Now that NFL Draft season is over, NFL Draft recap and analysis season (aka the time between the draft and training camp) begins. In the coming weeks I will evaluate each team’s draft, from the trades they made, to the players they picked, and the players they missed. By the end, I’ll put together a draft power ranking to decide which team had the best draft in the league.
I’ll be starting with the AFC East teams. Let’s take a look at how the New York Jets utilized their draft.
Rd1, Pick 6- Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Rd2, Pick 7- Marcus Maye, S, Florida
Rd3, Pick 15 (From Vikings)- ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Rd4, Pick 35 (Compensatory)- Chad Henson, WR, California
Rd5, Pick 6- Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Rd5, Pick 38 (Compensatory)- Dylan Donahue, DL, West Georgia
Rd6, Pick 4 (From Browns)- Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Rd6, Pick 13 (From Rams)- Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan
Rd6, Pick 20 (From Buccaneers)- Derrick Jones, CB, Mississippi
Is this slew of defensive back picks a form of compensation for the departure of Darrelle Revis? The Jets used four out of their nine picks on either corners or safeties, including their very first two choices, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye. One can’t argue that, if there were a draft to take safeties, this is the draft. The same could be argued about corners, although waiting until the sixth round might not have been the wisest choice with Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine as the current starting tandem (Pro Football Focus does not look fondly on these two, as they have not had particularly successful careers). In the middle of the draft, it is also notable that the Jets looked to provide offensive weapons to...well, whoever the quarterback will be this season.
It should be noted that there were a lot of expectations for the Jets to draft a quarterback in the first round, with Mitch Trubisky being the favorite at 6th overall. The question is, was he their original target until the Bears moved up and drafted him? Adams is still good value at 6, but you have to wonder if the Jets thought they could get their franchise quarterback at that time.
But I digress. The Jets took two of the top safeties in the draft within the first 39 picks. The two are solid players, but with needs at linebacker, quarterback, and o-line, it is silly draft strategies like this that leave the team without direction. There were plenty of solid linebackers available, as well as DeShone Kizer, a potential franchise quarterback. If the Jets did have that direction as a team, trading up to draft offensive guard Forrest Lamp would have been a great choice in the second round, and he could’ve helped shore up their patchy offensive line. Adams and Maye can make for a great safety tandem, or Adams and Gilchrist, or Adams and Pryor, or Maye and Gilchrist, or Maye and Pryor, or...and we are back to that “team without a direction” discussion again. A team’s first two picks are supposed to induce confidence and reflect the goals of the team, not bring these questions even further to the surface. Adams was a good pick, but following up and drafting Maye made both selections questionable, unless one of them is moved to corner.
ArDarius Stewart is one of the best of the second-tier receiver prospects, and Hansen had a great final year as a deep-ball threat. I expect Stewart to solidify a quality spot, while Hansen is a worthy gamble for the team in the fourth round. With the addition of 6’5’’ Jordan Leggett in the following round, and a receiving running back in Elijah McGuire, some quarterback wearing a Jets uniform could actually have a few new weapons.
I like Jeremy Clark in the 6th, as well as Derrick Jones, both of which have great size for the corner position. I see Clark easily making the team, and Jones competing or simply being a camp body.
The Jets need direction, but if they want to start somewhere, it needs to include a franchise quarterback. They passed up on Kizer, and missed Trubisky, and I doubt it is Josh McCown. Enter Christian Hackenberg, or Bryce Petty (please). To support a franchise quarterback, you need a solid offensive line and some weapons on offense, as well as a solid running back. Matt Forte can offer that “bell cow” runner, McGuire can rotate in for passing rounds, Stewart can become a solid player, and Hansen can go deep. I have high aspirations for Leggett at tight end, and Hackenberg/Petty will probably come to love having that big of a guy on the edge of the line.
The offensive line, however, needed help, and didn’t get it. The Jets will keep losing games, because football games are won in the trenches. The secondary got additions, but not in the right area. Jamal Adams is a pick I will support until the end as a best player available choice, but in the second round- not the sixth- the Jets could have picked a corner and taken a better step towards improving their secondary with players like Quincy Wilson, Chidobe Awuzie, or even the injured Sidney Jones.
Aaaaaaand now for a look at how the New England Patriots' draft.
Rd1, Pick 32- Traded to the New Orleans Saints for Brandin Cooks
Rd2, Pick 32- Traded to the Carolina Panthers for Kony Ealy
Rd3, Pick 19 (From Titans)- Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown St.
Rd3, Pick 21 (From Lions)- Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
Rd4, Pick 25 (From Seattle)- Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
Rd6, Pick 28 (From Dallas)- Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA
What a very Patriots-style of draft. With only four picks in the draft (having forfeited a 4th, and trading away their first two), the Patriots stuck to the trenches and grabbed two defensive ends and two offensive tackles.
The Patriots were looking to help defend Tom Brady and improve the pass-rush, and that’s all that they did. There were needs elsewhere as well that the Pats failed to address, but those needs were less important than the needs on the offensive and defensive lines, and all football begins on the line of scrimmage. The Patriots could have upgraded their running back position, having lost Legarrette Blount, or added some linebacker talents after the departure of Barkevious Mingo, but they chose to stick to the trenches.
Trading for Brandin Cooks was a massive move that should give the rest of the NFL nightmares, and adding Kony Ealy, along with Rivers and Wise, should ease New England’s fears of not having a strong pass-rush.
The Patriots will have little trouble ironing out Derek Rivers’ mechanical issues. He is an explosive, athletic defensive end with a lot of upside if coached properly. Rivers has to tools to become a dominant player in the NFL with the right coaching, and the best organization in football can surely give him that coaching.
Antonio Garcia played basketball in high school, and has a basketball kind of body. He’s lanky and a little too light to play tackle in the NFL. He is very athletic, and can beat players using just speed to rush the edge. Because of his size and athleticism, expect him to also be a developmental player.
Deatrich Wise did not reach expectations at Arkansas, but he is a large, powerful pass-rusher. The Patriots will look to jumpstart his production, and look to make Wise a rotational DE.
Conor McDermott is a massive offensive tackle, standing at 6’8’’ and weighing 307 lbs. Despite his size, he is criticized for his lack of strength. If McDermott can get strong enough to not be driven back on the offensive line, then his potential can be reached.
The Patriots seem to be in a “win now until Tom Brady retires” phase, which is understandable given their ability to “win now.” This explains their bizarre draft strategy of trading their first two draft picks for proven talents, instead of looking toward the draft. Instead of adding skill players in the draft, the Pats built along the trenches with a lot of developmental, project players with tremendous size. Rivers looks like he could quickly become a solid starter in the NFL, while the other three picks of the draft can be the project hit-or-miss types that, if they hit, can also help the Patriots finish Brady’s career with even more Super Bowl rings.