Jets Would Have Drafted Will McDonald IV Over Broderick Jones At 13, HC Robert Saleh Implies

The Pittsburgh Steelers felt it was necessary to move up three spots in the 2023 NFL Draft in order to have the opportunity to draft Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones. They gave up a fourth-round pick to the New England Patriots to move up from 17 to 14, which was one spot ahead of the New York Jets, a team many believed would target Jones.

Almost everyone seems ready and eager to believe that that is what happened, and that the Patriots may even have been willing to take less to trade back because they thought the Steelers would draft a player the Jets coveted.

Hearing from the Jets’ head coach won’t give us any more facts, but he did deny it. New York swapped first-round picks with the Green Bay Packers as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade, moving from 13 to 15, but Robert Saleh told Rich Eisen that it didn’t affect their draft.

“The difference between 13 and 15 and the way everything shook out made no difference to us, so you can throw that one out”, he said when asked if the Jets lost out on the player they wanted, essentially, which is probably not a question a head coach or general manager would ever answer honestly while employed.

The Jets did take Will McDonald IV, certainly a very talented player in his own right out of Iowa State. And for whatever it might be worth, their draft room reaction after making the pick did seem like genuine excitement and enthusiasm rather than disappointment for losing out on a player.

“We’re always gonna take the best player available when it presents itself, and I think what surprised everybody is that, you can make an argument that the best available wasn’t a need”, Saleh said, referring to the Jets’ current stable of pass rushers.

While many thought that McDonald might have been available later, the Jets would have had to trade back to get him; he certainly wouldn’t have been there with their next pick. And Saleh offered effusive praise for not only the young man’s talent but his upside.

“You never want to pass up somebody who you think can change a game for you”, he said, “and you look at a guy like Will, who’s got ridiculous length, ridiculous bend, a ridiculous get-off, and as he continues to mature and develop, once he gains his power, he’s gonna be very, very hard to block”.

I’m not going to pretend that I know the absolute truth here. I don’t think it’s entirely implausible that the Jets would have drafted McDonald at 14, but even if that were true, that doesn’t mean Pittsburgh wouldn’t have had to move up. Another team just as easily could have traded up ahead of them to draft Jones, something general manager Omar Khan said they were worried about.

The Jets still have Mekhi Becton, who is a very talented player that has been dealt some serious injury issues, at left tackle. Also, Duane Brown is still a capable tackle even though he is hastening toward the end of his career. Drafting Jones would have been a very wise move for them, I think. It doesn’t necessarily mean they would have. Nor does it mean they wouldn’t have, regardless of what Saleh says. We’ll probably never know the truth. So we get to pick our own.

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