Before a second-half hand injury ended his night, Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith was putting on an absolute clinic in the National Championship, steamrolling Ohio State for 215 glorious yards with most of them coming against projected first-round pick Shaun Wade (Todd McShay of ESPN mocked Wade to the Chargers at 13th overall last week). Critics will point to his age (22) and relatively slight frame (6’1”/175) as potential red flags, but the fact of the matter is, Smith is a near perfect prospect and should be among the first players to hear his named called on draft night.
Just how early will Smith, the SEC’s all-time leader in receiving yards (3,965), go in the upcoming draft? Well that depends on who you ask. McShay has the Dolphins taking him third overall in his latest mock while our own resident draft expert, Tim Kelly, had the reigning Heisman winner falling into the Eagles’ lap at No. 6.
The Jets, who made quite a mess for themselves by winning two of their final three regular-season games (which cost them their shot at Trevor Lawrence), will have a tough decision to make with the No. 2 pick. It’s impossible to know where New York is leaning at this moment (GM Joe Douglas is still interviewing prospective head coach candidates), though the choice will essentially come down to whether or not the Jets envision Sam Darnold as their long-term quarterback. If not, New York could easily pivot to one of BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State dual threat Justin Fields.
If the Jets decide to stay the course with Darnold, it would make sense for them to either upgrade the team’s protection (Oregon tackle Penei Sewell is considered the crown jewel of this year’s offensive line class) or bolster Darnold’s supporting cast by adding a receiving weapon. The latter approach is the one preferred by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, who thinks the Jets would be crazy to pass on DeVonta at No. 2.
“Unless you are completely convinced that Sam Darnold absolutely, unequivocally, is not the answer or there’s a Trevor Lawrence that you can grab at No. 2, I see no reason why if you have any kind of faith in your quarterback and you’ve got a guy like DeVonta Smith available to you, then you go that route,” Stephen A. expressed during his appearance on First Take Tuesday morning. “This brother was just on another level. He had more yards than the Ohio State offense at one point.”
While cohost Max Kellerman agreed Smith was remarkable in the National Championship, he thinks it would be a mistake for the Jets to prioritize wide receiver over other positions of need. “Calvin Johnson was very special, he went No. 2 overall. He played in two playoff games in his career,” argued Kellerman, dismissing Stephen A.’s remarks as “insanity.” “You don’t take a receiver at No. 2 unless you’ve got a lot of other stuff in place. The Jets need multiple offensive lineman, multiple linebackers and honestly, I think they need a quarterback. I thought Sam Darnold would be good. He’s still young, it’s still not too late. But he was the worst starting quarterback in football this year.”
Here, Kellerman raises an interesting point. With no obvious choice at No. 2 and a laundry list of roster holes, would the Jets be better served shopping that pick in pursuit of more draft capital? One thing’s for certain—Douglas and the Jets’ front office have a monumental, potentially franchise-altering choice to make, and it won't be an easy one.