Let’s rank the seven New York Jets draft picks in order of their likely rookie season contributions
After the mock draft season ends, that’s when the real draft analysis can begin.
After the initial hullabaloo about pick value and who went where, the focus turns to the players themselves. What do they bring to the table? How do they fit into their new homes?
The New York Jets made seven draft picks. Though the class will not be as impactful in Year 1 as 2022’s Rookie of the Year sweep, it still has a chance to fill in important holes on the Jets’ roster.
Which rookie picks are most and least likely to make an instant impact on the Jets?
1. C Joe Tippmann (No. 43)
The Jets’ second-round pick is highly likely to be their Week 1 starting center. As Michael Nania broke down, Joe Tippmann is one of the most complete center prospects to enter the league in recent years, as he ranked in the top 11 in college football in pass-blocking as well as both zone and gap-blocking.
Connor McGovern did a decent job in his three years manning the middle, but Tippmann brings the Jets a potential long-term answer at the position. His combination of length, athleticism, ability in space, and smarts make him a very strong bet to help the Jets’ offensive line. For a unit that was decimated in 2022, that would surely be a welcome sight.
Never mind that Tippmann is a center rather than a tackle; his rookie-year impact can still be very large. Imagine Tippmann, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Mekhi Becton leading the way on the right side of the line.
2. RB Izzy Abanikanda (No. 143)
With Breece Hall coming off a torn ACL, the Jets needed another running back in the mix. They drafted a back who may not have the same tackle-breaking ability as Hall but certainly has big-play potential (5.9 YPA, 20 rushing touchdowns in 2022). Izzy Abanikanda figures to battle for the Jets’ RB2 slot and see significant snaps almost immediately.
That being said, Abanikanda has holes in his game in both receiving (0.91 yards per route run in 2022) and pass protection, which will limit his snap count somewhat. Michael Carter and Bam Knight are both more polished overall.
Still, Abanikanda’s 4.4 speed, 9.88 RAS, one-cut style, and tendency for explosive plays in college suggest that he can provide instant thump for a Jets running game that went flat following Hall’s 2022 injury.
3. EDGE Will McDonald IV (No. 15)
It’s unusual for a team’s first-round pick to be projected as its third-most impactful player on a win-now team. That’s the main reason that many analysts disliked the Jets’ selection of Will McDonald.
That being said, McDonald has the potential to become a perennial sack nightmare in the Robert Saleh defense. He fits the Wide 9 like a glove with his twitch, bend, and multiple pass-rush moves.
It remains to be seen how often McDonald will be utilized in his first year. Jermaine Johnson only saw 27.4% of the team’s defensive snaps in his rookie season, and he had the advantage of being a much stronger run defender than McDonald is. Still, McDonald figures to play on the weak side, and the Jets’ desire to force more turnovers may give him more action than expected.
It would not be surprising to see McDonald have an impact in his rookie year, even in limited snaps. He might not light up the conventional stat sheet, but his 45% pass rush win rate in true pass sets doesn’t lie—and that was despite playing too much 4i technique.
4. OT Carter Warren (No. 120)
If this season goes the Jets’ way, Carter Warren won’t see a meaningful snap the entire year. The fact that the team just signed Billy Turner as a hybrid guard/tackle suggests that they’re trying to avoid a 2022 Max Mitchell situation.
Warren is more pro-ready in pass protection than most fourth-round picks, as an injury-plagued 2022 season cost him a chance at being a Day 2 pick. He faced more true pass sets than most other tackle prospects. Still, he has a lot of work to do in the run game and should not play much in Year 1.
That being said, if he is forced into action, he won’t be hung out to dry quite like Mitchell. He has NFL-level play strength and pass protection technique.
5. DB Jarrick Bernard-Converse (No. 184)
The Jets like their RAS kings and Jarrick Bernard-Converse was no exception, posting a 9.77 mark. Bernard-Converse played safety to start his college career before transitioning to cornerback. Due to his scuffles in coverage (103.1 QB rating against, 5 TDs allowed in 2022), the Jets are likely to move him back to safety, a la Jason Pinnock in 2021.
Still, Bernard-Converse figures to contribute as a special teamer in Year 1. Just as Pinnock looks better as an NFL safety than he did as a college corner, Bernard-Converse could possibly make that transition, too.
Given the Jets’ lack of safety depth, there is always the possibility that he sees defensive snaps, although that would be far from ideal for the team.
6. TE Zack Kuntz (No. 220)
With later-round picks, it’s hard to project if the player will make the team at all, let alone contribute. However, Zack Kuntz‘s mammoth size (6-foot-7, 255 pounds) and freakish athleticism (a perfect 10.00 RAS) make him more likely than most seventh-round tight ends to find himself a roster spot.
Kenny Yeboah has hung out as the Jets’ TE4 for the last few years for his blocking. However, Lawrence Cager made the Week 1 roster because of his speed as a converted receiver. Though that didn’t work out too well, the Jets could still favor him as a huge red zone target for Aaron Rodgers.
More likely than not, Kuntz will not see snaps unless one of the Jets’ top three tight ends gets injured. Still, you never know where the diamond in the rough will come from.
7. LB Zaire Barnes (No. 170)
Technically, if the season started today, Zaire Barnes would be the Jets’ starting weakside linebacker. Obviously, that is not actually going to happen. Barnes figures to be a Hamsah Nasirildeen-style special teams player in Year 1. He’s another one of the Jets’ RAS picks, posting a 9.12 mark.
I would list Zack Kuntz 4th, because I think they are going to use him as a big receiver.
I would list JBC 5th because he will see a lot of ST time, while hopefully Carter Warren never sees the field all year.
I’m surprised you think Barnes is ahead of Nasrildeen for the Will.
Ik trades like this rarely happen but if a team desperate for someone who can put pressure on the QB and was willing to part with a 4th rounder or maybe a LB/DT/S for Carl Lawson it would be very tempting to pull the trigger that would open $15m in cap space.
Ik most of our edge guys are young but we would still have JFM and to a lesser degree Huff as vets to stabilize the position and mentor the kids.
It’s a tough call unless we get a high motor linebacker who can cover.
LB is an under appreciated position in the Saleh D but that part of the field is where we gave up the most 3rd down conversions.
I love love love the strategy by the Jets in drafting uber athletic players.
Obviously they need to be good football players or very good players to have an impact.
You can coach up a guy who wants to learn who has freakish athleticism.
It may take a year or so depending on football skills but you can’t teach athleticism.
That’s God given! And I don’t want to over-reach on what I’m about to say but you don’t find the next mini Lawerence Taylor from a draftee with great technique, but an athletic freak like McDonald IV, he can be taught to be a sack machine with coaching and experience.
** ik it’s doubtfull there will ever be another LT but I’ll take a few mini Ts
Can a guy with a 10.0 RAS and a lot to learn at TE afford the time to also take practice reps on special teams?
I suppose the same question could be asked in context of converse and barnes, but they seem to have a higher level of basic competence at their positions, and I’ve read that TE has the largest learning curve of any position.