New York Jets put emphasis on offense in draft

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Over the past 13 seasons, no team has produced fewer points, fewer touchdowns and fewer yards than the New York Jets, who also committed the most turnovers over that postseason-less span.

Essentially the Jets have continuously struck out -- it's the NFL version of the "Golden Sombrero" -- which explains why owner Woody Johnson told reporters last month at the league meetings, "Offense, offense. Yeah, fully focused on it."

After an emphasis on offense in free agency, the Jets doubled down in the draft, using each of their first five picks on an offensive player -- a first for them in the common draft era.

If quarterback Aaron Rodgers can stay healthy, and if maligned offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can galvanize the talent, the Jets should field a respectable offense to complement their highly ranked defense.

If nothing else, they're deeper than last season.

The 2023 Jets were undermined by poor depth across the board -- quarterback (after losing Rodgers to a torn Achilles), the offensive line (ravaged by injuries and poor play) and wide receiver (thin depth chart), resulting in a 7-10 season. The current depth chart has improved to the point where their first-round pick, left tackle Olu Fashanu, is expected to begin the season on the bench.

You don't see that every day -- a losing team not drafting a plug-and-play starter. Then again, the Jets don't see themselves as your typical losing team. With a healthy Rodgers, they fancy themselves as a legitimate contender, a team that addressed its primary needs in free agency and used the draft as an enhancement.

Time will tell whether they correctly evaluated the roster.

"I feel like we stuck to what we tried to do and tried to avoid distractions and not waver from our process," general manager Joe Douglas said.

On paper, they appear to be in better shape on offense than a year ago. Here are some areas of improvement:

Offensive line

Fashanu is the heir apparent at left tackle and provides short-term insurance in the event that recently signed Tyron Smith can't shake the injury bug. Smith, 33, is fantastic when he plays -- an eight-time Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys -- but he hasn't played a full season since 2015.

That said, the situation is more stable than last year, when they relied on Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton, both of whom were coming off surgery. Brown, 38, lasted two games before he got hurt again and Becton was inconsistent on his twice-repaired knee.

Fashanu has played left tackle his entire life, but he took some reps at right tackle during pre-draft training and said he'd be "super comfortable" if the coaches want him to try left guard. It would be a one-year gig, but it could clear a path to the starting lineup. Current left guard John Simpson, a free-agent pickup, isn't as entrenched as the other starters.

Wide receiver

Third-round pick Malachi Corley needs to polish his route running before he can be a full-time player, but his run-after-the-catch ability is so good that he can be used as a gadget-type player on screens, jet sweeps, etc. Of their seven picks, he's the one most likely to make an immediate impact.

"He's elite with the ball in his hands," coach Robert Saleh said. "He's an angry runner."

The Jets don't run many wide receiver screens, so Hackett will have to adapt in order to maximize Corley. Last season, they completed only 23 passes to wide receivers behind the line of scrimmage, averaging only 6.0 yards after catch per play (29th), per NextGen Stats. For some perspective: The San Francisco 49ers averaged a league-high 13.5, due, in large part, to Deebo Samuel.

A year ago, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb -- aka friends of Rodgers -- were disappointments. So was Mecole Hardman, who was traded. Corey Davis retired. All they had left was Garrett Wilson and a handful of former undrafted free agents. It's still not a top-end group, but there's upside with Wilson, former Los Angeles Chargers star Mike Williams, Xavier Gipson and Corley.

Running back

Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis, drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, will battle Israel Abanikanda for the RB2 position behind emerging star Breece Hall. Here are the opening-day ages of the running-back group:

Hall 23, Davis 22, Abanikanda 21, Allen 20.

After overpaying last season for a past-his-prime Dalvin Cook, 28, who collected $7 million to ride the bench, the Jets are running with young legs and bigger bodies. Allen is 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, bringing a new dimension.

"I'm very physical, downhill," said Allen, who rushed for nearly 3,500 yards at Wisconsin. "I try to punish defenders."

It's a new day at running back.


They addressed their depth issue before the draft, signing Tyrod Taylor and trading Zach Wilson, a former second overall pick and one of their biggest draft mistakes.

They're still in the early stages of the offseason program, but Taylor has impressed many in the building with his strong leadership traits. Saleh said Taylor, 34, has a "database of knowledge, if you think about all the quarterbacks he's been around and the places he's been."

Taylor and Rodgers have a combined 32 years of NFL experience. Fifth-round pick Jordan Travis will also step into the room. The Jets were so impressed with the former Florida State star's pre-draft interviews, and his game tape, that they were willing to take a chance even though he's out indefinitely with a surgically repaired ankle that ended his college career.

Travis is a long-term project. Douglas called this "a really cool opportunity for him to learn, develop and just showcase his ability."