Looking Back at the Jets 2015 Draft
Greetings fans, hopefully by now we’ve begun to shake off the horrible sight of the Jets season ending in Buffalo and the sound of Rex’s villainous laugh has begun to fade from our ears. It’s time now to look towards the future. Jets fans can console themselves knowing that an offseason will soon begin with Executive of the year favorite Mike Maccagnan at the helm.
A lot of Jets are free agents this offseason and Maccagnan will have his work cut out for him in reacquiring Fitzpatrick, making decisions on Wilkerson and Cromartie, and restructuring contracts to make cap space (looking at you D’Brick.) How he handles this will shape the upcoming year but make no mistake this Jets team still needs to rebuild. Almost every key contributor for this team is in the 2nd half of their careers and how he drafts and brings in talent to build a new young core for this team is the most important aspect of the offseason. I wanted to take a look back and reevaluate Macc’s first draft as GM now that we’ve had a year to watch them.
When big Leonard Williams fell to the Jets at #6 it was not the slam dunk that most people think. The Jets were loaded with D lineman and had been criticized in the past for focusing too much on the position at the cost of the rest of the team. You don’t draft a player 6th overall to be a backup. The pick was prescient though as without Williams the Jets would be staring at a 2016 season where Sheldon Richardson is going to be hit with the 2nd half of his punishment for is run in with the law on the highway, Mohammed Wilkerson could be gone or at least miss a portion of training camp with a broken leg, and Damon Harrison could be gone.
Leonard Williams didn’t quite reach his pre-draft Richard Seymour hype but he still had a hell of a rookie year where he played 800 snaps, had 27 QB hurries, and was excellent against the run. At the very least he should be another star D-lineman for the Jets in the mold of Wilkerson and Richardson and he may end up reaching his Hall of fame ceiling. Maccagnan could of taken Kevin White to satisfy the oft WR needy Jets but went with the best player overall to start building a core for the Jets.
In the 2nd round the Jets took Ohio State WR Devin Smith. The speedster was looked at to be a compliment to older receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, opening up the run game and underneath stuff by stretching the field. Devin Smith got hurt in rookie minicamp with a serious rib injury where his lungs were pierced. He missed most of training camp and struggled to be a third threat in Chain Gailey’s offense. When he did get on the field he dropped catchable balls (if you watch closely on coaches film and not the broadcast he even bobbles and may have dropped his lone TD catch as he hit the ground) and struggled to develop a deep threat rapport with his admittedly weak armed QB. I didn’t like this pick for the Jets, anonymous OSU coaches said they tried developing routes with Devin and it just never took and questioned his effort, also early second round is way too high for a one trick pony receiver. Especially when you look at who the Jets passed up on to get him: Ronald Darby, Randy Gregory, Kikaha, Funchess, Green-Beckham, Erik Kendricks…the Jets could have filled their linebacker or 3rd WR problems in the 2nd round if they had just stuck with their best player available philosophy. Now in Smith’s defense a raw ‘Go route’ WR missing an entire Training Camp going into his rookie season has no chance of having a successful season and he also missed time at the end of the season with an ACL injury. Both of these injuries can be considered not his fault though there is some concern for his size, we can give Smith the benefit of the doubt here and hope Macc saw something in him to make him worth missing out on a stud CB like Darby or franchise ILB like Kendricks.
In the 3rd round the Jets took tweener OLB Lorenzo Mauldin out of Louisville. Mauldin is a feel good story where he gutted through almost 20 foster homes growing up because of his mother’s imprisonment. In the 3rd round a team is looking for a player who can contribute in special teams and in a certain role as they are developed for being a starter. Macc hit a homerun as that’s exactly what Mauldin did contributing on 3rd downs and special teams and flashing his high motor whenever he’s on the field. Mauldin got stood up by some of the better tackles he faced and isn’t fast enough to be a fearsome speed rusher and isn’t strong enough to just bull rush opponents. What he does have is a ton of energy and a drive to finish on every play, taking advantage of the coverage sacks that the Jets secondary leaves and surprising a tackle every now and then with fresh legs off the edge. He doesn’t solve the Jets pass rushing problems but has stated he’s only taking a few weeks off then getting right to developing as an all-around 3 down linebacker. He should end up being a solid player for the Jets who isn’t a liability anywhere and flashes from time to time. A perfect 3rd round pick.
Bryce Petty was the Jets 4th round pick. We never saw much of Petty this season though his limited work in pre-season re-enforced what we already knew. Petty has great throwing mechanics and a plus ‘though not elite’ arm. He’s huge, accurate and has underrated mobility in the pocket and is out of beautiful Waco Texas where he put up eye popping stats for Baylor filling in for RG3. Petty’s downside is he really is a “system QB.” He has no idea how to be a QB in the NFL and requires a lot of developing just to run a rudimentary pro offense (RG3 never made the transition and was a better thought of prospect than Petty.) For a coordinator who wants to take the time though, Petty has all the physical tools to be an elite QB. We don’t know how well he’s picked up the offense or how he’s developing and we will probably get a better idea when we see if the Jets decide to take a QB in this year’s draft but for a fourth round pick and later you look to either get depth that will never be a starter but can fill a certain role or you get high risk high reward players. Petty is the latter and a smart pick by Maccagnan to not ignore the QB position and take a shot on a high upside kid like Petty.
The rest of the Jets draft consists of Guard Jarvis Harrison, another high risk high ceiling guy who had a reputation low effort but all the physical skills to be an NFL starter, and Nose Tackle Deon Simon. Both of them were cut and then added to the Jets practice squad. It’s worth mentioning that Maccagnan took the rest of the Jets late round picks and used them to get Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshal, pretty much the reason why he will win Exec of the year but not something that can be counted on. The Jets haven’t yet found any steals at the end of their 2015 draft and the fact they were willing to expose them to waivers shows nothing pops out about them but this is par for the course for most teams.
We see a solid draft by Maccagnan here that could go to great if Devin Smith can contribute. This year’s draft will be harder though as he will have to pick out of the 20 slot and won’t have the benefit of a blue chip player like Williams just falling in his lap. Maccagnan MUST stick with his philosophy of best player overall and not go trying to plug holes into a veteran roster in a pursuit of “win now.” The Jets need a solid core whatever position Macc selects in his first few rounds have to be hits. I believe Macc and his people are astute at player evaluation and if they trust their own board will set the Jets up with a key draft that decides if they are one hit wonders or a new contender in the AFC.