Jets in position to make bold trade at 2021 NFL Draft

Joe Douglas has dealt draft picks for players. He has dealt players for draft picks. He has dealt one draft pick for multiple lower draft picks.

In his first 22 months as Jets general manager, Douglas has traded more often than some stockbrokers. But what he hasn’t done yet is package together multiple draft picks to move up and land a slipping target — perhaps the boldest decision a GM can make during the NFL draft.

The time is now.

After shipping out Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold, the Jets have 10 picks next week (including four of the top 66) and 11 picks in 2022 (including four of the top 64). That’s a wealth of premium assets if conviction strikes to trade up from No. 23 or from No. 34, the latter of which could mean securing a third first-rounder who comes with a coveted fifth-year contract option, as was the Giants’ strategy in 2019.

“We really start those conversations now,” Douglas said last week. “Not only in-house, but we start making the calls — or receiving the calls — to other teams [to] start greasing the skids on maybe there’s interest in moving up or moving back. There’s groundwork that goes into these trades that happened before the draft.”

Jets general manager Joe Douglas.

In his first year running a draft, Douglas made three draft-day trades, including a 2-for-1 with the Seahawks that required dropping from No. 41 to No. 59 and a 3-for-1 with the Patriots that required dropping from No. 101 to No. 125. But odds are low that 21 players selected by the Jets over the next two drafts will be on the 53-man roster to start the 2022 season.

So, what is the cost of being aggressive? The best way to gauge it is to look to the past.

In 2017, the 49ers went up from No. 34 to No. 31 and it cost a fourth-rounder. In 2010, the Lions went up from No. 34 to No. 30 and it cost a fourth-round swap (a difference of 28 spots) and a seventh. Both trades were made between division rivals.

There hasn’t been a trade-up from No. 23 in the past decade, but the Eagles — with Douglas involved — traded a fourth and a sixth to move from No. 25 to No. 22 in 2019. The Bills traded a fifth and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to jump from No. 21 to No. 12 (and add a sixth) in 2018. The Texans traded a future first to jump from No. 25 to No. 12 in 2017.

There hasn’t been a move from No. 23 into the low teens, but that would cost about a third-round pick, according to Pro Football Reference’s draft points chart. For example, the Jets could offer the Raiders picks No. 66 and a sixth to jump to No. 17.

“Most of it’s going to depend on who’s left,” Douglas said. “And if you’re comfortable giving up what it takes to move up. Or are you comfortable moving back and feeling like you can get the player that you’re still excited about acquiring?”

Here are six names the Jets should consider trading up for if they slide within range:

Up from No. 23

CB Caleb Farley: A top-10 talent who comes with injury risks, but teams with extra picks can afford to swing for the fences.

DE Kwity Paye: The Jets are changing from to a 4-3 defense and Paye creates tackles for loss. Just scratching the surface as a high-motor pass rusher.

OG Alijah Vera-Tucker: He and Mekhi Becton could be the new Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, only side-by-side.

Up from No. 34

RB Travis Etienne: Some laugh at trading for a running back. But late first round is a sweet spot, especially if you commit to making him play out his five-year contract like the Chargers did with Melvin Gordon.

WR Rashod Bateman: Justin Jefferson was the fifth receiver picked last year but the only one to go to the Pro Bowl. Bateman has that same rookie ceiling.

C/OG Landon Dickerson: Like Farley, he is coming off surgery. But he offers offensive line versatility and would set a nasty tone of “Hands off Zach Wilson!”

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