The 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the New York Jets must add one of their cornerback targets. New York has a glaring need at the position, as general manager Joe Douglas could not find any ideal fits through free agency. Now, it has become clear he has been waiting to address the position in the draft.
Gang green’s secondary has struggled over the past few years, and safety Marcus Maye will need some help in 2021. Although players like Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin have shown some promise, the Jets still need to add a definitive starting cornerback to be competitive this year.
Luckily, the Jets are going to be able to take advantage of a very talented cornerback draft class. The team can select someone at the 23rd overall pick or could even wait until the middle rounds because that is just how deep this class is. The bottom line, the Jets can find themselves a day one starter.
This article will discuss four cornerbacks the Jets can target in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the Jets leave the draft with one of these players, their secondary will be significantly better than over the past few seasons.
New York Jets Cornerback Targets in the 2021 NFL Draft
Greg Newsome II – Northwestern
Greg Newsome has been climbing up big boards ever since the start of the off-season. The six-foot 192-pound cornerback has the size and speed to cover any wide receiver on the field. It is well known that head coach Robert Saleh loves having lengthy cornerbacks in his defense, and Newsome fits the bill.
This past season, Newsome was exceptional against the deep ball. He only allowed one completion over 10 yards in 2020, proving his ability to limit big plays. Something that the Jets desperately need help preventing. Newsome is also a natural at playing from deep to shallow and consistently keeps everything in front of him.
Another huge plus is that Newsome has plenty of experience playing in a zone scheme. While with the San Fransisco 49ers, Saleh used zone defense as much as possible. Coming from a similar scheme in college will help ease Newsome’s transition to the NFL. It is also worth noting that Newsome is more than capable of playing press when necessary.
If the Jets were to acquire a starting cornerback who can hold his own, Newsome is a strong candidate at 23rd overall.
Eric Stokes – Georgia
Eric Stokes was a big part of Georgia’s success last year. He was able to lock down an entire side of the football field every game and tallied four interceptions, second in the SEC. The three-year starter is now heading for the pros and is a great target for the Jets.
Saleh’s defense expects cornerbacks to be able to press at the line of scrimmage. During Stokes’ time at Georgia, he spent more than enough time playing press coverage. That experience doing so makes him a great day one fit for the team. Stokes also brings strong hands and was able to showcase them throughout his college career with 26 career pass breakups. Being able to rip the ball out of the hands of a wide receiver seemingly comes naturally to Stokes.
Unfortunately, Stokes has a bad habit of being a little too physical at times. It is deflating to have a penalty take away a great play. The good news is this is a fixable issue. If Stokes can limit the number of penalties, then he can be a reliable day one starter for New York.
Weeks out from the draft, Stokes is expected to be drafted in the second or third round. Should he be available by one of the team’s day two picks, Douglas could take Stokes to add a young, physical corner to add to the lineup.
Tay Gowan – UCF
Central Florida’s Tay Gowan is a six-foot-two and 185 pounds cornerback who wins with his size. It unusual to see a cornerback this big able to make the plays Gowan can. He can contest any wide receiver at the catch point because of the length he has. The only downside is that 2020 was his lone year playing on the outside.
But even with his limited experience, Gowan was able to make a name for himself. He has amazing burst and can break on the ball as well as anyone. Having this ability will help limit a wide receiver’s yards after the catch or allows Gowan to break up the pass.
Another one of Gowan’s strengths is his overall athletic ability. His game has smooth transitions and he moves about with fluid motion. Changing direction is important for any cornerback to survive in the pros, and Gowan can do it with ease.
Gowan is expected to be drafted in the middle rounds. He has a huge upside and could become a consistent starting cornerback for the Jets.
Ifeatu Melifonwu – Syracuse
Ifeatu Melifonwu is a rare cornerback prospect. At six-foot-two weighing 205 pounds, opposing wide receivers are not fond of playing against cornerbacks with this kind of size. In addition to his size allowing him to contest any pass, playing cornerback also emphasizes his athletic ability.
Melifonwu is very smooth with his transitions. He can stay with a wide receiver during the entire route and not be lost on the field. He also has great breaking ability on the ball and can wreak havoc on shorter routes. These are two qualities that are key to have for a cornerback in the NFL.
A weakness in Melifonwu’s game is he doesn’t have much experience playing press coverage. When he has played in press coverage, he hasn’t taken advantage of his size to bully wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Melifonwu will learn quickly if he doesn’t use his size to his advantage then he won’t become the incredible player he could be.
Melifonwu is most likely a third-round pick in this year’s draft and could be a fantastic addition to the Jets secondary.
The New York Jets cornerback targets in this year’s draft are plentiful. The 2021 NFL Draft can allow the Jets to find a starter anytime throughout the draft. Joe Douglas has an abundance of draft picks this year and it can be expected he will use one, maybe two, of them to improve the secondary.
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