- Trevor Lawerence
Pro Comparison: Andrew Luck
Let’s be real, there was a minimal amount of tape needed for me to feel comfortable in slotting Lawerence in here. He’s a near-perfect prospect. Great mental processing of the game, a superb arm, perfect size, and sneaky good athleticism. Lawerence matches all of this up by being a mature and grounded athlete as well. He’s dedicated to the game, and I don’t buy the debate he’s not devoted to this. I think Lawerence is going to embrace the media and embrace the almost “villain” role he had in college. I think back to the LSU game when fans were taunting him, and he just smiled. His confidence is off the charts, for better or for worse. Lawerence has bust potential, and landing in Jacksonville with a situation I don’t personally love isn’t ideal. I think he and Luck are similar in their rise, their mental game, and even their landing spot. The Jags need to surround Lawerence with talent and protection. If they can, then he will blossom into all he can be, and what Luck could have been had he played past 29. If he doesn’t have protection and ends up in a similar situation to Luck, then maybe those whispers about his questionable love for the game grow a little louder.2. Zach Wilson
Pro Comparison: Baker Mayfield
I truly don’t believe the gap between Lawerence and Wilson is as big as you think. I think where Wilson is hungry and has fought to get to this point, there is a risk of complacency with Trevor. That edge and that hunger is the first big allure with Wilson. He has a true fire for the game of football, and he’s willing to do it all to get his team down the field. From hurdling defenders to launching bombs, Wilson is not afraid to take risks. He has arguably the best touch on the ball in the draft, and his off-platform throws are on a Patrick Mahomes level. Size is a concern for some, not for me. The biggest fear for me in regards to Wilson is similar to Joe Burrow last year. The jump in performance can be attributed, in my opinion, to true growth from working with John Beck. I have concerns about how he will handle the NFL game without an elite offensive line, but presumably, the Jets will try to set him up best as possible. I went with Baker Mayfield on the comparison. He’s got raw talent, an edge, similar stature, and he’s a legitimate leader. I would even argue Wilson has the potential to surpass Baker and become a superstar in this league.
3. Trey Lance
Pro Comparison: Cam Newton
I have become more and more enamored with Lance as this process has went on. I spoke to his quarterback coach a few weeks ago, and he spoke incredibly highly of Lance, but none of it was on the field. Lance has blown everyone I’ve talked to away in his pre-draft interviews. They’ve been just as intrigued with the person he is as they are with the player he is. He’s incredibly mature and an excellent leader. He played that lone game of the season, yes to get film, but also to ensure his teammates received their scholarship money. He’s someone who has the mental processing and leadership to be an elite-level quarterback. On the field, he’s an underrated runner, he has a very good deep ball, and he’s got the build to be a more durable player than Fields and maybe even Wilson. My concerns with Lance stem more from a lack of reps. What I’ve seen is good, but he hasn’t displayed enough as a thrower to lock him in as a top-level talent. He has the intuition and the maturity to succeed, he has the athleticism, and if he can progress as a thrower, he will be the total package. This is a comp I’ve not seen as prominently for Lance as expected. Newton is a runner who has a good arm but not a great one. The potential with Lance’s arm is greater, but there is a lot of Newton in the way Lance plays. My last thing about Lance is that I hope he lands in San Francisco. The chance to sit behind Garoppolo will give him a year to work for hands-on with Mike McDaniel and hopefully be ready to take the reins the following year.
4. Justin Fields
Pro Comparison: Deshaun Watson (Ceiling)/ Robert Griffin III (Floor)
It’s ironic how the guy who some viewed with the safest ceiling is now the guy I’d grade out with the lowest floor. I want to preface this by saying there is a route where we look back on this, and Fields ends up as the best or second-best from this class. People forget, but a few years ago, Deshaun Watson was slept on due to coming out of Clemson and factors related to that. The difference in my opinion with Fields is that although he has all the physical tools in the world, his processing of the game needs to develop. Lance, Wilson, and Lawerence all have demonstrated the ability to adapt to more advanced defenses and higher-level competition overall, but with Fields, when his reads are not there, he struggles to adapt. Now, in the right system that can either make his life easy as Ohio State did or teach him how to handle more complex coverages, Fields can grow into a star. His toughness, durability, and as I previously noted athleticism, is superb. His mechanics with his deep ball throws remind me of Kyler Murray and his shortstop-like throws, but the way he lunges his body into longer throws could leave himself vulnerable to injuries. Fields still has a very high ceiling, but his floor is more resembling of Robert Griffin. It’s all or nothing with Fields, it just depends on the fit.
5. Mac Jones
Pro Comparison: Chad Pennington: I have never been in the Mac Jones camp but not based on talent. Jones has great touch with the ball, is arguably the most comfortable and traditional pocket passer in the class, and has sneaky athleticism. He also obviously is well-liked, but Jones fails to resonate with me as a legitimate leader. There are issues off the field with his history of driving intoxicated and other actions that are moderately inappropriate. Jones has the potential to be a franchise guy, just like the other four guys, but it’s less about fit for Jones and more about the talent around him. If Jones were to land in a spot like Denver where he had guys like Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant, he would be well equipped for success. Ultimately, Jones is going to need tools around him to elevate him, but most of all, he needs a support system to keep him on the right track. Pennington and Jones are similar passers and have very similar play styles as a whole, which made the comparison very easy to make.
6. Kellen Mond
Pro Comparison: Colin Kapernick
I think Kellen Mond is very underrated. He does a lot of things well. There is nothing that immediately sticks out to you as his breakaway trait, which is the reason he is at 6. However, he has great potential as a backup, and if he can develop properly, there is a lot of potential to build off of. I think Mond has a hose for an arm as well, which is very underrated. Mond and Kapernick have similar builds and similar skill sets. If Mond lands in a spot where he can learn from a veteran and perfect his craft, there is legitimate upside to him as a prospect.
The New York Jets could use all the help they can get at the NFL Draft and should thus leave no stone unturned.
When you’re coming off a two-win season in the latest addition to a playoff drought that’s getting old enough to see a PG-13 movie on it’s own, you probably can use all the help you can get.
The New York Jets, fresh off a brutal season even by their own star-crossed standards, should thus leave no proverbial stone unturned as the NFL Draft commences on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Sure, talent from the “Power Five” conferences (and Notre Dame) rules the draft boards across the league, but prospects from the unsung mid-major conferences and schools deserve their fair share, especially with their seasons shortened or outright cancelled.
Jets fans have certainly had their share of this phenomenon, as many believe that Zach Wilson from independent BYU will hear his name called after Trevor Lawrence. But a plethora of mid-major talent resides beyond Provo and the Jets aren’t in a position to turn down assistance from any source.
ESM has six names to keep an eye on as the walk to the commissioner’s podium nears…
T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
The Jets apparently have the new quarterback’s blind side taken care of in the form of Mekhi Becton. But the right side is a bit less certain with George Fant and Chuma Edoga the current names on the depth chart. Brown didn’t partake in UNI’s shortened season (which ended earlier this month) but put the lost time to good use: he’s been working out and training under the guidance of former San Francisco mainstay Joe Staley.
Brown’s draft stock, perhaps unfairly, dropped after he opted out of the 2021 proceedings, which could allow the Jets to scoop him up on the latter days. They’re currently on pace to roll out the same starting five blockers they had in last season’s opener. Adding Brown could at least apply some heat on the right side come training camp.
WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
Eskridge has a bit of history with the Jets or at least a member of their new coaching staff. While a shared WMU experience with Corey Davis surely can’t hurt, All-MAC first-teamer’s term in Kalamazoo coincided with assistant offensive line coach Jake Moreland’s time as offensive coordinator with the Broncos.
As a former defensive back and track star who became renowned for his speed, Eskridge could define the balance that general manager Joe Douglas is looking for. He even became an accomplished special teams contributor, serving as the Broncos’ primary kick returner during their six-game endeavor last fall. The Jets have ranked 22nd and 28th in return average over the last two seasons after losing Pro Bowler Andre Roberts. It seems like a trivial matter, but starting with good field position could make the job of the new franchise quarterback much easier.
QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The consensus No. 2 pick appears to be Wilson, but Lance deserves his due diligence from Thursday’s early choosers. As the latest NFL hopeful emerging from the gridiron dynasty in Fargo, Lance won the 2019 Walter Payton Award the FCS equivalent of the Heisman whose previous winners include Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook, Tony Romo, and Cooper Kupp. Lance was responsible for 3,886 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2019 and threw no interceptions in 287 attempts.
Recency bias may work against Lance, as he struggled in a de facto exhibition against Central Arkansas last fall (he sat out of NDSU’s ongoing spring season). Teams have also become increasingly wary of one-season wonders (i.e. Mitchell Trubisky) as Lance started only one year with the Bison. But his rushing talents could tantalize the Jets, who have never worked with a mobile quarterback for an extended period of time (Geno Smith being a rare exception).
C Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Division III draft picks are few and far between, though Jets fans may remember Joe Fields (Widener) and undrafted Bruce Harper (Kutztown) fondly. Meinerz, a D3 All-American, could be next and could as an instant contributor if the Jets were to inquire for his services. The outright cancellation of the Warhawks’ season made it difficult for Meinerz to make an impact, but took advantage of an invite to Mobile’s Senior Bowl, where he showcased strong hands and athleticism.
Finding the right center will be vital to the Jets’ new operations under the incoming quarterback. Sam Darnold went through three different primary centers during his three-year term. The last, Connor McGovern, is set to return but the Jets could probably still look to upgrade the interior through this diamond in the rough.
TE: Quintin Morris, Bowling Green
If the Jets are looking to put some heat on Chris Herndon beyond Tyler Kroft, they should look for a tight end who can contribute to the box score.
Morris, a three-year starter who also worked as was a bright spot for an otherwise dismal BGSU program, earning first-team All-MAC honors in the Falcons’ shortened season. In the last two full seasons, Morris earned 11 touchdown passes, including seven during a turbulent sophomore season in 2018 (which saw an in-season coaching change). Morris’ propensity for scoring could help him develop a niche as a goal-line option, which the Jets could sorely use after ranking dead last in the league by scoring touchdowns on 42 percent of their red zone possessions.
RB: Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
Whether it’s through standard MACtion or downright historic efforts, even casual college football fans are aware of Patterson’s efforts in Western New York. A 409-yard, eight-touchdown tally in November against Kent State officially put him on the map, part of a stellar, shortened season (1,072 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns in six games).
Thanks to the signing of Tevin Coleman and a group of young projects, the Jets can probably wait until the latter stages of the draft to address their running back situation. Patterson could be a solid find through his strong build (195 lbs.) that makes up for his height (5’6). As a bit of a hesitator with strong speed, Patterson could become what Le’Veon Bell was supposed to be if he were to join the Jets.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
The New York Jets are likely set to take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick this month. Adding one of his teammates could work wonders.
For the New York Jets, the easy part ends on draft day.
With the trade of Sam Darnold, it’s all but assured that Gang Green and general manager Joe Douglas will choose a quarterback with the second overall pick of April 29’s NFL Draft proceedings. But then comes the dirty work: grooming him and developing him into a reliable franchise man.
That’s something the Jets have had major trouble with. Their quarterback problems have been well-documented, the franchise slot changing hands more often than the roundball at a New York Knicks game. Darnold joins a list of endless false saviors, a list grown through injuries (Chad Pennington), age (Brett Favre), or simply general inconsistency (too many examples to list). It’s great that Douglas has yielded an embarrassment of draft riches, but he knows that it’s imperative that the right choices are made in those slots.
“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first 3 rounds,” Douglas said of the Jets’ draft future, per notes from the team. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”
One way the Jets can smooth out the transition to a new quarterback is to perhaps find some of his teammates, familiar faces in a strange new locale. Though the general consensus appears that the Jets will choose Zach Wilson with their top pick, ESM goes over some of the top throwers and their alma maters to find perfect matches…
If they draft Zach Wilson from BYU
T Brady Christensen
BYU’s offensive fireworks were allowed to commence thanks to stellar protection. Three of their starting blockers, including Christensen, Chandon Herring, and Tristan Hodge, each opted for early entry. Christensen, a consensus 2020 All-American, worked primarily as a left tackle, a spot the Jets did fill in reasonably well with Mekhi Becton, but has been complemented for a strong football IQ that could allow him to make the shift to right. If the Jets don’t address their blocking woes with their extra first-rounder, Christensen could be worth looking into during the Friday session.
TE Matt Bushman
Adding Bushman, whose 2020 was washed away after an injury, would not only put some hit on the current crop of tight ends (namely starter Chris Herndon) but provided a familiar target for Wilson. Their last collaboration came in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve 2019, uniting for 91 yards on six hook-ups. Though lack of his speed and aggressiveness has attracted criticism, Bushman could wind up becoming a serviceable day three find, be it through the draft or free agency afterward.
WR Dax Milne
Wilson’s favorite 2020 target was Milne by far, a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy (awarded to the nation’s most outstanding walk-on). Milne burst onto the scene with a stellar junior year, respectively ranking seventh and fourth in FBS play with 70 receptions for 1,188 yards. He probably would’ve been better off with an extra year in Provo, but a friendly face could help Wilson learn the offense more quickly, which could prove vital in a shortened preseason (down to three exhibitions after the addition of a 17th regular season game).
If they draft Justin Fields from Ohio State
G Wyatt Davis
Another unanimous All-American (in a season he nearly missed out on, originally declaring for the 2020 draft before the Big Ten opted-in to football antics), Davis should be a target for the Jets at Nos. 23 or 34 whether they draft Fields or not. No matter which thrower the Jets draft at No. 2, he’s going to need protection. A dominant, smart mind like Davis, who brings forth a lot of upside, can help that transition. Davis knows what it’s like to be called upon in unusual situations. His Big Ten debut came in the conference’s 2019 title game and he later partook in the ensuing Rose Bowl win over Washington over his first two collegiate starts.
RB Trey Sermon
In the rare cases that Fields struggled, perhaps the most notable instance coming in December’s conference title game, Sermon had his back. The rusher surged up draft boards during the collegiate postseason, torching Northwestern for a jaw-dropping 331 yards before earning 193 in the Sugar Bowl upset win over Clemson. If the Jets draft Fields, they could look to create some further heat in their running back room, joining fellow young projects like La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.
If they draft Mac Jones from Alabama
C Landon Dickerson
One (of many) thing(s) Sam Darnold was never blessed with in New York was a truly reliable center, often working veteran castaways from elsewhere (I.e. Spencer Long/Jonotthan Harrison). Should the Jets go with the surging Jones (ranked third to San Francisco in Mel Kiper’s latest mock), Dickerson can help him avoid such a conundrum while putting some heat on incumbent Connor McGovern. He hauls a sizable trophy case to his professional destination, including the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football.
G Deonte Brown
While the Crimson Tide’s skill players may be gone by the time the Jets are on the clock, they have valuable blocking assets that Jones or another can work with. Known for his power and strong run blocking, Brown might have to wait until day three due to length issues and mobility. But he has been know to open holes for the Crimson Tide’s run game and earned rave reviews for his in-line blocking, which would make him invaluable as a goal-line escort.
If they draft Trey Lance from North Dakota State
OL Dillon Radunz
Don’t let the small-school nominee Radunz get lost in a tackle noticeably sized in talent. Radunz got an opportunity to impress amongst elite talent at Mobile’s Senior Bowl. Some scouts have questioned his work ethic, though having a steady leader like Lance to potentially help him out could prove to be grounding. His strength and initial burst have earned positive reviews, and his raw power and talent could propel him to day two status.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas is expected to be among those observing North Dakota State QB Trey Lance in Fargo.
Among those in Fargo for NDSU Pro Day tomorrow …
• Jets GM Joe Douglas
• Falcons GM Terry Fontenot
• Falcons coach Arthur Smith
• Lions coach Dan Campbell
• Lions GM Brad Holmes
• Panthers GM Scott Fitterer
• Panthers coach Matt Rhule
• Washington GM Martin Mayhew
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 12, 2021
The New York Jets will officially begin their rookie quarterback evaluation on Friday. General manager Joe Douglas is expected to be one of several decision-makers on hand at North Dakota State University’s pro day to view touted thrower Trey Lance. Proceedings can be viewed at 11 a.m. ET on NFL Network.
A report from Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated mentions that Douglas will be one of five general managers stationed in Fargo. Atlanta, Carolina, and Detroit are each sending both a coach and general manager while Washington is likewise repped by its GM Martin Mayhew.
Lance is expected to be one of the first passers selected in the first round of the NFL Draft come April. Though Lance has only a single full year of starter’s experience, he posted one of the most prolific ledgers in the history of the Bison’s storied football program. Lance was responsible for 36 touchdowns without throwing a single interception during their eighth Football Championship Subdivision title in program history. The Bison’s perfect 16-0 record hadn’t been achieved at the Division I level since 1894 (Yale).
For his efforts, Lance, then a redshirt freshman, earned the 2019 Walter Payton Award, annually bestowed to FCS’ most outstanding offensive player. Previous winners include Steve McNair, Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Cooper Kupp. Lance was the first freshman to ever be bestowed the award named after the Chicago Bears legend and Jackson State alum.
Lance is not partaking in the Bison’s ongoing season, which was moved to spring and continues on Saturday at the Fargodome against Illinois State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+). But he did partake in a brief fall showcase against Central Arkansas, earning 292 total yards and four scores in a come-from-behind victory.
One of the most dominant programs in FCS history, NDSU’s pro offerings won’t be limited to Lance. Blocker Dillon Radunz earned positive reviews for his performance during Senior Bowl prep in Mobile while receiver-turned cornerback Marquise Bridges has likewise warranted a look. That group helped NDSU break its own record for the longest winning streak in FCS history (39), which was snapped on February 27 against Southern Illinois.
The last NDSU alum chosen by the Jets was running back Gordy Sprattler in the ninth round of the 1979 draft. Sprattler did not play a regular season down. They last chose a quarterback from an FCS/Division I-AA school in 1983 through first-rounder Ken O’Brien of California-Davis.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags