Grading Jets 2023 NFL Draft selections: late round steals improve overall outlook

Can a Giants or Jets rookie win Defensive Rookie of the Year?
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Joe Douglas and the New York Jets did not have a poor draft by any stretch of the imagination over the weekend. It was just a far different group than the one Gang Green had selected in the year prior. 

That’s what happens though when you hit on almost every selection through as a general manager. The need to draft certain players go by the wayside when your team is already full of top talent. New York’s general manager understood that at the very least going into the 2023 draft. The Jets still had needs, but they centered more on looking for depth at key positions as opposed to finding blue-chip players. 

It wasn’t a bad draft by any means for New York, and it’ll take a few years to properly judge just how good the 2023 class will become, but as we reach a full day since the end of the selections, now is a good a time as any to grade them out. 

So let’s review just how good the 2023 draft class can be for the Jets going into their rookie seasons. 

Best Pick: Israel Abanikanda – RB, Pittsburgh

When the Jets took Abanikanda in the fourth round out of Pittsburgh, they not only got their best value pick of the draft, they received one of the biggest steals in the class as well. Abanikanda is coming off a season where he averaged well over five yards a carry and 21 touchdowns. He has the return-making ability and the speed to be an absolute menace for opponents. This was such a smart pick for New York and could be the best one they make this year. 

Worst Pick: Zaire Barnes – LB, Western Michigan

New York needed offensive line help and some depth along the defensive line. Picking Zaire Barnes made little sense, especially after going linebacker strong in the UDFA process. Barnes can grow into a special teams piece potentially but there’s a good chance he is cut after his first training camp.

Sleeper Pick: Jack Kuntz – TE, ODU

Put it this way, every team’s fanbase wanted their general manager to find a way to bring Jack Kuntz onto their roster. The fact Douglas got him in the seventh round is remarkable. Kuntz had the highest RAS scoring of any incoming tight end and could very well be the best in a loaded class. If there’s a member of this rookie class that I think can start right away, or at least later on in the season, it’s this one. 

Overreaction Pick: Will McDonald IV and Joe Tippmann

There is way too much of an overreaction between the Jets’ first two picks and I can’t choose between either of them in this category. Will McDonald IV has the most sacks recorded in Big-12 history and fits the scheme the Jets want to run like a glove. Tippman on the other hand may not have been graded higher than John Michael Schmitz, but he’s also a better fit for the Nathaniel Hackett scheme.

New York went into the 2023 draft needing defensive line depth, and offensive line depth – whether it be at tackle or on the interior. They solved both those needs with legitimate starters on both sides. People panicking because neither pick was a tackle need to touch grass. 

Overall Grade: B

Some argue the 2023 NFL Draft class was underwhelming but I disagree. The Jets came in with a plan in place to use this draft to bolster their depth at key positions. They did so at every turn. With their picks, the Jets are better than they were just a week ago. 

And when judging draft picks so early in the process, if a team improved the outlook of their roster (not everyone did) then that is more than enough of a reason to feel optimistic. 

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