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3 enticing mid-round WR draft targets for NY Jets

Javon Baker
Javon Baker, Getty Images

The New York Jets are likely to draft a wide receiver at some point

What if the New York Jets don’t trade up for a wide receiver or have one fall in their laps?

As much as Joe Blewett may wish it into existence, the likelihood that Joe Douglas mortgages quite a bit of draft capital to nab Malik Nabers remains slim. Perhaps Rome Odunze will fall to No. 10, but even that seems unlikely with the Chicago Bears one spot ahead of them.

In that scenario, even if the Jets draft Brock Bowers as another weapon, they’ll still have a void at wide receiver. It’s unlikely that Robert Saleh is inclined to enter the season with Allen Lazard as the clear-cut No. 3 receiver and fill-in at No. 2 if Mike Williams is not ready. The third round of the draft seems the most likely spot for them to nab a receiver.

While this draft is considered deep at receiver, there’s a precipitous drop-off from Rome Odunze (the consensus No. 3 receiver in the draft) to the next group of prospects and then a large group of receivers lurking in the middle. We’ll use NFL Mock Draft Database’s projections and look mainly for third-rounders.

Who are some possible receiver fits for the Jets at No. 72?

Javon Baker, UCF

After transferring from Alabama to Central Florida, Javon Baker found his place, posting 796 receiving yards in 2022 and 1,139 in 2023. Baker’s 21.9 yards per reception in 2023 ranked second among 153 qualified FBS receivers (min. 70 targets), as he caught 15 of 30 deep targets for 574 yards and 4 touchdowns.

There are a few appealing aspects of Baker’s game that might work well for the Jets. He has some inside-outside versatility, playing 72.9% of his snaps outside and 27.1% in the slot in 2023. Many of the other mid-round prospects are slot-only players, while Baker would allow the Jets to rotate their receivers in and out seamlessly. At 6-foot-1¼ and 202 pounds, Baker has solid size for the position.

Additionally, Baker brings strong contested catch value. He caught 9 of 16 contested targets (56.3%) in 2023, ranking in the 78th percentile among qualified receivers, and 11 of 21 (52.4%) in 2022, posting a career 56.4% rate. If Mike Williams needs to be slow-played into the lineup, Baker could potentially cover a bit of that role, albeit at a smaller size.

Despite a lack of superior speed (4.54 40-yard dash), Baker posted above-average YAC numbers in 2023. His 7.2 YAC per reception ranked in the 83rd percentile among qualified FBS receivers. While that was a significant boost from his 4.0 mark in 2022, he showed on film the twitch and instincts to pivot on a dime after the catch and find grass between defenders. Although his 7 missed tackles forced (30th percentile) indicate that he will not run over players, he still brings some YAC ability.

On the flip side, Baker has some clear weaknesses. The worst is his drops; he posted a 10.3% rate in 2023 (19th percentile) following a 12.5% rate in 2022. Additionally, while Baker has shown plenty of route-running nuance, he has yet to put it all together to create consistent separation. He also tends to bow out his routes.

Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Jermaine Burton played primarily on the outside in 2023, seeing 80.1% of his snaps out wide. He posted 20.5 yards per reception and 8 touchdowns courtesy of catching 11 of 21 deep targets (52.4%) for 484 yards and 5 scores. He was primarily a deep threat in Alabama’s offense.

Burton’s 82nd-percentile hand size helps him with regular catching and contested targets. He had no drops in 2023 and posted just a 2.9% drop rate in his college career. He also had a 56.3% contested catch rate (9 of 16) in 2023 and 52.6% for his career.

Burton doesn’t have much YAC ability, posting 3.3 YAC per reception in 2023 and 4.1 for his career. Even for a vertical threat, ranking in the 9th percentile in YAC is very low. Despite a 9.05 Relative Athletic Score, his lack of agility testing may indicate that he knew he would score poorly in that area.

On film, it’s rare to see Burton run much else besides deep routes. He did not run the full route tree, raising questions about whether he can. Additionally, there are myriad character concerns regarding him, which may cause the Jets to stay away.

Malik Washington, Virginia

If the Jets are willing to go for a slot-only player, Malik Washington is an enticing target. His 80.4% catch rate and 1,384 receiving yards were both the fifth-highest in the FBS. His 0.315 missed tackles forced was in the 88th percentile.

Any versatility Washington may have had is hamstrung by his height. At 5-foot-8½ with 12th-percentile arm length and 14th-percentile wingspan, Washington is confined to the slot. His short arms hurt him against press coverage, allowing defenders to get their hands on him first.

Still, for such a small player, Washington is surprisingly strong at the catch point. He caught 11 of 17 contested targets in 2023 (64.7%), ranking in the 90th percentile among FBS receivers. He caught 34 of 60 career contested catches (56.7%), showcasing that his 2023 success was not a fluke.

Washington also had solid deep numbers for a little guy. He caught 12 of 22 deep targets (54.5%) for 419 yards and three touchdowns. His 19.05 yards per route run on deep balls ranked 17th in the nation.

Washington is widely projected as a third or fourth-round prospect. Though his slot limitations might cause the Jets to stay away, he’s an intriguing option compared to many of the other slot receivers.

Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky

Like Washington, Malachi Corley projects as a slot-only receiver, albeit not at quite as small a size. His 5-foot-11, 215-pound frame is quite stocky and somewhat unusual for an NFL receiver.

Corley’s stock in trade is YAC. His 8.6 YAC per reception tied for the seventh-most among FBS receivers. His 0.190 missed tackles forced per touch was in the 65th percentile.

The bigger issue with Corley is that he’s more of a one-trick pony than Washington. He caught just 4 of 17 contested targets (23.5%), and 38.3% of his receptions came behind the line of scrimmage, the 17th-highest rate among qualified FBS receivers. He had just a 5.5 average depth of target, the fourth-lowest. In other words, Corley relied on schemed-up plays for much of his production.

On the NFL Mock Draft Database website, Corley is ranked as the No. 57 player on the big board and mocked at No. 63 to the 49ers. Still, his projection varies widely, and he could certainly be available when the Jets pick at No. 72.

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Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

How about Jay’Lynn Polk?

1 month ago

Thanks for adding some “depth” to what we are looking for in draft picks. I like Baker, I know the drops but he’s got some upside. I’ve been trying to figure out, does Corley return kicks? Would he be good with the new rules? If yes, then he might be more valuable.

Thoughts on Roman Wilson? You think he’s def a round 2 pick?