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3 shocking wild cards NY Jets could select in the first round

Zay Flowers, BC, NFL Draft, NY Jets
Zay Flowers, NFL Draft, New York Jets, Getty Images

Be prepared for the New York Jets to make one of these surprise first-round selections

With the 2023 NFL draft merely hours away, most fans have a general idea of what players their teams might select.

Roster needs and player rankings are endlessly discussed in the months between the Super Bowl and the draft, turning most analysis into nothing more than regurgitated groupthink by the time the draft actually begins.

For the New York Jets, that conversation has been centered around the offensive tackle position, with a handful of prospects being constantly argued for.

Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright have been the hot names associated with New York throughout the draft process, with one of the four likely to be a Jet by the end of the night.

However, as any fan of the league should know very well, nothing in the NFL draft is ever certain until the commissioner reads the pick aloud for the world to hear, and on rare occasions, not even until afterward (see: Manning, Eli).

While the safe odds say that the Jets will take an offensive tackle with the 15th overall pick, other, less-discussed positions and players cannot be totally ruled out.

These are three wild card draft prospects the Jets could target in the first round.

Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

With the Jets re-signing their 2022 starting center, Connor McGovern, New York’s biggest need outside of offensive tackle is now at defensive tackle.

If the Jets bypass OT in round one, they could look to the defensive interior, and if they do, Clemson’s Bryan Bresee and his boundless, untapped potential could be too enticing for New York to ignore.

Bresee fits the Jets’ mold of explosive interior defenders who create havoc up front by penetrating into the backfield and ruining the offense’s game plans with their quickness and power.

The top overall high school prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, Bresee posted a 93rd-percentile 4.86 forty-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds. He explodes off the ball in a flash, jumping across gaps and olé-ing blockers with ease on his way to the ball.

Bresee is an exceptional athlete, but his technique and football IQ are a bit lacking.

That said, when you dive into his background, it’s easy to understand why.

Bresee tore his ACL four games into his sophomore season, limiting his overall experience. Roughly a year later, his younger sister, Ella, tragically passed away from an aggressive form of brain cancer, giving Bresee a new mental and emotional struggle to overcome right after he got done recovering from his injury.

Despite this, Bresee still went on to start 10 games for the Tigers in 2022, notching five-and-half tackles for loss and three-and-a-half sacks along the way.

If the Jets take Bresee, it’s likely because all of the draft’s top offensive tackles are already off the board, or Bresee’s sky-high ceiling and ideal scheme fit make him a more tempting option than whatever offensive tackles do remain.

Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Along with offensive and defensive tackle, wide receiver has been a commonly-mocked position for New York ever since their reported interest in now-Ravens wideout Odell Beckham Jr.

Jets receiver Garrett Wilson’s former Ohio State teammate, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, is usually the name assigned to Gang Green when discussing the idea of New York adding a first-round wide receiver.

However, there’s a good chance Smith-Njigba will be gone by the time the Jets pick at 15, and if the Jets are hell-bent on giving Aaron Rodgers a shiny new toy even if JSN is off the board, Zay Flowers from Boston College is their best remaining option.

Flowers is a dynamic deep threat who could fill the slot receiver role left open after New York dealt wideout Elijah Moore to the Cleveland Browns.

With 4.42 forty-yard dash speed and excellent ball-tracking, Flowers is a big play waiting to happen that makes defenses cover every inch of grass on the field on every single play.

He’s more than just a speed freak though, outplaying his 5-foot-9 and 182-pound frame with a big man’s mentality when the ball is in the air, and shows no fear when asked to make tough grabs over the middle.

Making sure Aaron Rodgers is protected is a major priority for the Jets, hence their noted links to offensive linemen, but making sure Rodgers has plenty of weapons is a major priority too.

Like with Bresee, if all of the best offensive tackles, and Smith-Njigba, are already taken by other teams, New York could look to target Zay Flowers to be their new WR3, assuming Flowers himself is even still available.

Nolan Smith, DE, Georgia

Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas love pass rushers. That much has been obvious over their shared time in Florham Park.

While far from a position of need, if the Jets truly follow the “best player available” approach they claim to live by, Georgia defensive end Nolan Smith would likely be the top player on the board if he’s still available at 15th overall, and could end up wearing green as a result.

Smith is a blur off the edge, screaming past offensive tackles with lightning quicks on his way to the quarterback. He led all linebackers and defensive linemen at the combine with an incredible 4.39 forty-yard dash, confirming the speed he flashed on tape.

Beyond the rocket boosters he has strapped to his rear end, Smith plays with a red-hot motor that shows up in his run defense, easily taking on tight ends and offensive tackles despite his smaller, 240-pound frame.

Maybe most importantly to the Jets, Smith was a team captain at Georgia and is completely adored by everyone in Athens, players and coaches alike.

For a team that values culture and pass rushing as highly as the Jets do, Nolan Smith is a perfect fit. If those values win out over more pressing needs, and if he’s on the board for them to have, Smith could very well be a Jet.

Who will the Jets actually select when they’re on the clock in a few short hours at 15th overall? We’ll have to wait and see, but if history is any indication, the assumed least-likely choices oftentimes end up being the right choices.

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Matt Galemmo
1 year ago

Do you think Saleh would try and move Smith to LB?

1 year ago

I don’t want to be Debbie downer or anything, but if they select any of these three players, it would be a fireable offense. Fireable. Absolutely horrible picks.

1 year ago
Reply to  Snax63

Downvotes? Awesome. Greta job everyone. Bresee and Flowers are not first round talents, and Smith doesn’t fit the scheme at all, but go ahead, downvote me. I’m right.

1 year ago
Reply to  Snax63

Disagree on Bresee and Flowers. They would both upgrade this roster. Not sold on Smith, but his athletic traits are enticing. The only other possible candidates I would like in the 15 range is Skoronski or Robinson. Otherwise if you can, trade down.