Will 2022 be the year that New York NFL football finally gives its metropolitan area something to watch on Sundays? Following double-digit victory seasons from the Jets in 2015 and the yacht club Giants in 2016, neither franchise has sniffed a .500 record since. At first glance, tri-state area residents waking up on a Sunday and even possessing mild confidence about ending the afternoon with a victory in recent years is naive. The best record that either team has recorded after their last winning seasons is the Jets’ 7-9 performance in 2019.
These are two franchises with all of the eyeballs and no success, but maybe this week’s NFL Draft can change their fortunes. The Giants and Jets both have two picks not just in the first round, but within the first 10 picks of the draft. For two teams desperate to acquire talent, it doesn’t get much better. They both get two opportunities to bring in talented players on rookie deals for the next four seasons. It’s a shame the draft isn’t being held at Radio City as it has in year’s past! Would love to see the locals lose their shit on live TV.
However, this draft class is not littered at the top with players who are going to create viral highlights on autumn weekends. The highest-rated prospects are defensive players, and offensive linemen. There are also a handful of talented wide receivers, and questionable quarterbacks, and there is no consensus on which of them should be drafted first.
This leaves the Giants and Jets in, as Chris “Mad Dog” Russo might say, in a tough spot, Mikey. The Jets drafted their latest quarterback of the future last season, Zach Wilson, who almost got replaced by a veteran with no starting experience. And the Giants are stuck with at least one more year of Daniel Jones under center. Neither franchise should be looking for a game-changing quarterback with any of their top-10 picks. Surely they want to improve quickly, especially the Giants in the weak NFC East, but both need to go for singles in a draft full of strikeout or home run prospects.
Per Football Outsiders the Giants had the worst offense in the NFL last season and it wasn’t close. Their weighted offensive DVOA was -41.7 percent,, a full 10.5 percent worse than the Carolina Panthers in front of them at -30.2 percent. Jones likely isn’t the answer at quarterback, but in his 11 starts it’s not like he had a league-average offensive line in front of him. And none of these quarterback prospects are special enough to help the Giants with that poor O-line play.
An offensive tackle is the priority for them with the No. 5 overall pick, and if he’s available Evan Neal out of Alabama is the answer. There have been rumors about his health that his camp has shot down vigorously. It’s lying season in the NFL, so who knows which team might have put the word out there that Neal has some medical issues, but he is the best offensive lineman prospect on the board, ready to anchor pass protection. If the Giants can’t get him then N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu is the next best choice. He may not be the pass blocker that Neal is at the moment, but he has the physical gifts to get to where the Giants need him to be if coached well enough, and could possibly become one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
With the seventh pick the Giants almost need to take both tackles if they’re available, but they are lacking explosion at wide receiver. Their best bet is Jameson Williams. Sure he tore an ACL in the national championship game, but the Giants are stuck with Jones anyway in 2022. Rebuild the O-line, take the most special talent in the first round and maybe, with a promising 2023 quarterback class, the Giants can turn the ship around for the long haul.
How many quarterbacks have the Jets thought can be the QB1 of the future? There was USC’s Mark Sanchez and West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Sam Darnold. They’re on their third since Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 31 passing touchdowns of 2015. Their newest hope is Zach Wilson. Like most of the rookie quarterbacks in 2021, he struggled — nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions. But every young quarterback has struggled for the Jets since the frequently injured Chad Pennington, drafted in 2000.
Wilson did suffer through injury last season, only starting in 13 of 17 games, and other players such as Corey Davis missed time as well. Still, that doesn’t account for the Jets’ biggest problem, having the worst defense in the NFL last season, per Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA. Unless Wilson turns into Patrick Mahomes in Year 2, there’s no reason to expect a better season with that defense. So the Jets went to work on that side of the ball in the offseason, adding CB D.J. Reed, safety Jordan Whitehead, and DE Jacob Martin.
With the fourth-overall pick, a “war-daddy” pass rusher, as Jerry Jones would say, could help solidify a significant defensive improvement. Their problem is the first three picks in the draft could possibly be pass rushers. If Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Georgia’s Travon Walker are still remaining, one of those three should be the Jets’ first choice. If not, the only option left is the best player on the board and that would be Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner. Young corners like Marshon Lattimore and Tre’Davious White made an immediate impact in the league, and at 6-foot-3 with a 4.41 40-yard-dash, Gardner and Reed could free their defense to experiment in the front-seven as it did when Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were playing cornerback for the Rex Ryan AFC Championship Game teams.
At the 10th pick, the Jets also need help at wide receiver and can’t afford to wait a season for Williams to get healthy unless they think he’s Randy Moss with Terrell Owens’ biceps. The answer here is either Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, or USC’s Drake London. But if he’s available the Jets need Wilson. Santana Moss may have been the last Jets wide receiver that truly scared defenses with his ability to score from anywhere on the field. That type of threat that Wilson can provide may be exactly what Zach Wilson needs to become the star quarterback that he was projected to be coming out of BYU.