The New York Jets shouldn’t take a wide receiver at 4 or 10 in the NFL draft
There has been a lot of talk regarding the New York Jets‘ pursuit of a true number one wide receiver in the 2022 offseason.
General manager Joe Douglas‘ biggest offensive signing in 2021, wide receiver Corey Davis, struggled with drops in his first year in New York. Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore flashed the ability to be a star but still isn’t proven enough (and possibly not durable enough) to rely on yet.
The Jets have already taken some big swings this offseason, most notably pursuing Tyreek Hill. Unfortunately, nothing came to fruition and now the Jets are in a bind.
The wide receivers in this year’s draft class each bring different skill-sets and there is no true consensus on how they stack up. Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), Drake London (USC), and Jameson Williams (Alabama) could each be considered the number one prospect depending on who you ask.
Before some disappointing numbers at the combine, Treylon Burks (Arkansas) was also in this group.
While this class is talented, I don’t think the Jets should draft a wide receiver with either of their top 10 selections.
Rookie wide receivers are not ready to be the top option
The number one goal this offseason was to support second-year quarterback Zach Wilson and get him a No. 1 wide receiver.
In general, rookie wide receivers are rarely at that level in year one.
Even selecting a wide receiver in the top 10 has had mixed results. Listed below are the 12 wide receivers selected in the top 10 since 2012:
- Justin Blackmon (5th overall, 2012) – Rookie year receiving yards: 865
- Tavon Austin (8th overall, 2013) – Rookie year receiving yards: 418
- Sammy Watkins (4th overall, 2014) – Rookie year receiving yards: 982
- Mike Evans (7th overall, 2014) – Rookie year receiving yards: 1,051
- Amari Cooper (4th overall, 2015) – Rookie year receiving yards: 1,070
- Kevin White (7th overall, 2015) – Rookie year receiving yards: 187
- Corey Davis (5th overall, 2017) – Rookie year receiving yards: 375
- Mike Williams (7th overall, 2017) – Rookie year receiving yards: 95
- John Ross (9th overall, 2017) – Rookie year receiving yards: 0
- Ja’Marr Chase (5th overall, 2021) – Rookie year receiving yards: 1,455
- Jaylen Waddle (6th overall, 2021) – Rookie year receiving yards: 1,015
- DeVonta Smith (10th overall, 2021) – Rookie year receiving yards: 916
Only 33% of wide receivers drafted in the top 10 over the last 10 drafts went on to break 1,000 yards as rookies. On average, they produced only 702.4 yards in their first season.
Some of the above players went on to reach greater heights in future seasons, such as Davis and Williams, but can the Jets really afford to wait for a young receiver to develop?
And if a rookie wide receiver can’t be trusted to become a top target in year one, why spend either the fourth or 10th pick on them? This is especially the case when you consider Elijah Moore has already shown the ability to be that person.
While Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith enjoyed rookie-year success in 2021, no receiver in the 2022 draft class is considered on par with those prospects. They may become great players down the line, but they likely won’t make as great of an impact in year one.
History has also shown that it’s rarely the first wide receiver taken or a top-10 pick that goes on to become the best player of the class.
Prior to Chase in 2021, the last draft class that features a top-10 pick as its leading receiver (in terms of yards) is the 2014 class, where seventh-overall pick Mike Evans leads the way. But Evans wasn’t even the first receiver taken that year – that was fourth-overall pick Sammy Watkins. The last draft class that features the first wide receiver taken as its leading receiver is the 2007 class, where Calvin Johnson tops the list.
The Jets don’t necessarily have to take a wide receiver in the top 10 to get a star. Several future studs will be selected in the late first round and on day two.
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Talented playmakers will still be available later
I have already mentioned four of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2022 class. However, this year’s wide receiver class has a lot of depth. There are plenty of players available who can make an impact. Some of the remaining top wide receiver prospects include the following:
- Chris Olave (Ohio State)
- Jahan Dotson (Penn State)
- Skyy Moore (Western Michigan)
- Christian Watson (North Dakota State)
- George Pickens (Georgia)
All five are considered borderline first-round prospects. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah even considers Olave a better prospect than Williams or Burks.
The 2020 and 2021 wide receiver classes were both considered historic for their outstanding depth and elite top talent. While the 2022 class is considered very good, so far it hasn’t been viewed at the same level.
In those two drafts, six and five wide receivers were taken in the first round, respectively. As many as six are currently expected to be taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft.
However, only the top three prospects (London, Wilson, and Williams) are viewed as guaranteed first-round selections. Meanwhile, the rest will likely fall somewhere between the 20th and 50th overall picks. The 2020 NFL draft had a very similar scenario.
In the 2020 NFL draft, the first four wide receivers selected were Henry Ruggs (12th overall), Jerry Jeudy (15th overall), CeeDee Lamb (17th overall), and Jalen Reagor (21st overall).
The next four were Justin Jefferson (22nd overall), Brandon Aiyuk (25th overall), Tee Higgins (33rd overall), and Michael Pittman Jr. (34th overall).
Is it worth selecting a wide receiver at the 10th overall pick if the Jets can feel confident they will find a stud with their next pick?
The Jets could also easily trade back into the first round to select whoever slides.
Based on the draft value chart, the Jets can move as high as the 15th overall pick if they decide to package both second-round picks. Or they could simply opt to jump the Lions and Jaguars by trading the 35th and 111th overall picks to the Bengals for the 31st overall pick.
Regardless, if even a top 10 pick won’t fill the Jets’ need at wide receiver, what will?
Joe Douglas is trying to trade for a top wide receiver
It has been well-known the entire offseason that the Jets want to bring in elite talent to help support their young quarterback. This was confirmed again at the annual NFL owners meetings.
I came away today believing two things
1) They’re drafting a pass rusher at No. 4.
2) They are very much trying to trade for a No. 1 WR
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) March 29, 2022
While they missed out on Tyreek Hill, the Jets are reportedly keeping an eye on former second-round picks D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel. It remains to be seen if they’re actually available, however.
Still, there are several good veterans that the Jets can target.
The two best and most likely available targets are Brandin Cooks and Tyler Lockett. The Texans and Seahawks are both rebuilding after sending away their star quarterbacks this March. They may be willing to move on from the talented veterans in exchange for draft compensation.
We’ve already seen receivers like Amari Cooper and Robert Woods get traded for day three picks this offseason. Douglas has gotten great deals in the past and in his most important offseason, I expect him to be aggressive.
Both Cooks and Lockett have several 1,000-yard seasons under their belts and would provide an immediate boost to the offense. Acquiring one of them would also give the Jets flexibility on draft day.
The Jets should still draft a wide receiver, just not with one of their first two picks
I don’t mean to disparage any of the top prospects or argue that they won’t be great players. My argument is that, as rookies, there is a very high chance they do not make the type of impact the Jets need in 2022.
Also, wide receiver is usually one of the deepest positions in the draft. Players selected on days two and three have routinely outperformed those selected in the first round.
The Jets could get immediate help at wide receiver via trade and then select a player on day two. In my perfect world, the Jets’ wide receiver room in Week 1 looks like this:
- Elijah Moore
- Tyler Lockett
- Corey Davis
- Jahan Dotson
- Braxton Berrios
- Denzel Mims
With four weeks until the draft, it remains to be seen what general manager Joe Douglas will do. Whether it’s via the draft or trade, the Jets are not done getting Zach Wilson help this offseason.