7 NFL Draft prospects Jets should be watching at Senior Bowl
This week is Senior Bowl week, which typically marks the first major milestone on the road to the upcoming draft.
Last year, the Jets got extra insight into the process, as they were fortunate enough to be tasked with coaching one of the teams. They’ll be observing at a distance this time but will appreciate the importance of the event after the success of their 2022 draft class, four of whom participated last year.
Let’s identify some players at positions of need who should interest the Jets:
DT Keeanu Benton (Wisconsin)
Three of the Jets’ four-man defensive tackle rotation are out of contract at the end of the 2022 season, so adding some youth into the mix could be a priority. Benton has reportedly impressed scouts with his technique and hand placement, which should help him to be the kind of disruptive attacking lineman that the Jets like for their system.
With the Badgers, Benton often lined up as a nose tackle, so his ability to hold up at the point of attack could be useful to help the Jets fortify their run defense. He’s also regarded as a player who could hopefully contribute early in his career, so they might not need to wait for him to develop.
OT Dawand Jones (Ohio State)
The offensive line has always been a priority for general manager Joe Douglas but the Jets still found themselves shorthanded for much of the 2022 season due to injuries. Douglas has said his goal is to get five starters that can stay healthy all year and a player like Jones, who started all 13 games in 2021 and 2022 could appeal to him on that basis.
Jones is enormous – even bigger than Mekhi Becton – but he’s found it easier than Becton to stay in shape while possessing similarly impressive movement skills for a player of that size. There are some technical issues he needs to work on in terms of his footwork and balance but if Douglas wants another big tackle prospect, they don’t come any bigger.
C John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota)
With Connor McGovern out of contract, the Jets could opt to use a high pick on one of the top center prospects and Schmitz is already working on proving himself as a potential first-round pick.
He is a versatile player who has impressed with his athleticism, strength and leverage this week and could provide a long-term solution for a team like the Jets. As with Jones, he started every game in 2021 and 2022 too.
WR Puka Nacua (BYU)
Nacua has had an impressive start to the week in Mobile, AL. He has good size and can make contested catches, but has also been showing that he can get separation, which was considered to be his main weakness. Five of Nacua’s 10 touchdowns in 2022 came on rushing plays, so he can also be effective on jet sweeps and reverses.
The name Nacua may be familiar to Jets fans, because his brother Kai, a safety, was with the team briefly in 2021 and 2022. In case you’re wondering, Nacua transferred to BYU after Zach Wilson was drafted.
WR Nathaniel “Tank” Dell (Houston)
The diminutive Dell has been showcasing his speed and athleticism and making some big plays in practice, but could also be the kind of player that makes a big play or two in the game itself. He might be too undersized to be a high pick, but could be a valuable complimentary piece for a team looking for a special teamer or someone who can bring a different dimension on offense.
The Jets could be in the market for a receiver if they decide to move on from players like Denzel Mims, Corey Davis or Braxton Berrios during the offseason.
LB Daiyan Henley (Washington State)
With both Kwon Alexander and Quincy Williams out of contract, it’s unclear who will line up alongside C.J. Mosley in 2023, but an injection of youth at this position wouldn’t be a bad idea. While Henley is an older prospect, having applied for a sixth year of eligibility in 2022 following some injuries in previous seasons, he could fit the bill.
Henley, who transferred from Nevada to Washington State for the 2022 season, filled out the stat sheet with 200 tackles, five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles over the past two seasons and has impressed in Mobile with his ability to stay with receivers in coverage.
S JL Skinner (Boise State)
Skinner’s physical presence is one of the main reasons he’s been standing out during the week, as he stands 6-foot-4 despite playing in the secondary. He had 66 tackles and a career-high four interceptions during the 2022 season.
Robert Saleh’s brand of position-less football has enabled him to take defensive backs with size and convert them into linebackers in the past, but the wiry Skinner has the length and range to play multiple roles, including staying at safety where the Jets may be looking for candidates to compete for a starting role with Lamarcus Joyner out of contract.