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Projecting the New York Jets’ 2024 NFL draft big board

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Jets’ free agency haul creates big board mystery

Once upon a time, a short time ago in a galaxy incredibly close to home (without the threat of New Jersey earthquakes), no mystery surrounded the New York Jets‘ 2024 NFL draft plans. Joe Douglas‘s great wall for his veteran quarterback comfortably sat atop their wishlist.

The No. 10 overall pick isolated the stacked offensive tackle pool. Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga and Washington’s Troy Fautanu were all the rage. Sprinkle in a little of big man J.C. Latham of Alabama, whose stock continues to rise, and the offensive tackle pool suddenly featured a power five.

How could this not be the case—the offensive tackle attention? Even when excluding Aaron Rodgers‘s devastating Achilles injury on a three-step, cut-block play design, the Jets’ offensive line has been brutally woeful and overwhelmingly injured for much of the last three seasons.

Although a strong case pointing to the unit’s early-season sufficientness exists, all production rapidly tumbled downhill once Alijah Vera-Tucker exited the lineup via injury—in each of the last two seasons. (It also doesn’t help when the quarterback does not know what he’s looking at pre-snap, by the way.)

No matter where an individual stands on the Jets offensive line’s prior ceiling, solving both the production and injury concerns was Douglas’s beyond-obvious mission this offseason.

Then … the 2024 offseason began, starting with the free agency period.

The John Simpson signing happened.

The Morgan Moses trade happened.

The Tyron Smith deal happened.

Plus, Rodgers’s old Green Bay Packers buddy David Bakhtiari is still lingering in the free agency pool. Oh yeah, center Connor McGovern is also beside the beer-chugging tackle, still without a home.

In other words, by no means is the Jets’ current offensive line a finished product—even via free agency or the trade market.

So, what was once a forgone conclusion is now an all-out mystery. And that’s exactly where every general manager wants to live at the NFL draft’s commencement: the land of the wholly mysterious via draft projection.

The NFL draft is about projections, which are built on numbers that are formulated by the level of predictability. New York’s positive offseason haul has shoved it into the unpredictable neighborhood.

Thus, the New York Jets’ big board for the 2024 NFL draft has drastically changed in the last month. The following list is the Jets’ top-20 big-board projection.

No. 20-11

  • 20. Jer’Zhan Newton (IDL-Illinois)
  • 19. Amarius Mims (OT-Georgia)
  • 18. Cooper DeJean (CB-Iowa)
  • 17. Laiatu Latu (EDGE-UCLA)
  • 16. Byron Murphy II (IDL-Texas)
  • 15. Jared Verse (EDGE-Florida State)
  • 14. Terrion Arnold (CB-Alabama)
  • 13. Byron Murphy (IDL-Texas)
  • 12. Quinyon Mitchell (CB-Toledo)
  • 11. Troy Fautanu (OT-Washington)

Quarterbacks will be found nowhere on the New York Jets’ big board. That’s not to say Joe Douglas would pass up Caleb Williams at No. 10—if he miraculously falls to that spot—but including the position makes little to no sense.

Elsewhere, yes, positions matter. Offensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, and some defenders are highlighted on the board, with a “best available player” model leading the charge.

As seen above, the 20-11 spots feature many of the usual mid-Round 1 suspects. Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton may fall to late Round 1, but he’s the consensus second-best IDL (interior defensive lineman) on the board, behind only Texas DT Byron Murphy II.

A trio of cornerbacks appears despite the presence of the Jets’ already cemented cornerback room. But hey, a team’s big board is first about the best available player, with positional considerations as a complementary factor.

The only 20-11 prospect who could have easily squeezed into the top 10 is Washington’s Troy Fautanu, who’s considered a surefire top-five offensive tackle.

10. Brian Thomas Jr. (WR-LSU)

The top 10 begins with a blast from the New York Jets past: Bryan Thomas.

No, we’re not talking about linebacker Bryan Thomas, who the Jets drafted in the first round in 2003 and who ultimately tallied 33.5 sacks in 11 years as a pro; we’re referring to LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr.

Despite currently holding down the No. 4 wide receiver spot in this year’s draft, there are many who have him in the top three and some in the top two. Thomas is a decently-sized weapon who can high-point the ball with the best of them, complemented by incredible raw attributes.

At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Thomas Jr. could easily mesh with the likes of Garrett Wilson, Mike Williams, Allen Lazard and Xavier Gipson.

9. Dallas Turner (EDGE-Alabama)

As the lone defender in the top 10, Alabama product Dallas Turner is the undisputed best EDGE option in the 2024 NFL draft.

It’s unlikely that Joe Douglas will turn in his card at No. 10 for an EDGE defender, considering the Haason Reddick deal covers many previous ills, but Turner deserves top-10 status on the Jets’ big board.

Turner could have easily found himself higher on the list if not for positional need.

8. Taliese Fuaga (OT-Oregon State)

A late riser, Taliese Fuaga has shaken things up at his position in this draft. Make no mistake about it: Fuaga is a serious talent. The problem with ranking him higher lies in his actual position and place in the league.

Is Fuaga a true offensive tackle? Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 324 pounds with 33.125-inch arms, Fuaga has mainly played right tackle for Oregon State. Some talent evaluators see him at right tackle in the NFL, whereas others believe he’s best at guard.

Either way, I’m still having trouble pinning down exactly what the Jets’ talent evaluators think of the kid. They could view him as high as No. 2 at his position and as low as No. 5.

Taliese Fuaga clocks in at OT No. 4 on this big board, ahead of Washington’s Troy Fautanu (No. 8 overall).

7. Rome Odunze (WR-Washington)

The No. 7 spot brings us back to Aaron Rodgers’s potential weaponry with Washington’s Rome Odunze.

Yes, wide receiver is deep in this draft. In fact, wide receiver and vertical threat tight ends are deep in every NFL draft these days, thanks to how football is played in the modern era.

But that’s exactly why the bigger-bodied weapons like Odunze usually find themselves ahead of the pack. Combine size with speed and quickness, and that’s what you have with the wideouts on the Jets big board.

Odunze is also 6-foot-3 (212 pounds) and decently fast. Odunze’s 4.45 forty-yard time ranked him 18th at his position at the NFL Combine. It doesn’t come close to touching Brian Thomas Jr.’s 4.33 forty-yard-dash time, which places him second at WR.

Nonetheless, Odunze finds himself ahead of Thomas for ball skills at his size. I’m leaning more toward Thomas than Odunze, but I’ll go chalk on the Jets’ big board.

6. Olu Fashanu (OT-Penn State)

Penn State’s Olu Fashanu was once in the no-doubt-about-it upper-tier of the offensive tackle discussion— encroaching on Joe Alt’s territory. These days, after a slight fall, he’s battling it out with the likes of the top five.

Fashanu is the classic lanky OT. Standing 6-foot-6 with 34-inch arms, the Penn State tackle is the classic pass-protecting body.

He’s not overly monstrous—weighing 312 pounds—which does not perfectly fit with the Jets’ newfound mauler look, but a Fashanu pick smells like a red-shirt rookie year while looking up to Tyron Smith along the way.

Can Fashanu let his skills flow at the next level? This is my question when watching the kid. Sometimes way too stiff, and oftentimes thinking about technique too much, Fashanu seemingly traps himself in his own mind.

5. J.C. Latham (OT-Alabama)

Speaking of a mauler, meet J.C. Latham. The Alabama stud is the late offensive tackle riser whose status continues to elevate the closer we get to the draft.

Many boards still have Olu Fashanu ahead of Latham, but the latter edges the former on the New York Jets’ big board thanks to Joe Douglas’s drafting history and the state of the team’s current offensive line.

Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 342 pounds, Latham is much more of a mauler that fits the Douglas eye. Consider Douglas’s first-ever draft pick, Mekhi Becton, and then consider the Jets’ current O-line.

Tyron Smith is a monster, Morgan Moses is also a run-blocking mauler, and John Simpson will often pull and kick out for Breece Hall in gap-principled rushes in 2024. Oh yeah, Latham also has freakishly long arms at 35.125 inches.

If I had to project the Jets’ perfect NFL draft scenario, it would be to witness J.C. Latham drop just a bit so a trade-down situation can occur while still snagging the Alabama mauler in mid-Round 1.

And if I had to provide one name as a draft projection for the New York Jets, it would be J.C. Latham—whether it’s a trade-down and select or No. 10 pick.

4. Brock Bowers (TE-Georgia)

Ok, now we enter serious territory. The top four are pretty undisputable in my mind; the only issue regarding the pick at No. 10 depends on how things unfold.

Brock Bowers at No. 4 does not necessarily mean the New York Jets would automatically select him at No. 10 over J.C. Latham or another offensive lineman. Pound for pound, however, I believe Bowers’s skill set and uniqueness place him ahead of Latham, Fashanu, Fuaga and Fautanu.

Bowers, 21, would instantly fit into the Jets’ offensive attack—particularly with a legend like Aaron Rodgers at the helm. But he might only initially fit in as a receiving initially.

One of the toughest transitions from college to the pros happens at tight end. Even tougher is the in-line transition for a tight end. Bowers isn’t the biggest tight end in the world—which is usually not an issue in today’s high-flying league.

However, 2024 is a win-low situation for this team. Selecting a vertical-threat tight end that does not complement or fit in with the Jets’ mauling and gap-principled rush attack is tough to imagine. (This isn’t to say the Jets will ignore zone-scheme concepts entirely, only that the balance between man and zone will be more obvious.)

Bowers absolutely has a shot to fit in with a nasty offensive line in his NFL career, but it usually takes some time—even for the tremendous blocking tight end prospects like Michael Mayer.

If Bowers is selected at No. 10, I view him as a receiver in 2024. Today’s modern game makes it incredibly difficult for offensive linemen and tight ends to get up to speed with the nuances of trench play—something that was much easier to figure out decades ago.

3. Malik Nabers (WR-LSU)

Yes, Malik Nabers deserves to edge out Brock Bowers. The ultimate deciding factor in this battle is what was touched on previously: positional transition.

Unlike yesteryear, which featured much tougher transitions for wide receivers (college to pros), it’s much easier nowadays. Simply flip-flop offensive linemen and wide receivers in this equation. Since high school and college ball players play a throwing-first, wide-open brand of football, this is the new way of talent evaluation.

Therefore, Nabers is No. 3 with his lightning-quick short-space playmaking and shiftiness that opens up any NFL offense.

Unlike Brian Thomas Jr. and Rome Odunze, Nabers’s height does not highlight his resume. Standing 6-foot-0 and weighing 200 pounds, Nabers can do almost everything on the field.

The only question with Nabers surrounds his fit in the Jets offense. New York keeps Garrett Wilson as the top slot option in a perfect world. That would place Mike Williams and Allen Lazard on the boundaries, with Xavier Gipson as the fourth option.

Injecting Nabers would force Wilson outside much more. But hey, if this kid falls to No. 10, I’m sure the Jets would be glad to make it work.

2. Joe Alt (OT-Notre Dame)

The more realistic drop-down scenario comes at the No. 2 spot with Notre Dame’s Joe Alt.

Alt, 21, still finds himself atop the offensive tackle rankings in the 2024 NFL draft. Some believe Alt is a bit overhyped, and others have J.C. Latham ranked slightly ahead, but I’ll bet on the idea that Joe Douglas loves the pedigree involved.

Standing a mountainous 6-foot-9 and weighing 321 pounds, Alt brings 34.25-inch arms to the table. His frame is perfectly fit to serve as a quarterback’s blindside anchor, while his lineage screams consistency.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected his father, John Alt, 21st overall in 1984. Alt played his entire 13-year NFL career in Kansas City, twice qualifying for the Pro Bowl (1992 and 1993) while also blocking for Joe Montana for a couple of years (1993 and 1994).

Alt checks most of the boxes when thinking of the Joe Douglas eye. Although he declared for the NFL draft after his junior season, Alt was a captain, leader, and generally available (playing 12 games in each of his final two collegiate seasons).

If the Tennessee Titans pass on Alt, and he somehow falls to No. 10, I believe the Jets will fall over themselves to select him there. The only possible way it doesn’t happen is if the offensive tackle position falls as a whole, and a juicy trade-down scenario presents itself for another OT several picks later.

1. Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR-Ohio State)

The top option on the projected New York Jets’ NFL draft big board brings even more pro football lineage to the table. If Joe Alt possesses it solidly, then Marvin Harrison Jr. is drenched in it.

Harrison Jr., 21, features everything an NFL talent evaluator wants in a modern weapon. He brings size to the table (6-foot-3 and 212 pounds) while also showcasing fantastic straight-line speed and small-space quickness for his frame.

Sure, he’s not nearly as quick as Malik Nabers is, but Harrison’s ball skills and body control along the sideline are as epic as it gets for an NFL draft prospect. Not only can he go up and get the ball, but he can also shine as a possession guy near the boundary.

Plus, Harrison fits with the Jets’ current weaponry in a beautiful way. Imagine Garrett Wilson in the slot with both Mike Williams and Harrison on the boundary. Harrison must edge Joe Alt on the big board, as he’d impact the roster much more significantly and quickly.

If Marvin Harrison somehow drops to No. 10, forget about it (as New Yorkers often blurt out with excitement). Joe Douglas and the New York Jets would not hesitate to turn in that draft selection card.

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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

Unfortunately, your top 3 will all be gone before the Jets pick.

I would swap out Bowers and put in Odunze for all the reasons you listed for Harrison. He’s the same size as Harrison and just as fast, and has good hands, and Wilson in the slot with Williams and Odunze on the outside also sounds pretty sweet.

But I’d still trade back.

1 month ago

I love Brian Thomas Jr. and if they can somehow move back grab him then one of the later “developmental OL” it would be a grand slam. I’ve read some draft-nicks have 6-7 first round grades on OL.

1 month ago
Reply to  Robby Sabo

Easy to say, finding a trade partner who is willing to give fair value is something all together different.