With the Jets doling out both of their second round selections to Indianapolis in return for the third selection that seems highly likely to be used on a quarterback, the talk of mid-round targets among the world of Jets fans has dwindled significantly. All the focus is on one pick, one position, and four potential franchise passers.
Regardless, the Jets are still going to make five more selections in this draft to add to their talent-thirsty roster. What can we learn from the Jets’ approach to the later rounds of the draft?
How does the team view the running back position?
With Matt Forte retiring and Bilal Powell into his 30s, that left Elijah McGuire as the only legitimate young running back on the roster. Since this year’s running back class figures to be stacked, this had a lot of fans (me included) hoping the Jets would look heavily into dipping into that pool perhaps as early as the second round.
However, the Jets’ offseason moves have hinted in a strongly different direction. The Jets added a pair of young free agent backs in Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, while their trading of both second rounders lowers their chances of getting one of the top RB names, such as Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, or Rashaad Penny. With the Jets now carrying four running backs with a history of NFL production, three of them 25 or younger, it seems like the Jets are happy with their current situation in the backfield. Despite that, Mike Maccagnan has proven through his three drafts that no position is ever off the table. A running back could prove to be the obvious most talented player available at some point. Yet another RB addition could be a bad sign for the roster chances of the incumbent Powell and/or McGuire.
Will the team create legitimate hope of producing homegrown offensive line talent?
The Jets have themselves in a bit of a tough predicament along the offensive front right now. After a very unproductive year from the offensive line, their only addition to the starting lineup at this moment figures to be center Spencer Long; a sizable upgrade with promise, but likely not enough to fix everything on his own.
After 2018, Kelvin Beachum ($8M savings if cut) and James Carpenter (free agent), who will both be 30 at the start of the 2019 season, could each see the door. Waiting in the wings, the Jets have only one reserve offensive lineman that they themselves drafted, Dakota Dozier, who has not been impressive in his sporadic appearances. So, the Jets only have 3 starting linemen under contract for 2019; none of them under 27 at that time and none of them yet proven to be an above average starter.
While they will not be able to spend a luxury pick to put towards the reclamation effort, the Jets sorely need some handpicked, homegrown talent for the coaching staff to develop and potentially have compete to be an upgrade as soon as this year. You never want to enter the draft or come on the clock hamstrung towards one position, but it would certainly be disappointing to see the Jets leave this draft without an inspiring offensive line addition. If the Jets go OL at #72 in the third round, it would be their highest OL selection since Brian Winters was taken with the same pick in 2013.
Does Jeremy Bates have a different approach offensively, and how high are the Jets on their 2017 wide receiver picks?
Since Bates was the quarterbacks coach for the Jets last year and apparently already had a major hand in playcalling and offensive design, you would figure the answer to this question would be “no” and that Bates figures to operate a similar West Coast style scheme that John Morton ran last year. Regardless, the Jets are very sore for young offensive talent and could figure to favor that side with their five selections in the third round and beyond.
The way they go about making their offensive selections could tell us a ton about how Bates would like to operate and how the Jets feel about the two wide receivers they drafted just one year ago. Does he want to continue loading up on big receivers? Add more speed? Beef up the line? Prioritize fullback?
As for the receiver position, with the addition of Terrelle Pryor and the return of Quincy Enunwa, Hansen and Stewart already figure to be buried down at #5 and #6 on the receiver depth chart at best. If Bates and the staff are high on them and have plans for them, you can’t figure they would want to spend one of their few draft selections on the position unless they are deeply in love with a player.
Final thoughts on late draft selections and their relevance in determining a team’s ideology
Of course, using a late draft pick to try and deduce a team’s philosophy could always and often be mere fallacy. Perhaps teams truly do just pick the top player on their board - or “the best player available.” It’s plausible that the Jets pick a wide receiver they feel strongly about while at the same time still feeling legitimately confident in Hansen and Stewart becoming starters - though that selection would lead us to believe otherwise. The dots do not always connect, but it is still fun to speculate whether they do. After all, that is the entire premise of sports fandom.
What are you looking for from the Jets past their #3 selection?