Jets NFL draft preview: 3 players likely on radar with No. 3 overall pick

The Jets have no shortage of positional needs and could trade down in Round 1. If they stay, expect them to select a defensive standout.

Last year, the New York Jets were a lock to select a quarterback with the no. 3 overall pick.

Fast forward to Thursday, and Gang Green once again selects third in the NFL Draft. But after Sam Darnold’s solid rookie campaign has him looking like a potential long-term solution under center, this team has some flexibility.

The Jets could use plenty of upgrades on defense, with an utter lack of edge rushers being the most glaring weakness. Darnold and his offense also would benefit from further upgrades along the offensive line, as well as more help at wide receiver.

As a result of last year’s pre-draft trade, in which the Jets moved up three spots in Round 1 and sent several picks to the Indianapolis Colts in order to be in position to take a top QB, the Jets only have six picks over seven rounds this weekend. Although they lack a second-round pick, they do still possess two third-round selections on Day 2 Friday. Don’t be stunned if the Jets manage to trade down from No. 3 to net more picks and add additional talent.

If the Jets do stay at No. 3, they’ll be in position to add one of the top players available. Here’s a look at the three defensive standouts most likely to sport green and white — and now black, for some reason — on Sundays this fall.

Nick Bosa

If the Arizona Cardinals turn heads and pass up quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1, this top edge rusher from Ohio State will be their choice. The San Francisco 49ers also could target him just before the Jets’ turn, too.

That is to say, Bosa’s a bit of a long shot to wind up in New York, but what a coup it would be if he did. The 6-4, 266-pound junior spent the bulk of 2018 at the top of media big boards before Heisman Trophy winner Murray’s rapid ascent. Even with his season over early due to a September injury, his stock barely dropped. 

In 29 games for the Big East behemoth Buckeyes, Bosa tallied 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. His football pedigree is strong; father John was a 1987 first-round pick who tallied seven sacks in 31 games for the Miami Dolphins, and brother Joey is a Pro Bowl edge rusher for the Los Angeles Chargers with 28.5 sacks in 35 games.

Bosa has All-Pro potential at one of the most critical positions in today’s NFL. General manager Mike Maccagnan would be thrilled to find him still available around 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Josh Allen

Not to be confused with the Buffalo Bills quarterback of the same name, the Kentucky senior is the second-best edge rusher in the draft class, after Bosa. At 6-5 and 262 pounds, Allen was a monster in the SEC East with 17 sacks in 13 games last year. That tally includes three in his collegiate swan song, a victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.

Allen played his high school ball in Montclair, New Jersey, not far from both MetLife Stadium and the Jets’ headquarters in Florham Park. He wasn’t a coveted prospect entering college, but his superlative senior year and his ability to drop into coverage distinguish him from this year’s pack.

The concern for Jets fans has to be whether his monster sack numbers from 2018 are misleading. He’d notched just 14.5 sacks in his first three seasons for the Wildcats. Allen is his own player, but that won’t stop pessimists from remembering 2008 first-round bust Vernon Gholston, whose senior year stats at Ohio State weren’t consistent with his earlier production.

Still, if the Jets are set on upgrading the pass rush and Bosa is off the board, Allen is the clear choice. In that case, fans ought to hope for plenty of Josh Allen sacks on Josh Allen when the Jets meet Buffalo twice a year.

Quinnen Williams

Considered by some to be the top talent in the draft, regardless of position, Williams would certainly upgrade the Jets’ defensive front.

Although not a pure pass rusher in the mold of Bosa and Allen, Williams won the Outland Trophy with Alabama last year as the nation’s top interior lineman. His 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks for the Crimson Tide, a national powerhouse, as a redshirt sophomore point to a player whose skills could translate well at the professional level.

At 6-3 and 303 pounds, Williams has the frame and talent to collapse the pocket and apply heat to opposing quarterbacks in a way the Jets weren’t able to last year. Pairing him next to 24-year-old Leonard Williams, a 2016 Pro Bowl selection, wouldn’t just be confusing; it could maximize opportunities for both talented defensive linemen.

Jets overall picks

Round 1: No. 3
Round 3: Nos. 68 and 93
Round 4: No. 105
Round 6: No. 196
Round 7: No. 217

Scott Fontana