump-ball winner for Zach Wilson, as he led the nation with 19 contested catches, per PFF (grabbing a whopping 67.9% of his contested targets). Plus, he can be a scheme fit for Mike LaFleur, as he offers great after-the-catch ability. London tied for sixth among FBS wide receivers with 22 missed tackles forced and ranked first with 2.75 missed tackles forced per game.
Round 2, Pick 35: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
Devonte Wyatt brings three-down potential to the Jets’ interior defensive line.
Among over 200 qualified Power-5 interior defensive linemen, Wyatt ranked top-25 in both true-pass-set win rate (21.8%, 21st) and run-stop rate (11.5%, 8th).
Round 2, Pick 38: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
The Jets added an excellent zone corner in free agency with D.J. Reed, and now they get another with Auburn’s Roger McCreary.
McCreary allowed a passer rating of 29.9 in zone coverage last season, ranking third-best among 222 qualified FBS cornerbacks. Teams threw 27 passes at McCreary when he was in zone coverage, and those turned into only 11 completions for 160 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Round 2, Pick 49 (via New Orleans): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
New York grabs another Georgia defender in safety Lewis Cine. Having added their box enforcer in free agency, Jordan Whitehead, Cine comes in to play free safety. Cine played free safety on 65% of his snaps in 2021, per PFF.
Cine was one of the nation’s most productive man-coverage safeties in 2021. He allowed a passer rating of 39.2 in man coverage, ranking sixth-best among FBS safeties to face at least 10 targets in man coverage. Cine allowed 10 catches on 21 targets for 87 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception.
With a career missed tackle rate under 7% (the NFL average for safeties in 2021 was 11.6%), Cine brings reliable last-line-of-defense tackling to the Jets’ free safety position.
Round 3, Pick 69: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
Earlier, I mentioned that Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson led FBS wide receivers in yards per route run while handling over 100 targets. Robinson averaged a sparkling 3.56 Y/RR while catching 104 of 140 targets for 1,342 yards and seven touchdowns.
Robinson was particularly destructive on screens. He caught 35 screen passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, leading all Power-5 wide receivers in missed tackles forced on screens (13) and first downs on screens (13).
Coming in at an extremely small 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds with arms under 28 inches long, Robinson has clear physical limitations but he proved in college that he can overcome them to produce at a high level.
Final three-round New York Jets mock draft
Here’s a look at our three-round haul:
- R1, P4: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
- R1, P18: Drake London, WR, USC
- R2, P35: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
- R2, P38: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
- R2, P49: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
- R3, P69: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
What? You have the Jets dropping 8 spots out of the top 10 and you have them only getting one second round pick in return in addition to the #18 pick and having to give up a 5th? I’m sorry, but I’m glad you aren’t our GM. That’s terrible. In 2018 the Jets had to give up 3 -2nd round picks to move up from #6 to #3. There’s no way they should have to give back any picks and only get one 2nd round pick for the trade back.
Then you add insult to injury by having the Jets take London. I don’t like him at all. Of the “top” WRs in this draft class, he has the worst hands, or at least the worst drop rate. I doubt he would even be there at #18. Other teams need WRs too, and many experts are thinking that as many as 6 WRs could be taken in the 1st round.
I like the other players you had the Jets taking, but imo after signing Reed, they don’t need to draft a CB. In addition, I see no way that Devonte Wyatt falls to #35 or Lewis Cine falls to #49. I think you need to re-check your figures and analytics, because you seem way off to me.
The scary thing about Joe Douglas wanting to trade out of the first round until next year is that he could pass on Thibodaux because he’s ready to give up on Zack Wilson.
That being said I debated Zack Wilson relentlessly with my best friend pre draft.
The argument that he’s the next Steve Young vs it took Steve Young 7 years to become Steve Young, would he have ever become what he did without Joe Montana in front of him?
My worries that Zack Wilson will eventually be great on another team because he won’t be offered a huge second contract based on his current performance.
Anyway I like your picks however if the Jets want to show they believe in there offensive line they need to draft Breece Hall somewhere between 50 and 79 to compete with Carter at Rb.
Where did you get that JD wants to trade out of the 1st round until next year? That’s absurd, and what does Zach Wilson have to do with Thibodeaux? Not taking an Edge because he’s ready to give up on his young QB would be doubly stupid! I see no signs that JD is ready to give up on Zach, but even if he was that stupid, surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to not take Thibodeaux because of that. Zach Wilson IS going to be great, and it’s not going to take 7 years. You can book on that. He isn’t going anywhere.
JD isn’t even ready to give up on Mims, and Mims hasn’t even begun to show the potential that Zach has.
Equally bad is your suggestion that they need to take Breece Hall in the 2nd round. To begin with, the Jets scheme doesn’t do that. They don’t value RBs that highly. Great RBs for this scheme can be found in the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds. That’s what Mike Shanahan did in Denver and what the 49ers have done. There are numerous backs that are great scheme fits that the Jets can find in those lower rounds: James Cook, Tyler Allgeier, Tyler Badie, Dameon Pierce, Rachad White, Pierre Strong, Jr., and ZaQuandre White just to name a few.
Nania, very good draft that would really set us up for success. I was expecting a LB instead of a 2nd WR but overall feel this draft would realistically put us on the path to be a legit contender. You could swap different picks for others, but any Jets fan should be happy with this scenario.
Despite the lack of height, weight attributes, WanDale Robinson could be electric in this offense. I wonder of JD would consider him with Moore and Berrios already on this unit?
Love WanDale if he is there in the 4th. I think JD would definitely consider him, the Kentucky offense is similar to what we run so would certainly be a scheme fit. I think he would be looked at as a long term replacement for Berrios.
I definitely would have liked to take a LB but there wasn’t really a spot where it was BPA, so I stuck to the script and just kept taking the best talent (that made realistic sense). I think they could strike on a LB in R4, unless they can somehow get Dean or Lloyd at the top of R2.
Understood this is an BPA based on analytics so definitely understand why bypassed. Still enjoyed the exercise overall.
My only problem with this mock is Thibodeaux. That pick is OK only if Kyle Hamilton has already been taken. There were questions about Thibodeaux before the college football season ended. There are no questions about Hamilton, he is the defensive play maker the Jets need in their secondary. As long as the Jets can still get London at 18, it’s fine.
Love this. I prefer Jermaine Johnson at 4. Would he be an analytical fit? And I read mcreary is solid but not a ball hawk. That sounded familiar. And I’d draft a guy JUST because his name is Wan’dale.
Haha Wan’Dale is quite the name. I’m not going to lie, I like when the team add guys with untraditional names, it spices things up a bit and brings some cool nickname potential. So in that regard Kayvon Thibodeaux would be awesome.
I think Johnson is a good fit and I like his run defense + pass-rush upside but I think there’s a low pass-rush floor. Joe Blewett has a great film review on him that highlights his weaknesses as a pass-rusher, it will be out at some point soon. Analytically, Johnson’s on-film weaknesses as a pass-rusher are supported by his very low pass-rush win rate relative to his draft peers. It’s not bad for a college player, but other guys in this draft – Hutch, KT, Karlaftis, Ojabo – are basically the best rushers in the entire country, while he ranks dozens upon dozens of spots below them.
Wow. I had no idea and considering that I I wonder what they do at four if the big two are off the board.
Why not cement the D Line for years to come with Thibs and Davis at 10? With Lawson, FM, Williams, Davis, Thibs….you have as good a foundation as any team out there. WR and CB in 2nd round will still fill big holes with plug in starters. That gives you a solid rotation that makes our LB’s and Secondary better in all aspects. WR is the sexy pick but what helps Wilson more? A dynamic rookie receiver or better starting field position and not always throwing from behind and feeling you have to score every set of downs?
I’m actually coming around to this approach in R1 an Edge plus Davis.
I think Davis is definitely on the table after free agency. 10 is a little high for me considering I’m not sure he can be a player you can have on the field on passing downs – needs a lot of work there – but maybe a trade-down candidate. But he would definitely fill the run-stuffing hole left by Foley. I just wonder whether you want to use the 10th pick on someone who can only play 50% of the snaps until he significantly develops his pass-rushing. The Jets will have to feel really good about how he will develop in that phase if they are going to pick him that high. But the idea is good, I absolutely see where you’re coming from.