Usually we leave it until after the season before we start focusing on potential draft picks in 2018. However this year, I plan to highlight a few key players before we get going, just to give those fans who don't watch a great deal of college football some players to watch in relation to the Jets and the 2018 NFL Draft.
Arden Key is a special talent, a pass rush specialist at LSU who broke the team's single season sack record last year with 12. If you watch college football, that performance wouldn't have come as a surprise considering Key's 2015 performance.
Key burst onto the SEC scene his freshman year with 41 tackles, 6.5 for a loss and 5 sacks. His quick first step and ability to bend around the corner and close the gap to the QB enabled him to terrorise opposing signal callers. He saved some of his best performances for late in the season where he showed more consistency in every facet of his game.
2016 was a true breakout performance. He would end the season with 55 tackles, 12.5 for a loss with 12 sacks. He burst out of the gates with 5 sacks in his first three games, and saved his most dominant performance for LSU's Citrus Bowl victory over Louisville where he put up 6 tackles, 2 sacks and numerous pressures facing the elusive Lamar Jackson. In fact he was one of the main reasons for Jackson only recording 153 passing yards (Zero TD's) and 33 rushing yards (Zero TD's).
The Jets as of today, need a pass rusher. I mean a true, pin your ears back and get after the QB guy. Now if we play ourselves out of a QB in 2018 by winning more games than anyone expects, or Hackenberg looks like the second coming of Montana, we may look at someone like Key. He has the talent, he has the open field ability, the speed, the pass rush ability to be a first round selection. Right now I see him as a top 20 talent in the 2018 NFL draft. He needs to add a little more functional play strength and become stronger at the point of attack in the run game, but he's more than capable of doing that.
One interesting aspect to watch for with Key, he's been away from the LSU football program for several months now for "personal reasons". LSU have not disclosed what these personal reasons are, and despite Key being enrolled in LSU classes for the upcoming year, there is a little uncertainty as to whether he'll rejoin the team this year. Coaches expect to find out next week and it'll be interesting to see if any details are revealed as to his absence.
However if he plays for LSU in 2017, make sure you keep an eye out for this talented rusher.