Evaluating the New York Jets 2017 NFL Draft Class

Overview:

When the Jets ended the season at 5-11, there was uncertainty looming at the quarterback position. With the Jets holding 6th overall pick draft analysts and beat writers mocked quarterbacks such As North Carolina’s quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson’s quarterback Deshaun Watson who were considered the top prospects the quarterback position to the Jets. A quarterback was only one of the few positions that was being mocked to the Jets other common names included cornerback Marshone Lattimore from Ohio State, Malik Hooker, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, and LSU safety Jamal Adams were a few popular names associated with the New York Jets.

During general manager Mike Maccagnan’s post press conference before the NFL Draft he made it known that he was extremely interested in acquiring more picks to fill their needs heading into the draft. Maccagnan is not the type of general manager who gives out any clues of what/who he wants to target before the draft. This was very telling considering he traded down a total of 5 times in this year’s draft while also acquiring the Dallas Cowboy’s 5th round for next year’s draft.

Another interesting note about Maccagnan’s press conference was his response to question’s regarding Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. Maccagnan’s wife is an advocate against domestic violence who works with the One Love Foundation. This is a foundation that helps spread awareness on abuse and warning signs of abuse. With Mixon prior incident with Amelia Molitor who was also a student at Oklahoma, it seemed like Maccagnan was trying to send a message that he is looking for high character players in the draft with his response of we weight those things heavily in regards to Mixon.

Last another important piece of information I gathered from Maccagnan’s press conference before the draft is how much he values looking at the quarterback position. Although, he traded up one spot for Bryce Petty in the 4th round in the 2015 NFL Draft and drafted Christian Hackenberg in the 2nd round last year. He stated that he does not think they will ever be a year where he does not look at the quarterback position. Before Maccagnan took the general manager job, one piece of advice his friend/former general manager Ron Wolf told him was his theory of drafting a quarterback every year until you find your answer at that position. Although, the New York Jets did not draft a quarterback this year, he did a great job sending smokescreens making it seem like the Jets were interested in potentially adding another quarterback. The Jets had private workouts/visited with the top quarterbacks such as Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshone Kizer and Deshaun Watson to name a few.

What I learned about Maccagnan in this year’s draft is that he is committed to building through the draft. The Jets started with 7 draft picks, and managed to accumulate extra picks along with the Dallas Cowboy’s 5th round pick for next year’s draft. I also learned that he wants to draft leaders or alpha males as role models for the Jets. He wants a culture change on and off the field. He avoided players who although were talented or had great value by time when the Jets were picking avoided them because of character issues or because they had red flags. The player’s Maccagnan selected in this year’s draft are good character guys who don’t have any red flags. He stood true to his board by resisting the urge to reach for a quarterback in the first round. He took one of the best player’s in this draft in safety Jamal Adams who will help set the tone on the Jets secondary.

Here’s the selection’s Mike Maccagnan made during this year’s draft class:

Round 1 pick 6: Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
Round 2 pick 39: Marcus Maye, Safety, Florida
Round 3 pick 79: ArDarius Stewart, Wide receiver, Alabama
Round 4 pick 141: Chad Hansen, Wide receiver, California
Round 5 pick 150: Jordan Leggett, Tight end, Clemson
Round 5 pick 181: Dylan Donahue, Linebacker, West Georgia
Round 6 pick 188: Elijah McGuire, Running back, Louisiana-Lafayette
Round 6 pick 197: Jeremy Clark, Cornerback, Michigan
Round 6 pick 204: Derrick Jones, Cornerback, Ole Miss

When Maccagnan was on the clock he had the opportunity to draft a top quarterback such as Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. He also had the opportunity to draft top offensive playmaker such as wide receiver Mike Williams, running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end O.J. Howard. On the defensive side of the ball he had the opportunity to draft Jamal Adams, Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker, Marshone Lattimore, and Hasson Reddick to name a few. He made the right decision by staying true to his board by drafting Jamal Adams who was without a doubt considered the best available player by time the Jets picked. He was also a safe pick for Maccagnan to make. Former NFL player Bucky Brooks who is now a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated and the NFL has mentioned that he believed Jamal Adams was the best player in the draft. The Jets were extremely fortunate that Adams fell on their lap with their 6th overall pick.

One of the biggest things needs for the Jets other than adding more talent on both sides of the field is adding more leaders in the locker room. At LSU, Jamal Adams was considered one of the best leaders the football program has had in years. He brings leadership, intelligence, and is well disciplined. He adds more speed on the Jets secondary and is a field general on the field. Essentially, the Jets got a player who is considered a rare talent who is a well-rounded athlete. Adams has the ability to transform and help the Jets struggling secondary who suffered from miss tackling and poor coverage. Both of those qualities plays to Adams strengths. His experience of covering tight ends is also an asset, last year the Jets struggled properly covering opposing team’s tight ends.

While the Jets had an opportunity to draft Dalvin Cook or Quincy Wilson they opted to draft the underrated Florida safety in Marcus Maye. The Jets double dipped at the safety position. With the recent release of veteran safety Marcus Gilchrist and Maccagnan declining Calvin Pryor’s 5th year tag this pick makes sense. Last year, the Jets secondary could not figure out how to properly defend against the long passes. With the NFL transforming it is getting more and more important to be able to defend against the deep long passes. According to PFF Analyst John Gatta, Maye only missed 1 tackle out of 438 snaps last season. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are both interchangeable safeties, who can both tackle, and cover. These two have the opportunity to quickly transform and be a deadly duo at safety for the Jets for year’s to come.

In the 3rd round, the Jets drafted their offensive playmaker by drafting wide receiver ArDarius Stewart from Alabama. Stewart is a great fit for offensive coordinator John Morton and the type of West Coast Offense he plays on running. Stewart brings a type of swagger to the Jets offense. He was a playmaker for Alabama who had great hands and is also a good blocker. He was one of the more underrated wide receiver out of the bunch. He has great field speed who knows how to beat defenders beat. A great reliable target for the Jets starting quarterback. During the 4th round the Jets double dipped at the wide receiver position drafting Hansen. While this move might not have made a lot of sense during the time, when news broke out that Devin Smith will miss the season after the draft the move of drafting two wide receivers was the right move. Hansen is a big physical target who has great speed. He was also a reliable target for Davis Webb when he played for California. With the potential talent at the wide receiver position this should give plenty of weapons to the Jets starting quarterback.

The last time the Jets had production from a starting tight end was when they had Dustin Keller. Although blocking is a big time weakness for 5th round pick Jordan Leggett he is a big target and was an explosive weapon for quarterback Deshaun Watson during his time at Clemson. The New York Jets badly needed to add talent at this position. With a strong tight end class, it would of been criminal if the Jets did not at least draft one of the tight ends from this year’s draft. With their second 5th round pick the Jets drafted Donahue who seems to be an ideal type player that Kevin Greene is looking for on defense. Donahue is an explosive playmaker who has a great motor. Could be a great special teams player/a good part time player on defense for the Jets.

With their first 6th round pick the Jets drafted running back Elijah McGuire. Which was the first time Maccagnan drafted a small school prospect back to back. McGuire is that speedster type back who was one of the better backs who had great hands.

With Matt Forte and Bilal Powell one their final year’s of their contract it made sense for the Jets to add more youth at the running back. He also has the ability to contribute and help on special teams which was another major weakness for the Jets last year. With their second 6th round pick the Jets drafted Jeremy Clark who is a tall rangy cornerback. Clark also has the ability to help and make an contribution on special teams. The Jets double dipped and drafted cornerback Derrick Jones with their final selection. Like Clark he is also a tall athletic cornerback. Jones also had experience playing wide receiver before making the transition to the cornerback position.

Overall, based on this draft it is clear that Mike Maccagnan wants to gut this roster and build through the draft. He traded down numerous of times in order to help plug in holes on the Jets roster. This was long overdue and something as fans that we are not use to. The Jets are instead focused on developing their own, instead of buying flashy names in free agency. Owner Woody Johnson made a comment that this year is about progress not about win or losses. He also mentioned his interest in seeing more Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty this year. They resisted temptation to draft a quarterback or to draft flashy players but instead drafted players that are going to be the foundation of the Jets rebuild. Maccagnan played to the draft strengths by adding secondary, running back, and drafting a tight end. While some may question his motive of drafting down, he wanted to add more players to help this roster. He added more alpha males on this roster and did a good job avoiding players with character concerns.

 

Christa is a syndicated New York Jets beat writer and acts as the primary talent scout for Locker Room Update, where she interviews college football players from around the nation. You can follow her author page on Facebook here for the latest updates.

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