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Look for NY Jets to target these post-Combine risers

Devin Leary
Devin Leary

The New York Jets will have their eyes on the combine’s top risers

The biggest event of draft season is officially in the books! Well, outside of the actual draft.

Regardless of semantics, the NFL Combine has come and gone for another season. It was another year filled with impressive feats of athleticism, such as former Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy breaking the 40-yard-dash record at 4.21 seconds.

More importantly, some key standouts raised their stock at positions of need for the New York Jets. Whether at the oft-discussed wide receiver and offensive line positions or at more underrated positions of need, the Jets are in a good spot this draft season.

Without wasting any more time, here are some post-combine risers that the Jets could target in the 2024 NFL draft.

Ricky Pearsall Jr., Wide Receiver, Florida

The talent at the wide receiver position in this upcoming draft class is almost unbelievable. Beginning with Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers, there are a variety of players at the position who could make an instant impact from day one.

While not seen as a first-round pick, Florida’s Ricky Pearsall Jr. continued his great draft process and is one of the biggest risers from the past two months.

Pearsall Jr. was a force at the Senior Bowl, displaying an upper-level ability to separate and make catches at every level of the field. Not many cornerbacks could stay in front of him.

If the combine did anything for Pearsall Jr., it solidified his status as one of the most talented receivers in the entire draft class.

He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash, had a 41-inch vertical jump, and a broad jump over 10 feet. Other testing numbers for Pearsall Jr. included a 4.05 short shuttle time and a 6.64 3-cone time, which was the best out of all wide receivers.

The athletic testing numbers do not mean much if they cannot translate to the field, but Pearsall Jr. also looked the part during the drills.

Pearsall Jr. displayed the crisp route running he showed at the Senior Bowl and was smooth in every drill. He also showed solid hands at multiple levels of the field.

If the Jets can manage to get back into the second round, Pearsall Jr. would be a great complement to Garrett Wilson. He would constantly be a matchup issue for defenses, allowing Aaron Rodgers and the Jets’ offense to operate at its highest level.

Troy Fautanu, Offensive Lineman, Washington

While wide receiver is a significant need for the Jets, the offensive line is arguably an even bigger one.

The Jets must address three starting spots and add depth to their unit, a very tall task for a single offseason. As a result, many people expect the team to address the position early in free agency and the draft.

While players like Joe Alt, Olu Fashanu, and Taliese Fuaga have been constantly linked to the team, former University of Washington offensive tackle Troy Fautanu is in the conversation after a strong combine performance.

Fautanu was a critical piece of the Washington offense, bringing good run and pass blocking to the table. In 448 pass-blocking opportunities, Fautanu allowed 17 total pressures and two sacks, giving him a 3.8% pressure rate for the 2023 season.

The primary question surrounding the former Husky was not his play but his measurables. Before the combine, many saw Fautanu as a player who would primarily play guard. His supposed arm length would be an issue against longer players at the NFL level.

That may no longer be the case for Fautanu. Measuring at the combine, Fautanu had 34.5-inch arms, well above the threshold for offensive tackles at the NFL level. He was also listed above 6-foot-3 and had an 81.5-inch wingspan.

Additionally, Fautanu was very successful during the testing and fieldwork portions of the combine.

He had a 5.01 40-yard dash with a 1.71 10-yard split. He also registered a 32.5-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-5-inch broad jump, helping him notch a 9.45 Relative Athletic Score. That number ranks 72nd all-time out of 1,293 offensive tackles since 1987.

On the field, Fautanu looked fluid and extremely athletic. He constantly kept his feet underneath him while shuffling, never wasting any movement. Additionally, Fautanu was great in space during the drills.

While not having the hype of the bigger names in the class, Fautanu may be one of the best possible picks for the Jets. He has the necessary length to play outside, and with his athletic ability, he could be similar to Alijah Vera-Tucker in his potential to play wherever the team needs him.

Kris Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Michigan

Yes, a defensive player is a potential target for the Jets.

While the Jets need to massively upgrade on the offensive side of the ball, they have an extremely underrated need on the interior of their defensive line. Whether a run-stopper, a pass rusher, or a player that provides a bit of both, the team needs to find a long-term running mate for superstar defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

This year’s draft class is not as loaded at defensive tackle as the offensive line and wide receiver. However, an intriguing name on the rise has some family ties to the Jets.

Defensive tackle prospect Kris Jenkins Jr., the son of former Jet Kris Jenkins, is a player the team could target with a potential Day 2 selection.

Jenkins Jr. was a two-year starter at Michigan, playing a key role on the team’s 2023 championship team. While a bit undersized, only weighing 299 pounds, Jenkins Jr. is extremely explosive and strong as a player.

Jenkins only proved that distinction to be more accurate at the NFL Combine. The defensive tackle registered 29 reps on the bench press, tied for third-best among all defensive linemen. He also ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and had a 9-foot-7-inch broad jump, proving his explosiveness.

In the drill work, Jenkins Jr. was smooth and explosive. He showed off quick and powerful hands, light feet, and great balance.

Jenkins Jr., if selected by the Jets, would have the potential to form a formidable  long-term duo alongside Quinnen Williams.

Isaac Guerendo, Running Back, Louisville

Another less-talked-about need the Jets have is at the running back position.

The team is extremely thin at the position outside of Breece Hall. Israel Abanikanda has the potential to be a good player for the team, but they were hesitant to play him for large stretches of last season. Additionally, Dalvin Cook was a major bust and did not contribute anything significant.

While the team will most likely add a low-cost veteran in free agency, former Lousiville running back Isaac Guerendo is a player who should be in play after an extremely strong combine performance.

The 6-foot, 221-pound running back tested like an athletic freak in almost every capacity. He ran a blazing 4.33 40-yard dash with a 1.51 10-yard split. Guerendo also had an impressive 41-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-9-inch broad jump.

Guerendo’s 9.99 RAS was the second-best score out of the 1,745 total running backs in the database’s system.

Furthermore, Next Gen Stats gave Guerendo an athletic score of 99, being just the fifth running back to do so. He also ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any 220+ pound running back since 2003.

Combined with soft hands displayed in the drill work, Guerendo has the overall skill set of a player that is worth taking a shot on.

He would form an intriguing two-headed monster with star running back Breece Hall. Guerendo and Hall would allow the Jets to attack defenses on the edges constantly, have a sustained rushing attack, and open up even more avenues for the Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack.

Devin Leary, Quarterback, Kentucky

If anyone watched the Jets last season, they would realize that New York needs to upgrade the quarterback situation behind Aaron Rodgers.

A veteran like Jacoby Brissett or Ryan Tannehill is the route the Jets will most likely take as a safety net for Rodgers. In addition, the team should look toward the draft for a developmental option behind Rodgers.

Due to his performance at the combine, former NC State and Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary is a rising option the Jets should target in the later rounds of the draft.

The New Jersey native threw for 85 touchdowns and 9,251 yards over his five college seasons. His career high of 35 came in 2021 when he threw for 3,435 yards and averaged eight yards per attempt.

After a slightly below-average year at Kentucky in 2023, Leary was not getting much draft buzz heading into Indianapolis.

The quarterback then proceeded to look great during the on-field drills. He was able to hit throws at all levels of the field and had good timing with his wideouts. His footwork was smooth and never erratic on any of his dropbacks.

Leary would be a great fit for a team desperately needing a quarterback beyond Aaron Rodgers. With the ability he has shown and the luxury of learning behind a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Leary would have a great chance to keep the Jets’ contending window open after Rodgers departs.

The draft process is hitting the homestretch, meaning there is still room for many things to change.

New York could solve some of its needs in free agency, changing its entire draft strategy. Conversely, it could strike out on its targets and be forced to address as many needs as possible in the draft.

Regardless of how things play out in the coming weeks, these five players are ones the Jets should be keeping an eye on. If they can land a few of them on draft night, both fans and the organization should be excited about the results they could bring to the table in their rookie seasons.

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4 months ago

Fautanu and Leary have been players I like for a while now. I am in agreement that a trade back and a DT with that pick is in play. I like Jenkins a lot, I don’t know how long he’ll last but Sweat is the monster I covet.