New York Jets Draft Options
The 2017 Jets are in full rebuild mode. After years of trying to retool while also fielding a competitive roster through free agency, the Jets have shed their expensive veterans and remained quiet on the free agency front. They enter the draft season with question marks at nearly every position except for wherever Leonard Williams is lined up. Who will Decker be when he returns from injury? What is Enunwa’s ceiling? Is Darron Lee a bust or adjusting to a difficult position? Do they even have a secondary? Not to mention after decades of searching they still do not have a solution at the QB position. I look at two options for the Jets in this draft class, one a leader on defense, the other an identity on offense that would set the tone for the team for the next decade.
The Jets need an identity and this is when most teams reach for a QB in a bid to have something to build around but are there any franchise QBs in this draft? When you take a look at this class it’s easy to find significant faults in every passer. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is everyone’s darling after America saw him conquer Alabama and win the College football championship but the man had 19 turnovers in a college season with significant talent on offense. In fact every time Watson was asked to perform against competent College defenses he always produced at least 1 turnover. Look at the teams he had turnovers against: Auburn, Louisville, FSU, PITT, VTECH, OSU, and Alabama. We know from the combine that Watson posted a 49 mph velocity, well below the desired minimum of 55 mph. It’s easy to see NFL teams wondering if these premier college teams that are closest in skill level to the NFL were able to take advantage of Watson’s slow passes. What would a full 16 NFL game schedule mean for Watson’s turnover #’s?
Trubisky is the other name connected with the Jets but while he had an impressive season and is one of the most well-rounded options at the position, he has only had one year of college production. He would almost certainly need to sit for at least a year as he gets up to speed and then maybe struggle for another before he can truly show whether he is a starter or not. If the Jets are going to wait that long for a starter they would have to entertain the thought of next year’s QB class and cashing in on the depth of other positions in this year’s draft. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are a couple of California kids almost 6 ½ feet tall with huge arms and a lot of potential to be franchise QBS for years in the NFL. Waiting for them might be worth it but that leaves them needing an identity now.
The player available to the Jets in this year’s draft that instantly gives a team an identity is LSU’s star RB Leonard Fournette. The giant mauler from Cajun country is a staggering combination of burst and bruiser. There hasn’t been someone his size, with his athleticism, in …..well maybe forever. For example take a look at Fournette’s touchdown run against Ole Miss this season. This was pointed out by Brett Kollmann in his YouTube series and I highly suggest checking it out. On a bad ankle, Fournette clocks 22.9 MPH on his TD run in the 2nd quarter. Fournette, who is known for his power and size, was faster on that play than any player has been on a scoring play in the NFL in the last TWO SEASONS. NO ONE. Not a CB running back a pick 6, not a speedy RB punching one in, not a Special teams WR taking a kickoff to the house. NO ONE. Remember Fournette is known FOR HIS POWER, not speed. The closest anyone came was Xavier Rhodes, a DB, who weighs 20 pounds less than Fournette. That is jaw dropping, it means if Fournette gets past the line he has a chance to take any play to the house. If a DB tries to stop him and hasn’t been eating his Wheaties, he’s probably going to end up on a highlight reel when Fournette runs him over. This forces LB’s to cheat to the line of scrimmage on every play. They can’t afford to let Fournette get a head of steam. This is how Alabama shut down Fournette whenever they played him. They swarmed to the ball, and outclassed the weak LSU offensive line, shutting down the one lane power running schemes open up. This won’t work in the NFL consistently though as even the Jets poor QB corp. can take advantage of consistent single coverage with everyone cheating to Fournette on every play. Petty or Hackenberg would be right at home running play action and throwing it up for Decker or Enunwa one on one. That folks is an identity. That is something the Jets can build off and a system they can place their 2018 Qb choice into with a high chance of success. The Jets have already been looking at FBs, which matches the type of running scheme Fournette loves to run so maybe Mike Maccagnan is already looking his way.
The other option for the Jets is to go back to the well on Defense. I’ve heard a lot of groaning about this from Jets fans and understandably so as they have been burnt time and again by low character defenders who never display consistency. Even when they’ve hit on these picks, for example Revis, Big Mo, and Richardson, these players are never the leaders the team has desperately needed. Take another team that goes defense consistently in the Ravens. While yes they have Flacco I would say the biggest difference in the teams over the years is the Ravens had Lewis and Reed, while the Jets had Revis and co. Even when Lewis and Reeds careers were winding down they were always leaders. Always setting the tone, always making sure everyone was lined up in the correct position. If the Jets make another defensive pick this season they have to get someone who represents them for the next decade. That man is another LSU boy in Jamal Adams. Adams is a freak at safety, showing pro bowl level instincts and is Keuchly-like in how he always knows where the ball is going on offense. No doubt from the knowledge his father (an NFL RB) gave him growing up. He can handle any coverage responsibility but still excels crashing down against RBs. The only hole in his game, some hesitation when committing to a ball carrier, can be attributed to being the last line of defense on a college team. In the NFL where he can trust his teammates not to miss as many tackles he can play much more aggressive. Where he truly shines though is his leadership. He was the first freshman EVER under Les Miles to be named a team captain. He lined up his defense on every play and was considered by former teammates and coaches to be the best leader LSU has ever had. That’s the kind of player that can be a keystone on the Jets defense for years. Ensuring the defense always plays up to a certain standard and erasing the memories of Revis choosing not to tackle or Wilkerson taking plays off.
I trust Maccagnan to make the right choice on draft day. Whichever direction the Jets go they need to make sure they set the tone for this rebuild and not end up in this position again in a few years.