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Best Available Players: New York Jets

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By Connor Hughes 

Well, that was eventful.

The Jets made three selections in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday — their most since using four in 2000. General manager Joe Douglas came away with cornerback Sauce Gardner (No. 4) and receiver Garrett Wilson (No. 10) organically, then traded back into the first round for defensive end Jermaine Johnson (No. 26).

The benefit of having a bounty of draft picks: You can move a few and still have some. That’s the case for the Jets on Friday as, even after trading up for Johnson, they’re still slated to pick No. 38 (second round) and 101 (third round).

Who might be a target?

Here are 10 players to keep an eye on as the second round begins.

Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
2021 stats: 72 tackles (10.5 TFL) | 6.0 sacks | 2 INTs

Why: The Jets believe the majority of their issues on their defensive front last year weren’t linebacker related, but because of poor interior defensive line play. They need to fix that and likely will over the next two days. While that might be a pressing need, though, it could be hard to pass on a talent like Dean. He’s athletic and fast with the ability to both blitz and play in coverage. He’d contribute as a rookie before likely replacing C.J. Mosley in 2023.

Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut
2021 stats: 48 tackles (7.5 TFL) | 4.5 sacks

Why: Jones is arguably the top interior defensive lineman available. He’s a big-bodied (6-4, 325) athlete with the ability to develop into a real force in the middle of the line. He needs to refine his pass rushing, but the ability is there. He’d solidify the interior of the Jets’ defensive line.

Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
2021 stats: 75 tackles | 3.5 sacks | 2 INTs | 7 PBU

Why: Robert Saleh’s defense values center fielders at safety. Pitre isn’t really that, but his versatility would open up so many possibilities on defense. He has some legitimate man-to-man coverage skills along with the downhill aggressiveness to come up and play the run.

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
2021 stats: 253 rushes | 1,472 yards | 20 TDs — 36 catches | 302 yards | 3 TDs

Why: The Jets will use a running back by committee as long as Mike LaFleur is offensive coordinator. Michael Carter is one key piece. Hall would be another. He scored an astounding 50 rushing touchdowns in three years at Iowa State. His vision will make him a fit in the Jets’ zone-blocking scheme.

Kenneth Walker III won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best collegiate running back. (Mike Mulholland / Getty Images)

Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
2021 stats: 263 carries | 1,636 yards | 18 TDs — 13 catches | 89 yards

Why: Walker might be an even better fit for the Jets’ offense than Hall. He showed an ability to plant and go at Michigan State. The only issue with Walker is that he doesn’t have much experience as a receiver. He caught just 19 passes in 32 games.

Logan Hall, DT, Houston
2021 stats: 47 tackles | 6 sacks

Why: Hall isn’t the biggest defensive tackle. He stands an impressive 6-6, but weighs just 283 pounds. The fact he’s more of a defensive end/defensive tackle tweener might turn the Jets off. They already have a player like him in John Franklin-Myers.

Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
2021 stats: 63 tackles | 2 INT | 5 PBU

Why: The Jets have Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner as starters, with Ashtyn Davis as their developmental project. They could use another body in there. Brisker isn’t really a single-high player, but has the potential to develop into a nice strong safety.

Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
2021 stats: 142 tackles | 1.5 sacks | 3 INTs

Why: The Jets do need to start thinking of life after Mosley, assuming they want to move on from the linebacker and free a large chunk of money after the season. Muma isn’t as physically gifted as Dean, but he’s a do-it-all linebacker who won’t have any problem contributing on special teams early in his career.

Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
2021 stats: 80 tackles | 5.5 sacks | 3 PBU

Why: Taking Alabama defenders isn’t usually a bad idea. Harris is another player who can do just about everything at linebacker — run, pass, blitz. His biggest issue is that he needs to improve his play recognition. He might be a bit of a reach at No. 38, but could be in play if the Jets trade back.

Bernhard Raimann, OT/G, Central Michigan
2021 stats: N/A

Why: The Jets had a chance to draft Ickey Ekwonu (NC State) or Evan Neal (Alabama). They passed on them for Gardner. That’s fine, but the offensive line likely needs to be addressed at some point on the second day of the draft. Aside from the fact there are legitimate concerns with both starting tackles George Fant and Mekhi Becton, Connor McDermott is the only notable backup behind them. The Jets are in big trouble if he’s forced to play. Raimann needs some coaching, but might be a smart pick for the Jets. He’d provide insurance for 2021 and allow them to move on from Fant, who’s on the final year of his contract, after the season.

Third-round options

• Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
• Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
• Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
• Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
• DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
• Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
• Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati
• Dominique Robinson, edge, Miami (Ohio)

(Top photo of Breece Hall: David K Purdy/Getty Images)

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