For many fans, few things sum up the ineptitude of the modern era and serve as a metaphor for the dysfunction of the organization as a whole better than the recent curse of second round draft picks going bust. Since 2001, the dubious honor has gone to the likes of Mike Nugent, Kellen Clemens, Vlad Ducasse, Stephen Hill, and most recently Devin Smith and Christian Hackenberg.
Considering the rule of thumb that players taken in the first four rounds should eventually be developed into starters, and players taken in rounds one and two should be significant contributors from their rookie year, this is a major problem. It’s gotten to the point where fans are unsure if the Jets just pick bad players in Round 2, or if players become bad because the Jets picked them in Round 2. But luckily for the Jets, this year’s draft class is exceptionally deep, so there are several players who may be on the board that can end the losing streak. Here are my choices for Pick 39.
I’ll preface these picks by saying I think that the top four quarterbacks (Watson, Mahomes, Kizer, and Trubisky) will be off the board in Round One.
1) Budda Baker, S – Washington
The back end is an area of serious need for the Jets, but they could find a big answer for one of those spots in the junior out of Washington. Baker is basically Tyrann Mathieu without the history or health problems. Former 100m champion as a track athlete with elite speed who can play center field and range to get to any third. Excellent blitzer and open field tackler, constantly flies into the backfield to break up sweeps and bubble screens behind the line of scrimmage. Plays fast and angry and flies to the ball. While he’s undersized to cover NFL tight ends, he has the athleticism and coverage skills to compensate with the ability to cover slot receivers, which he routinely did at Washington. A ferocious playmaker who has been one of my favorite prospects to watch in this entire class.
2) Adoree Jackson, CB – USC
With Darrelle Revis being released, there are plenty of questions and open spots for the Jets at CB. Adoree Jackson out of USC would fit right in and fill multiple positions of need. He’s lightning fast with elite foot quickness and is aggressive to the ball. After being used on both sides of the ball for most of his career, Jackson’s coaches had him focus predominantly on cornerback before his junior season, and it payed off.
Scouts were impressed by the drastic jump in his coverage skills between his sophomore and junior year, and he’ll only continue to get better with more specified coaching. Great ball skills. When he jumps a route, he often comes away with the ball. Physical for his size and a sure tackler, and plays with good press technique. He is on the smaller size and may be mainly a nickel corner in the NFL, but in today’s league nickel corners are starters, and there are questions about Buster Skrine’s health. Jackson was also one of the most electric kick returners in college football during his time as a Trojan. He has eight kick returns for touchdowns and broke the kick return yardage record at USC.
3) TJ Watt, EDGE – Wisconsin
At first I have to admit I was tentative about TJ Watt as a prospect. But all throughout my evaluation process, the theme has become that TJ Watt has proven me wrong. I thought he got a bit of a boost because of his last name and relation to his brother, all world defensive player JJ Watt. Was he really any good on his own? Well in his final year at Wisconsin he was dominant with 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks, garnering Second Team All-American and First Team All-Conference honors. I was proven wrong.
From his tape I wondered if much of his production wasn’t just effort based, if he had the athleticism to win at the next level. He shocked scouts at the Combine by placing higher than the 80th percentile in every test besides the bench press. I was proven wrong again. You can see his brother’s influence on his game. He’s a ferocious pass rusher with bend and multiple pass rush moves whose motor never stops. And when he realizes he can’t get to the quarterback, he employs his brother’s nearly patented ability to get his hands up and swat passes down. Oh, and he hasn’t even been playing defense full time for two years yet. He came to the Badgers as a tight end and changed positions after his first year, and will continue to get better in the pros. If the Jets take him in round two, he’ll continue to prove a lot of people wrong.
4) Zay Jones, WR – East Carolina
Some may think the recent success of the Jets’ young wide receivers means that they can ignore the position in this draft, but I would disagree. While Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson both broke out last year, Eric Decker is aging and coming off season ending shoulder surgery, and former second round pick Devin Smith hasn’t been able to stay on the field. If the Saints’ offense is any indicator, two healthy and productive receivers will not be enough in John Morton’s scheme. Enter Zay Jones out of the University of East Carolina.
Standing at 6’2″ and roughly 200lbs, Jones has idea size for the position. And did I mention he can catch? This past season he broke both the NCAA single season and career receptions records with 399 catches during his time as a Pirate and 158 catches this year for 1,746 yards. He has incredibly easy hands and effortlessly uses his hands to catch passes away from his body. He may have the best hands in the draft. High points the ball to win at its highest point. With many veterans being cut for the sake of the rebuild, the consensus is that guys like Eric Decker and David Harris are still here because there isn’t a viable replacement behind them yet. Jones could step in and be productive on the outside from day one, and would allow them to move on from Eric Decker with a young, polished NFL receiver.
5) Christian McCaffrey, RB – Stanford
The Jets are starved for playmakers on offense. Guys who can find yardage when it may not initially be there. Guys who are a home run waiting to happen. These traits describe Stanford standout Christian McCaffrey perfectly. He has brilliant vision as a ball carrier, and some of the best feet I’ve ever seen on a running back. His agility is off the charts, and shows the ability to cut on a dime and fly away from opposing defenders. Has breakaway speed, and routinely watched him run away from defensive backs on film. Great hands out of the backfield. He would be a perfect back to pair with Bilal Powell in a platoon to help keep both guys healthy. An incredibly patient runner as well. The criticism that he can’t be an every down back in the NFL is crazy to me. He’s just under 6’0″ and carries 200lbs, and for two years was a bell cow back for the most pro-style running game in college football. He also brings added value as a very good kick returner. Sign me up.
Photo Credit: JetsWire.USAToday.com