Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns, and spent the last 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of the podcast “Football Today.”
There isn’t an organization in the NFL that is worse off than the Jets right now. For the most part, New York has taken the smart approach this offseason. In a similar fashion to what Cleveland did one year ago, this organization realizes that they are not close. They didn’t put a Band-Aid on this gaping wound. Instead, they are taking the slow, steady approach, realizing this is going to be a very long and painstaking rebuild in the Big Apple.
Unlike the Browns, however, the Jets aren’t loaded with draft capital, although their compensatory pick in round three will certainly be useful. Over the next few years, maybe the top goal of this organization should be to build their draft equity, as Cleveland has done extremely well over the past year or so.
With Josh McCown added to the mix, it appears as though the Jets are set to use him as a fallback plan and immediate mentor, with the hope that Bryce Petty, or, hopefully, Christian Hackenberg begins the season as the starting quarterback. At a minimum, the Jets need to give these two youngsters a full season to see what they are capable of. You can’t throw in the towel on Hackenberg after a season of inactivity.
New York is going to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, even if Petty or Hackenberg “Hits.” Therefore, the Jets should be very much in the running for a top quarterback very early in next year’s draft. Taking a quarterback this year with the sixth overall pick would be unwise, especially when considering the equity you have invested in Hackenberg as well as the poor supporting cast the rookie would be thrust into.
If they love a quarterback and can’t believe he is still on the board at six, fine, you don’t pass on franchise quarterbacks. But the reality is that that scenario seems really unlikely with this shaky crop of incoming rookie quarterbacks.
Instead, the Jets must start building a strong and deep young nucleus. Their needs are great. And their needs are many. With the exception of their big men on defense and running back (which could come next year), there isn’t an area of this team that New York shouldn’t look to add to in a big way with youth and upside.
If we operate under the assumption that Todd Bowles is here for the long term, which is how you have to approach this if you are the current regime, then a premium has to be placed on defensive backs, especially man coverage cornerbacks. In Arizona, Bowles had Patrick Peterson and in New York, the Jets invested heavily in Darrelle Revis to play the Peterson role. A true No. 1 cornerback to shadow the opponent’s best wide receiver is a staple of Bowles’ defensive philosophy.
Taking it even further, when he has the proper personnel for his scheme, Bowles is going to employ a very large number of defensive backs on the field as well as blitzing as often as any defensive play caller in the game today. Of course every team covets edge pass-rushers, and the Jets need upgrades at that spot, but in this scheme, a No. 1 cornerback as well as many defensive backs of all shapes and sizes are what is required.
Offensively, the Jets need wide receiver help and Eric Decker still could end up playing elsewhere in 2017. The tight end position is barren. But most importantly in this rebuild (outside of quarterback obviously) is the offensive line. As the Browns have built and what Dak Prescott fell into in Dallas, having an upper-tier offensive line (in an offensive line starved league) is the best way to acclimate a young passer … whenever that day does come. The Jets line is littered with needs.
In this deep draft class, New York should entertain offers to trade down and add picks. This is true in every round. They need to be working the phones.
But if a proper trade down situation isn’t in the cards when New York is on the clock with the sixth overall pick, there are a few options that make sense. Unfortunately, going offensive line isn’t really an option in round one and that is also a little on the early side for drafting Corey Davis or O.J. Howard.
So this pick is most likely going to be used on defense. Myles Garrett will be gone. Jamal Adams and Solomon Thomas also will most likely be off the board in the top five selections. Adams would be really hard for the Jets to pass on, but so would Marshon Lattimore, who could profile as that true No. 1 cornerback that Bowles covets. Malik Hooker as a deep eraser in a blitz-heavy scheme also would make a lot of sense.
The worst-case scenario is that Garrett, Adams, Thomas, Lattimore, and Hooker all go in the top five. Those are the names the Jets really should be considering. But, trading down might be the best option of all.
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