New York Jets Draft Notebook: Grading Every Pick

Connor Rogers with grades for each of the New York Jets picks in the 2018 NFL Draft…

What a whirlwind draft week was, especially for the New York Jets. It was hard to imagine a scenario where Sam Darnold tumbled to three, but this is why it’s one of the more unpredictable events in all of sports.

Even without a second round selection, the team found value and remained active in the trade market. While these weren’t all household names, quite a few were favorites amongst the national draft media.

Let’s grade each pick the Jets made this year.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC
1st round, 3rd overall pick

It still feels weird writing this. I’ve talked to multiple people around the league (scouts, executives, media and some tied closely to USC) about Darnold since last July. The consensus was simple: he was the top quarterback in this class, seen as the only ‘fail proof’ choice in a crowded group.

While the ceiling of Josh Rosen was exciting, his injury and personality concerns were extremely real (hence the slide).

Darnold is seen as a very comparable player to Tony Romo, with all world character and the ability to improvise when things break down. At 20 years old, the hope is that he’ll eventually play at around 230 pounds with his arm strength expected to increase over the next two years.

Sometimes ‘boring’ is what’s needed, especially for a franchise that finds themselves at one end of an extreme spectrum more often than not.

The Jets have their energetic leader in Jamal Adams on defense. Now they have an even keeled one on offense at the most important position in football. For the first time in a long time, there is a league wide belief the New York Jets have landed a legitimate franchise quarterback for the next 15 years.

Grade: A

Nathan Shepherd, DL, Fort Hayes State
3rd round, 72nd overall pick

It’s been a quiet topic this offseason, but defensive line became a significant need for the Jets. After trading Sheldon Richardson last Summer and moving on from Muhammad Wilkerson this offseason, the depth of the trenches became a little light.

Enter Nathan Shepherd, a Canadian with one of the best stories in this entire draft. In terms of the eye test, he’s one of the most impressive physical specimens in this class.

On the first day of the Senior Bowl I couldn’t get over the butt kicking he was putting on anyone in his path, then he fractured his hand and missed the rest of the week.

The knock you’ll hear on him is age, but I wouldn’t get caught up on that with a defensive lineman (especially in round three).

It’s clear the Jets were looking for an instant impact player in this spot and saw value. While some believe he is a bit raw, most of that was assumed due to the level of competition he played. When that increased in Mobile, although only for one day, he looked like he easily belonged.

Grade: B+

Chris Herndon, TE, Miami
4th round, 107th overall pick

I had consistently voiced my thoughts that Herndon was flying under-the-radar in this crowded tight end class. He’s not an explosive receiving threat like David Njoku was coming out of Miami last year, but a very well rounded tight end.

Ironically enough, his skill set is not very different from Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He’s a reliable in-line blocker, works very well underneath as a pass catcher and can also be utilized in the red zone.

I expect him to build solid chemistry with Sam Darnold in training camp and at a minimum win split starting reps with Eric Tomlinson. For those still holding out hope for Jordan Leggett, Herndon is a significantly better player and will most likely knock him off the roster.

Grade: B+

Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane
6th round, 179th overall pick

Landing Nickerson this late was incredible value for the Jets, who quietly had to find depth at slot corner. Buster Skrine had an up and down 2017 season. On top of that he was banged up, with little help behind him to step in.

Although undersized, Nickerson is feisty, relentless and blazing fast (4.32 speed). He’s a great scheme fit for Todd Bowles’ press heavy defense that will be given the chance to start in a nickel base defense down the road.

Grade: B

Foley Fatukasi, DL, UConn
6th round, 180th overall pick

Fatukasi is a powerhouse run stopper in the trenches and much like Nathan Shepherd, he has incredible size at 6’4″, 318 lbs. with 34 1/8″ arms.

He has a ton of starting experience over the last three seasons, bringing a reliable presence up front that controls his gaps and rarely gets moved off the ball.

While the value at this spot was good, the Jets had already taken Nathan Shepherd in the third round and traded for Henry Anderson from the Colts for a seventh round pick. The team should’ve looked to add potential depth at another position, especially with a defensive line rotation looking relatively filled out.

grade: c+

Trenton Cannon, RB/KR, Virginia State
6th round, 204th overall pick

With their final pick of the draft, the Jets rolled the dice on the small school Cannon. He boasts an impressive athletic profile but at his size he’ll only make the roster if he’s an electric special teams threat.

After adding Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls in free agency to a depth chart that includes Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, this pick is a long shot to make the 53-man roster.

grade: C


Photo Credit: