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2019 NFL Draft order, race for No. 1 pick: Six players the Jets could target to turn things around next season

In recent weeks we looked at four draft-eligible players who could help the 49ers, currently on pace for the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Drafteight players who could help the Raiders, and five names who would make sense for the Cardinals. Next up: The Jets, who would have the third-overall pick if the season ended today. 

The Jets head into Week 16 with just four wins, one worse than the Bills, a team that, on paper, is arguably the worst in the league. But Sean McDermott has gotten the most out of a squad lacking playmakers while Todd Bowles has been less successful. But things started well enough; the Jets won their opener, and strung together two more victories in Weeks 5 and 6 to get to 3-3. In the eight games since, New York is 1-7 and with the Packers and Patriots left to play, 4-12 is a distinct possibility. 

Also a distinct possibility: Bowles will be looking for work in two week’s time. The team went 10-6 during his debut season in 2015 but are 14-32 since. Whomever’s on the sidelines, the Jets’ needs remain the same, and near the top of the list is protecting rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Also on the to-do list: Edge rusher, skill-position players and cornerbacks. 

So knowing this, which players could the Jets target with the No. 3 pick to turn things around the fastest? 

  • Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. He will almost certainly be drafted first overall but if he’s somehow on the board at No. 3 the Jets have to take him. He’s a game-changing talent that would immediately upgrade a defensive line that ranks 24th in rushing the passer, according to Football Outsiders‘ metrics.
  • Josh Allen, EDGE, KentuckyOutside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland have combined for 12 sacks but both have struggled with consistency this season.  Allen returned to Kentucky for his senior season and is now one of the nation’s elite pass rushers. 
  • Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. The draft’s best offensive tackle would solidify the left side of the line where Kelvin Beachum currently ranks 51st among all offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss. Metcalf’s college season came to an end in October after he suffered a neck injury. But he declared for the draft several weeks ago, an indication that he’s good to go. We’ll learn more in the coming weeks and months but when Metcalf’s healthy, he’s the best wideout in this class. He routinely high-points the ball makes contested catches as well as anyone in college football. He also has the ability to create separation on deep routes, which would give Darnold another much-needed downfield weapon.
  • Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. Williams’ athleticism is off the charts and he shows glimpses of being an elite talent. He occasionally takes plays off, and but if he can play consistently from one play to the next he could be special. Trumaine Johnson has been the Jets’ best cornerback this season, according to PFF, while Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine — who will both be free agents after the season — have struggled.
  • David Montgomery, RB, Iowa St. One of the best draft-eligible backs, Montgomery likely isn’t a first-round pick but he could be one of the first players off the board in Round 2 (unfortunately, the Jets lost their second-rounder as part of the trade to move up for Darnold; of course, they could trade into the second round for a player they love, etc.). Either way, our larger point remains: Darnold needs help in the backfield and Montgomery, a one-cut runner who almost never goes down with initial contact, could bring some much-needed balance to an offense that ranks 28th in rushing and passing, via FO.

(Note: In the table below, the teams are sorted from “most likely to have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft” to “least likely” using two different methods. The “Current record” column does what the name suggests: Teams are first sorted by their ’18 records, strength of schedule, via Tankathon. The other column is sorted by the “SportsLine’s preseason projected draft order.”  Finally, here’s our most recent 2019 NFL mock draft if you’d like to see who we have each team taking.)

* Dallas sent its 2019 first-round pick to Oakland as part of the Amari Cooper trade.
** Chicago sent its 2019 first-round pick to Oakland as part of the Khalil Mack trade.
*** New Orleans sent its 2019 first-round pick to Green Bay to draft Marcus Davenport in 2018.

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Green Bay at New York Jets

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)

These teams have nothing to play for but if you’re a huge Aaron Rodgers fan, it sounds like he’ll be under center for the Packers. Same holds for Jets rookie Sam Darnold, who has experienced his share of growing pains this season. He’ll likely have a new head coach for 2019, but for now, there are two games left to gain experience as he prepares for his first full offseason with the team.

Chicago at San Francisco

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

Are the Bears the best team in the NFC? Yes! At least as we head into Week 16. We know about this defense but if the offense — and Mitchell Trubisky, in particular, continue to play well, Chicago can beat anybody, especially if it finds a way to earn a first-round bye. As it stands, the Bears are the No. 3 seed with games against the 49ers and Vikings remaining. San Francisco has been beset by injuries and their record confirms as much. But among all the “bad” teams, this one has been playing the best; the 49ers have won two straight, bringing down the Broncos and the Seahawks, and another strong finish could be a preview of 2019 when Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon will be completely healthy.

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)

The Rams might be coming off an uninspiring effort against Nick Foles and the Eagles but two things to remember: They’re still the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and they have an easier schedule than the top-seeded Saints over the final two weeks. While New Orleans hosts Pittsburgh and Carolina, L.A. travels to the hapless Cardinals and then finish at home against the 49ers. For Arizona, all that’s left to play for is experience for rookie Josh Rosen and perhaps a last-ditch effort for first-year coach Steve Wilks to save his job

Buffalo at New England

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Few teams have exceeded expectations like the Bills. That may sound corny, especially given that this outfit is 5-9 and has been eliminated from the postseason, but this is a legit two or three-win team. The Patriots, on the other hand, have underachieved in recent weeks. It’s a weird thing to say but it’s true; mental mistakes doomed them against the Dolphins and they were out-schemed by the Steelers and those back-to-back losses dropped them to third in the AFC. And when the Patriots don’t have a first-round bye, they don’t win the Super Bowl. The good news is that they finish with the Bills and Jets, which all but guarantees them two more regular-season wins.

Denver at Oakland

Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

After a rocky start, Jon Gruden seems to fully support Derek Carr as his franchise quarterback, which means the team can focus on other needs in the offseason. It’s unclear if Broncos general manager John Elway feels the same about Case Keenum, who will have a year left on his two-year, $36 million contract. Even more problematic: Will Elway keep Vance Joseph, who is 11-19 in nearly two seasons. The game probably means more for the Broncos than the Raiders, if only because a convincing victory will stave off the hot-seat talk for at least another week. 

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