The most impactful stretch of the NFL offseason is over. And the Jets are a much different team than they were a few weeks ago, but are they better?
General manager Joe Douglas said after the draft that he believes the Jets have improved themselves. And we happen to agree with that.
Douglas completely revamped the offensive line, adding six players in the draft and free agency. One of them, first-round pick Mekhi Becton, could be clearing space in front of quarterback Sam Darnold for the next decade.
And he proved that he can work the rest of the league to improve his team’s ability to acquire talent. Douglas made three trades during the draft, allowing them to add draft capable and a player who could potentially help: Douglas traded his final sixth-round pick to the Colts for cornerback Quincy Wilson.
Douglas did a good job in his first draft as GM. He deserves a lot of credit. But there are also a few questions that must be answered, and some trends to be broken. Here are some thoughts and takeaways from the Jets’ draft.
No WR bonanza for Jets
The Jets made a huge potential upgrade to their receiving corps when they took Denzel Mims lint he second round. But that’s all the Jets did at receiver in this draft, which is a pretty big surprise considering their massive need at the position and impressive depth at receiver in this draft class.
The Jets had plenty of options to draft a receiver at other points in the draft, but they didn’t and Douglas admitted that the temptation was there, but that the Jets didn’t want to risk reaching because of need.
“I wouldn’t say the [receiver] talent fell off a cliff [after the second round],” Douglas said. “We just took what the board gave us, how certain stacks fell, I think in each scenario we were able to go with the best player available and it was able to help us with a need as well. Often times, there were situations where there was a wide receiver within a couple of players of what we were discussing, but we felt as a group, let’s take the best player available.”
The Jets did add help in the secondary, offensive line and at edge rusher — all needs that had to be addressed — but they also added a quarterback in the fourth round and a punter in the sixth — neither a big need.
The Jets are obviously confident they can get by without many proven receiving weapons. We’ll see if they’re right.
Why the QB so early?
Given the Jets’ other needs, the decision to draft FIU quarterback James Morgan in the fourth round was a little hard to swallow.
UCF’s Gabriel Davis was taken by the Bills three picks later at 128 overall with the Jets about to pick at 129. Perhaps the Bills blocked the receiver-needy Jets, perhaps they didn’t, but Jets could be haunted by it if Davis goes on to burn them regularly in the division. Meanwhile, Antonio Gandy-Golden was also still available when they picked Morgan. Both Davis and Gandy-Golden are big receivers who could have potentially fit into the Jets’ system and contributed immediately.
But Douglas said that adding Morgan was the right thing to do.
“We had a real comfort level with James,” Douglas said. “This is a young man that’s extremely intelligent, has the physical tools you’re looking for. And I know you guys have heard me say it before, quarterback is the most important position in professional sports. So here’s an opportunity, we felt, to get a young quarterback that could develop behind Sam. You need to have depth at that position especially, as we found out last year. So we felt it was the right opportunity.”
We think the Jets would have been better off with another receiver, but also find a lot of sense in Douglas’ explanation.
Trends to watch
Becton was the first offensive lineman taken by the Jets in the first round since 2006 when they took tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. Those two picks ended up stabilizing the offensive line for most of the next decade. And the Jets are hoping that the addition of Becton, along with the other offensive line changes, will have a similar impact.
Also, good luck to Mims, the second-round receiver who will hope to break a couple of ugly trends,
First, the Jets have had terrible luck with second-round picks. Only one second-round pick since 2008 has stuck around with the team for a second contract: offensive tackle Vlad Ducasse (2010). Their last three second-round picks have all dealt with some major adversity: receiver Devin Smith (2015) suffered multiple torn ACLs and never became a contributor. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg (2016) wasn’t good enough to play in the NFL and never appeared in a game and Marcus Maye (2017) missed most of his sophomore season because of injury.
And second, the Jets’ curse on drafted receivers seem to be even worse. The Jets selected 14 receivers from 2005-2017 before adding Mims this year. Only one of those receivers had more than five touchdown catches in their career: Jeremy Kerley (2011).
The Jets haven’t drafted a receiver who caught more than 30 career touchdown passes since Jerricho Cotchery (34 career touchdowns) in 2004. And they haven’t drafted a receiver who caught 30 or more touchdowns for them since Laveranues Coles (37) in 2000.
Mims will have the chance to break a lot of streaks.
The Jets added several players in undrafted free agency, including Lamar Jackson. No, not that Lamar Jackson. (Check our tracker here.)
The Nebraska cornerback could have a chance to make the Jets’ roster, because depth is so thin. Georgia’s Lawrence Cager, a big receiver who should have a chance to make the roster because of the lack of depth there, too.
The Jets have had free agents help before. Including Robby Anderson who in 2016 began his rise from unknown to Jets’ top receiver before leaving in free agency. Now the Jets must try to replace him.