The sneaky consequences of NY Jets’ first-round pick swap

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By: Michael Nania

Will the New York Jets’ first-round pick swap have a substantial effect?

The New York Jets finally completed their trade for Aaron Rodgers.

While the primary components of the deal are a 2023 second-round pick (No. 42 overall) and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that has a high likelihood of transferring to a first-round pick (Rodgers must play 65% of the Jets’ offensive snaps in 2023), there was an interesting quirk thrown into the deal: a first-round pick swap in 2023.

The two teams are situated very close together in the draft order, so it’s a relatively trivial pick swap. Green Bay will move up into New York’s No. 13 slot and New York will take a two-spot drop into Green Bay’s No. 15 slot.

How does this pick swap affect the Jets’ outlook in the first round? Let’s dive into the ramifications of this specific aspect of the Rodgers trade.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba is likely off the table, further increasing New York’s odds of drafting an OT

One of the major storylines surrounding the 13th overall pick was whether the Jets would pass on an offensive tackle in favor of Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba if he were available.

In all likelihood, that discussion can now be put to rest.

The Packers were already expected to have a high likelihood of drafting a wide receiver with the 15th overall pick. Now that they’ve moved up to the No. 13 spot, they’ve leapfrogged the Patriots at No. 14, who are also expected to be in the market for a wide receiver. This means the Jets now have two more WR-needy teams ahead of them than they previously did, which all but eliminates the chances of Smith-Njigba being available when New York is on the clock.

It’s not even a guarantee that Smith-Njigba even gets to No. 13, but if he does, it’s highly unlikely the Packers pass on him; after all, many believe the Packers’ primary motivation for the pick swap was to beat New England to Smith-Njigba. And even if the Packers somehow pass on him, the Patriots will be waiting to scoop him up.

Barring a shocking turn of events, Smith-Njigba will not be on the board for New York. This further increases the odds of New York selecting an offensive tackle, as it seems unlikely that any other non-OT prospect would tempt the Jets enough to pass on an OT. The Smith-Njigba storyline was based around the idea that New York might have seen Smith-Njigba as the best player available if he were on the board, but there’s a noticeable drop-off at wide receiver after Smith-Njigba.

There no longer seems to be a realistic scenario where the Jets come onto the clock in the first round and view a non-OT as a good enough prospect to bypass their greatest need.

The Jets’ odds of getting a preferred OT may have decreased slightly: Could this mean a trade-down is now more likely?

Green Bay and New England are both considered strong candidates to draft wide receivers. However, I don’t think either team can be ruled out from selecting an offensive tackle.

The Packers’ projected starting tackles are David Bakhtiari and Zach Tom. Bakhtiari is a star when healthy, but he will turn 32 in September and has played only 24 games over the past three seasons. Green Bay needs to prepare for life after Bakhtiari.

As for Tom, he was a fourth-round pick in 2022 and started only five games as a rookie. He showed promise but is not a player who should be considered a penciled-in starter.

With the Packers preparing to usher in Jordan Love for his first season as a starter, their primary goal in this draft will be to strengthen Love’s supporting cast as much as possible. Wide receiver might be their primary goal, but if they don’t like how the board shakes out for them at wide receiver, they could pivot to the offensive line.

The Patriots’ projected starting tackles are Trent Brown and Riley Reiff. Brown will probably retain his starting role and is a good player, but he will be a free agent after the year. Reiff is a middling 34-year-old starter on a one-year deal.

Now that Green Bay is ahead of New England, there is a stronger chance that Green Bay takes a wide receiver New England was planning to take (specifically Smith-Njigba), which could push New England into pivoting to the offensive line.

When the Jets were in the No. 13 spot, there appeared to be a good chance that two of the consensus top-four tackle prospects (Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright) would be available – with Jones and Wright being considered the most likely prospects to reach No. 13. But now that New York is at No. 15 with two teams ahead of them who could take a tackle, the outlook is a bit murkier.

It seems very unlikely that both Green Bay and New England draft a tackle, but there is a realistic chance that one of the two will go the OT route. In that case, the Jets would be left with only one player from the consensus big four.

If the Jets like each of the top four tackles enough to draft them at No. 15, then this scenario wouldn’t be a problem. They’ll just gladly take whoever is left.

But what if the Jets don’t like the best available tackle enough to draft with the 15th overall pick? Whether this player is Broderick Jones or Darnell Wright, there is certainly a chance they are not high enough on New York’s board to be considered worthy of a top-15 selection.

As we discussed earlier, it doesn’t seem likely there will be a can’t-miss prospect who slips to No. 15 and forces the Jets to take them over an OT. So, if the Jets are sitting at No. 15 with three of the top tackles off the board, and they don’t like the last one enough to draft him there, could they trade down into a sweet spot of the first round where they can grab an OT for better value?

That definitely seems like a more realistic possibility today than it did prior to the Rodgers trade. In comparison to staying put at No. 15 and forcing themselves to reach for a prospect they don’t love enough to draft in that slot, the Jets might be happier with taking a slightly lower-ranked prospect later in the first round and adding extra draft picks in the process.

It all depends on how the Jets’ board looks. If they agree with the consensus, they will have no problem drafting Broderick Jones or Darnell Wright at No. 15. Both players are generally considered worthy of the 15th overall pick by outside observers.

But if the Jets are much lower on a prospect than the consensus, there is a good chance they will try to trade down into a spot where they feel better about the value they can get at the tackle position.

The pick swap increased the chances of this scenario happening. At No. 13, it seemed likely the Jets would have at least two of the top four tackles available to them. With two options at their disposal, the Jets would almost assuredly like one of them enough to select them. But there is now a realistic scenario where only one of the top four tackles is available, in which case the Jets could very well not like that particular prospect enough to draft him at No. 15.

Don’t overlook the effects of this pick swap being included in the Rodgers trade. Sure, it could end up having no impact whatsoever, but it could definitely end up having a substantial impact – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative impact. The Jets could end up feeling great about the altered outcome that stems from the swap.

Stay tuned. This pick swap will certainly play a pivotal role in what happens on Thursday night.

Next Article: What positional traits should NY Jets prioritize for draft picks? 

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