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NY Jets draft: Which first-round target is the best scheme fit?

Joe Alt
Joe Alt

Scheme fit could be the tiebreaker when the New York Jets are on the clock

The NFL draft is impossible to predict. In each draft class, many of the most highly touted prospects will flop in the NFL, while many prospects who received little fanfare will become superstars.

Perhaps the most important variable in determining a prospect’s fate is how well he fits with the team that lands him. Some guys land in the perfect spot to hone their talent. Some guys land with a team that isn’t ideal for maximizing their strengths.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top prospects in the 2024 draft class and rate how well they would fit with the New York Jets. The Jets have the 10th overall pick, but since they could conceivably trade up or down, we’ll evaluate all of the non-quarterback offensive prospects who are ranked top-20 on the consensus big board at NFL Mock Draft Database.

We’ll give each prospect a 0-to-10 rating based on their potential fit in the Jets’ offensive scheme.

#3 overall: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

I don’t think we need to do any overthinking with this one. Harrison is the complete package, boasting size, athleticism, and an elite all-around skill set. He can line up anywhere you need him to and run any route in the book. MHJ would have no issues fitting in any scheme.

Rating: 10/10

#5 overall: LSU WR Malik Nabers

Nabers is a similarly elite prospect to Harrison who would also fit well in just about any offense. However, Nabers’ inside/outside versatility would make him a particularly appealing fit with the Jets.

While Mike Williams will lean heavily to the outside, Garrett Wilson projects to have a balanced inside/outside split as the WR1 in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. If you look back to 2021, Davante Adams’ last season with Rodgers, 44% of Adams’ targets came on plays where he was lined up in the slot. Adams finished the season ranked ninth in receptions (56), eighth in receiving yards (610), and second in receiving touchdowns (7) when lined up in the slot.

With a similar skill set to Adams and overall elite route-running skills in the short-to-intermediate game, I think the Jets should aim to get Wilson as many targets out of the slot as they can – but not too many, as you still want to utilize his deep speed and acrobatic catch skills on the outside. A balanced role is the best way to maximize Wilson.

In 2023, Wilson saw 36% of his targets from the slot. I see that number climbing higher in the future, especially with the addition of Williams and a healthy Rodgers. The Jets needed to use Wilson on the outside more than they probably wanted to in 2023 because they had no other vertical threats on the team. Now, with Williams providing a tremendous vertical threat opposite Wilson, the Jets can push Wilson closer to Adams’ 44% slot target rate – or even higher. In my opinion, he should ideally be around 50%.

So, while I don’t expect Wilson to be a full-on slot receiver, I do think he will see around half of his targets in that role. Considering Williams will be mostly used on the outside, it would be ideal to have a third WR who is capable of playing both roles, as it would allow the Jets’ offense to be flexible in how they utilize Wilson. If they rounded out the trio with a pure slot guy, it could restrict Wilson from reaching an ideal number of slot targets, and if they rounded it out with another pure outside guy, it could tether Wilson too heavily to the slot. A versatile WR3 is the best option.

That brings us to Nabers, who was utilized in a balanced fashion last season and dominated no matter where he lined up. In 2023, Nabers ran 54% of his routes from the slot and 46% from the outside. He could slide right into the Jets’ offense and immediately provide the ability to rotate between different roles, giving the Jets maximum flexibility.

Rating: 10/10

#6 overall: Washington WR Rome Odunze

While I think Odunze is a great prospect – I discussed how his contested catch efficiency is a promising sign for his chances of future success – there are questions regarding whether he is the best fit for the Jets’ offense in 2024.

Unlike Nabers, Odunze heavily leaned to the outside in college. This past season, he ran 82% of his routes from the outside and 17% from the slot. Overall, just 16% of his targets came from the slot.

Odunze was also far less efficient in the rare situations when he did line up in the slot. On his slot targets, Odunze caught 60.9% of his targets, produced a first down or a touchdown on 43.5% of his targets, and generated a 91.4 passer rating. Compare this to his outside targets: 66.7% catch rate, 54.7% first down/TD rate, and a 124.1 passer rating.

While Odunze’s contested catch skills are special, there are concerns about his route running, which Joe Blewett detailed in his film review. These are among the many route-running concerns noted in Blewett’s scouting report:

  • Release package needs massive amount of work
  • Can squeeze himself to sideline
  • Can break off wrong foot
  • Lacks explosiveness
  • Dead time on routes that break back to QB
  • Some wasted steps in route running
  • Doesn’t always commit to breaks
  • Slips out of breaks too often
  • Creates little to no separation vs press
  • Not always good at avoiding secondary contact during route stem
  • Would like to see him use his size better during route stem
  • Isn’t great at finding soft spots in zone and during scramble drills
  • Can be too upright before snap

With these concerns in mind, it’s no surprise that Odunze was significantly less effective out of the slot and was hardly used there.

All things considered, Odunze projects as an outside-heavy, vertical contested-catch threat in Year 1. He has the potential to round out his overall game in time, but as a rookie, you can only fully trust him to do many of the same things that Mike Williams does. For that reason, he’s not the greatest fit for the Jets if you’re solely talking about his ability to help them win in 2024.

Obviously, when evaluating draft prospects, it’s never solely about the upcoming season. You draft players for the next five-plus years, not just for the present-day roster. Williams isn’t under contract for 2025, so it ultimately shouldn’t matter that Odunze’s skill set is similar if the Jets believe he will develop into a star long-term.

However, at the end of the day, this is a win-now football team that ideally wants to use its first-round pick on someone who can maximize the team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl in 2024. Odunze is a tantalizing prospect, but he might be a shaky fit in the Jets’ WR room as it is currently constructed.

In year one, Odunze would likely be redundant to Williams, failing to provide the needed versatility that someone like Nabers would bring. The Jets’ offense could become less versatile. Wilson might be forced to play a heavy slot role so Odunze and Williams could stay outside, making Wilson less explosive overall since he would get fewer deep shots on the outside.

Odunze is a fantastic prospect and still a player worth considering for the Jets. However, when talking about the fit in year one, there might be better options.

Rating: 5/10

#9 overall: Notre Dame OT Joe Alt

Pass blocking is the number one priority for the Jets when evaluating any offensive lineman as a potential addition to an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. They proved it with their veteran additions in free agency. With Tyron Smith, John Simpson, and Morgan Moses, the Jets added three starting linemen who posted good numbers in pass protection last season – especially in one-on-one situations and true pass set situations.

This makes Joe Alt a fantastic fit. As I broke down recently, Alt has the best pass-blocking resume in true pass sets among the consensus top five tackles, at least from a statistical perspective. He faced true pass sets the most often and was the most impressive on those plays.

Alt appears more prepared to handle NFL pass protection than any of the other top tackles. That is extremely appealing for the Jets. They need a backup tackle to Tyron Smith who can be trusted to start multiple games as a rookie. Alt’s experience and success in true pass sets is a sign that he wouldn’t hinder Rodgers’ ability to hold the ball for long-developing deep shots to Garrett Wilson and Mike Williams.

On top of that, Alt comes from a Fighting Irish offense that leaned toward gap blocking plays. Alt’s 54% gap blocking rate in 2023 ranked in the 85th percentile among FBS tackles with at least 200 total run blocking snaps. This should prepare him to play in a Jets offense that projects to transition into a gap blocking scheme this year.

At least on paper, Alt appears to be a dream fit for the Jets’ offensive line.

Rating: 10/10

#10 overall: Georgia TE Brock Bowers

While I have criticized the idea of drafting Bowers at No. 10, I actually do like his fit in the Jets’ offense.

Bowers’ greatest strength is his YAC. That would fit tremendously alongside Rodgers, who has transitioned into a quick-passing, YAC-reliant quarterback in the late stages of his career. Consider that in his 2021 MVP season, Rodgers ranked 26th out of 31 qualified QBs in air yards per completion (5.3) but fourth in YAC per completion (5.9). Rodgers gained 52.7% of his passing yards via YAC, the fourth-highest rate.

Rodgers’ athleticism and reliance on mobility were already declining. Now that he is coming off a torn Achilles and is approaching 40 years old, he is likely going to become even more of a pocket-bound field general who relies on quick passes. This is why it is vital for the Jets to load up on YAC talent in their skill-position room. They have two high-level YAC weapons in Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, but that’s it for the time being. Bowers would give them a third YAC monster – one at three different positions.

Bowers’ slot versatility also creates plenty of unique options for the Jets’ offense. In 2023, Bowers ran 48% of his routes from the slot and just 38% from in-line. This is appealing for the Jets’ 2024 offense because it could allow Tyler Conklin to still have a featured role as the primary tight end while Bowers slides in as the quasi-WR3 and draws mismatches. It creates some intriguing lineup possibilities.

The Jets could throw out a 12 personnel look (1 RB/2 TE/2 WR) that features Wilson and Williams on the outside, Bowers in the slot against a safety or linebacker, Conklin in-line, and Hall in the backfield. With Bowers’ slot skills, it’s essentially a 3-WR look, but his labeling as a tight end will force the defense into heavy personnel packages, giving him a matchup advantage.

While I am very skeptical of whether Bowers would make enough of an impact to be worth taking at No. 10, I cannot deny that he would be an intriguing fit in this offense on paper.

Rating: 9/10

#14 overall: Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

While none of the top five tackle prospects have “poor” pass blocking reputations, some have stronger resumes than others, and Fuaga’s is on the lower end. Of the five, his frequency of true pass sets was not close to Joe Alt or JC Latham’s, while his grade on true pass sets was tied with Troy Fautanu for the lowest.

Fuaga ran gap plays at a low rate with the Beavers. His 27.5% gap blocking rate was in the 16th percentile among qualified FBS tackles in 2023. However, he earned rave reviews for his performance on those scarce plays. PFF rated him with a 78.9 gap blocking grade, third-best among FBS tackles. This gives him intriguing potential in a gap scheme, although the small sample size suggests he may need some time to adjust.

An aggressive player with a knack for overpowering highlight plays, Fuaga likely boosted his grade through a collection of big-time blocks that popped off the screen, but the overall consistency of his run blocking technique seems to need work, as evidenced by some of the concerns listed in Joe Blewett’s scouting report:

  • Can get too flat on first level in run game
  • Can try to deliver too much power on 1st level of combos putting himself out of position
  • Can get splashed in run game
  • Has to work feet in run game more
  • Can overdo power trying to toss defenders instead of staying engaged
  • Can lunge for contact
  • Lacks explosion off of snap

These issues wouldn’t play well in a gap scheme. Fuaga clearly has the potential to be a great run blocker, but he might not be an ideal year-one fit for New York’s run game.

Rating: 6/10

#15 overall: Penn State OT Olu Fashanu

Fashanu’s frequency of true pass sets was tied for the lowest among the top five tackles, but his grade was the second-best and ranked in the 97th percentile among FBS tackles. Overall, Fashanu posted dominant production as a pass blocker in 2023, allowing zero sacks, zero hits, and 10 hurries over 382 pass blocking snaps.

The outlook in pass protection is promising, but there are major red flags in the run game. In Joe Blewett’s scouting report of Fashanu, he mentioned multiple weaknesses that would be concerning in a gap scheme:

  • Hands shoot from low too often in run game
  • Doesn’t roll hips in run game
  • Can struggle vs. NFL power
  • Doesn’t finish blocks
  • Lacks nasty
  • High-waisted, which hurts in leverage game
  • Splashed in run game too often
  • Needs to bring feet into run blocks
  • Doesn’t always “cover” play side gap in run game

Fashanu actually earned a good gap blocking grade at PFF, ranking in the 90th percentile with a 69.5 grade, but the film doesn’t lie. He also ran these plays at a low frequency, ranking in the 29th percentile with a 32% gap blocking rate.

Good fit in pass protection, poor fit in the run game. The Jets have to decide whether they’re okay with the run game issues – and how quickly they believe Fashanu can fix them.

Rating: 5/10

#19 overall: Washington OT Troy Fautanu

Fautanu tied for the lowest true pass set frequency and the lowest true pass set grade among the top five tackles. He wasn’t bad at all in either category relative to all FBS tackles, but among the first-round-worthy players, he just isn’t quite as trusty in that area.

What you do like about Fautanu’s pass blocking resume is that he played in a pass-heavy offense, preparing him for the NFL world. He ranked third in the nation with 623 pass blocking snaps. That’s a number you can expect the typical starting NFL tackle to play in a full season, so he is ready for an NFL workload in pass protection.

Despite his true pass set numbers being slightly lower than his first-round peers, Fautanu did have the fifth-best overall pass blocking grade in the nation among qualified tackles at PFF, ranking one spot behind Fashanu and two spots behind Alt.

Fautanu offers gap scheme experience, ranking in the 82nd percentile among qualified tackles with a 52% gap rate in 2023. However, he did not grade well at PFF, ranking in the 37th percentile with a 57.5 gap blocking grade.

Rating: 6/10

#20 overall: Alabama OT JC Latham

Latham had a very high true pass set frequency at 44.7%, closely behind Alt and well ahead of the other three top-ranked tackles. His 79.6 true pass set grade was behind Alt and Fashanu but ahead of Fuaga and Fautanu.

The run game numbers are solid. Latham had a 49% gap rate (74th percentile) and a 68.7 gap grade (89th percentile). In addition, Blewett’s scouting report lists many strengths that bode well for a gap scheme:

  • Size
  • Length
  • Explosion off of snap
  • Aggressive
  • Power
  • Core strength
  • Elite grip strength
  • Defines gaps in run game

Outside of Alt, I get the sense that Latham is the second-best fit for the Jets among the top offensive tackle prospects.

Rating: 9/10

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1 month ago

Would you consider JC Latham to be a significant upgrade to a 5th year Mekhi Becton coming back on a “show me” contract?

1 month ago
Reply to  vnick12