The Jets face uncertainty while preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft. All sides seem committed to making a blockbuster Aaron Rodgers trade happen, but to this point, there is still a holdup in negotiations.
Perhaps the Packers are playing hardball and trying to use New York’s desperation against it, or maybe the Jets are reluctant to offer a fair deal, knowing Rodgers already publicly stated his wishes to play for the Gang Green.
Jets: 5 First-Round Targets for GM Joe Douglas at the 2023 NFL Draft
Regardless, the 2023 NFL Draft will be here in two weeks. As things currently stand, the Jets are not expected to include the No. 13 overall pick in any potential trade offer. So, let’s look at five prospects that could be on the day-one radar for general manager Joe Douglas.
1. Peter Skoronski (Northwestern)
The New York Jets must protect Aaron Rodgers if the trade comes to fruition. Even if it doesn’t, a youthful addition to the offensive line is a necessity for whoever is playing quarterback in 2023.
Peter Skoronski is the ideal fit for the Jets if he is available at No. 13. While I grade the Northwestern star as an offensive tackle, he possesses similar upside anywhere on the interior. For the Jets, Skoronski can play wherever he is needed as a rookie, before becoming the full-time starter at right tackle in 2024.
2. Brian Branch (Alabama)
The Jets boast one of the better cornerback rooms in the NFL, but they could stand to upgrade the slot and/or the strong safety position. Brian Branch can solve both problems in one fell swoop, as he projects to be a chess piece in the secondary.
With Alabama, Branch spent most of his time as a slot defender, and imagining him on the same defense as Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Jordan Whitehead is enticing. Upgrading the offense should be a priority on day one, but a prospect of Branch’s caliber could be too good to pass up.
3. Broderick Jones (Georgia)
Back to the offensive line again, but this time with a completely opposite prospect. What Peter Skoronski lacks in prototypical size for an offensive tackle, Broderick Jones possesses in droves. The Georgia mauler is 6-foot-5 and weighs 311 pounds with nearly 35-inch arms and an astonishing 82-inch wingspan.
This size shows up on tape, as Jones is a physically dominant run blocker. He has some work to do when it comes to hand usage and mirroring pass rushers, but the upside is immense with Jones. He can start opposite Mekhi Becton, giving the Jets a fearsome bookend to the offensive line.
4. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
If the Jets opt to go elsewhere on offense, wide receiver makes a lot of sense. Allen Lazard recently signed with New York, but after trading away Elijah Moore, the roster could use another game-changing weapon for the pass-catching group. Enter Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Smith-Njigba is arguably the best route runner in the 2023 NFL Draft, and his agility drills elicited “oohs” and “awes” from the NFL Combine crowd. JSN essentially missed the entire 2022 season, but he is fully recovered and would reunite with his former teammate and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Garrett Wilson.
5. Dalton Kincaid (Utah)
Bear with me for a moment as I build a case for Dalton Kincaid. Tyler Conklin produced respectable numbers as the primary starter in 2022, but CJ Uzomah failed to make his mark on the depth chart. Conklin will be 28 at the start of the season, so the Jets must start thinking about the future.
Drafting Kincaid is like drafting a big wide receiver. He exhibits top-tier route running, and his hands are among the best in the class. The Utah star never drops passes and his sure-handed ability would be welcomed by Rodgers.
Notedly, Rodgers has struggled to form chemistry with younger pass catchers as a rookie, but Kincaid’s traits and personality should help form a link between the two quicker than usual. It is a long shot, but Kincaid is an intriguing option for a team looking to add a cornerstone at tight end.