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Notebook | In NFL Draft, QB Run Would Help the Jets

Jets Own 3 Picks in the First 43 Selections

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws a pass against Kansas State during the second half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud Are the Headliners; Anthony Richardson and Will Levis Could Also Be Top-10 Selections

The Jets are in the market for a quarterback, but not one who has spent the past few years playing games mostly on Saturdays.

The Green & White and Aaron Rodgers, 39, could be destined for a partnership in the 2023 season, and perhaps beyond.

Already here are Zach Wilson, the likely No. 2; Tim Boyle, who recently signed as a free agent and has known new OC Nathaniel Hackett since Hackett tried to recruit him to Syracuse (where he was an assistant) out of high school; and the burly Chris Streveler.

So when it comes to the NFL Draft in two weeks in Union Station in Kansas City, MO, the Jets will be dispassionate observers, sitting with the No. 13 overall pick, amid a likely frenzy for quarterbacks at the top of the draft.

Unlike in past years, the Jets have fewer holes to fill and could be nibbling around the edges to supplement the talent they already have. They have added depth along the interior offensive line with Wes Schweitzer and Trystan Colon, and expect veteran Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton to return and contribute. Still, protecting Rodgers, under the assumption he will be taking snaps, will be a priority.

And as we know, Douglas and HC Robert Saleh believe you never have enough talent and depth along the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. Early predictions have quarterbacks -- in no particular order -- Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky) coming off the board in the draft's first hour or so. If that happens, the Jets would have their pick from among the top nine positional players -- assuming Douglas sits tight at No. 13.

At present, Carolina (which traded up), Houston, Arizona and Indianapolis own Picks 1-4. All but Arizona are expected to seek a franchise QB. The conventional wisdom is that Arizona, with a bevy of needs, will trade the No. 3 pick to a QB-needy team.

"They're trading the pick and quarterbacks are going one, two, three, four," one general manager told Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post last week.

There are, however, other teams circling in the quarterback pool, teams like Las Vegas (which recently signed injury-prone free agent Jimmy Garoppolo), Detroit, Atlanta and Tennessee. Possibly also in the mix is Baltimore, which is currently dealing with uncertainty surrounding QB Lamar Jackson. San Francisco, too?

See's Daniel Jeremiah's updated list of the top 50 prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Top Four
Regardless of the final order of selection, the consensus is that Young, Stroud, Richardson and Levis are the class of the draft at quarterback.

Carolina, which obtained the No. 1 pick in a trade with Chicago, has cycled through Cam Newton and Sam Darnold, and recently signed the well-traveled Baker Mayfield.

Stroud and Young are seen as a pick'em, meaning it's likely to come down to the personal preference of each team's officials.

Young (5-10, 204), 21, is forgoing his senior season with the Crimson Tide after building a 23-4 record in 27 starts. Over three seasons, he completed 65.8% of his passes (624 of 949) with 80 TD passes and 12 INTs. He was able to produce consecutive elite seasons even though he lost his top two receivers to the NFL.

Stroud (6-3, 214) has the size and arm strength coveted by NFL teams. He was redshirted as a freshman and played only a single snap in 2020. Stroud, 21, blossomed, however, the next two seasons, building a 21-4 record while completing 69.3% of his passes (552 of 796) for 81 TDs and 12 INTs. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist both years. He is considered to be a natural leader who thrived as a pocket passer, which could work as a big plus at the next level.

Richardson (6-4, 244) has imposing size and is a physical specimen who turned heads at the recent NFL Combine with his 4.43 speed and 40.5-inch vertical. Redshirted as a freshman, he saw limited action in 2020 and 2021 (a combined 12 games, 1 start). Last year, he started 12 games (6-6 record) completing 53.8% of his passes (176 of 327) with 24 TDs and 15 INTs. He also rushed for 1,116 yards (12 TDs). Richardson, 21, has one of the strongest arms among the QBs in the draft, though he still must improve his accuracy.

At 23, Levis (6-4, 232) is the oldest among the top four QBs. He began his college career at Penn State (where he saw limited playing time) but transferred to Kentucky for the 2021 season after graduating with a degree in finance. He played in and started 24 games for the Wildcats, hitting on 65.4% of his passes (418 of 636) for 43 TDs and 23 INTs. He also ran for 11 TDs. Levis will turn 24 in June and some scouts and talent evaluators see his age as an issue since most teams prefer to go young and work to develop a player for the long haul (see also, Herndon Hooker). Still, Levis is a good athlete, has good size and toughness, and a strong arm.

Best of the Rest
Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), 25, 6-3, 217; Jake Haener (Fresno State), 24, 6-0, 207; Tanner McKee (Stanford), 22, 6-6, 231; Aiden O'Connell (Purdue), 24, 6-3, 213.

Note that Hooker, who some put among the top prospects, sustained a torn ACL late in the season and is working his way back, which is likely to have an impact on his draft position.

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