The 2018 NFL Draft should prove to be a fruitful one for the New York Jets despite only having six selections. General Manager Mike Maccagnan drafted his QB of the future in USC’s Sam Darnold which was enough to satisfy a fanbase starved of quality QB play in the last decade and a half. However, the team also had some intriguing selections in the middle and late rounds that can potentially have an impact in their 1st year in the NFL. I’ve broken down the selections into how I see them fitting into the roster during their rookie seasons.
None – While I like what the Jets did in this draft overall for the long-term future of the franchise I’m not ready to declare any of their selections expected day one starters. First round selection Sam Darnold is inexperienced in terms of years playing the position and needs to clean up some of his mechanics before I’m ready to declare him the opening week starter for the Jets.
As for the other Jets draftees – unless significant injuries take place during training camp or the pre-season it’s unlikely any of their other five selections begin the season atop the depth chart at their respective positions.
Immediate Role Player
Round 3 – Pick 72: Nathan Shepherd, DT Fort Hays State
Shepherd provides inside-out versatility on the defensive line. He’s still very raw having played at Division II, Fort Hays State, where the level of competition isn’t as strong. However, he routinely won inside against double teams wrecking havoc on the interior of opposing offensive lines with good play strength and very good explosiveness.
He has very good size at 6’4”, 315 pounds, but will need refine aspects his overall game – pad level and technical skills – as he’s still a very raw player. Shepherd can come in year one and be an immediate role player in the right packages. He should see snaps as a 5 technique in base 3-4, 3 technique in nickel and can also kick inside as a 1 technique on pass rush situations.
Round 4 – Pick 107: Chris Herndon, TE Miami
There are plenty of snaps to go around at the TE position after Austin Seferian-Jenkins left for greener pastures in Jacksonville. Herndon will join a crowded, but overall adequate TE group in New York that’s looking for someone to hopefully run away with the position this training camp. The Jets are likely to use their TEs in a committee role rather than primarily focusing on one player to receive majority of the snaps.
Herndon can easily gain immediate snaps as a complimentary role player as he displays excellent athletic ability and good hands in the pass game. Although, he’s raw as a route runner and needs to develop that ability further as his career progresses. Yet, he can win lined up at a Y position running seams routes to test defenses deep and can also be used in space on screen plays. Despite effort in the run game he can stand to refine his run blocking skills as he’s more of a receiving TE only at this point in his career.
Herndon also projects to earn a roster spot playing special teams as he’s a high effort player with very good competitive toughness to carry out his assignments on any given play.
Round 6 – Pick 179: Parry Nickerson, CB Tulane
Nickerson is an aggressive and undersized corner at 5’10”, 182 pounds, but he plays bigger than his size which gives him an opportunity to play on the outside if necessary, although he projects to play more slot corner throughout his NFL career.
He displays very good competitive toughness and good play strength in spite of his size. Nickerson can press median to smaller receiver types at the line of scrimmage and is physical at the point of attack when the ball is in the air to complete pass breakups. Nickerson has very good closing speed and strong ball skills to defend passes and make interceptions as shown by his 16 career interceptions.
Round 6 – Pick 180: Foley Fatukasi, DT Connecticut
Fatukasi was great value in round 6 and is another DL the Jets could rely on this season in a rotational role. At 6’4”, 318 pounds, Fatukasi is similar in size to 3rd round pick Nathan Shepherd. Yet, they bring different skill sets to the table as the Connecticut DT projects as 1 technique spelling Mike Pennel at the NT position.
Round 1 – Pick 3: Sam Darnold, QB USC
It’s not ideal that your 1st round pick isn’t slated to be an expected starter, but that’s life in the NFL when you’re a QB needy team picking at the top of the draft. Darnold has all the upside in the world as a passer, but there are elements of his game that need to be developed and refined before he’s ready to become the full-time starter.
Darnold is best suited to take a ‘red-shirt’ season as a rookie allowing him to work on his lower half mechanics and become familiar with the offensive playbook. I agree with the sentiment that Darnold won’t learn the nuances of the position from veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater through osmosis. However, it’s vital to his development to allow him the time to fix his footwork that could hold him back from being one of the top passers in the league. Giving him a baptism by fire would not only potentially hurt his confidence, but wouldn’t allow him the opportunity to fix one of the main issues concerning his game.
Round 6 – Pick 204: Trenton Cannon, RB Virginia State
Cannon is limited because of his size at 5’11”, 185 pounds, but he can be a nice change of pace back in due time. He has explosive straight line speed which was well illustrated at the NFL Combine when he ran a 4.40 40 yard dash. Cannon can also provide value as a kick returner. He gained 821 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 attempts in 2017 returning kicks for Virginia State.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com