Almost every mock draft I see these days has the Jets picking an edge rusher in the first round followed by a center and a cornerback with their two third round picks. The logic is easy to see. These are some of the biggest holes the team currently has.
I don’t doubt that an edge rusher picked in the first round could potentially help the team in 2019, but it would asking a lot for this team to have even one of its two third round picks produce immediately. Third rounders rarely contribute in a meaningful way right off the bat.
The third round of last year’s NFL Draft had 36 selections (32 picks originally owned by the teams and 4 compensatory picks).
I did some research by looking at snap totals and found that only 10 of those 36 players participated in over half the snaps for their team as rookies.
And even this 27.8% rate is overstating the impact these players had. It’s one thing to be on the field for a lot of snaps. Playing effectively is very different. Sometimes rookies are forced into the lineup before they are ready to contribute due to injuries or their team having zero quality options at the position.
Mason Cole was on the field for every single Cardinals snap as a rookie in 2018. The center was part of a much-maligned offensive line. According to PFF he allowed the second most pressures at the position of any player.
Tackle Brandon Parker managed to give up the seventh most pressures in the league at his position despite playing just under three-quarters of Oakland’s snaps.
Speaking of the Raiders, Arden Key had a single sack.
If you were looking for true plug and play third rounders from a year ago, your list would arguably be limited to Fred Warner, Justin Reid, Orlando Brown, Jerome Baker, and B.J. Hill. If you want to quibble about a player here or there that’s fine, but this is a ballpark. That gives us 5 of 36 picks (13.9%).
There isn’t anything wrong with the Jets drafting a cornerback or a center in the third round. If they do, however, most of the value those players provide will likely be in year two and beyond. A third round pick needs to be viewed as a long-term investment. If your focus is on filling immediate needs you will likely be disappointed because finding a plug and play third rounder is akin to hitting the jackpot, not the norm.