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What Are the Jets' Top Needs Heading Into the NFL Draft?

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler Believes a Difference Maker at Wide Receiver or Edge Rusher Could Go a Long Way

A view of the stage is seen as the New York Jets select a pick during the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Aaron Doster/NFL)

For the Jets ahead of the NFL Draft, ESPN Senior Writer Jeremy Fowler believes three positions have the most appeal to the Green & White.

"It's pretty clear they've been looking for edge rush help and looked pretty hard in March," Fowler said during a recent installment of "The Official Jets Podcast." "They've been looking around for a receiver, so could be a trade there. I think with those two spots, if you can get a difference maker, it's going to go a long way. Or a corner, those are really the three. You don't necessarily have to draft in that order, to fill those three needs. But you need to come out of the draft with some impact at some of those spots because they're just three crucial positions."

While the Jets re-signed WR-KR Braxton Berrios in free agency, they also attempted to trade for one of the league's elite game-changers in Tyreek Hill before he landed in Miami. GM Joe Douglas has expressed confidence in his group of receivers, but the Jets are going to do everything they can to help QB Zach Wilson take a jump in Year 2.

"I got the sense the Jets were motivated to do that deal because they like the idea of Hill going against man coverage against Miami and New England four times a year," Fowler said. "They play a lot of man and who beats man coverage better than that guy, so I think they really felt that would add another dimension to their offense in a big way and Zach Wilson can throw the deep ball. It would've been a good marriage, so that's why I think they were involved."

If the Jets elect to go receiver with one of their two first-round selections — No. 4 and No. 10 — the top of the WR class includes Drake London (USC), Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (Ohio State), Treylon Burks (Arkansas) and Jameson Williams (Alabama). Williams, who sustained an ACL tear in the Tide's national title game loss to Georgia, recently was referred to as "slam dunk, superstar receiver" by Chris Simms of CBS Sports if his health checks out and Dane Brugler of The Athletichas said that multiple teams have Williams as WR1 in this class. 

The good news for Jets is there is quality depth at both edge rusher and receiver. If the Jets don't end up with Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), Travon Walker (Georgia), Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) in Round 1, George Kalfaftis (Purdue), Boye Mafa (Minnesota), Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) and David Ojabo (Michigan), who tore his Achilles tendon this offseason, could be names to watch on Day 2. At receiver, Jahan Dotson (Penn State), Christian Watson (North Dakota State), George Pickens (Georgia) and Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) all could range from the latter half of Round 1 to the middle of Round 2.

"I don't necessarily think it's a slam dunk they go with one of the top two picks at receiver," Fowler said. "They might, but it depends on if the top few guys they love then maybe. There are eight really good ones, so the top of the second round, there's going to be someone really good. And think of all of the great Day 2 picks recently, so you can get really good guys Day 2 in the draft. They know that, so they probably won't overstretch as a result."

If the Jets take an edge with one of their four picks in the top 38, the plan would be for the rusher to join a group that also will be bolstered by the training camp return of Carl Lawson, who missed the 2021 season after rupturing an Achilles tendon in the preseason. 

"I know they were very excited about him before the injury, so I'm assuming the feeling has not changed," Fowler said, referring to Lawson. "But you have to see him bounce back and see how he's moving around and that's always a delicate process in the NFL if it comes summertime and the guy's not looking right. He would bring an element they just didn't have last year."

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