The New York Jets 2018 NFL Draft Recap

Joe Caporoso reviews the New York Jets 2018 draft class…

The New York Jets drafted six players over the weekend and also traded a seventh round pick for a veteran defensive lineman. Here is a full review of their selections and decision making in the 2018 NFL Draft. Linked here is our same article from the day after the 2017 NFL Draft.

The primary objective of this draft was finding a prospective franchise quarterback and the Jets checked that box early on night one with Sam Darnold. After getting the quarterback, it was a little surprising further offensive support was not a priority throughout the rest of the weekend, particularly when it came to addressing the offensive line. It was the other side of the football’s line that took center stage as the Jets added three more bodies to their defensive line rotation with two picks and a trade.

It is clear the Jets are operating with a belief that pressure should be generated from the interior, supported by blitz packages and not from the edge. They also continued a day two and three trend of targeting older prospects and concentrating their dart throws in round six, as this was the second year in a row they selected three players in the sixth round and zero in the seventh. Unlike previous years, there were no notable reaches as the Jets got good value based on most analysts big boards with each of their selections, while also taking advantage of a few players sliding further than expected.

Sam Darnold, Quarterback, 1st Round (3rd overall) It was surprising that Darnold was available third overall but it was not surprising the Jets pulled the trigger when he was. The youngest of the top tier quarterback prospects, Darnold checks every single box on and off the field General Manager’s look when drafting a prospective franchise quarterback. The biggest question mark around him will be his ability to protect the football, in relation to cleaning up the consistency of his mechanics. He is already the most talented quarterback on the roster and if the Jets have a genuine open competition, there is no reason he cannot start from week one. Darnold is the type of player who could be among the league leaders in turnovers as a rookie but among the league leaders in touchdowns by year three of his career.

Best Case Scenario: A healthy Andrew Luck or Tony Romo type quarterback who is the Jets quarterback for the next decade plus.

Worst Case Scenario: A more mobile Carson Palmer who never becomes more than a middle of the road starter

Nathan Shepherd, Defensive Lineman, 3rd Round (72nd Overall) A dominant Division 2 player who will turn 25 years old this October, Shepherd turned heads with his athleticism in the pre-draft process and flashes of dominance at Senior Bowl week. The initial press conference after the pick, indicates the Jets view him as part of the solution to replace Muhammad Wilkerson at the five technique. Shepherd was consistently ranked as a top 100 player in this class but most scouts agree he may need a year or two to adjust to NFL competition, which is somewhat problematic when you are a 25 year old rookie. The Jets have not had good luck with these types of swings in recent years (Deon Simon, Dylan Donahue) but hopefully Shepherd can break the mold of a small school, old pick finding consistent success in the NFL.

Best Case Scenario: A key cog in the defensive line rotation as a rookie, who becomes a full time starter in 2019 and becomes an Akiem Hicks type player.

Worst Case Scenario: Struggles to consistently make the active game day roster as a rookie, gets lost in the shuffle in year two training camp before being relegated to the practice squad and eventually cut.

Chris Herndon, Tight End, 4th Round (107 Overall) A high floor, well rounded player at a position of need to hopefully support the growth of Darnold. Herndon improved year over year as a receiver and blocks well for a tight end with his athletic frame. He is coming off season ending MCL surgery last November and still needs to diversify his route tree and consistency in the intermediate passing game but this was solid value and a logical target considering the team’s current depth chart.

Best Case Scenario: Establishes himself in the pre-season as part of the tight end rotation, bouncing between Y and H. By 2019, is leading the team in reps at the position.

Worst Case Scenario: Struggles in camp and is put on IR for his rookie season, basically a repeat of what happened with Jordan Leggett in 2017.

Parry Nickerson, Cornerback, 6th Round (179th Overall) A player we mentioned as a pre-draft target for the Jets, Nickerson fell a little further than expected. He is a built to be a slot corner and has impressive ball skills combined with blazing speed (4.32 forty yard dash). He is going to struggle with bigger slot receivers, particularly as he initially transitions into the NFL and his aggressiveness can come back to haunt him at times but the Jets needed to take a swing at finding Buster Skrine’s replacement and Nickerson could be that guy.

Best Case Scenario: He pushes Skrine for playing time as a rookie and takes over as the team’s full time slot corner in 2019. He is also an immediate impact player on special teams. 

Worst Case Scenario: Gets buried on the depth chart and is regularly inactive as a rookie. The Jets look for another solution in the slot at this time next year.

Folorunso Fatukasi, Defensive Line, 6th Round (180th Overall) The Jets went back to well to boost their defensive line depth with Fatukasi, who was another player who lasted longer than most expected. Similar to Shephard, he is an older (23 already) but rawer defensive lineman who has an intriguing athletic skill set but is inconsistent with technique and could struggle with the leap in competition. The Jets clearly were not comfortable with the talent around Leonard Williams heading into the weekend and wanted to take multiple swings at finding him stronger running mates.

Best Case Scenario: He becomes a component of the 2018 defensive line rotation and special teams units and increases his rep total in 2019.

Worst Case Scenario: Does not make the 53 man roster as a rookie and the team cuts ties with him in 2019 training camp.

Trenton Cannon, Running Back, 6th Round (204th Overall) Another Division II prospect, Cannon is a burner scatback who could be in the mix to return kicks or punts. He had massive production at his level and has a unique build/game to the rest of the backs currently on the depth chart but will still have an uphill climb to make an offensive impact in the NFL.

Best Case Scenario: Becomes the team’s primary kick return and takes reps from Elijah McGuire as an option behind Isiah Crowell and Bilal Powell.

Worst Case Scenario: Struggles to distinguish himself on special teams and doesn’t do much with limited offensive opportunities before being released at the end of the preseason.

Trade: Jets Acquire Indianapolis Colts Defensive End Henry Anderson for a 7th Round Pick: A former third round pick in 2015 who has struggled with injuries in recent years. He played nearly 400 snaps for the Colts last season and registered 22 tackles and 2 sacks. Anderson will be part of the committee to replace Muhammad Wilkerson’s reps, alongside Xavier Cooper and Nathan Shepherd.

Projected 53 Man Depth Chart 

  • QB: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg
  • RB: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire
  • FB: Lawrence Thomas
  • WR: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kerase, Terrelle Pryor, Andre Roberts, Chad Hansen
  • TE: Eric Tomlinson, Clive Walford, Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett
  • OT: Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana, Brent Qvale
  • OG: James Carpenter, Brian Winters, Dakota Dozier
  • C: Spencer Long, Travis Swanson
  • DL: Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Mike Pennel, Nathan Shepherd, Henry Anderson, Xavier Cooper
  • ILB: Darron Lee, Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter, Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Brandon Copeland, Lorenzo Mauldin
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Parry Nickerson, Daryl Roberts, Jeremy Clark
  • S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Rontez Miles, Terrence Brooks
  • K: Cairo Santos
  • P: Lachlan Edwards
  • LS: Thomas Hennessy

Address of expected complaints about depth chart: Yes, I’d prefer they just keep two quarterbacks but I’m wary they will admit their mistake and waive Hackenberg. I think Teddy Bridgewater’s health will prevent him from doing much this summer and he won’t be around in week 1. If they only keep two quarterbacks, it opens another spot for ArDarius Stewart or Trenton Cannon. Yes, I’m projecting the Jets will go with an experienced, productive returner in Andre Roberts. Before you complain about somebody being left off, remember they need to replace someone else and the limited value of a 7th receiver or 4th running back.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports