Possessing an opportunity to nab two instant starters in this draft, the Jets might not be in lockstep with their two top-10 picks. While the team’s wide receiver pursuit continues to be connected to the No. 10 choice, its No. 4 pick supplies more intrigue.
GM Joe Douglas “loves” North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. Although Douglas could supersede any other staffer’s preference, Vacchiano’s mock draft features Robert Saleh winning a power struggle that concludes with defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on his way to the Big Apple.
The Jets’ Thibodeaux visit last week involved a grilling on the motivation and personality issues that have affected the Oregon product’s draft stock, Vacchiano adds, noting that the Jets were impressed with the polarizing pass rusher. The Lions have also been connected to Thibodeaux, but the issues that have dinged his stock may be too much for Dan Campbell. The second-year Lions coach is not believed to be high on Thibodeaux, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Gang Green would then be in position, should the Texans pass at No. 3, to stop a potential Thibodeaux freefall.
George Fant‘s emergence lessens the Jets’ O-line need, but Mekhi Becton‘s reliability nosedive has the 2020 first-round pick on unstable ground. The Jets are prepared to try Becton on the right side, and Vacchiano adds Ekwonu may not be a Day 1 starter if selected by the Jets. That would be unusual for a top-five pick and would depend on Becton’s readiness, but this overlap — despite the Jets’ interest in adding an impact tackle — could push the team to spend its top pick on another position.
This could certainly go the other way as well, which would have the Jets using three first-round picks on O-linemen in three years. Hearing Ekwonu connected to the Jets more than anyone else, Breer mocks the tackle to New York. Ekwonu played both tackle and guard with the Wolfpack; this could solve the positional overlap with Becton. Some teams view guard as Ekwonu’s best position, Breer adds.
Carl Lawson‘s ACL tear wounded the Jets’ pass rush before last season started, and Saleh’s first Jets defense ranked last. Although Lawson is set to return, the Jets still have a need on the edge. The team has famously struggled to address its edge position since 2006’s John Abraham trade. No Jet edge defender registered more than two sacks last season.