Before we know it, April will be here, and the 2023 NFL Draft will be upon us. All too often, that’s the best time of the year for fans of the New York Jets. This year has a different tone, though, even as the Jets need help at critical positions such as quarterback and the offensive line.
Jets 2023 Draft Prospects To Target at NFL Combine
The franchise has more talent on the roster than at any time in the past dozen years. Jets general manager Joe Douglas would surely love to repeat the transformational 2022 NFL Draft haul he assembled in this class. Bringing in a class closer to 2022 than Douglas’ disastrous 2020 haul will be key for this roster to take its next step.
We’re looking at six 2023 NFL Draft prospects the Jets need to target.
OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
Paris Johnson Jr. would be manna from heaven if he’s available to the Jets at pick 13. He fills a need and would be an incredible bargain in the middle of the round. The Ohio State junior made the successful transition from guard to left tackle in 2022, and NFL scouts are excited about his future. Johnson is big, athletic, and has terrific upside.
He’s also a much better prospect than the often-talked-about Peter Skoronski of Northwestern. Johnson will be a good fit at LT in a zone-blocking system — in other words, he fits a need for the Jets at both position and scheme.
The problem is Johnson is unlikely to make it out of the draft’s initial 10 selections, and Douglas will have to trade up if he wants the former Buckeye.
S Brian Branch, Alabama
The Jets have few needs on the defensive side of the ball except for a rangy, ball-hawking safety. Enter Alabama’s Brian Branch. I have the junior rated higher than most, as he sits in the eighth spot on my big board.
Branch plays the safety spot like a cornerback. His ball skills are that good. He’s fast, explosive, and also tough. Branch totaled 90 tackles last season, ranking third on the Tide. He was good as a junior in 2021, then watched his game take off this past season.
Douglas started his press conference at the Combine joking that “I’m sure you guys have a lot of questions about the safeties,” in reference to the team’s need at QB and their involvement in Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr, but the team desperately needs help at safety.
The last time the Jets had a playmaking safety was almost 35 years ago when Erik McMillan roamed the field. Branch can help alleviate the need.
C Luke Wypler, Ohio State
As previously mentioned, New York desperately needs help on the offensive line, with center being at the top of the list. The franchise has a history of great, durable centers; Joe Fields, Jim Sweeney, Kevin Mawae, and Nick Mangold (ironically an Ohio State alum). Recently, however, the position has been a disaster and only added to the team’s offensive woes.
Luke Wypler has been an outstanding center for the past two years and displayed consistent development in his game. Take a look at the CFB Playoff semifinal game when Wypler controlled top-five prospect Jalen Carter. Watch the Wisconsin game from early last season when he dominated Keeanu Benton. Wypler would be the perfect fit for the Jets’ zone-blocking scheme.
But I was alerted during Senior Bowl week that Douglas is not very high on Wypler. Douglas best be careful, as after Wypler, the talent at the center position falls off a cliff in this year’s draft.
QB Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Right about now, Jets fans are shouting expletives at the computer screen and asking if I’m nuts, so let me explain. Despite Douglas stating at the Combine, “We still feel like there is a very high ceiling with Zach [Wilson]. We still feel strongly that Zach is going to be able to hit his ceiling”, it’s well known the Jets will be looking at one of two veteran quarterbacks in the coming weeks.
I reported from the Senior Bowl the franchise would go all out in their attempt to reel in Rodgers. While Carr probably makes more sense for the team, it’s also possible the former Raiders quarterback could land elsewhere. The Jets have also made no attempt to retain Mike White, who looked like their heir apparent at times over the past two seasons.
But they can’t stop adding to the position with one veteran.
If the Jets starting quarterback in 2023 is, in fact, Rodgers, the team will have to address their quarterback of the distant future sooner rather than later. Aidan O’Connell comes off two spectacular seasons at Purdue, and as I wrote prior to the Shrine Bowl, there are plenty in the league who feel he could be the best signal-caller to come out of this draft.
WR Demario Douglas, Liberty
The Jets have a need at receiver, though it’s not a pressing one that requires a big investment. The team seemingly bowed to fan pressure last year and re-signed Braxton Berrios to a two-year deal, but the results were disastrous. The five-year veteran caught just 18 passes for 145 yards and had several costly drops, including a dropped touchdown against the Vikings that cost the Jets the game.
Demario Douglas is a dynamic receiver who has the size and style of Berrios but produces on a consistent basis. As we saw during Shrine Bowl practices, Douglas runs scissor-sharp routes, has great game speed, and catches everything in sight. He also comes with return potential.
P Adam Korsak, Rutgers
Braden Mann is one of the few players from the 2020 draft still on the Jets’ roster. But he needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.
Adam Korsak, a local product from nearby Rutgers, heads towards April as one of the highest-rated punters available in the draft. He’s a phenomenal directional punter with an NFL leg. Korsak has been one of the best in the nation at placing his punts inside the 20-yard line and has a career-long of 77 yards.
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy called Korsak the best punter he’s seen in the last quarter century. If the Jets select Korsak on Day 3 of the draft, he immediately upgrades the position.
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