Twelve thoughts around the New York Jets and the 2019 NFL Draft as the big day draws closer (or more accurately, one long thought and eleven quick thoughts)…
My early (and subject to change) take is that no matter how the board breaks, I don’t want the #Jets to take a defensive lineman. Don’t care if he is BPA. Don’t care about their NFL comparisons. Take an offensive player. Take a pass rushing edge. Trade back. No DT/DE. https://t.co/fthV0VubUV
— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) December 14, 2018
Spoiler: I still feel the same way. I am aware that many (including a few who work for my own website…TRAITORS) are huge advocates of taking Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick. I am not.
Williams is a very good prospect and you can make a more than reasonable case he is one of the two or three best players in this class. There are also merits to the “BPA, no matter what” arguments that are regularly made. Yet, I don’t see Williams as a generational, surefire Aaron Donald level player and I don’t see the gap between him and likely available pass rusher Josh Allen as large enough to scoff at the notion of taking Allen or trading back for more swings based on the Jets current roster construction.
I see Williams as a player about 5-10% better than Sheldon Richardson when he came out (and before you laugh at that, remember Richardson was DROY in 2013 and a dominant player in 2014 before off the field issues and being around Muhammad Wilkerson started to limit his production and consistency). The decline of Wilkerson, Richardson and disappointment of Leonard Williams is not a reason to avoid Quinnen as an individual prospect. The process of trying to win by compiling interior defensive linemen for your 3-4 and repeatedly failing to do so is part of the reason, along with “BPA, no matter what” being not fully accurate.
The Jets job is not to blindly compile the most talent but rather to build the most effective team and overall roster. You can pretend to have a short memory but everybody ate up adding players with redundant skill sets in the 3-4 and being confident “defensive genius” Rex Ryan would sort it out and then doing the same thing and being confident “defensive genius” Todd Bowles would sort it out. This is the same approach: Keep Leonard Williams, pay Henry Anderson as a top ten 3-4 defensive end, then draft Quinnen and let “defensive genius” Gregg Williams sort it out…and before you respond with a “Well, Greg is a MUCH better defensive coach than Rex or Bowles,” look at Rex/Bowles defensive resumes compared to Gregg in the few years prior to joining the Jets. Both came to New York carrying the same “mastermind” card.
You need an edge rush to win the NFL. You need a strong offensive line to win the NFL. You need cornerbacks to win in the NFL. Certain positions are more valuable than others. The Jets used three picks in 2018 on interior defensive lineman. They have taken four interior defensive lineman in the first round since 2011, including one in the top six in 2015. They invested heavily “up the middle” of their defense this offseason by paying CJ Mosley and bringing Anderson back. At a certain point, when you are bad every single year, isn’t it time to revise your roster building strategy?
The situation reminds me of an anecdote about former New York Knicks GM Isaiah Thomas, who when questioned about his roster building strategy said the following
“Everyone’s trying to get smaller and faster. I want to go the other way. I want to get bigger. I want to pound people down low.
Everybody in the NFL is getting faster, more spread out and sees the value in the premium positions I mentioned above. They are also recognizing it is an offense dominated league. The Jets have been going the Isaiah route the past eight years and have failed. Spending nearly 100 million on CJ Mosley (a great player but an inside linebacker) and then using a top three pick on an interior defensive lineman, while completely sitting out cornerback, center and edge in free agency would seem to be more of the same.
To be fair…maybe Quinnen Williams is the next Aaron Donald and maybe he magically makes Leonard Williams into the player we all thought he would be five years ago. The NFL Draft is a crapshoot and Williams may be the one prospect who is worth it but as it stands now…I have no problem with the Jets trying like hell to trade back and compile dart throws or taking the edge rusher in Allen.
2 – The Jets need swings at offensive line, where they don’t just need a starting center but also need young developmental talent to provide depth. You do not want to be one snap away from Tom Compton and Brent Qvale playing major reps and there is no guarantee that Brain Winters or Kelvin Beachum are here in 2020. Mike Maccagnan has drafted two (!) offensive linemen in four years and both were selected in the fifth round or later. This strategy has to change, especially with a young franchise quarterback. One of the benefits of trading back is it gives the Jets more potential flexibility for early day two swings at center, if they want to consider a player like Garrett Bradbury, Erik McCoy or Elgton Jenkins.
3 – As a refresher, the Jets currently only own six picks in the 2019 NFL Draft: #3 overall in round one, two third rounders, a fourth rounder and two sixth rounders. They should be working to get that number closer to ten with their volume of holes and lack of depth right now.
4 – As another refresher, here is a positional breakdown of how the Jets have allocated their picks over the past four years under Maccagnan
- 4 defensive lineman (Williams, Simon, Shephard, Fatukasi)
- 4 wide receivers (Stewart, Hansen, Smith, Peake)
- 4 corners (Nickerson, Burris, Jones, Clark)
- 3 quarterbacks (Darnold, Hackenberg, Petty)
- 3 edge rushers (Mauldin, Jenkins, Donahue)
- 2 safeties (Adams, Maye)
- 2 running backs (McGuire, Cannon)
- 2 offensive linemen (Harrison, Shell)
- 2 tight ends (Leggett, Herndon)
- 1 punter (Edwards)
- 1 inside linebacker (Lee)
5 – As a final refresher, the Jets have had an age problem with their draft picks
13 of Maccagnan’s 28 draft picks have been 23 or older when selected:
– Shepherd, Nickerson, Fatukasi, Cannon, Maye, Stewart, Donohue, Burris, Shell, Smith, Petty, Harrison, Simon.
Only players still on roster who weren’t drafted in 2018 are Shell/Maye (both ended year on IR)
— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) January 26, 2019
Let’s hope the Jets focus on taking swings on younger prospects with higher athletic ceilings, as when they have gone “old” it has not worked out. You can’t be convinced you are going to turn an unathletic Division II pass rusher with short arms into a contributor in the NFL.
6 – Offensive line is a popular positional target for trade downs but how about cornerback? Greedy Williams, Byron Murphy or Deendre Baker would be good value additions if the Jets can move down outside of the top ten and would provide a needed young building block at a critical position. If the Jets don’t address corner on day one, it needs to be a focus in the middle rounds.
7 – While I don’t think it is an option if they trade down, fans shouldn’t be frustrated if the Jets look to take advantage of a deep and versatile tight end class. The right selection is no different than adding a receiver to support Sam Darnold with how modern offenses work in the NFL. Kaden Smith could be a later round option if they are looking for in-line support while Josh Oliver could offer more versatility and immediate contributions as a pass catcher.
8 – As for wide receiver, if the Jets aren’t shopping in round one post trade back (no DK Metcalf is not a reasonable option at #3) Parris Campbell, Riley Ridley and Deebo Samuel offer potential strong day two value. The Jets need more depth at receiver and similar to offensive line, young pieces to develop around Sam Darnold. You don’t want to be an ankle sprain away from starting Josh Bellamy in your three receiver looks and there is no guarantee Robby Anderson is here in 2020.
9 – I have not soured on Jonah Williams as much as many have seemed to and would be perfectly content with the Jets selecting him with a top ten pick if they moved back a few spots. I think it is borderline if he merits any consideration at third overall but I don’t seem it as an outlandish move.
10 – I have feeling Darron Lee ends up being a draft weekend trade that nets the Jets a day three selection. It is never ideal when you draft an inside linebacker in the first round in 2016, then need to trade him three years later after you pay a record setting contract to another inside linebacker.
11 – RB2? Benny Smell and Dexter Williams are potential mid round swings that could be an upgrade to the current Elijah McGuire/Trenton Cannon duo behind Le’Veon Bell. Is there any reason not to take a flier on TJ Yeldon as well in free agency?
12 – It is a relief to not be searching for a quarterback in this draft class, although I believe Kyler Murray will thrive with Kingsbury if Arizona actually pulls the trigger. (I also think Josh Rosen still has the potential to be very good in the right situation).