Jaxon Smith-Njigba, NY Jets Mock Draft, Garrett Wilson
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, NFL Mock Draft, New York Jets, Getty Images

A New York Jets mock draft comprised of the best-available prospect at each pick — solely based on their analytics

We’re going to construct a complete seven-round New York Jets mock draft – with a twist. Each pick is going to be made with analytics as the sole factor. For the sake of this mock, we are going to forget about the film, off-field intangibles, or injuries. All we’re focused on is what the analytics say about each prospect’s on-field resume.

Throughout the mock draft, I will select the available prospect with the best statistical/analytical profile among the realistic options – I’m not going to reach for a 200th-ranked prospect from an FCS school in the first round. I will limit the options to players who realistically could be selected in that slot.

Positional value and team needs will be taken into account as well. In the early rounds, I will lean toward positions that are considered to be more valuable, but I will consider the Jets’ needs. However, I will not hesitate to take the best player available if he plays a position that might be considered a secondary need for New York rather than a primary need.

The goal at each pick is to take the best player available based on the analytics – within reason.

Without further ado, let’s hop into it. I used the Jets X-Factor Offseason Simulator to conduct this mock draft. For the purpose of this mock, I assumed the Jets’ 42nd overall pick would be traded to Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers.

Round 1, Pick 13

  • Best available options considered: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, OT Paris Johnson Jr., OT Broderick Jones

Realistically, the Jets would probably take Johnson or Jones here, as the OT position is arguably their biggest need. And, analytically speaking, it’s a very close call between Johnson and Jones, as I broke down here. Peter Skoronski would be the dream pick at OT, as his analytics are off the charts, but he has already been selected in this mock.

But if Jaxon Smith-Njigba is somehow on the board here at No. 13 (which doesn’t seem likely but isn’t impossible), he will be the best player available from an analytics perspective, without question. Johnson and Jones are great prospects, but Smith-Njigba is on a whole different level. He has an incredible statistical resume and figures to be a difference-maker in the NFL from day one.

Smith-Njigba hardly played in 2022 due to hamstring injuries. His only full season was in 2021 – and he showed otherworldly potential as a 19-year-old true sophomore. Smith-Njigba led all FBS wide receivers with 4.01 yards per route run. His 90.0% catch rate on contested targets was also the country’s best mark. His total of 790 yards after the catch was second-best in the FBS and first among Power-5 wide receivers.

Simply put, JSN was the best wide receiver in college football at 19 years old. He is poised to be a star in the NFL. His trajectory is similar to Ja’Marr Chase, who dominated the nation in his second season but didn’t play in his final season prior to the draft. Chase proved that his year-two peak carried more weight than his lack of playing time in the final pre-draft season.

In 2021, Smith-Njigba led the Buckeyes with 95 receptions and 1,606 receiving yards, outperforming teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who each went on to become first-round picks in the ensuing draft. Both players exceeded 1,000 yards as rookies.

Think about how good Wilson and Olave looked this past season, and then think about how Smith-Njigba outperformed them both when they were all on the same team – with Smith-Njigba being younger and less experienced than them.

Sticking with our mission in this analytics-based mock draft, the Jets have to take Smith-Njigba here. It will create some uncertainty at the OT position, but don’t worry – we will address that soon enough.

With JSN in the fold, the Jets’ wide receiver unit would have a realistic chance to establish itself as the scariest group in football. The reunited duo of Wilson and Smith-Njigba could contend to be the league’s best pairing. Then, you add in the depth – Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, and likely one of Odell Beckham Jr. or Corey Davis – and this is a world-class collection of weapons.

Aaron Rodgers throwing to a unit like that would be a dream come true for Jets fans.

The Pick: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Round 2, Pick 43

  • Best available options considered: C John Michael Schmitz, S Jordan Battle, S Antonio Johnson, OT Dawand Jones

John Michael Schmitz is appealing here, as are the two safeties, Jordan Battle and Antonio Johnson. But the available prospect with the best statistical resume is actually Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones, which is great news for us after we passed on the tackle position in the first round.

In my breakdown of the top offensive tackle prospects, we found out that Jones’ production is not only on par with some of the top-tier tackle prospects, but as a matter of fact, he has better numbers in many areas than guys like Broderick Jones and his Buckeyes teammate Paris Johnson.

Jones allowed only five pressures on 419 pass-blocking snaps in 2022. His allowed pressure rate of 1.19% was the lowest among 228 qualified FBS tackles. Broderick Jones was close behind in the eighth spot (1.91%), but Paris Johnson was all the way at 43rd (3.12%).

On true pass sets, Dawand Jones was still dominant, allowing a pressure rate of 1.32% that ranked second-best in the country. His maintained excellence on true pass sets is a signal that his overall success was legitimate and not buoyed by his scheme or surroundings.

Jones also dominated in the run game, being ranked as the sixth-best run-blocking tackle in the FBS by Pro Football Focus. This placed him higher than Peter Skoronski (8th), Paris Johnson (10th), and Broderick Jones (42nd).

The concerns around Dawand Jones are mostly based on his size (6-foot-8, 374 pounds), as there are risks and limitations that can come with a player who carries such a massive frame – Jets fans already know this with Mekhi Becton.

However, if we’re looking purely at on-field production, Jones is the most dominant prospect available at this point of our mock draft. No tackle in college football allowed pressure at a lower rate than Jones last year, and he did it against Big Ten competition. That alone would make him a highly appealing pick for the Jets considering their need at the OT position.

As for the center position, Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz is an excellent prospect who has generated a lot of conversation among Jets fans as a potential second-round target, but his analytical resume actually doesn’t match the hype. In 2022, Schmitz allowed a pressure rate of 2.6%, which ranked 61st out of 136 qualified FBS centers. He was barely above the middle of the pack for a college center.

I think it’s conceivable to say the Jets will sign free agent center Ben Jones prior to the draft, so they should able to survive without having picked a center with a high selection.

We start with two consecutive Buckeyes to bolster the offense.

The Pick: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State

Round 4, Pick 112

The Pick: IDL Byron Young, Alabama

The Jets are still pining for depth on the interior of their defensive line, and they get it here with the productive Byron Young.

Among the prospects available at this draft slot, Young stood out as the most impressive player analytically thanks to his pass rush production. Young recorded 28 pressures in 2022, which tied for 31st among interior defensive linemen in the FBS and second-best in the SEC, trailing only projected top-five pick Jalen Carter (32).

Young’s pass-rush win rate (12.5%) ranked at the 86th percentile among FBS IDL with at least 100 pass-rush snaps, and his pass-rush productivity rate (5.9) – which measures per-snap pressure rate with double weight to sacks – ranked at the 89th percentile.

Young also tied for 30th among FBS IDL with 26 solo tackles against the run, showing his ability to make plays in that phase as well.

Round 5, Pick 143

The Pick: S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State

Despite his consensus billing as a day-three prospect, Ronnie Hickman recorded some outstanding numbers in coverage for Ohio State last season. The junior safety allowed a passer rating of 39.0 on throws into his coverage, which ranked 17th-best out of 447 qualified FBS safeties (96th percentile). He was targeted 30 times and allowed 13 catches (43.3%) for 107 yards (3.6 per target), no touchdowns, and one interception.

Hickman’s tackling needs work (11 misses in 2022), but his coverage production is tantalizing. He’s regarded as a box safety, so he likely wouldn’t start for the Jets in year one (as the Jets have a greater need at FS right now), but he could be groomed to replace Chuck Clark or Jordan Whitehead as the Jets’ starting strong safety in 2024.

Round 7, Pick 224

TRADE: I traded the Jets’ sixth-round pick (#207) to Atlanta for two seventh-round picks (#224 and #225)

The Pick: EDGE Ochaun Mathis, Nebraska

Ochaun Mathis is an older prospect, as he is a redshirt senior, but he is an interesting edge prospect who offers a combination of excellent length (35.25-inch arms, 94th percentile for EDGE) and good speed (4.74 forty, 65th percentile) at nearly 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds.

His 2022 production stood out as arguably the most impressive among the available prospects in this high seventh-round slot. Mathis ranked at the 80th percentile among qualified FBS edge rushers with a 16.4% pass-rush win rate, and he also ranked at the 82nd percentile with a 7.8% run-stop rate.

The Jets drafted two edge rushers last year, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them adding another developmental edge rusher in the later portion of this year’s draft. Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich love their defensive line rotation, which requires strong depth. To ensure they can utilize this play style effectively on a yearly basis, it would help to keep a sustained pipeline of young talent brewing in the back end of the depth chart.

Round 7, Pick 225

The Pick: IOL T.J. Bass, Oregon

T.J. Bass played left tackle in his senior year at Oregon but projects as a guard at the next level.

Bass is intriguing to me because of the production he recorded earlier in his college career when he was playing guard. Bass was less impressive near the end of his career as a left tackle, but he started out as a left guard. Midway through the 2021 season, he was shining as a left guard until he was moved outside and saw his production drop off.

Through his first six games of 2021, Bass was rated as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best guard in the FBS, including second-best among Power-5 guards.

Bass is not the best all-around athlete (5.48 forty) but his impressive mark in one particular category could suggest he’d be a good fit for the Jets’ wide-zone running scheme: the broad jump. Bass’ 109-inch broad jump places him at the 87th percentile among guards.

The broad jump shows explosiveness, which is a key trait in the wide-zone scheme as linemen must get out of their stance quickly so they can beat their man to the outside. All five of the Jets’ Week 1 starting offensive linemen in 2022 recorded a broad jump length that placed them above the 60th percentile at their respective positions – suggesting this drill truly is a solid indicator of which linemen might have a better chance of being identified by the Jets as a smooth scheme fit.

I would like to see the Jets select at least one offensive lineman in the later rounds of this year’s draft. Over the past few years, the Jets have not been building a strong back-end pipeline of talent for their offensive line, and that’s why they have to keep digging in the free agency scrap heap whenever one of their starters gets hurt. They haven’t had many young, homegrown players in place who are ready to step up.

Joe Douglas hails from the Philadelphia Eagles, who have done a better job of building their offensive line pipeline than any other franchise in the NFL. Philadelphia seemingly always has a homegrown kid who is well-developed and ready to step in if a veteran starter either leaves the team or gets injured. Douglas must begin to take after his former team and start setting the Jets up for long-term success in the offensive trenches.

The haul

Here it is: Our analytics-based mock draft for the New York Jets.

  • Round 1, Pick 13: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
  • Round 2, Pick 43: OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
  • Round 4, Pick 112: IDL Byron Young, Alabama
  • Round 5, Pick 143: S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State
  • Round 7, Pick 224: EDGE Ochaun Mathis, Nebraska
  • Round 7, Pick 225: IOL T.J. Bass, Oregon

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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7 months ago

I like it and I’m 100% on board with #13 doesn’t have to be OL. I’ll take heat for this but would you take the best OT in the NFL or T. Kelce? I’d take Kelce. I think narrowing down the pick to a position leaves room for missing on a player. The Jets are in essence adding 2-1st round picks to the OL with the return of Becton, and AVT. Let’s say they add Rogers and he also improves the OL just by his presence. Pick #13 should be the best player. They can lean toward need at other points in the draft.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
7 months ago

I would still trade down from 13.

7 months ago

I agree, I don’t think it’s a particularly strong draft and I think they can find “similar starters” late 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds.

Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
7 months ago

Two questions jumped to mind: who did GB take at 42, and where did Stromberg go?

7 months ago

I’d take this draft under your assumptions (FA: Center). Definitely need to do our due diligence to take a BPA at 13, or be able to trade back for more picks (as you did).