David Aitken with his thoughts on the New York Jets blockbuster move up in the NFL draft…
It’s a draft of three premier quarterbacks. And the Jets, so long as there are no more twists to the tale, are going to leave April’s draft with one of them.
There’s a lot to unpack in the reaction to this trade. Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way, because there is really a lot to get excited about.
In making this trade, Mike Maccagnan is righting some wrongs of the past. A snapshot of how we got here isn’t pretty. It’s a story of half measures and poor draft evaluations. Anyone reading this is well familiar with the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga – the career year and the ill-fated decision to make a song and dance about bringing him back. Then there’s the first real crack at a QB of the future, 2016 second rounder Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg may legitimately be the worst quarterback selection of the past ten years. Missing on a second round pick is a tough pill to swallow, but it was the “let’s just see how year two goes” mentality that led to passing on DeShaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes that was most damaging. But Maccagnan also knew there was a good chance Return of the Hack was going to be as fruitless as his rookie year, so Josh McCown was signed as insurance.
If Maccagnan hadn’t signed Josh McCown and instead let the youth truly rule the roost on last year’s roster, the Jets wouldn’t have had to trade up to secure one of these prospects. They’d already be in the top three. But then, Maccagnan would probably be working somewhere else. Yes, the Jets could have already had their quarterback of the future last year, and they’d still have their second round picks. But there’s no amount of cap space that will let Mike Maccagnan reload his Madden franchise save file, so he can only make the best decision from this point forward. No more half measures, it’s time to be bold. And that’s what this trade is.
In the winners-and-losers-First-Take-Undisputed-QUIT-PLAYIN’-SKIP style of grading trades, the Colts clearly come out looking better. Whether you use the old draft value chart or Football Perspective’s excellent take on the chart, the Jets are giving up the greater value in order to secure one player. But there’s a reason the Colts can even make this trade, and it’s really the whole point – the teams that tend to move back (Browns excluded) already have their quarterback. They can exploit the arms race. Good for the Colts, because it’s a great haul. But Mike Maccagnan can feel good too about what he’s accomplished here. It’s a league of haves and have nots at the quarterback position and he’s poised to put the Jets in the right category without having to move a future first rounder. It’s not about moving up three spots, it’s about breaking into the zone where the franchise quarterback caliber prospects are going to go.
The Jets will give up their two second rounders this year and their 2019 second round pick to secure the trade. Let’s not pretend that second round picks aren’t hugely important, the Jets’ seven year playoff drought can largely be attributed to how poor the Jets have been in this round for the last decade. But these trades typically require surrendering a future first, and the Jets will be holding onto theirs in 2019. This means the Jets will be able to add another premium prospect early in next year’s draft, or have a key trade piece to recoup the picks lost in the trade this year. And the Jets are primed to be one of the biggest spenders again in 2019. It is easier to spend having to mitigate the loss of the solid 2nd round contributors the Jets won’t be getting than it is to sign the rare free agent superstar 1st round type talent they’d have been unable to land trading their first. Most importantly is once the quarterback is in tow, the Jets will be a much more attractive destination in 2019. There’s been a lot of talk in Jets land about “youth movements” and “rebuilds” recently, but with the quarterback selection this New York Jets project will at last be legitimate.
There is a #TooManyNeeds critique to the trade, and it’s fair to say that the Jets roster has more needs than it appeared last year while buoyed by an impressive Josh McCown career year. But addressing the quarterback position is not something that can be done passively. When the opportunity is there, get the quarterback. The Jets cannot know who will be available at six, or how strong the 2019 class will be, or how good this Jets team will be in the coming years. If Jets fans know one thing, it’s that being in the right place at the right time for getting a quarterback is not easy. And just as Josh McCown made the amount of Jets needs less visible, hitting on the franchise quarterback will do the same. Maybe the trading away of the second round picks will put the Jets a year behind schedule. But a real possible alternative of building the team and trying to get the QB afterward is purgatory – arguably the worst place of all.
Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield. All excellent prospects with day one starting potential, and all have the tools to be the class of the next generation of AFC quarterbacks. One of the more bizarre takes I’ve read regarding the trade is that the Jets don’t know who they’re going to get, and they couldn’t possibly consider there to be three quarterbacks worth taking. Why is this so hard to buy into? This quarterback class has strength in depth at the top. The Jets made that distinction and are poised to take advantage of it. And then there’s the related take of “giving up all of that just to land the second or third best prospect at the position.” What a mistake! Could anyone please raise their hand if they’re aware of a good counterargument to this?
It’s been a rough seven years since the Jets last made the playoffs. We’ve been exposed to some utterly baffling and embarrassing moments and false dawns. But with this trade, the Jets are firmly positioned to grab the ever elusive franchise changing quarterback. The tide may finally be turning. On an unrelated note, anyone know how much for the rights to dontdraftjoshallen.com?
Photo Credit: NFL.com