In the world of the NFL there are always two combating forces at work: the passion of the players who every day muster the emotion it takes to throw oneself into the most brutal sport in the world, and the business side of the game that falls on front offices to handle behind the scenes. There is a clear, almost stark contrast between images like Ray Lewis storming out of the tunnel and dancing like a modern gladiator ready for battle, and the execs in suits at press conferences who can quantify every single player’s worth with a price tag and assure us that the NFL “is also a business”.
And whether we realize it or not, we approach fandom the same way, with both the head and the heart. Our hearts make us cling to certain players and identify them as fan favorites for one reason or another, and that devotion makes us defend those players tooth and nail, long after their play has declined. Our heads often make us realize that while the game day experience at the stadium is unique, we can often get a more enjoyable (and always cheaper) version from our living room couch.
So what if we approached the draft the same way? There would be an ideal set of picks from either standpoint, to be sure. But which one is better for the team? The head or the heart? The Id or the Ego? The screaming, face painted die-hard or the calculating suited up exec? You decide. Here are my versions of the perfect 2017 NFL Draft for the New York Jets from the perspective of the head, and the perspective of the heart.
*Note: for the sake of simplicity, I have made all the picks the Jets currently have and have ignored any possible, even desirable, trade scenarios.
THE HEAD DRAFT
Round 1, Pick 6: Deshaun Watson/QB/Clemson
From a business standpoint, quarterbacks are the most valuable first round picks. They have the highest average salary in the league, so a savvy exec would never pass up the chance to get a talented signal-caller as pro ready as Watson for a four year rookie contract. And thanks to the newest CBA, first round picks have a team option for a fifth year. This is why you often see teams “reach” for round one quarterbacks in the hopes that they pan out and they can get an extra year of cheap labor. It’s just good business. We don’t know what Christian Hackenberg is, but we know exactly what Bryce Petty and Josh McCown are, and they aren’t NFL starters.
Round 2, Pick 39: Sidney Jones/CB/Washington
The rule of thumb for the stock market and for NFL suits is “buy low, sell high”. Jones is a top 3 player at a desperate position of need for the Jets in a loaded class. His achilles injury at his Pro Day combined with the depth of talent at the position in this year’s class will drop him some, but if he is there in Round 2 for the Jets, they should sprint to the podium. Let him red-shirt for a year and let him be the best corner on your team in 2018.
Round 3, Pick 70: Marcus Maye/S/Florida
Safety is another big need for the Jets, and Maye would step right in and start at either safety slot. Some knock him for lack of downhill aggression and conservative attacking of the ball, but the brain knows that the position is called “safety” for a reason. Maye has a true “last line of defense” mentality and will drastically cut down the big plays that plagued the team last year.
Round 3, Pick 107 (Comp): Ryan Switzer/WR/UNC
When you have the ability to fill two needs with one asset, that is the smart move. Switzer would round out the Jets’ receiving corps with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson. His pro-ready route running ability is beautifully complimentary to Enunwa and Anderson’s skill sets. And he would step in and be the best kick returner the Jets have maybe ever had. Certainly the best one I can remember. Two birds with one stone.
Round 5, Pick 150: George Kittle/TE/Iowa
Whether the starter under center is Hackenberg, McCown, or a rookie not yet on the roster (it won’t be Bryce Petty), everyone knows a good tight end is a quarterback’s best friend. New Jets OC John Morton comes from a Saints offense that hugely utilized the tight end and turned Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson into Pro Bowlers. If it’s McCown, we saw his reliance on Gary Barnidge, and if it’s Hackenberg or a rookie, they desperately need a quality safety blanket because there isn’t one on the roster. Kittle is a good receiver who was underutilized as a pass-catcher at Iowa, and he is the best blocking tight end in the draft, so he would also give the Jets running game a boost, which is great because they’ll be leaning on it heavily this season.
Round 6, Pick 191: Jon Toth/C/Kentucky
While he held up well last year in the absence of Nick Mangold, I still believe newly-resigned Welsey Johnson should be challenged for the starting center spot. Toth was a four year starter from Kentucky with NFL strength. That is the kind of proven experience I like from a heady perspective. There are athleticism questions, but he can play in a phone booth. Just go watch how he was able to handle Alabama interior linemen, a feat not many college players can claim. And Jets Offensive Line Coach Steve Marshall has shown a great ability to develop mid-round players and prospects. Just look what he’s done with the likes of James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters, and Brandon Shell. With Toth and Johnson under Coach Marshall’s tutelage, the Jets can feel good about life after Mangold.
Round 7, Pick 224: Jeremy Cutrer/CB/Middle Tennessee State
Diversify, diversify, diversify. The Jets’ corner group needs too much help to rely on just Sidney Jones coming off an injury. Double down and double your odds that you can bring in a starter from this class. Cutrer has NFL height, length, and speed all day long, but there are questions about his level of competition and his size. He is only 170lbs because he says he has an incredible metabolism and hard time keeping on weight. But that does not affect his willingness to tackle, which I admire. I’m willing to take a late round flier on him and trust that time in an NFL nutrition program will bring his weight up to match his ball skills and other measurables. A year on the practice squad and he too can push for snaps in 2018.
THE HEART DRAFT
Round 1, Pick 6: Patrick Mahomes/QB/Texas Tech
There are few prospects in this draft more fun to watch than Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. And it’s easy to see why. He shows Roethlisberger-esque ability to keep the play alive and go for the long bomb. He excels when the play has broken down. And he has the best arm in this quarterback class. A flick of his wrist and the ball is sailing sixty yards downfield. He is the darling of Jets Twitter and fans would love him because if nothing else he will be exciting to watch. And it would be a welcome sight to see a quarterback who is seemingly incapable of underthrowing the speedy wide receivers on the roster like Robby Anderson and Devin Smith.
Round 2, Pick 39: T.J. Watt/Edge/Wisconsin
The heart loves players that have just that…heart. And true to his last name, the former Badger is certainly not lacking in that department. He plays the game with a motor and a passion that would turn him into an immediate fan favorite. And his tool bag of pass rush moves is impressive considering he has barely been a full time defensive player for two years. He has a ton more room to grow, which I’m sure new OLB Coach Kevin Greene will love. Watt is a relentless football player who would probably be the Jets’ best pass rusher from the day he was drafted.
Round 3, Pick 70: Cordrea Tankersley/CB/Clemson
We as fans are so tired of watching soft corners play 10 yards off receivers on third and 8. Tankersley is an experienced starter from Clemson who brings great size and an aggressive style of bump and run coverage. He is also one of the better, more willing tacklers in this cornerback class so his game is multifaceted. Tall with long arms, Tankersley will play up in the receiver’s face and challenge for the starting spot across from Morris Claiborne from day one. He would be some much needed (and much appreciated) nastiness to this secondary.
Round 3, Pick 107 (Comp): Samaje Perine/RB/Oklahoma
The heart loves players that make you go “wow”, and Perine’s style of running does exactly that. He plows through would-be tacklers with a ferocity Jets fans haven’t seen since Chris Ivory left and better yet he doesn’t have the chronic injury bug. His thunderous style of play would be a perfect compliment to the other more finesse backs on the roster in Bilal Powell and Matt Forte.
Round 5, Pick 150: Tedric Thompson/FS/Colorado
We love the big play. And so obviously we love creating turnovers, a facet of the game that severely dropped off in 2016 from where the Jets were in 2015. Thompson needs some development from a tackling and strength standpoint, but his ball-hawking instincts are probably second in this draft behind only Malik Hooker. He’s a change of possession ready to happen, a bolt of lightning in the secondary this team sorely needs.
Round 6, Pick 191: Jonnu Smith/TE/Florida International
Us fans have been pounding the table for a legitimate tight end for just about as long as we have for a pass rusher. It is a position that seems to have disappeared from the Jets offense over the last few years while it has risen to prominence around the league. Jonnu Smith is in the mold of the modern NFL tight end: a big, athletic matchup nightmare who you can split out wide and who is a stud after the catch. Both the head and the heart agree that for the sake of the young quarterbacks on the roster, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins cannot be the best player at the position for the Jets at the end of this draft.
Round 7, Pick 224: Damore’ea Stringfellow/WR/Ole Miss
We love receivers who aggressively attack the ball in the air, and Stringfellow brings that ability similarly to former teammate Laquon Treadwell. A big target who catches away from his body and plays above the rim. Pair him with Quincy Enunwa, and the Jets have two big targets who can snag the ball out of the air. And as any quarterback knows, a receiver who can go up and get it can make bad throws look a whole lot better. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick.
So which approach is better for the Jets, the head or the heart? Let me know in the comments. As with most things, the answer is probably somewhere in between. For my money, I lean more towards the heady approach in our situation. The Jets need to be smart on Draft weekend and select solid, high floor football players who can step in and be immediate contributors. They can’t afford to take risks on huge ceiling or boom or bust guys, or players who will have to switch positions in the pros. Those risks are for teams who have a quality roster already in place and have the luxury of bringing those players along slowly. That is not the Jets. Not this year at least. For Maccagnan and Co. in this year’s draft, safe is sexy. And if this front office can knock this draft out of the park using their heads, then in 2017 they can start winning back our hearts.
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com