Jamal Adams joins Gang Green with big expectations. What kind of player have the Jets selected with this year’s sixth pick?
- 2014: 13 games played, 66 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 passes defensed
- 2015: 12 games played, 67 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 6 passes defensed, 1 fumble forced
- 2016: 12 games played, 76 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 4 passes defensed, 1 fumble forced
|40 Yard Dash||4.56s||53|
|20 Yard Shuttle||4.13s||72|
|60 Yard Shuttle||11.92s||17|
|Bench Press||18 reps||63|
DISCLAIMER: While www.draftbreakdown.com is an amazing overall resource for watching draft prospects, trying to break down a player who is not even on camera for a decent amount of snaps every game is difficult. I think I’ve gotten a good feel for Adams, but there’s some projection involved.
Adams came to LSU with high expectations and was as advertised, contributing as a true freshman and subsequently starting the next two seasons. Whether it’s meaningful or not can be debated, but every player that joins this team with any expectations gets the “can he handle the New York spotlight?” question. If it’s a real thing, Adams should be able to handle it. He was a big-time recruit and met the challenge head-on, ending up as the leader of one of the nation’s annual top defenses.He’s a well-built 6’0 214 pounds and a solid athlete who makes the most of his physical traits with an aggressive demeanor and decisive decision making. At LSU he was Mr. Everything, lining up at virtually every back seven position at one point or another and showing proficiency in a number of roles. In zone coverage he shows quick mental processing, diagnosing what’s in front of him and reacting to place himself in a good position to make a play. In man coverage he’s physical and can stick with most tight ends and some bigger, slower wide receivers.
It’s play closer to the line of scrimmage where he really sticks out. In the bubble screen laden landscape of college football, it was a frequent sight to see Adams crash down and smack an unsuspecting wide receiver for a big hit and a minimal gain. He’ll blow up block attempts from wide receivers. His aggressive instinct to fly down and hit somebody is best used when he’s given a target on a blitz and asked to destroy it.
Leadership, leadership, leadership. These aren’t things that I can tell from watching him but it is mentioned frequently by people who would know better than I. It is very clearly a factor in the Jets taking him after the locker room grumbles from last year. One thing I think it’s important to point out is that his father was an NFL player and a Super Bowl winner. You never know how a player will react once he’s out in the world on his own and he’s handed millions of dollars, but Jamal Adams has as good a mentor as it gets in terms of learning what it is to be a professional.
NegativesThere are two particular things I worry about with Adams – is he a true playmaker in the passing game, and the overall trouble his stiffness can get him into.
When picking top ten in the draft, you want to come away with a player that affects the passing game in a significant way. This is why quarterbacks, pass rushers, tackles and corners are so highly valued. Adams can do a lot of different things, but he wasn’t an Earl Thomas (or to compare him to a draft mate, Malik Hooker) type playmaker in the back end. In terms of range and ball skills Adams isn’t in their stratosphere. His ball skills are fine, they’re not great. But Adams does have good football intelligence that does show up on tape – his ability to diagnose what he’s seeing and react quickly in coverage will be the difference between Adams being potentially an Adrian Wilson type all-around star or a Donte Whitner type “pretty good” strong safety that any team would like to have but no team is dying to break the bank for.
Despite testing above average for a safety in agility focused drills, quick change-of-direction movement is at the source of most of Adams’ issues. It rules him out of manning up on smaller and more sudden slot receivers and occasionally puts him in an embarrassing situation when it comes to tackling a full-speed elusive player in the open field. In short, he doesn’t possess the quick twitch change of direction where he’s going to do something special out of spontaneity.
His aggressiveness can also sometimes be a problem, his desire to smack someone can sometimes sacrifice angles and good tackling technique. But to an extent there’s a risk/reward you sometimes take with that – it was no different with Troy Polamalu.
Time for a Knicks/Jets crossover with a quote from former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy: “Your best player has to set a tone of intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.”
The focus on culture change with the Jets’ first several picks has been talked about ad nauseam, and in my opinion focusing too much on intangibles in the draft can be dangerous generally speaking. Focus too much on them and you get an Anthony Schlegel, one of Eric Mangini’s rare early slip ups in the draft. The draft is a finite pool of talent where players are taken based on their ability to perform on the field. A double-digit sack terror on the edge for example is a lock for the first round. You’re not getting one of those guys with any confidence on day three. A player that is going to come in and lead by example, push teammates, and get everyone hyped up on game day can in theory be found anywhere. Sometimes, it’s even the UDFA types that make it against all odds that inspire the most. Bart Scott is an example.
But I think the quote above has value. There is something to your best player(s) carrying themselves a certain way and how it rubs off on the rest of the team. I can respect identifying Adams as that kind of player. Within a few years there is every expectation that Adams should be one of the best safeties in the league, and with that the face of the Jets defense.
On the field the fit makes sense too. The Jets could have feasibly upgraded anywhere with the sixth pick in the draft given roster state, safety was no different. When Bowles has his defense functioning at a high level, the versatility and thereby unpredictability of the safety position is a key element. On any given play they can be an extra man on a blitz, play essentially the role of a linebacker, cover the deep middle or man up on a slot target.
Adams is a day one starter and potential defense changer. The Jets brass will love this pick because it ticks a number of boxes for them – it was arguably Best Player Available, Todd Bowles values a safety highly, there’s a culture change factor, and it was the “safe pick” for a team that simply needs good players. But I think the Jets need Adams to be more than just pretty good.
The one thing I’d stress with Adams (and Maye for that matter too) is that it may not be pretty early on. Bowles is likely going to challenge Adams with responsibility and expect him to make calls for a complicated scheme. Good safety play can mask some deficiencies at corner but the inverse is also likely to be true as Adams and Maye find their bearings with minimial help from the corner positions. It is best to be patient and hope for Maccagnan to continue putting talent already them.