Sauce Gardner, NY Jets, NFL Mock Draft, 2022
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Ranking New York Jets’ possible selections at No. 4 from best to worst

The New York Jets are currently in possession of the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. It is the first of nine selections owned by New York, including four in the top 38 slots.

In my view, here is a best-to-worst ranking of the realistically possible picks for the Jets if they stay put at No. 4.

1. Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

It feels extremely unlikely that Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson will reach the fourth pick, so I doubt this possibility comes to fruition.

If Hutchinson does slip, it would be a dream scenario for New York. Hutchinson is the no-brainer No. 1 prospect in this class for Joe Douglas and the Jets. He offers a combination of elite athleticism, dominant production, and fantastic technique that gives him the potential to become a star edge rusher in the NFL. Douglas will also love that Hutchinson was a team captain.

Hutchinson is the favorite to be taken by the Jaguars with the first overall pick, but there is buzz that Jacksonville could go with Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker or an offensive lineman. If Jacksonville passes on Hutchinson, the possibility exists that Hutchinson slips past the Lions and Texans, who could either draft a quarterback or switch places with a quarterback-needy team. It’s a highly unlikely but somewhat possible scenario.

2. Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux is a blue-chip talent that can lead the Jets’ 4-3 defensive front for years to come. Barring a slippage from Hutchinson, Thibodeaux should be the easy pick for New York if available.

Thibodeaux has been seen as a possible No. 1 pick in this draft since way back in 2020 after his breakout freshman season. He didn’t do anything over the next two years to pull his stock down from the apex that was established for him at the beginning of his Oregon career.

Now, Thibodeaux is slowly becoming one of those prospects who slips down the board for silly reasons and goes on to prove teams wrong for overthinking him.

3. Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner

While the cornerback position is far from New York’s greatest need, I just don’t think the Jets can afford to pass up on Sauce Gardner here if Hutchinson and Thibodeaux are gone.

The Jets need to get star players wherever they can, because right now, they flat-out don’t have any. If the potential star yielded by this pick is a cornerback – a position where they already have some nice players – so be it. A star is a star, and this team needs to start racking them up regardless of what position they play.

Gardner is as complete of a cornerback prospect as we’ve seen in recent years. With his size, length, athleticism, dominant production, and excellent technique on tape, it’s difficult to envision him failing. If he puts everything together, he can be one of the best cornerbacks in football. I personally have him as my second-best overall prospect of the class behind Hutchinson.

While I slightly prefer Gardner over Thibodeaux as an overall prospect, I think Thibodeaux and Gardner are close enough for me to view Thibodeaux as the better pick for the Jets due to my personal opinion of EDGE being a greater New York need than CB.

However, Gardner is much too far ahead of prospects like Travon Walker and Jermaine Johnson for me to justify passing on him to fill a positional need with a lesser prospect.

New York Jets, Mock Draft Simulator, Offseason Tool, Jets X-Factor, Deebo Samuel

4. Georgia EDGE Travon Walker

I would be okay with the Jets taking Travon Walker at No. 4. It’s not a pick that would make Jets fans pop bottles and plan parades, but it’s one that they should feel optimistic about nonetheless.

Trust me, as an analytics guy, I get the concerns with Walker. He is a massive project. After a three-year college career that featured only 9.5 sacks and a pass-rush win rate that was below-average even for a college edge rusher, it’s clear that he has a lot of growing to do before he can reach his ceiling.

But when I flip on the tape and watch Walker play, I can clearly see that he has the potential to be a superstar in the NFL. The athletic gifts that allowed him to set records at the NFL combine are glaringly obvious when you watch him on the field.

Plus, Walker’s floor is higher than given credit for. He already offers positional versatility, strong run defense, and the ability to effectively execute stunts as a pass-rusher. It’s tough to imagine him being any worse than a league-average NFL defensive lineman. I don’t see a Vernon Gholston scenario in which he is a complete bust.

The question is whether Walker can make the necessary improvements to become a star – which is the type of player you hope to get with a top-five pick.

New York is a good fit to help Walker hit that lofty ceiling. Walker’s best abilities would be emphasized in an aggressive 4-3 defensive front where he could pin his ears back and explode off the edge. His production was limited a bit by his hybrid usage in Georgia’s defense.

Additionally, with the opportunity to play alongside excellent pass-rushing technicians like Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, and Quinnen Williams, Walker would be in a good environment to learn how he can improve his repertoire as a rusher.

You have to trust your coaching staff’s development skills to make a pick like this one. Personally, I trust Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to get the most out of Walker. Saleh and Ulbrich fielded some respectable production out of the Jets’ young defenders in 2021 and both coaches put together impressive developmental track records before coming to New York.

5. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

I am not a huge proponent of the idea that the Jets should draft a tackle in the top-10 this year (which I will explain below). However, while it’s still not my preferred course of action, I am starting to come around to the point where I can accept and understand the decision if the Jets decide to go that way.

Ikem Ekwonu is a fantastic prospect and a great scheme fit for the Jets. In my opinion, he’s the fourth-best overall prospect in the class after Hutchinson, Gardner, and Thibodeaux. If I love the prospect and think he’s worthy of being taken fourth overall, I cannot be mad if he ends up a Jet with that pick.

The problem is that it would be difficult to project exactly how and when Ekwonu would break his way into the Jets’ starting lineup with Mekhi Becton and George Fant already in place. With a pick as high as No. 4 overall, if I were an NFL team, I would prefer to draft a player that I know can immediately be penciled into a long-term role, which is why I have Walker ranked higher on this list despite seeing Ekwonu as the better prospect.

I know that may sound a tad short-sighted, but it’s not my impatience that gives me pause. I’m more concerned about the scenario where Becton and Fant both work out.

It may be an unlikely scenario, but if Becton and Fant do indeed both have successful 2022 seasons that lock up their 2023 starting roles (let’s say the Jets extend or franchise-tag Fant), then Ekwonu would become a surplus asset. He’d either be a backup or the Jets would have to trade him for a lesser pick than the one they used to select him. Neither is a good use of the fourth overall pick.

Additionally, this would be New York’s third straight year using a top-15 pick on an offensive lineman, which isn’t the best allocation of resources.

The years of first-round neglect will begin to add up in other spots. The Jets have not drafted a defensive player in the first round since Quinnen Williams in 2019 and they have not drafted a defensive player in the second round since Marcus Maye in 2017 – and we saw the effects of that with a league-worst defense in 2021. They’ve got to start investing premium assets into that side of the ball. The O-line already has tons of money and draft capital placed into it. Make it work with what you’ve got.

With all of that being said, we need to be brutally honest; the odds are fairly strong that the Jets will come out of the 2023 season looking to replace either Becton or Fant in the starting lineup. The scenario in which both players pan out is an optimistic outcome with a low chance of occurring. If the Jets plan ahead and grab Ekwonu this year, they can have an in-house solution at the ready when they need a tackle next year.

Selecting a player at this position with the fourth pick is still not my preferred plan. But I can understand the logic behind it. Above all, what matters most is that I see Ekwonu as a good enough prospect to warrant going this route.

Picks I would struggle to justify at No. 4

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

From my viewpoint, any of the five players above could be argued as a strong pick for the Jets at No. 4. This section will highlight the players who I think would be difficult to justify selecting in that slot.

I cannot get on board for Evan Neal with the fourth overall pick. While Ekwonu is talented enough for me to overlook some of my concerns regarding positional needs and resource allocation, Neal is not at that level in my personal opinion.

Neal is a solid prospect, but it would never even cross my mind to consider taking him over Thibodeaux, Gardner, Walker, or most importantly, Ekwonu. I think the NC State product clearly stands out as the better of the two tackle prospects, boasting much better movement skills and hand placement. Ekwonu is also the better scheme fit for the Jets.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

With the 10th pick, sign me up for Kyle Hamilton. But at number four? I can’t take him over any of the top five prospects listed above. Hamilton is certainly a great prospect but I’m not as high on his film as others, and his mediocre performances in speed and agility drills were a cause for concern.

Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Like Hamilton, I can get on board for Jermaine Johnson at No. 10, but I am not taking him over whoever is left of the five prospects listed above.

Johnson is an older prospect at 23 years old and failed to take advantage of that in college as he still had mediocre pass-rushing efficiency at Florida State last year. While I like his run defense and the potential bestowed by his overall athleticism, he does not offer the ceiling of someone like Walker and does not match the proven ability of someone like Thibodeaux, Gardner, or Ekwonu.

If the Jets do not go with an edge rusher at number four, I’d be on board for Johnson at 10. But I don’t see how you can take him over Thibodeaux or Walker if you’re looking for an edge rusher with the fourth pick, and I think it would be a huge reach to pass on Gardner or Ekwonu for Johnson just to get an edge rusher.

Any wide receiver

At the 10th slot, the Jets should get the chance to choose from at least two options out of four wide receivers that I would be on board with at 10: Drake London, Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, and Chris Olave.

I think taking a wide receiver with the fourth pick would be a major reach to fill a need. None of those receivers are better overall prospects than the five players I mentioned at the top (in my opinion).

The Jets can hang tight at No. 10 and grab a wide receiver there. They shouldn’t bypass better overall prospects at No. 4 when there is a very high chance they will be able to choose from multiple similarly-graded wide receivers just six slots later.

Of course, all of this is contingent on my personal rankings of these prospects. If the Jets love a wide receiver enough to rank him on their board as a guy worthy of the fourth pick, and they do not want to risk losing him between picks four and ten, then sure, go get him at four.

But based on my evaluation of these players (and I think many people would agree), it would definitely feel like a fairly big reach if Roger Goodell called a wide receiver’s name during his fourth trip to the podium.

Anybody else not mentioned

I don’t see anyone else who could warrant a pick in this slot.

I love me some George Karlaftis and would be happy to see him taken at 10 if the Jets do not get an edge rusher with the fourth pick. I’m not taking him at No. 4, though.

Derek Stingley was a mock-draft favorite for this pick before Sauce Gardner’s rise up the boards. Stingley had a good combine and appears healthy but the injury concerns are too great for me to even remotely consider taking him at No. 4, especially when you consider his production decline over the past two years.

There aren’t any other players that I have seen mentioned as a possible option for this pick, so anybody I have not mentioned yet would certainly be considered a reach by myself and many others.

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ncjetsfan
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ncjetsfan

I totally disagree with much of your reasoning and conclusions in this article. When you haven’t drafted an Edge that has any real potential since Jon Abraham and Sean Ellis and there is an Edge with the potential of Jermaine Johnson, I think it would be a fireable offense to draft a CB and pass on Johnson. Chances are he will not be there at #10. Edge is key to the effectiveness of our Defense. One cannot shut down most NFL passing offenses, but one can slow them down, and cause incompletions and turnovers with a strong pass rush. A… Read more »

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

I like Gardner too. If you could take him at 4 and still get an edge at 10 that’s my dream. But I hear you on Thibodeaux and edge is the greater need. I think… On the other hand a true shutdown CB covers up a lot of other faults.

How do you feel about Stingley at 10?

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

Can I enjoy the fantasy of Deebo in green, getting KT at #4 and still having #10? We’d have to build Joe a statue for that.

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

And who would you take at 10? I’d rather trade 10 for Deebo and be able to take Brisker, Muma and Pierce with the 3 picks.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

Deebo for 10 would be ideal. Otherwise, if you can trade back from 10, you can still get one of the top 5-6 WRs unless they rate one of the WRs much higher than the others in which case you take him at 10.
On the other hand, JD could feel Pickens in the 2nd round is a better fit and use 10 as a wild card for the best available player.

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

As much as I’d like to do the edge/CB I totally agree you can’t take Stingley with his injury history. Even in the trade scenario with Deebo I wouldn’t do it.

I’m assuming you are going to give us your #10 best next. 🙂 so If we get Deebo and take Thibidoux at 4 where do we go from there? Do you think we are better off with Sauce at 4 if we have Deebo in the fold? Seems the guys who would then be available would be OL or lesser edge.

ncjetsfan
Member
ncjetsfan

IMO your analysis on a Deebo Samuel trade is off-base as well. There is no way that the Jets can afford or should even be thinking about trading picks #35, #38 and #69 for Samuel. If JD were to do that, I’d want him fired immediately. If they’re thinking about taking a WR in the 1st two rounds (as they should) then they should just go ahead and trade the #10 pick for Samuel, since he’s a proven commodity. In that way, they won’t lose the ability or opportunity to take top players at Safety and DT. They shouldn’t even… Read more »

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

The unicorn of the draft is Sauce, his numbers don’t lie and if I was JD I would run the card with sauce name on it up to the podium personally and hand it Goodell and wait for sauce to come out from the back. Sauce at 4 would make that defense sing against Diggs, Hill etc

hh11212
Member
hh11212

We need to draft good players. We need stars level players. If Sauce is that draft him. Every premier player gets paid. Let’s worry about that in 5 years.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

I don’t think they value CB enough to pick one in the top 10. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a combo of OL/DL with 4 and 10 if they end up keeping the picks and not trading for a WR. Their entire team building is based on trenches. I’m fine with it if it’s a/n OL/DL combo. Block, Protect and sack the QB works in today’s NFL.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

That seems to be Joe’s mantra.

DHB
Member
DHB

If we draft Sauce and he balls out we’d have to pay him big money down the road. I’m not sure that fits with the way Douglas and Saleh want to build this team and play defense. If Thib and Hutch are gone and we can’t trade down our hand may be forced though.
If we were to draft Ickey I wonder whether they might try to trade Fant or Becton either during the draft or at least prior to the coming season. Having any of those three sit on the bench seems a bit of a waste.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

So a team drafts a player and gets rid of him because they have to pay him what he’s worth? Makes no sense to me, you draft and build your players and pay them to keep them around. You draft a OL at 4 and you trade away Becton or Fant to someone that has to relearn the offensive line system makes no sense either.

DHB
Member
DHB

Yes, but by applying premium resources, both draft picks and salary cap space, to positions that don’t need them in this defense limits what you can apply to the ones that do need them. So you necessarily change the way you build the team and play defense by taking a corner that high who in all likelihood plays well. I’m not in favour of an OL at 4 because whoever you draft at that spot has to play and of course whoever you draft will have to learn the system. It’d be allocating too much to a position which already… Read more »

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

The Jets don’t have any playmakers and Sauce is a playmaker! He wouldn’t be a reach at that pick and the Jets had no production from they CB room. With Sauce and Reed along with Carter II and company in the slot makes this secondary way better and will allow the DL to get to the QB more.

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

Thibs can be a playmaker and a star as well, and at a position that’s a lot harder to fill.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

Thibbs is a 1 year wonder! Look at his freshman and sophmore years. It will take him about 3 years to develop in the NFL. Can we afford to wait that long or do we grab the best consistent player in the draft which is Sauce?

DHB
Member
DHB

And thence your defensive philosophy begins to distort.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

So your concern is they draft Sauce, he becomes the second coming of Revis and then we’d have to pay him? Oh goodness, what a catastrophe that wouldn’t be!

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

Yeah its like why would we draft him and he becomes a pro bowler and not pay him? That in itself makes no sense at all!

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

The problem with taking Sauce at 4 is you will need to take an Edge at 10 and only Johnson and Karlatis are likely to be there. Then you will need to find a will partner to trade back into round 1 to get one of the remaining top receivers. Doesn’t make sense especially because Douglas does not value CB as much as the OL/DL. If all three top edges go, they will take Ikem much to my displeasure and they will still need to address Edge and WR. For the Jets to be highly competitive in 2022, they need… Read more »

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

And you see what happened to our cornerbacks this season yeah? Or where you even watching them? Did you see the stats for the cornerbacks that were chosen in the 3rd round? Yeah ok!

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

Newly acquired Reed was the 8th rated CB last year. The Jets top two CBs rate higher than any other pair in our conference. While Hall, Carter and Echols were patchy, they were also improving as the year went on. Douglas will add another CB on Day 3 or maybe two but the Jets defensive emphasis is on pressure from the DL, not tight man to man coverage from the CBs.
I happen to be a big fan of shutdown corners and adding Sauce to Reed would be great, but getting the Edge is more important.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

The Jets CB is not ranked as high as you think, we need a lockdown CB that can take away 1 side of the field and then the DL will be able to make its mark on opposing QB. Getting a quality edge rusher can still be had in the 2nd round. Sauce is ranked higher than those edge rushers even Hutch

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

There are many ways to skin a cat and Joe Douglas believes in the pass rush first. Lockdown CBs are rare and Sauce is not a guarantee. Reed is a #1 corner, and our other corners are all young and should be better this year. Edge is a bigger need, Lawson is coming back from an injury and we were at the bottom of the league in getting pressure on the QB. Unless you get pressure, the secondary will be shredded even with top corners there. Keep in mind the Jets play a lot of zone (4th most in NFL… Read more »

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

And what makes you think the edge rushers in this class are any better? The last time I checked Thibbs looked like a 1 year wonder. Sauce did it for 3 years straight! What other draft prospect consistently dominated at they craft? Wasn’t thibbs or hutch or any other edge rusher. And how do you know JD is going edge rusher? You know something we don’t?

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

Because of his constant harping on how the war in the trenches is what matters. Add a Safety in the 2nd round and our secondary s looking like a strength at this point. Our pass rush, on the other hand, has been a disaster. What happens in Lawson isn’t the same after his injury? Or he get hurt again? We need more pass rush. And more cow bell!

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

See you said a safety in the 2nd round, I can dig that but with CB and WR in the 1st round best way to go would be Edge top of the 2nd and safety after.

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

I don’t have us taking a CB in the 1st round.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

Has anybody looked at the New York Jets CB room last year and how they faired? If you have a lockdown corner it makes life easier for the DL! The longer the secondary can hold there coverage the more time the DL has to get the QB. Its just that simple.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

JD has repeatedly said “trenches.” In his history before the Jets and with the Jets, DBs are rarely taken Day 1 or 2.
That’s why I’m confident he’s taking either an Edge or OT at 4.
If it was up to me, I’d take Sauce if the three top Edge rushers were gone.
BTW – Thibs was a top player in HS and had 9 sacks in 2019 and had more tackles every year – hardly a one year wonder.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

So what was thibbs numbers his freshman and sophmore year? If JD drafts another lineman at 4 where would he go on the bench?

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

For me, assuming he’s all that, a shutdown CB is as valuable as any position except QB. Take away one WR so you can double on the others and you create more time to get to the QB. Especially up the middle where we are strong.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

I agree with that strategy but the Jets strategy is to emphasize pressure first. Any QB with time will beat coverage. Two shutdown corners just means the 3rd or 4th option eventually flies open. Get another Edge to pair with Lawson, get pressure up the middle too and the CBs can mix up zone coverages. Of course, if we knew Sauce is a young Revis, it would be hard not to take him at 4 but it’s just not how Douglas plans to build out the team. Even if the top three Edge players are taken, I still think Joe… Read more »

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

Yes I’d only take Gardner if he’s Revis. For me so few edge guys actually make a real difference but you can say that about CBs too. Very hard to get it right with those positions. Top 10 OL almost always work out.

I don’t love any of these WRs either. I’m thinking trade down at 10.

RustyZ
Member
RustyZ

Of course there is no way to accurate predict which players will accel as pros other than knowing if the Jets draft them, they rarely do. Douglas wants to build from the trenches out which is why I doubt Gardner goes at 4 unless he is rated as can’t miss by the Jets scouts. I think the Jets see more value later in the 1st round and wouldn’t hesitate to move down from 10 if the right offer comes along. They also would trade out of 4 for the right package especially if their top players aren’t there when they… Read more »

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

He’s been clear about the trenches, no doubt. I think all things being even you are right about how he is going to do this. He’s also done a lot of trading back, in essence, he’s playing it safe The Cowboys are built that way and I think that it’s allowed Dak to be as successful as he’s been because I don’t think he’s very good. So depending on how you feel about Wilson, I’m not a fan, it should help raise his game. But you see that even now that the Cowboys have added good skill guys Dak is… Read more »

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

they don’t need to trade back into the first to address WR. If they got Pickens in the 2nd and Khalil Shakir in the 4th I’d be thrilled.

Peter Buell
Member
Peter Buell

There are so many ways to go with 4 and 10. Especially when a decent number ofplayers who were at the top of the top of the draft when the mocks started coming out are now in the twenties. I’d really like that Saints trade of #4 for #s 16 and 19. We could come away with Sauce one of Wilson Williams or London and also Egde Karfalitis who most have in the mid twenties now. That would fill our 3 biggest holes with, imo LB still a big need. Failing a Deebo trade and assuming this is available, I… Read more »