Why the New York Jets must draft offensively at No. 23

New York Jets

It’s a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will draft a quarterback at No. 2. But what will they do with their latter Thursday choice?

If this is the most pressing of problems the New York Jets have for the remainder of 2021, they’ll be one of the most, if not the most, blessed teams in all of professional sports.

The Jets have a welcome dilemma when the first round of the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). They’re one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks, first choosing in the second slot before reaping the fruits of the Jamal Adams trade at 23rd overall. Though the second pick is more than likely spoken for…barring a jaw-dropping pre-draft surprise, the Jets will undoubtedly be taking a quarterback…there’s a major decision to be made in the latter station, a place where this draft’s predictability should be long gone.

When you’re a team like the Jets…coming off a two-win season, one even more brutal than this star-crossed franchise’s usual standards…

 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Make the quarterback as comfortable as possible

When it comes to the second overall pick, the Jets have answered the question of what. Unless they plan on starting James Morgan, their 2020 fourth-round choice who has yet to wear an NFL game jersey, they’re drafting a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

Whoever it is, he’s going to need help, whether it’s through protection or weaponry (more on each of those in a minute). One of the things that doomed Sam Darnold’s New York career was the lack of stability on his end of the ball. By the time his third season began, no receivers from his rookie season (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the New York roster and his starting offensive line was completely different from even the year prior. The Jets need homegrown talent to help their new, young franchise man get used to the NFL game in a hurry.

The draft is also a more attractive option for the Jets to find offensive help because their last few big-ticket offensive arrivals from elsewhere (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) haven’t worked out. If they can build through the draft…and there’s a prime opportunity with 21 picks over the next two years…they can lay a foundation and rebuild a winning culture.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Big plays are here again

So the Jets need offense, but that decision begets a decision: should they take a box score contributor or build the wall in front of Wilson/Fields/Other?

In the case of the former, it’s been a while since the Jets have had a truly explosive offense. It’s only been five seasons since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker put up dueling 1,000-yard tallies during the bittersweet 2015 campaign, but that might as well be an eternity in football years. Making matters worse is that the Jets made little effort to keep Robby Anderson, the closest thing they had to a consistent playmaker. He posted career-best number in Carolina last season and now reunites with Darnold.

The Jets have assembled a decent core of veterans with Corey Davis and Keelan Cole joining the fray alongside incumbent slot man Jamison Crowder and sophomore Denzel Mims. But while drafting Mekhi Becton was a move no one could truly quarrel with, the Jets passed on name-brand receiving talent like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and future All-Pro Justin Jefferson. This supposed sin can be rectified at No. 23, where names like Rashod Batman, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, and Tutu Atwell should all be available. Sure, the receiving class is deep enough that the Jets could find a receiver at No. 34…the second pick in Friday’s drawings…but the lack of offensive firepower has reached crisis levels in New York. Over the past five seasons, have the Jets have reached the four-touchdown/extra point plateau in 16 games, a mark besting only four teams (Chicago, Washington, Denver, and the Jets’ blue roommates in East Rutherford). That lack of production is ridiculously unsustainable in today’s NFL, and it shows: that group, including the Jets, has failed to win a playoff game over the last half-decade.

Many have theorized that the Jets could take a running back in the slot, but the Jets have resolved that issue, if only temporarily, through an affordable one-year deal with Tevin Coleman and a trio of young projects (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams). Besides, the recent first-round running back crop…especially when it gets to the later stages has shown it’s not worth it, at least not for their needs. It’d be great to bring in a, say, Rashaad Penny (drafted 27th by Seattle in 2018), but they can’t afford to use a first-round pick on a reliable spell option with a first-round pick. If they do address rushing, a power option like Rhamondre Stevenson could be a valuable latter-day steal.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

Continue Construction

General manager Joe Douglas has had a small habit of having his football cake and eating it too, even if the dessert isn’t fully baked yet. When he took Becton with his first draft pick last season, he filled the big-play receiving potential slot with Mims, a Big 12 star from Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.

This offseason, Douglas has noticeably improved the team’s offensive chances through skilled talents that should at least keep fantasy football players’ eyes on Jets games (Davis, Coleman, Cole). He addressed the defense as well through 4-3 talents that will fit the preferred scheme of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. But the Jets remain understaffed on their blocking despite Douglas opening his checkbook for Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten. Their quarterbacks were still on the run and little has been done to rectify that this offseason. Dan Feeney is high in personality but low on analytical rankings. Corey Levin hasn’t partaken in a regular season game since 2018.

Thus, it might help to continue building their fortress around the new thrower and improved rushing attack. Blocking draftees rarely send the draft parties into a frenzy…legendary blocker D’Brickashaw Ferguson was booed by a fanbase lusting after Matt Leinart…but no one’s complaining when the quarterback has time and the rushers have room to move.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

College teammates the New York Jets should consider for their new QB

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: Why everyone wins the Sam Darnold trade (for now)

It’s hard to assess a trade five months before a single down is played, but the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers came out looking good.

Despite Jerry Seinfeld’s best efforts, there’s probably is no such thing as a “mutual breakup”.

But the New York Jets and Sam Darnold might’ve come as close as one can, especially when it comes to severing the relationship between an NFL squad and its franchise quarterback.

Darnold confirmed as much in his first statements as a Panther on Monday, a week after he was dealt from New York for a trio of draft picks. While Darnold ruefully stated that he throught he was destined to be the Jets’ quarterback for a long time, he’s ready to embrace a new opportunity in Charlotte.

“I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time…once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit,” Darnold said, per Carolina reporter Darin Gantt. “Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard. But right now, I feel great about it.”

How did each side find something to celebrate? ESM investigates…

zach wilson, new york jets
. Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Grounded Controversy

Through social media schadenfreude, the Jets are a team whose simplest mistakes are turned into memes within minutes. That concept has hit a fever pitch during their decade-long playoff drought (an NFL-worst), but there may well be light at the end of their tunnel of rebuilding. Rare optimism can be found at One Jets Drive after the hire of Robert Saleh, whose arrival has spawned positive reviews both domestically and abroad.

But the good vibes bring forth a perilous responsibility: it must be surrounded by as little controversy as possible. Holding a quarterback competition would be an unwelcome distraction during. Once the games do get underway, it’s widely expected that fans will be back at MetLife Stadium. The last thing the Jets needed was spectators, no matter the capacity limit, screeching for Darnold’s backup every time he threw an incomplete pass.

But, having traded Darnold, the Jets have a clear-cut plan. Their quarterback controversy will end no later than the evening of April 29, when they choose second in the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. General manager Joe Douglas more or less confirmed as much when speaking after the deal was done.

“There was…a discussion about us taking a quarterback at pick number two and having Sam here for the season…ultimately, we felt that that wouldn’t be the best situation for Sam, the rookie quarterback, Coach Saleh and his staff, and the locker room,” Douglas said, per notes from the Jets. “We felt like this was the best decision for the entire organization moving forward, in hitting the reset button.”

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Darnold Gets Stability 

On paper, Carolina isn’t too far removed from the Jets in terms of where they are on the NFL barometer. They won only five games last season and are seeking stability under a first-time NFL head coach in Matt Rhule. But one look at the Carolina ledger shows that they provide a more stable offensive situation than Darnold ever had in New York.

Darnold’s burden is immediately lightened through a run game headlined by Christian McCaffrey rather than a disgruntled Le’Veon Bell and a tandem of projects. The biggest sign of Panther progress was perhaps shown through McCaffrey’s absence: despite enjoying only three games with the 2019 All-Pro in the backfield, Carolina remained competitive. All but three of their 11 losses came by one possession while Robby Anderson, Darnold’s favorite New York target in his first two seasons, tallied a career-best 1,096 yards despite relative turmoil at quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater was inconsistent in his first full-time starting gig since enduring a contact-free camp injury in 2015 and was relieved by XFL star P.J. Walker.

The coaching staff is also a welcome sight to any offensive player seeking his NFL fortune. Head coach Matt Rhule turned downtrodden college programs at Temple and Baylor into offensive blockbusters while offensive coordinator Joe Brady over saw the rise of Joe Burrow as the passing game coordinator during the LSU Tigers’ dominant national title run in 2019. Darnold took the time to appreciate the culture that Carolina is building during his opening statements.

“The culture that’s being set here is amazing,” Darnold said in Gantt’s report. “That’s probably the part that intrigues me the most about this.”

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

A Fine Addition to the New York Collection

While the immediate yield from the Darnold trade isn’t flashy…the Jets earned the 226th overall pick in the coming Cleveland selections…it’s pretty impressive on Douglas’ end that he was able to net a second-round pick (coming in 2022) for an injury-prone quarterback with a 13-25 ledger as a starter, even if the circumstances weren’t the greatest.

“With the premium picks, your first, second, third-round picks, those are the picture you’re looking to become starters on your team,” Douglas remarked through the Jets. “So, those ultimately end up being the picks that you spend the most time talking about.”

As a young Queens webslinger was told, however, with great power comes great responsibility. Quantity doesn’t automatically equal quality, and that axiom rings especially true in the NFL Draft. The Jets learned that lesson the hard way during the 2014 proceedings through John Idzik’s doomed dozen and it’s a nightmare that Douglas doesn’t take lightly.

“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first three rounds,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Joe’s Jets

Douglas presents himself as a guy who’s not interested in looking for excuses. But he’d have a good few in the holster.

He joined the Jets under unusual circumstances, placed in charge weeks before training camp opened after Mike Maccagnan’s post-draft firing. His first years with the organization have been handicapped by decisions he had no jurisdiction over (namely the Adam Gase hire).

Now, Douglas’ signings are getting closer to becoming the majority after several Maccagnan/Gase staples were shipped elsewhere. He has a handpicked head coach in Saleh and he’s about to have a handpicked franchise quarterback.

It’s official: Douglas is the captain now. For better or worse, this was a step the Jets needed to move toward. There are no more excuses, there are no more “wait untils”. Douglas’ era can officially begin and he can thus be judged appropriately.

“I think you feel pressure every day you walk into the building,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “You want to do this job to the best of your ability. You want to take the information that you have at hand and make the best possible decisions that you can make.”

Jets fans and the football-loving public at large are about to find out if they’re truly the right moves to end the perpetual rebuild…a rebuild Douglas now officially owns.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A seven-round, post-Sam Darnold mock draft

With Sam Darnold having moved on, ESM envisions how the New York Jets’ replenished draft haul will look come April/May.

Sam Darnold is gone, resolving the question of his New York Jets fate. Now, another rises in his place: now what?

Following Darnold’s dealing to Carolina earlier this week, the Jets now hold ten picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on April 29. The last came from the Panthers along with two further choices in next year’s selections.

With Darnold’s New York term ended, how should the Jets spend this surplus? In the immediate aftermath, it’s a terrific note on Douglas’ resume that he has earned the Jets double-figure offerings in a single draft. But draft day quantity, of course, is never a guarantee of quality. The Jets learned that lesson the hard way during the 2014 proceedings. Then-general manager John Idzik held a dozen picks in the final draft in New York, but none of them remain on the Jets’ current roster and, in fact, only one (fourth-rounder Dakota Dozier, now a starting blocker in Minnesota) partook in NFL action last season.

How can the Jets make the most of their excess choices, especially in the wake of the Darnold news? ESM investigates through a full New York mock…

1st Round (2nd overall): QB Zach Wilson, BYU

One of the biggest wins of the Darnold trade was that the Jets now have an official deadline for their current quarterback controversy: the evening of April 29, after they make their second pick. Deshaun Watson is out for obvious reasons and they certainly won’t entrust Week 1 starting duties to Mike White or James Morgan. Thus, it’s a near-certainty that they’ll choose a non-Trevor Lawrence thrower with the second overall choice.

With a New York triumvirate (Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur) in tow for his pro day in Provo, it’s beginning to look like a Wilson-based future for the Jets. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter took it a step further, flat out texting Wilson “Welcome to New York” after the Jets-Panthers deal was completed. With this move, Douglas has officially solidified the Jets as his “own”, as the modern Jets will work with a head coach and quarterback exclusively chosen by the current GM.

1st Round (23rd overall): C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama

So the Jets have traded Darnold, the latest of several offseason moves that have made them a better team on paper (if only because there’s nowhere to go but up after a 2-14 campaign). But their offensive line negligence has only gained a brighter spotlight. Dan Feeny and Corey Levin are acceptable options for depth, but they’re not guys that are going to push the Jets’ offensive needle in the right direction.

Dickerson, on the other hand, can be a difference-maker. Going 23rd would almost be an injustice to the 6’6, 325 lb. national champion, who was injured on a scoring play during the SEC title game. It was the last of several injuries he endured in Tuscaloosa, which has served as a red flag in several teams’ draft preparation. But Dickerson’s loss in position could be the Jets’ gain, as he brings an impressive resume that goes beyond his championship ring. He’s the current holder of both the Rimington and Jacobs Blocking trophies (sharing the latter with teammate Alex Leatherwood) and was a unanimous All-American last year.

2nd Round (34th overall): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

The hullabaloo around a new quarterback…as well as some shrewd offseason maneuvering from Douglas and Co…has somewhat masked the fact that the Jets still have some defensive renovations to make. One of the smarter moves of Douglas’ winter was bringing in Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis, both of whom have extensive experience with the 4-3 defense that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich are set to install in New York.

Don’t be surprised if the Jets take a similar approach on draft weekend. Collins is among the top, if not at the top, of the 4-3 linebackers in the coming class. He likewise brings in a sizable trophy case to his NFL destination, one that includes the AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award (guiding the Golden Hurricane to an undefeated regular season in conference play) and the Chuck Bednarik Award (whose previous three winners include Minkah Fitzpatrick, Josh Allen, and Chase Young). Critics feel like Collins would have to improve his physicality to move into the first round proper, but he’s the type of day two pic that can contribute immediately.

3rd Round (66th overall): CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

As the post-Jamal Adams carries on, the Jets are still relatively thin in their secondary. Their safeties are on relatively solid ground…having franchise-tagged Marcus Maye and working on Ashtyn Davis as a project. But they’re still understaffed in the cornerback spots, where the current top options are veteran newcomer Justin Hardee (who’s primarily used on special teams) and raw, young talents like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall.

Thus, it’s worth exploring some cornerback options on day two, some more proven potential that can contribute immediately. Perhaps unfairly, Adebo has seen his stock fall after opting out of the 2020 season. He was previously projected to be among the first safeties to go in Mel Kiper’s 2020 draft board. He’s thus another project, but he has at least has some proven potential to work with (primarily as a player with the “ballhawk” classification) and could insert himself into a starting lineup fairly quickly.

3rd Round (86th overall): T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

The Jets have a perfect opportunity to make up for their relative inactivity in terms of upgrading their protection through the extra picks gained on the first two days. Their thrower’s blindside is protected through the first-round arrival of Mekhi Becton last season, but their questions on the right side. George Fant appears to be back in the starting lineup with Chuma Edoga behind him.

Brown, an FCS standout, could provide the proper heat to a veteran like Fant on the right side. His 2020 showcase has been thrown into disarray with uncertainty in what was Division I-AA football, but Brown managed to impress at both the Senior Bowl and UNI’s pro day. He has earned particularly strong reviews for his pass blocking and, in lieu of partaking in UNI’s ongoing shortened year, has been training with former All-Pro blocker (and Saleh’s fellow San Francisco alum) Joe Staley.

4th Round (107th overall): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

The Jets have an interesting running back situation. Signing Tevin Coleman can not only give the offense a proven weapon both on the ground and through the air, but also take the pressure off the new quarterback. Behind Coleman is a trio of projects who have raw potential: La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. It wouldn’t be surprising for the Jets to add an upstart rookie to create a training camp competition. The addition of Coleman allows the Jets to address other areas over the first few rounds.

A failed drug test suspension kept Stevenson, a former JUCO star at Cerritos College, out of the Sooners’ College Football Playoff trek at the end of the 2019-20 season, as well as the first five games of last year’s campaign. He nonetheless led the Sooners with 665 rushing yards (6.6 average carry), capped off by a dominant 186-yard showing in OU’s dominant Cotton Bowl victory over Florida. Stevenson’s build (230-240 lbs.) could also allow the Jets to reestablish a fullback role, especially with Saleh and LaFleur knowing the benefits of such a position, having worked with Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco. The Jets toyed with tight end and 2019 draftee Trevon Wesco in the spot over the last two seasons, but more or less abandoned the project last year.

5th Round (146th overall): WR Shi Smith, South Carolina

At receiver, the Jets did a solid job of upgrading their receiving weaponry for the incoming quarterback. In addition to Coleman (111 receptions from 2016-19 with Atlanta and San Francisco), they added promising young veterans Corey Davis and Keelan Cole to a group that already includes Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. But the third day of the draft would be a good time to find some depth.

Smith could be a potential project, especially one in the slot with Crowder due to hit free agency next year. His development in Columbia was slightly hampered by the Gamecocks’ unstable quarterback situation, but he still garnered some professional looks for his speed and athleticism (which could allow the Jets to establish the screen). Smith’s 57 receptions earned last season were good for fifth in the SEC’s shortened 2020 season. He can also add a little heat to the Jets’ return situation, currently headed by Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios, as he was second in the conference with a 21.9 kick return average during the 2019 campaign (albeit on a 12-return sample size).

5th Round (154th overall): S Ar’Darius Washington, TCU

As Brian Poole remains unsigned, the Jets could use a nickel/dime upgrade while potentially working on a safety project. While Washington’s size (5’8, 178 lbs.) is a concern, his ball skills make him an intriguing prospect to work with in the secondary. The underclassman has constantly defied odds, not only working his way through a tough size situation but also making an immediate Fort Worth impression by winning the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year Award. Working with Hardee could also allow him to make an impact on special teams.

6th Round (186th overall): TE Matt Bushman, BYU

At tight end, Chris Herndon is the one player left over from the Jets’ new uniform showcase in the early stages of 2019. While they did add Tyler Kroft…who will be a decent goal line option…Herndon still appears to be the top man in the position. Adding Bushman would not only put some heat on Herndon but also give Wilson a friendly face to work with in his NFL debut. Though Bushman missed all of the Cougars flirtation with a New Year’s Six bowl with an injury, he was their top receiver in 2019, notably uniting for 91 yards on six receptions in their final collaboration in the Hawaii Bowl.

6th Round (227th overall): K Jose Borreagales, Miami (FL)

The current pick gained from the Panthers in the Darnold trade can allow the Jets to address one of their most problematic areas: kicking. With an offense still struggling to consistently visit the end zone, having a reliable kicker will be vital if they want to remain competitive. Since the Pro Bowler Jason Myers left for Seattle two offseasons ago, the Jets have gone through six different kickers. The most recent pair (Sam Ficken and Chase McLaughlin) remain on the roster, with a competition potentially set to ensue. Last year’s draft showed that they wouldn’t hesitate to use a pick to bolster their special teams, using their last on Texas A&M punter Braden Mann.

New York needs a reliable name as their leg, and the primary boot in this draft is Borreagales. A native of Venezuela, Borreagales established himself as a South Beach kicking legend, first starring at Florida International before spending a fifth season with The U. Mirroring Mann’s Ray Guy Award, Borreagales would bring a Lou Groza trophy with him as the current holder. He was successful on all 35 of his extra point attempts last season and was 18-of-20 on field goals. One conversion was a 57-yard boot in a September win over Louisville, a primetime showdown that saw him score 17 points in a 47-34 win.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Drafting Zach Wilson goes beyond talent

zach wilson, new york jets

Just a few days ago, the world saw BYU QB Zach Wilson produce one of the most memorable pro days in the past decade. Wilson caught the eye of so many that he’s viewed as a virtual lock to the New York Jets. Wilson’s performance may have booked him a ticket to MetLife for some, but others were less than enthused about his performance in shorts and drew comparisons to Sam Darnold’s past performances. The reality is that although Wilson is unproven, sometimes it’s better to take a shot at contention than aspire to toil in mediocrity. That shot is trading Sam Darnold and selecting Zach Wilson.

The case for trading Darnold goes beyond just the bad outweighing the good; since the day Darnold came out of USC, there has always been concern about his turnovers and decision making.

In two seasons as the quarterback for the Trojans, Darnold had 57 TDs to 22 INTs. Darnold also had a completion percentage of 64.9% in college, which is above average, but not a number that jumps off the page. For comparison, Zach Wilson had 56 TDs to 15 INTs. Not only that, but his completion percentage was over 3% greater than Darnold.

The eye-opening season that vaulted Wilson above Darnold in these categories was last season. After spending his offseason with John Beck, Wilson saw a jump from around a 64% completion percentage in his first two seasons to 73.5% last season. He also saw his interceptions drop from 9 in the season before to 3. Not to mention his pass attempts went up by over 25, his yards per attempt went up by nearly 4 yards and his touchdowns went up by an astronomical 22 touchdowns. Wilson refined his game and had a jump on par with that of Joe Burrow. Wilson’s decision-making is evidently better than Darnold’s was at this point, and there is an argument to be made Wilson has grossly exceeded where Darnold was when he came out of college.

The problem for Darnold is that his biggest issue was never talent, everyone knows he is talented. Darnold needed to see a jump in key categories like completion percentage and his touchdown to interception ratio, and it’s just not there. Darnold had a completion percentage of 59.8% throughout his three seasons to this point, along with a touchdown to interception ratio of 45 to 39. His touchdowns barely outweigh his interceptions, and his completion percentage ranked below nearly every quarterback who started a game last season. Darnold lacks confidence, and that stems from a lack of development. He doesn’t trust himself, and when he does, he tries to overcompensate with poor decisions.

It has been beaten to death how bad of a supporting cast he had, and that is true. I legitimately cannot think of a worse offensive line or wide receiver room than the Jets trotted out last season. Not to mention the utter incompetence of head coach. Darnold has not had help, and he has not seen any legitimate progression to this point. Sam Darnold is capable of making throws like Zach Wilson, and he has proven it, but Darnold has not developed, and with a new head coach, new offense, and a new future for the Jets, it may be best for parties to separate. It’s an unfortunate reality that, once again, a Jets quarterback has not worked out, but Darnold has not developed enough to earn the keys to the kingdom, and Wilson at least gives the Jets a chance to start fresh and the front office personnel a chance to take their guy.

New York Jets: Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson can’t mix

If the New York Jets quarterback quandary is truly down to Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson, there must be no stalemate.

There’s no telling exactly when the New York Jets started thinking of having someone other than Sam Darnold in their franchise quarterback role. The only facts behind the case are that the situation is active and will be resolved by the evening of April 29, when the team chooses second in the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland.

But what if the situation stretches beyond April, into the warmer months? The only way to do that would be to keep Sam Darnold and draft Zach Wilson…a situation the Jets must avoid at every cost.

No matter when this proverbial game of musical chairs began, some of the contestants have dropped out, opted to join other games, or both. One seat, that of the franchise quarterback role, remains, and it appears that two players circle it while the music plays: Darnold and Wilson.

As those other seats fill across the league, the incumbent Darnold remains a Jet with the team does their due diligence on his potential replacement. With Urban Meyer more or less eliminating any draft day surprises vis a vis Trevor Lawrence, draft day attention now turns to the Jets in the second slot. The consensus No.2 has become BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who wowed many at his Provo-based pro day with Mahomes-like tosses. Among the awed was the Jets’ representative triumvirate of head coach Robert Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and general manager Joe Douglas. The idea that Saleh and LaFleur’s former Bay Area comrades, equally perplexed over their own passing situation in San Francisco, traded to the third, not second, slot with Miami instead of the Jets served only to fuel the idea that Darnold’s green days were numbered.

If Wilson is truly on his way, a new debate is spawned: what to do with Darnold? One of the more fascinating “what if” situations on the modern NFL landscape is envisioning Darnold’s career if the Jets hired someone…heck, anyone…at head coach other than Adam Gase. The team has stocked up on affordable/bargain offensive weaponry this offseason that could provide Darnold some long-awaited professional stability.

But if Wilson is the way the Jets want to go…the Jets must cut ties with Darnold at all costs. The idea that this team can make it through a situation where two quarterbacks in their early 20s are on the same roster seems dubious at best. If Wilson’s Jets career begins, Darnold’s must end.

There’s no doubt that an incoming franchise thrower can benefit from having a veteran work alongside him, even through competition. That’s exactly how Darnold’s New York career began, after all, as he worked alongside Josh McCown for a season. But Darnold, set to turn 24 in June, isn’t exactly at the “veteran mentor” stage of his career. This is a quarterback who has displayed fleeting flashes of brilliance, enough for the casual observer to wonder if it’s a miracle in itself that he was able to briefly shine in the first place.

With the Jets cleaning their coaching house, there’s an opportunity to see Darnold work with a new staff. The idea of quarterback competition at camp could be interesting, especially if preseason games return this summer. Some might see Darnold as a reliable safety net if the unthinkable happens to the rookie, Wilson or otherwise. But when you’re trapped in a perpetual rebuild…one that just might see a light at the end of its tunnel…that’s not worth it. A Jets team divided amongst itself…especially at the quarterback position…cannot stand.

The Jets are in a position where they might finally be starting to right their ship. Whereas the hire of Gase was praised only by the hot take artists, players both domestic and abroad lauded the arrival of Saleh. It’d make sense to follow his vision as precisely as they can. At the same time, it means minimizing controversy, vital for a team whose smallest abnormalities are turned into memes because the mere concept of “LOL Jets” gets clicks.

There’s also no use in pulling Wilson’s leg, which the exact message that keeping Darnold sends. How can he ease into the franchise quarterback role when a young player who may be equally capable…the Jets still don’t know…is sitting behind him? It’s one thing to bring an experienced mentor whose full-time starting days are probably behind him (i.e. Alex Smith/Brian Hoyer) or a relative veteran who’s proven reliable in a pinch (i.e. Nick Mullens/Blake Bortles). But to continue to work with a young quarterback and push him back to a backup role creates a problem where there doesn’t need to be.

The situation works on both sides. Though the scenario appears to become more remote with each passing day, there’s still a chance that Darnold could stay. If that’s the case, it’d be silly to say Darnold’s the starter and have the second overall pick breathing down his neck. Fans are set to return to MetLife Stadium this fall and the last thing Darnold would need is a chant for Wilson’s insertion every time he throws an incompletion.

While Saleh has carved out a hopeful path, he inherits a mess from the depths of the football netherworld that, again, needs little exacerbation. The defensive-minded Saleh must settle the uncertain secondary situation in the post-Jamal Adams era, while he and his offensive assistants also have to figure out an offensive line picture that, the arrival of Dan Feeney notwithstanding, doesn’t look much different from last season’s. To worry about the quarterback situation is simply thinking about another problem the Jets can ill-afford.

New York football will have its share of problems beyond April 29. With a glimmer at the end of the tunnel of rebuilding, but countless other turns to tackle in it, this quarterback issue can’t go beyond that.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Why Tevin Coleman is the most impactful pick-up yet

The New York Jets have made some intriguing moves this offseason, but none may be more vital than welcoming in Tevin Coleman.

The New York Jets look drastically different than they do from this time last year, but Robert Saleh made things a little more familiar on Wednesday.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Saleh and the Jets are finally tapping into the new head coach’s former potential from his former Bay Area stomping grounds by adding running back Tevin Coleman. The former Indiana Hoosier spent the past two seasons navigating his way through Saleh’s defenses in San Francisco and worked extensively with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, then the 49ers’ passing game coordinator.

After a slow start, the Jets have made several moves to propel themselves in a positive direction this offseason. Carl Lawson should help a slow pass rush while aerial weaponry has been added through Corey Davis and Keelan Cole. Further veteran defensive help has been provided through both Sheldon Rankins and Coleman’s fellow Wednesday signee Vinny Curry.

But, to build toward the vision that Saleh and LaFleur are building towards, the arrival of Coleman might be the biggest move yet.

ESM explains…

The Anti-Bell

After the Le’Veon Bell situation, it’s going to a long, long time before the Jets shell out big bucks for another running back. The offseason surplus might’ve given Joe Douglas and Co. some wiggle room in terms of extra spending, investing high numbers into a running back hasn’t paid off. Of the 10 highest-paid running backs in football last season, only two (Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram) appeared in January’s playoffs. The highest-paid back on the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers was Ronald Jones, who was a sub-$2 million cap hit last season. By the time the Super Bowl trek started, he was sharing carries with in-season find Leonard Fournette.

Coleman’s coming off a year where was the 11th-highest-paid rusher in football. Going into the new year, he’ll be a mere $1.1 million cap hit in a deal where he’ll be eager to reprove his NFL worth. Meanwhile, the Jets get a ridiculously affordable back who has tasted success at the highest levels to headline their revamped rushing game. Coleman gets a chance to take on a new opportunity. On such an affordable deal, it comes at little, maybe even no, risk to the Jets.

Haven’t We Done This Before?

Defying the expectations of many offseason prognosticators, the Jets have opted not to load their roster with free agents from Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur’s old Bay Area stomping grounds. But, if they were to add anyone from the most recent addition of the 49ers, Coleman was likely among their best options. For a team so desperate for offensive weaponry, adding a rusher that can put up numbers on the ground through the air is an absolute must.

When Coleman joined the 49ers, then-San Franciso run game coordinator (now offensive coordinator) Mike McDaniel referred to the rusher’s signing as “Christmas in March”. LaFleur, the Jets’ new offensive boss also stiationed in San Francisco at the time, concurred in that same report on the team’s website.

“He can run and he’s explosive, no doubt. The thing that really sticks out with Tevin is how fearless and physical this guy is. He is a man out there,” LaFleur said. “When you tell him to put his foot in the ground and go north and south, he’s going to do it times 10. It’s every single week. It’s every single down. You’re always getting the same guy. … When we need him to get us a yard, he’s going to get us a yard every single time.”

Coleman wound up getting some big yards in San Francisco’s journey to Super Bowl LIV. Anytime you’re in the same sentence as Jerry Rice is a celebratory cause, especially in a 49ers setting. Coleman joined such hallowed ground by becoming the first Niner since Rice to score four touchdowns in a single game since the legendary No. 80. He also put up 105 yards and two scores in the Divisional round triumph over Minnesota, becoming the first 49er to tally triple digits in a playoff game since Colin Kaepernick in 2014. It’s the type of playmaking the Jets desperately need in an anemic offense.

That Championship Feeling

Inconsequential as it may seem, the Jets could use some championship pedigree in their roster as they seek to get the rebuild back on track. That endeavor was seen on defense through Vinny Curry and continues with Coleman, who also partook in the Atlanta Faclons’ ill-fated visit to Super Bowl LI.

While each member of their returning rushing corps (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, the newly re-signed Josh Adams) had flashes of brilliance last season, they lack the experience to truly invoke confidence. Through Coleman, the group now has a championship mentor to work with, someone who has experienced the highs and lows of rushing starterhood.

Relief through Coleman also comes at the quarterback slot. Whether it’s Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, or a third party that has yet to present himself, the quarterback can’t be a one-man show in New York. He’s going to need some help he can get to help the offense pick up the pieces after the Adam Gase era. While the Jets still have to make changes on their offensive line (Mekhi Becton notwithstanding), Coleman and the receivers added (Corey Davis/Keelan Cole) will certainly help, but Coleman’s arrival definitely gives the quarterback a sizable safety net. The need for aerial miracles could drastically lower.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

How the NFL Draft shuffle affects the New York Jets

The New York Jets remained rooted in the second overall slot, but chaos erupted behind them on Friday. Where does that leave them?

Never mind the Super Bowl shuffle…the draft board boogie aired at full blast on Friday afternoon.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets respectively remain in the top two slots, but the landscape behind looks drastically different. At the cost of two future firsts, the San Francisco 49ers will now choose in the third slot. The Miami Dolphins, recipients of those Bay Area picks, dealt the No. 12 they gained to Philadelphia, officially situating themselves at sixth overall. 

How does this affect the Jets, still the ongoing holders of the No. 2 choice? ESM investigates…

No Way, Darnold

Many assume that the 49ers, like the Jets before them in 2018, are trading up to the third pick to select a quarterback. Trevor Lawrence remains the consensus top choice to Duval, while many believe the Jets will take BYU passer Zach Wilson after team brass attended his pro day on Friday.

Despite being firmly entrenched in the rookie passer discussion, San Francisco has no imminent plans to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But this move more or less eliminates them from the Sam Darnold conversation. If the 49ers are apparently comfortable with a lingering quarterback controversy between Garopoolo and, say, Justin Fields, there’s no way they would add a third name to that list.

This week has been one of the roller-coaster variety for Darnold. Corey Davis mentioned that he was under the impression that Darnold would be his thrower come September in his first New York statements. But the New York prescience in Provo dictates that the Jets are still exploring other options. If the Jets are ready to officially close the book on Darold, likely only one potential destination remains: the Carolina Panthers. 

Tua Time

Miami owned the third pick through one of the earliest chapters of the downfall of the Houston Texans: the trade for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. After Friday, the Dolphins have essentially turned Tunsil (who fell to their grasp at 13th overall in 2018 after the bizarre social media hacking) into six first-round picks over the next three drafts.

But the cold truth is that draft quantity means nothing without quality, and major questions surround a high-profile choice in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 in 2020).

While many have pegged the Dolphins as a surprise playoff team this season after winning ten games, questions hovered around their quarterback position, especially after the Ryan Fitzpatrick safety net went to Washington. Trading out of the third slot essentially says they’re not looking for a quarterback. Even with the sixth choice, the best passers, including FCS stud Trey Lance, will probably be gone. With Atlanta rounding out the top four and possibly looking to prepare for the post-Matt Ryan era, we well could see quarterback taken with the first four picks.

From a New York standpoint, the upgrades to their front seven through Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins look even wiser right now. It’s possible they could use their latte first-round choice (the Seattle pick at No. 23) to further shore up their edge game, though cornerback options have also been analyzed.

Would the Jets be willing to trade too?

San Francisco elevator ride up the draft board ensures that they can get one of the three or four most-talked-about passing names in the draft. Could that inspire other teams to give the Jets a call in an attempt to find further passing stability?

Carolina’s passing conundrum is anything but solved in the eighth choice, their current depth chart topped by Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker. Denver could be trying to put pressure on incumbent Drew Lock. Stifling the tough of such a deal is the fact that neither potential partner has much to offer in terms of future picks (the best in terms of a surplus amongst each of them is day three picks in 2021). Either way, this shift will possibly have other quarterback-hungry teams trying to work their way through, so Joe Douglas might have some extra calls to field as draft day in Cleveland approaches.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Todd McShay’s mock draft has New York Jets taking a QB/LB

New York Jets

Todd McShay’s third mock draft has the New York Jets addressing both sides of the ball through their first-round pair.

The latest projections from ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has the New York Jets addressing their issues on both sides of the ball. In his third mock draft, the Jets would pick BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second overall pick while using the latter pick on Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari with the 23rd choice obtained from Seattle.

With the selection of Wilson, McShay noted in his analysis that he not fully decided on whether the Jets should let Sam Darnold go. He simply believes that no matter who owns the No. 2 pick, which could be shifted in a trade, the holders will choose Wilson.

“The logic here stands from my last mock draft: I expect Wilson to be the No. 2 overall pick, whether or not it is the Jets making it,” McShay says in his analysis available to ESPN+ subscribers. “Projecting this pick isn’t necessarily suggesting they should or will move on from Sam Darnold, but if they do, Wilson is the obvious next move. If they don’t, watch for a QB-needy team to trade up to take him here. Wilson is creative and can extend plays, he can hit the deep ball and his toughness in the pocket stands out.”

With the pick owned through the Jamal Adams trade, McShay has the Jets addressing their edge rushing situation. Ojulari led the SEC with 9.5 sacks last season and earned the defensive MVP award in January’s Peach Bowl with three quarterback takedowns in Georgia’s 24-21 victory over Cincinnati on New Year’s Day.

“They need someone who can get home on the QB besides Quinnen Williams,” McShay says. “Ojulari is a pass-rush specialist of sorts, showing good speed, bend, and first-step quickness.”

McShay notes that conventional wisdom dictates that the Jets should probably try to land an offensive weapon for their new quarterback, but he says that there are other avenues to replenish those areas.

“As for the lack of playmakers on offense to support Wilson, keep an eye on free agency this month and then Day 2 at the draft,” he said. “Numerous high-end receivers and running backs will be available.”

In McShay’s previous mock, he had the Jets indeed stocking up on offensive talent, using the 23rd choice on Clemson rusher Travis Etienne.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags