Jets could be eyeing safety in next month's draft
The Jets could go hunting for a unicorn in next month’s draft.
Teams drafting high normally take players at premium positions. The Jets aren’t in the market for a quarterback right now, but they need and are expected to address edge rusher, cornerback and the offensive line
There are rumblings, though, that the Jets could use the No. 4 pick on versatile Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Robert Saleh never mentioned Hamilton specifically, but he didn’t rule out the Jets taking a safety that high, especially if he’s "a unicorn."
"Depends on how good he is," Saleh said. "You never want to say no to any position group. Obviously, there are premium positions when you look at quarterback and edge rusher and corner and O-Line. Those are the easy ones to check off, but you can never say no to a unicorn and someone who has a tremendous talent and clearly the best possible player you can take at that time.
"You never want to be stubborn to your thought process. To answer your question about taking a safety, if he’s worthy of it, it will definitely be a discussion."
Four is definitely high to take a safety. The Jets drafted Jamal Adams with the sixth pick in 2017. He quickly became their best player, but he wasn’t a difference maker in the win column before the Jets traded Adams to Seattle in 2020 after a contract dispute. He made two Pro Bowls in three seasons, but the Jets went 16-32 in that time.
Hamilton is a big safety with freakish athletic ability. He’s 6-4, 220 pounds and can play in the box, man the middle of the field and is good in coverage against tight ends or receivers. Hamilton had eight interceptions and 7 1/2 tackles for loss in his three seasons at Notre Dame.
The overall feeling is that Hamilton is one of the best players in the draft. He could be one of those unicorns Saleh was describing.
Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas, however, believe you can never have enough good linemen – on either side of the ball. The Jets could have a difficult decision to make at four - depending on how the draft plays out – and it could lead to some serious internal debates.
"Where I come from, you take the best player available," Douglas said. "I’ve had a lot of success being around that mindset and that philosophy. If there is a player regardless of position that we feel can come in here and be that type of difference maker, we need to talk about it and have that discussion."
Safety is an area of need for the Jets. They have many, though, after going 4-13 in Saleh’s first season as coach. Only Ashtyn Davis and Jason Pinnock, who the Jets are converting to safety, are under contract. Marcus Maye and LaMarcus Joyner will be free agents.
What the Jets do in free agency and through trades when the new league year begins will impact how they approach the draft. At this point, though, it would be surprising if they selected anything but a defensive player at four. Saleh said that fixing the defense is "in the front of our minds."
They also own the No. 10. They could use that another defensive player - perhaps a cornerback – if they take an edge rusher at four.
The Jets have a decent young group there, led by Bryce Hall. But they have no shut-down corners or ball hawks. The Jets only got two interceptions from that position last season – both by rookie Brandin Echols.
They could try to sign a more proven corner in free agency. If they were to use the No. 10 pick on a corner, LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr., Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner and Washington’s Trent McDuffie are possibilities.
"I think Joe and I feel very comfortable about our process," Saleh said. "Every offseason is very, very important, hitting on players, selecting the right people in free agency, making the right picks in the draft and continuing to develop these young men, continuing to stay focused on making sound decisions for the organization first. That’s where we are."