It is generally premature to evaluate a draft class until after three seasons. However, it is a long offseason and it never hurts to take a step back to look at the big picture. Mike Maccagnan has made 13 draft picks since becoming the New York Jets GM. Here is an overview of their performance so far. (Note, this does not include UDFAs, which we will include when looking at his free agent signings next week).
2015Leonard Williams (1st round, #6 overall) After two seasons Williams is headed to his first Pro Bowl and has the look of a player who will be there with a high amount of frequency. Generally regarded as the best overall player in the 2015 draft, he surprisingly fell to the 6th pick and the Jets pounced. In a vacuum Williams is a great player and a great pick. However, the grade of this pick is lowered somewhat because it should have been compounded with a trade of Muhammad Wilkerson. If the Jets had no intention of trading Wilkerson, they should have selected Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks this past season.
Basically, having three very good 3-4 defensive ends with zero edge rushers is not better than having two very good 3-4 defensive ends with one very good edge rusher. The Jets will now likely trade Sheldon Richardson this offseason with his value at an all time low, after the experiment of having all three on the roster over the past two years didn’t work out and the first year after paying Wilkerson looking like a bad choice.
Again, it is not a knock on Williams who has been everything you could have hoped for and more through two years but this pick is not the “A+” it could be because it is about building the best overall team, which was not achieved by keeping all three defensive ends.
Devin Smith (2nd round, #37th overall) Smith has been a disappointment through two years, to put it politely. After some minor flashes as a rookie, he sustained a serious knee injury last December and basically missed his entire sophomore campaign. In the meantime, he was passed over by players like Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake on the depth chart. Smith will get another shot this summer but it will be an uphill battle for him to make an impact, despite having a unique skill set to make an impact as a vertical receiver.Lorenzo Mauldin (3rd round, #82 overall) After an encouraging rookie year as a situational pass rusher, Mauldin regressed in year two. He missed five games due to injury, dropped from 4 sacks to 2.5 sacks and struggled to consistently generate pressure as a full time player. It is fair to question after two years if Mauldin can be a starter at outside linebacker or is better served being a role player as a pass rusher off the bench.
Bryce Petty (4th round, #103 overall) A mid round project quarterback who will already be 26 before the 2017 season. He was given a chance to start 4 games and play in 6 games as a sophomore after a redshirt rookie year and didn’t look the part of a future NFL starter (56 completion percentage, 6.1 YPA, 3 TDs, 7 INTs). The ceiling for Petty (whether Jets fans want to hear it or not) is becoming a decent backup quarterback and honestly that may be generous.
Jarvis Harrison (5th round, #152 overall) Did not make the roster as a rookie. There were concerns about his passion for the game coming out of college and he struggled to make any type of impression last summer. One of the few picks at this point that you can definitively say was a miss.
Deon Simon (7th round, #223 overall) Showed signs of being a capable full time nose tackle in his second year. He looked the part when given a bigger opportunity so it will be interesting to see how his playing time is divided up with veteran Steve McLendon next season (if McLendon is back). Simon may end up being a late round steal and helps soften the blow of the Petty and Harrison miss to an extent.2016
Darron Lee (1st round, #20 overall) It was an okay rookie campaign for Lee, who was generally considered solid value at the 20th pick. He missed 3 games due to injury and struggled heavily in pass coverage when out there. However, Lee showed flashes of the sideline to sideline speed and instincts the Jets drafted him for, finishing with 42 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defensed and 4 tackles for a loss. He is far from a proven inside linebacker after one season but will get the chance to start alongside David Harris next season.
Christian Hackenberg (2nd round, #51 overall) A controversial pick that did not get any less controversial after one season, as he spent the majority of it as a 4th string, part time scout team quarterback. It does not seem the Jets think Hackenberg will be ready to start in 2017 either. All we have seen from him so far is an ugly preseason and a handful of anonymous quotes questioning if he can play at this level. This might be a miss that sticks with Maccagnan for awhile but we’ll have a better idea after 2017 of where Hackenberg really stands.
Jordan Jenkins (3rd round, #83 overall) After a quiet start to the season, Jenkins finished strong down the stretch (2.5 sacks, 1 FF in the last 4 games and a top ten pass rush grade from PFF in the final two weeks). Hopefully he can avoid the sophomore slump that plagued Mauldin, as he likely projects to being a starting outside linebacker next season.
Juston Burris (4th round, #118 overall) Put together an encouraging preseason, was not involved until the final few regular season games, where he had a few flashes against the Dolphins and Patriots. It is hard to project if Burris can be a full time player at this point but at a minimum, he has earned the chance to compete for reps in the Jets base defense next season. For a fourth rounder, it is hard to be anything but content with what you saw from Burris as a rookie.
Brandon Shell (5th round, #158 overall) Stated the Jets final three games and held up way better than expected. He will likely get to compete to be the starting right tackle next season and if the Jets found a starting tackle in the 5th round, that will be a big win for Maccagnan.
Lac Edwards (7th round, #235 overall) If you are going to use a pick on a punter, he better be good. Edwards was not good as a rookie with a 40.8 yards punt, no consistency pinning kicks inside the 20 and a muff that led to a touchdown vs. the Ravens. He will be back next year but if he plays at the same rate, may be cut sooner rather than later.
Charone Peake (7th round, #241 overall) Flashed in a very limited role and took advantage when given targets. Peake will be a rostered player next year. The size of his role will depend how the rest of the depth chart shakes out. Regardless, this has potential to be a good value pick in the 7th round.
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