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Since the Jets traded John Abraham prior to the 2006 draft, the team has never really had a productive edge rusher that can rack up sacks and generate consistent pressure. Could the 2019 draft be where they finally address that need?
Much has been made of the fact that either Josh Allen or Nick Bosa might be available when the Jets make the third pick in this month's draft, either of whom would be viewed as a promising solution to one of the team's biggest weaknesses. However, the Jets may instead opt to trade down, especially if Bosa and Allen are the first two players selected and neither available to them. If they do, who could they target to address this need?
Brian Burns - Florida State
The first thing that's apparent from watching film on Burns is that he possesses a lean frame, which has caused concerns about his ability to hold up in the trenches against NFL-sized linemen. However, he possesses good play strength and uses refined technique to get off blocks. Burns generated more pressure than most defenders in this class, including Allen.
To some extent, Burns alleviated these concerns when he posted a tremendous set of workout numbers at the combine after having weighed in at 249 pounds. That's thought to be about 20 pounds higher than the weight he played at in 2018.
Montez Sweat - Mississippi State
Sweat impressed over the past two years as he had two seasons with double-digit sacks following his transfer from Michigan State. However, it wasn't until his combine workout that Sweat really established himself as a likely first-rounder, as he coupled an 85-inch wingspan with outstanding athletic numbers across the board.
Sweat will be 23 when the season begins, which is relevant because Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has usually targeted younger prospects in the early rounds. In addition, he's more one-dimensional than the likes of Allen and Burns because he has less experience dropping into coverage.
Clelin Ferrell - Clemson
Ferrell and Sweat saw their stock move in opposite directions at the combine, as his numbers weren't too bad, but fell well short of some of the more athletic players in this year's class. However, Ferrell is a player who succeeds based on good technique and hand placement.
Ferrell had a good battle with top tackle prospect Jonah Williams of Alabama in the BCS title game, impressively getting the better of him on one bull-rush. Some experts will be skeptical as to whether Ferrell can be as effective without all the talent he had around him at Clemson, though.
Rashan Gary - Michigan
Gary is an interesting prospect who has even been mocked to the Jets with the third pick a few times. However, he might prove more effective as an interior rusher.
The concern over Gary is production, as he only had 9.5 sacks in three seasons. Gary could be a solid edge defender but, in spite of his athleticism, can the Jets be sure he's going to be the kind of player to generate constant pressure?
Dropping from consideration
Two edge rushers who were previously considered by some experts to be potential first round picks are Jaylon Ferguson from Louisiana Tech and Jachai Polite from Florida. However, each has seen their stock fall as a result of disappointing workout numbers during the offseason.
Thinking outside the box
Other candidates could include Michigan's Chase Winovich, whose stock seems to be on the rise. Winovich was widely considered a day two pick, but could potentially sneak into the first round based on some more recent projections. In college, he was statistically more productive than his teammate Gary.
Houston's Ed Oliver would be a really outside-the-box candidate. He played as a nose tackle over the past few seasons, but his eye-opening pro day workout suggests he's every bit as athletic as most of the top edge rusher prospects. It would be risky to spend such a high pick on someone with the intention of converting them to a less familiar position, but perhaps Oliver can convince a team he's capable of making the transition. Even if the transition didn't work out, you would still end up with a talented interior line prospect.
The Jets need an edge rusher and, based on the mediocre talent they currently have at that position, it shouldn't be too hard to find an upgrade. If they decide not to draft Bosa or Allen -- or if neither are available to them -- then alternatives are there for the taking later on in the first round. Unfortunately, none of them are as much of a sure thing as those two players. Of course, that's the main reason they'll be selected so early.