New York Jets fans will surely be eyeing the top OL and S prospects in the 2023 NFL draft
The 2023 NFL scouting combine has officially disappeared in the rearview mirror.
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Offensive line and safety seem to be the consensus top two needs (outside of quarterback) for the Jets. Whether it be the unreliability of Mekhi Becton’s health, or the fact that Jordan Whitehead and LaMarcus Joyner severely underperformed on a top-of-the-league defense, those two position groups will need to upgrade if Gang Green wants a chance at contention next season.
So out of the offensive linemen and safeties who were present in Indy for the combine, who impressed the most?
Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Broderick Jones ran the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds — the fastest among all offensive linemen. He was incredibly graceful with his movements during on-field workouts, changing directions on a dime. Add in the context that he measured in at 6-foot-5 with nearly 35-inch arms, and you’ve got yourself a top-20 lock.
Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones ran an official 4.97-second 40-yard dash, the fastest by any offensive lineman at the 2023 NFL Combine.
Jones earned a 85 athleticism score with his performance so far, pending shuttle and bench drills. pic.twitter.com/yw1UjDXw6O
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 5, 2023
Jones was also impressive during his podium session, giving thoughtful responses and showcasing some personality. When I asked if he met with the Jets, he said he believes so.
Jones is a name Jets fans are relatively familiar with as he’s been a player most commonly mocked to them with the 13th overall pick. He arrived at Indianapolis with high expectations and still managed to exceed them — if he’s there at 13, this feels like an easy pick.
Steve Avila, IOL, TCU
The interior lineman getting all the love up to this point in the draft process has been O’Cyrus Torrence, but Steve Avila’s been proving himself nearly just as good of a prospect.
During on-field drills, Avila showed surprising agility to go with the impressive play strength we already knew he had. Overall, Avila feels like a player who could be had on day 2 of the draft and be able to start from day 1 in the NFL.
Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Peter Skoronski is another name mentioned toward the top of NFL mock drafts, but the reason I’m including him here as a combine winner has to do with this weird narrative heading into the week that he somehow isn’t athletic.
Anyone saying that before sure isn’t saying it now.
Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski recorded the 2nd-best vertical (34.5") and broad jump (9'7") of the OL group at the 2023 NFL Combine, earning an 83 athleticism score.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 5, 2023
Skoronski posted the second-highest vertical and the second-longest broad jump of any offensive lineman at the combine, and then benched the fifth-most reps on the bench press. The concerns with his arm length aren’t going away, but Skoronski showed at the combine that at least for him, it might not really matter. This is another no-brainer for the Jets at 13 if he’s there.
Jartavius “Quan” Martin, S, Illinois
Illinois defensive backs put on a show in Indianapolis, and that’s without Devon Witherspoon participating in drills. There was perhaps no better performer among them than Jartavius Martin, who showed off borderline-silly athleticism with his workouts. Running the third-fastest 40-yard dash among safeties is impressive on its own, but it’s some of the other drills that truly separated him.
First off, Martin not only comfortably led all safeties in his ten-yard split, but he also led all defensive players (an indicator of elite twitchiness in his movement). He jumped the highest vertical of any player at the combine with 44 inches, which also made for the fifth-highest in combine history. He also had easily the longest broad jump among safeties (fourth-longest overall) at 11-foot-1.
Jartavius Martin with an INSANE 44" vertical😳
Highest by any player at the combine so far!
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 3, 2023
With numbers like that, it almost doesn’t matter what Martin put out on tape — he’s getting drafted by an NFL team.
Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
The most appealing part about Antonio Johnson (at least for the Jets) should be his size. Gang Green trotted out two sub-six-foot starting safeties last season, and that simply can’t be the case again in 2023.
At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, Johnson’s big, long frame was on full display in Indy, making the drills look relatively easy for him. He glided smoothly across the field and showed definite ball skills.
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) March 4, 2023
The only area Johnson struggled was with the agility drills, but at his size, this was to be expected.
If Johnson is available for the Jets in the second round, it would be very hard to pass on him, especially with the size and length he brings to the table.
Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
The biggest thing Ji’Ayir Brown is known for is his ball-hawk ability (10 INTs over two seasons as a starter), and he did not disappoint in that area at the combine.
During his on-field drills, it was evident from the jump that the former JUCO player is on a whole different level from the rest of the safety class when it comes to tracking the ball in the air — even when he has to adjust to it late.
Watch @PennStateFball Ji'Ayir Brown ability to track down this ball. 👀
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
While Alabama’s Brian Branch has long been viewed as the top safety in this year’s class, his underwhelming 40-time (4.58) could cause some teams to look elsewhere a bit later on. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who has Branch listed as a corner, has Brown as his top safety in the entire class.
Ian Roddy is on Twitter @IanRoddy_