The Jets are 0-4, and most fans have already scoured mock drafts to gauge who’ll be available when Gang Green picks—most likely in the top 10 again for the sixth time in eight years. I have always been an advocate of selecting the best player available. It’s a strategy that I thought seemed obvious, as it minimized risk and ensured a higher probability of choosing a viable player. However, in the last couple of seasons, I noticed a change in myself, my philosophy, and the way I would encourage teams to approach the selection process.
Now, I don’t want people reading this to think I’ve entirely strayed from this ideology. There are situations—more often than not—when selecting the best player available is the right move.
My top three prospects this past draft from top to bottom were Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and Josh Allen. Although I had Quinnen higher on my board than Allen, he wouldn’t have been my choice for THIS New York Jets team. With glaring holes at CB, OL, and edge, taking an IDL was borderline negligent. The Jets possess a plethora of defensive lineman and Allen or a trade back would have been the prudent move.
You shouldn’t always pick the best player available on your board!
This article isn’t an indictment on any individual player. Quinnen still has a chance to become a dominant player and could very well end up being a steal at 3—if he becomes a pass-rushing force up the middle. However, this is an indictment on the process some teams/general managers take—and some fans clamor for—when contemplating who should be selected in the draft.
For a general manager who’s had little to no success outside of round one, I wasn’t surprised Maccagnan didn’t pull the trigger on a trade or draft a player other than Quinnen Williams. Quinnen was the easy choice, and “play it safe Mike” couldn’t take any chances with his track record. Selecting Williams was equivalent to what too many mediocre coaches/teams do every Sunday during crucial moments in the game; instead of trying to win, they play not to lose.
The same can be said in 2017: with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson on the board, the Jets selected fan-favorite Jamal Adams. Adams is a great player and was the top player on many draft boards—including my own—but for a team desperate for a QB, he was not the right choice. I was fully on the Deshaun Watson train (yes, I liked him more than Mahomes), and although I love Jamal, the Jets needed a QB.
Andy Reid already possessed a starting caliber signal-caller (Alex Smith), but he didn’t hesitate to move up in the draft and take a chance on a player (Patrick Mahomes) that many people didn’t have going in the top 10. As a result, the Chiefs remain in the hunt for the Lombardi, and the Jets are still looking for their first win.
I’m pleased the Jets were fortunate enough to get Sam Darnold the following year (even with the mono situation), and they are lucky to have him, but let’s not forget that it took trading three second-round picks for just a chance to select him. That’s three holes the Jets could have plugged had they not played it safe and taken the “best player available” the prior season.
Many have surmised the Jets skipped on a QB because they still believed they could develop draft bust Christian Hackenberg, but I feel differently. I don’t think Mike Maccagnan had the intestinal fortitude to take another chance. He whiffed on Hack, and everybody knew it. Selecting another QB was too risky, and Maccagnan was most likely concerned with job security and just trying not to lose. Unfortunately, this approach created ripples throughout the organization, and, as a result, the Jets are now 0-4, with a recovering QB, a subpar offensive line, a carousel at the edge, a weak secondary, and a very frustrated fanbase.
With mock draft season in full effect and fans already tweeting about their favorites, let us remember what’s transpired over the last couple of years. Please, keep an open mind, and don’t become enamored with the “best player available,” as he may not be the best option for your team.