The last draft of the Mike Maccagnan era was an interesting one. Quinnen Williams at #3 overall was a safe pick. Even if he never becomes the All Pro you hope for at #3, Williams is one of the least likely players to be a complete bust in the 2019 draft. He will very likely be a useful player, whether or not he completely fulfills lofty expectations.
It is the rest of the last Maccagnan draft that felt at the time like Maccagnan was swinging for the fences with his picks and accepting the possibility of some strikeouts.
Third round picks offensive tackle Chuma Edoga and edge rusher Jachai Polite both looked talented on tape, but both had some major character concerns and some major flaws in their games. Best case scenario is the Jets landed a stud pass rusher and a stud left tackle in the third round, which would make for a wildly successful draft. Worst case scenario is they both wash out of the league because of character flaws.
Fourth round pick tight end Trevon Wesco was something of a head scratcher. He barely participated in the passing game in college, but he showed some nimble feet and was tough to bring down when he caught a pass. If he ends up being a plus in the passing game and a dominant blocker, that’s a win in the fourth round. If he ends up only having value as a blocker, or not even that, that’s a big whiff in the fourth round.
Fifth round pick linebacker Blake Cashman is undersized and has short arms. A favorite around the GGN community, it was not clear how Cashman fit in an NFL defense. Would his lack of size and arm length mean he can’t shed blocks? Could he cover NFL backs and tight ends? Cashman’s speed is enticing, but will it be enough? It’s easy to picture Cashman carving out a nice role as a cover linebacker. It’s also easy to picture Cashman out of the league in two years.
Finally in the sixth round the Jets took cornerback Blessuan Austin. Austin by some accounts has talent far exceeding his sixth round draft position, but he also has had two torn ACLs on the same knee, which is why he was still available in the sixth round.
Taken as a group, this draft class has the feel of a boom or bust group much more than in prior years. Let’s take a way too early look at how these guys are shaping up in the boom or bust spectrum. To save everyone the trouble of pointing this out, I bring you the obligatory disclaimer. We haven’t seen any of these guys in real NFL action yet. Even a year or two in is too soon to definitively judge a draft class, so three months in is absurd. Etcetera, etcetera. You know the drill. It’s too early. But I’m going to do this anyway. So here goes.
Jachai Polite. It’s hard to escape the impression that at this early date, Polite is trending towards bust. Stuck in the third team for much of camp, producing nothing in the pre-season games, looking tentative and kind of lost on the field, displaying none of the burst and bend that showed up on his college tape. Way too early verdict: trending towards BUST.
Chuma Edoga. Edoga has been a pleasant surprise so far. The coaches seem to trust him, which was far from a given with his college reputation for being lazy. Edoga has done a creditable job filling in at both tackle positions, particularly in pass protection. Coming into camp it seemed he might need a red shirt year to build strength and adjust to the pro game, but right now he seems destined to be the swing tackle. Way too early verdict: trending towards BOOM.
Trevon Wesco. Wesco has done a good job blocking but he’s been invisible in the passing game. Had he been chosen in the sixth or seventh round, just being able to block would be good enough. In the fourth round, more is expected. Plenty of time to develop his extremely raw pass catching skills, but for now, the way too early verdict: trending towards BUST.
Blake Cashman. Cashman has been a pleasant surprise in camp. He appears to be well on his way towards carving out a significant role as a cover linebacker, with the possibility of more as he develops. That’s a nice return for a fifth round pick. Way too early verdict: trending towards BOOM.
Blessuan Austin. In five days it will have been exactly a year since Austin last tore his ACL. He has yet to get off the injured list and practice with the team. That is a long recovery these days for a torn ACL. As a point of reference, Austin tore his ACL the first time on September 23, 2017, and not only was he back practicing by the next summer, he was back in the starting lineup for the 2018 season opener at Rutgers. It would appear recovery from the second ACL tear is going much more slowly. Austin may be heading for injured reserve in 2019. Given how difficult recovery from two torn ACLs is for a cornerback, this is worrisome. Just getting back on the practice field at some point would be a win. Failing that, the way too early verdict: trending towards BUST.
It will be interesting in a year or so to take stock again and see how these way too early impressions pan out.
What about you. Putting aside the whole way too early thing, how do you think the 2019 draft class is trending? Are you more excited about the boom potential, or more worried about the bust potential with these players? Let us know your thoughts.