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The Jets have been a team whose defense has been built around their interior linemen for a long time, but Muhammad Wilkerson's anticipated departure could be an opportunity to reinvent themselves by finding a difference-maker who can create constant pressure off the edge.
The Jets haven't really had an elite edge rusher since John Abraham, who was traded before the 2006 draft. They've tried drafting one high (Vernon Gholston), converting an interior lineman into one (Quinton Coples), and bringing in an established veteran (Jason Taylor). But none of these have been successful. None of their low-cost free agents, reclamation projects, or later draft picks have stepped up either.
Jordan Jenkins is a solid all-round performer, but he fits best as a strong-side outside linebacker, so the Jets ideally need to target someone who can be a productive pass rusher coming off the weakside. While pending free agents Kony Ealy and David Bass had their moments in 2017, and the Jets still hold out hope that Dylan Donahue and Lorenzo Mauldin haven't reached their full potential, it seems clear they need to invest in this position.
If the Jets address their quarterback position in free agency, or via trade, then an edge defender could certainly be a possibility with the sixth pick. If not, it's somewhere they could find a potential starter on day two, or someone who can contribute as a situational rusher in the mid-to-late rounds.
Bradley Chubb from NC State is currently regarded as the top prospect as he brings physicality, athleticism, and good intangibles. He was productive against the run as well as rushing the passer. Chubb might not be available to the Jets at six because he could be a top five pick, but if he falls far enough, he could be a consideration.
The fastest-rising prospect off the edge has been UTSA's Marcus Davenport. Davenport has a lengthy frame which, when coupled with his outstanding athleticism and some good production, has scouts salivating. He showed signs of rawness during Senior Bowl practices, but then made improvements during the week and had a big performance in the game itself. He looks likely to be a top 10 pick, assuming he puts up big numbers as expected at the combine.
Entering the season, LSU's Arden Key and Harold Landry from Boston College were considered as potential top five picks by some. However, both have seen their stock fall over the last year. Key has concerns over his motor and production, while Landry's 2017 film was disappointing. Both have been banged-up though, so they will hope to demonstrate their potential over the next month or so.
Oklahoma's Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is another potential first rounder who impresses with his speed off the edge, and can also drop into coverage.
The two 2018 prospects with the highest sack totals were Joe Ostman from Central Michigan, and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones of Arkansas State. Ostman was a surprising combine snub, but that could work in his favor as there will now be a lot of attention focused on him at his pro day.
Ohio State has an incredibly deep group of defensive ends, all of whom were overshadowed by Nick Bosa, who will be a top pick in a year or two. Each of their ends had to split time, and probably saw their production further impacted by the fact they had to compete with each other to get to the quarterback first. Nevertheless, Sam Hubbard opted to come out early and is highly rated by some. However, his teammates Tyquan Lewis and Jaylen Holmes could also be good value in the later rounds.
Miami's Chad Thomas, NC State's Kentavius Street, and Wake Forest's Duke Ejiofor are three guys who can play on the edge, but also have the ability to rush from the interior. It depends what kind of system they end up in as to whether they'll bulk up and play inside, or remain on the edge. But all three could be potential contributors available after the first few rounds.
In terms of outside linebackers who will line up on the edge and take on a more varied role, requiring them to drop into coverage from time to time, USC's Uchenna Nwosu and Georgia's Lorenzo Carter would be possibilities on day two. Nwosu has a knack for batting down passes at the line, with 10 in the 2017 season. This type of player might be seen as too similar to Jenkins, though.
Unless they spend big on one in free agency, the probability of the Jets using a high pick on an edge defender is high. With rumored free agent target DeMarcus Lawrence not expected to hit the open market, the draft might be their best route to filling that need.