Analyzing the New York Jets’ 2022 NFL draft plan at the cornerback position
The New York Jets bolstered their young cornerback group this offseason with a big move in free agency. General manager Joe Douglas signed former Seahawk D.J. Reed to a three-year, $33 million deal, adding Reed to a unit that is filled with second and third-year players.
Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, and Javelin Guidry have each accumulated more than 600 snaps in their young careers. For day-three draft picks (and an undrafted free agent in Guidry’s case), they have surpassed expectations.
In the 2022 NFL draft, there are some enticing options that could be available to the Jets with their four selections in the first two rounds.
Addressing cornerback in this draft is not a must for New York. However, if a talented young player could be added, the Jets defense would benefit from the upgrade at a premium position.
The top two prospects
Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati) and Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU) headline this cornerback class. Gardner could be a top-five pick. Stingley might be selected in the top-10.
Gardner is one of the top prospects in this draft. He is a prototypical press-man corner with his height (6-foot-2), length (33 1/2″ arms), and speed (4.47 40-yard). He is a tough and physical player. Gardner did not allow a single touchdown throughout his college career.
Stingley has all the athletic traits required to be a great cornerback. He is 6-foot, ran a 4.45, and had a 38.5″ vertical jump. He plays with great patience and physicality in press coverage and can quickly convert to long speed. If he stays healthy, Stingley has tremendous potential.
For the Jets, Gardner could be near the top of the list when they pick at four, but it seems like Douglas and Robert Saleh will want to address the trenches. Stingley will likely be selected somewhere around the Jets’ 10th pick, so they could see him as a value in that spot. The Jets seem likely to address wide receiver with that selection though.
Either player would be an exciting addition to the Jets’ secondary.
Related Article: Sauce Gardner film breakdown - Why he makes sense for Jets at #4
By most accounts, the consensus next four cornerbacks after Gardner and Stingley are Andrew Booth (Clemson), Trent McDuffie (Washington), Kaiir Elam (Florida), and Kyler Gordon (Washington).
Booth has a lot of upside and offers a track record of quality ball skills (three interceptions in 2021). A great athlete who would fit the Jets’ scheme, Booth can thrive in press coverage with his frame (6-foot, 194 lbs, 31 1/2″ arms), speed, and quickness.
McDuffie was a successful college football player. If it were not for his arm length concerns (29 3/4″) he would be a first-round lock. Speed is one of McDuffie’s best attributes (4.44 40-yard) and he rarely gets beat down the field. For a smaller corner (5-foot-10), he is a willing tackler.
Elam possesses a great combination of height and speed (6-foot-1, 4.39 40-yard). He can excel as a press man-to-man cornerback with his physicality in coverage. Elam is a young prospect who will turn 21 in May.
Gordon is a great athlete (9.69 RAS) with scheme flexibility. He has good size (5-foot-11, 194 lbs, 31″ arms), can play either man or zone coverage, and is known as a physical tackler. Possessing effortless movement in coverage, Gordon recorded seven passes defended in 2021.
If the Jets take an edge rusher at four and a wide receiver at 10, one of these four prospects could be the pick if New York trades up into the late first round. At 35 or 38, if any of them would likely be strongly considered if they are still on the board.
There are many corners in this draft that could be valued in rounds two through four.
Roger McCreary (Auburn) and Tariq Woolen (UTSA) seem likely to be picked at some point in the second round or early third.
Woolen is well-known for his incredible combination of size (6-foot-4, 205 lbs, 33 5/8″ arms), speed (4.26), and explosion (42″ vertical). McCreary was a productive defender in the SEC, recording 14 passes defended in 2021, but is projected to play in the slot due to a lack of length (28⅞” arms).
A few likely third-round selections are Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska) and Marcus Jones (Houston). Jones’ top qualities are his special teams ability, speed, and tackling. Taylor-Britt is a good athlete (8.33 RAS) with 4.38 speed and versatility.
Some notable prospects who could fall to the Jets early in the fourth round (111th overall):
- Jalyn Armour-Davis (Alabama)
- Coby Bryant (Cincinnati)
- Damarri Mathis (Pittsburgh)
- Alontae Taylor (Tennessee)
- Martin Emerson (Mississippi State)
Damarri Mathis and Alontae Taylor each bring 4.3 speed, athleticism, and versatility to the defensive backfield. Jalyn Armour-Davis is a tall, long corner (6-foot, 30 7/8″ arms) with potential.
Coby Bryant provides quality experience with five productive years in college (35 career passes defended, seven interceptions in 2020-21), and he won the Jim Thorpe Award (awarded to the nation’s top defensive back) last season. Martin Emerson has great size (6-foot-1, 201 lbs, 33 1/2″ arms) and can play in press-man.
Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State), Joshua Williams (Fayetteville State), and Mario Goodrich (Clemson) are prime day-three targets for the Jets if they still have not acquired a cornerback by that point.
Final outlook for the Jets
It would be great for the Jets if one of Booth, McDuffie, Elam or Gordon ended up slipping to 35 or 38. To add youth and potential at an impact position with premium resources would be smart.
Adding one of these talented players to a group with D.J. Reed, Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, and Javelin Guidry would not only provide the Jets with adequate cornerback depth but potentially complete the group for the future.