New York Jets Draft Analysis
A job well done, to say the least.
Looking back at the New York Jets’ remarkable moves in this year’s NFL Draft, it would be hard to sum up their weekend any other way. First-year GM Mike Maccagnan had put together a bevy of facilitative offseason moves before the draft. He began to resurrect the offense with the acquisitions of Brandon Marshall and Stevan Ridley, and patched up the porous Jets secondary by signing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. However, the Jets still entered the draft with gaping weaknesses; they lacked a legitimate starting quarterback, a dominant pass rusher, and an offensive line that could even compare with the Jets' units of old. Looking at their draft in summation, it appears that Maccagnan made great progress in bringing these deficiencies up to par. Let’s break down the Jets’ draft by round.
It would be far-fetched to say that there was any one player that the Jets were targeting with the #6 pick. Much speculation surrounded the possibility of snagging a sliding Marcus Mariota, but as draft day approached it became clear that the Tennessee Titans would pick up the former Oregon Duck at #2. Despite the need to secure a competitive QB in this draft, the Jets front office surely was not sold enough on Mariota to trade up and sell the farm for one crop.
And then, the biggest crop of all fell to #6.
After the Jaguars opted for a top pass-rusher in Dante Fowler and the Redskins reached for interior O-lineman Brandon Scherff, the Jets found themselves a player who could immediately bolster their defense. Leonard Williams, a defensive end from USC who many considered to be the #1 overall prospect in the draft, was suddenly available at #6. The Jets already boasted one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL, but the opportunity to add Williams to their defense was too hard to pass up. It was nice to see Maccagnan adopting the “best player available” style of drafting by opting to take Williams. Even though the D-line was already a team strength, this pick will give Todd Bowles an excellent group on defense, and Maccagnan many options in the trade market. With All-Pro defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson holding out of spring workouts for a new contract, this pick may allow the Jets to test the waters on Wilkerson’s value. It would’ve been disgruntling if Maccagnan had reached for a receiver or another lower prospect with Williams still available. I think most are in agreement that considering the situation, this was the best pick for the Jets at this point in the draft.
Pick grade: A
After the front office finished celebrating their newest defensive prospect, it was time to direct their attention to the offense. Had Williams not slipped to #6, I think the Jets would have targeted an offensive player at that point, possibly Kevin White. Nonetheless, the draft moved into the second round and most of the top tier offensive players were off the board. However, the Jets were able to find a diamond in the rough when they drafted speedy Ohio State receiver Devin Smith. Smith had a knack for the end zone as a senior with the national champion Buckeyes, scoring 12 touchdowns on the year. Considering that the Jets had yet to find a suitable competitor for incumbent QB Geno Smith at this point in the draft, this pick was a smart one. Although he lacks the size and route-running abilities of a Cooper or a White, Smith will surely help stretch the field and provide a fresh receiving dynamic for whoever ends up under center in New York.
Pick grade: A-
Many fans were hoping that the Jets would snag Baylor QB Bryce Petty with this pick (we’ll get to him next). Instead, Maccagnan went with OLD Lorenzo Maudlin from Louisville. Let me first note that Maudlin is extremely talented and athletic for his size. Some scouts have even drawn comparisons to current Jets LB Quinton Coples. This answers the call of “elite pass rusher” that many fans have been asking for. I would have expected the front office to begin working on the offensive line (or the gaping quarterback hole that still existed at that point) by this round, but this pick fills a need regardless.
Pick grade: B
I think it’s fair to say that the Jets were lucky to have Petty fall this far. Many mock drafts had the former Baylor Bear as the third best quarterback in the draft, as he shined in Baylor’s spread offensive system. He showed NFL level arm strength and great athletic ability for the position. However, questions about a back injury he sustained last season and the adjustment to pro-style offenses still linger, and will continue to do so until he proves them unwarranted. Notwithstanding, fans should be excited about another QB coming in to make Geno Smith work for his spot.
Pick grade: A-
The Jets finally addressed the offensive line in this round by picking up Jarvis Harrison, a guard from Texas A&M. The nimble, 330-pound Harrison showed potential while with the Aggies and is excellent in space. He should contribute to an offensive line that could make good use of his services. At the very least he will push the starters in camp and provide depth.
Pick grade: B+
(No pick in round six)
With their last pick of the draft the Jets added even more depth to their defensive line with under-the-radar nose tackle Deon Simon of Northwestern State. A presence on the D-line at 325 pounds, Simon impressed scouts by churning out 35 reps on the 225 pound bench press at the NFL Combine. Like Harrison, Simon will, at the least, provide good support on the line and keep the starters working.
Pick grade: B
Looking at the entire draft, one may not be blown away by the offensive talent that was sought out in the second and fourth rounds. I think that Petty will adjust to the pros better than scouts expect, and that Smith will find his stride as a deep-threat receiver for the Jets. The defensive upgrades in the draft are apparent, and there’s no doubt that Leonard Williams will immediately impact the defensive line positively with his attitude and play. Overall, this draft leads me to believe that we will see a much better version of the Jets this year, possibly with a new leader under center. Things are definitely looking up for Gang Green.