The 2020 NFL Draft is only a few weeks away. Teams across the league are likely in the process of finalizing their boards.
I think it’s a good idea to have a plan. That doesn’t mean you stick rigidly to a plan no matter what. You adapt as situations change and unexpected opportunities present themselves. Simply put, I would rather alter a strategy with a rational understanding as to why I’m doing so than enter a situation without any sort of plan.
These are some strategic philosophies I would like the Jets to keep in mind as we approach the Draft.
You can’t fix it all at once.
The Jets cannot completely correct a decade’s worth of mismanagement in a single offseason. At this point in time a Super Bowl run in 2020 seems unlikely. This offseason simply must be the first step in building a solid foundation for the future.
It’s easy to talk about drafting a tackle in round one, a wide receiver in round two, a corner with the first pick in round three, and an edge rusher with the first pick in round four. Perhaps the Jets will do this and have success. That success probably won’t all come in 2020.
No matter what the Jets do in this Draft, they are likely to enter 2020 with needs at key positions. That’s the price of the decade of mismanagement. Once you get into the third round, you rarely find immediate contributors. The Draft is a mechanism to find building blocks for the future, not the present. It would be a historic haul for the Jets to have their first four picks all contribute positively in year one. This isn’t essential for the Draft class to be successful. Even if they were, the Jets likely will lack the depth to compete for a championship in 2020.
For his part, Joe Douglas early in his tenure has not shown a propensity for seeking the quick fix today at the expense of tomorrow. I’m sure people won’t be happy to hear that contention for a championship is likely off the table in 2020, but that isn’t Douglas’ fault. You can thank Christopher Johnson and Mike Maccagnan for that.
Douglas’ job is to start the build. If he does a quality job, the Jets at least might be able to make the first step of getting to the Playoffs if they get some luck and quality coaching this year.
End with more picks than you started.
I was originally going to use “Don’t trade up,” as the headline for this section, but a well-timed trade up can make a big positive difference.
When teams trade up, they should also seek out opportunities to replenish the well and add extra picks by trading down.
Mike Maccagnan frequently produced six player Draft classes. Talent evaluation failure was a big part of the Jets’ Draft troubles, but so was the basic lack of picks. It is really hard to project the future for a college prospect. There are many variables and many unknowns that determine NFL success. Even the most seasoned talent evaluators have egregious misses on their resumes. Only having six picks in a class reduces the margin for error to virtually zero. Maccagnan’s philosophies were akin to trying to beat the house in a casino.
Beyond that, the Jets lack young building blocks on the roster. They should not be in a hurry to give away any picks. Each pick traded away is a lost opportunity to add a young player.
Do the Jets need quality or quantity from the Draft? It’s a trick question. They need both.
Trade up if there is an exceptional prospect, but trade down more frequently. There needs to be a net gain in picks.
If Chase Young or Jeff Okudah somehow fall to pick 11, take them. If we get to day two, and there is an edge rusher or cornerback head and shoulders above the other players, welcome them to New York.
On the whole, however, I think this Draft should be focused on the offense. The Jets have needs at the core defensive positions. It might be a lot to ask Gregg Williams to replicate last year’s performance. It is an uncomfortable truth that last year’s late season defensive run coincided with a slate of bad opposing quarterbacks.
That said, the offense is hurting worse as far as long-term building blocks go. The Jets are hoping Sam Darnold can be the answer. They’re hoping Chris Herndon can bounce back from a lost 2019. Who knows what Chuma Edoga will be in year two?
On defense there are at least some pieces to work with. The offense has virtually no foundation right now, making investment there a major priority.
Continue building the offensive line.
The Jets needed to attack the offensive line on two fronts this offseason. They needed to use free agency to bring in veterans who could help hold the fort and provide credible play. Their action in free agency was an attempt to do so. The additions of George Fant, Connor McGovern, and Greg Van Roten alone do not fix the offensive line.
For this unit to impose its will and move defenders, there needs to be an investment in young talent. That must come through the Draft. In the last thirteen years, the Jets have invested no first round picks, one second round pick, and two third round picks in the offensive line. It is no wonder that unit in the span of the decade declined from the best in the NFL to the worst in the NFL.
This year’s class is considered deep at tackle. It is not considered deep on the interior, but there are potential quality prospects who might be available on day two. Just as a couple of free agent signings did not completely fix things, neither will a Draft pick or two. This must be an ongoing multi-year process to build Darnold the line he deserves. This year’s Draft should at least give the Jets a chance to make a down payment on the great line of tomorrow.
Lean into the strength of the Draft.
I don’t think you can call the current Jets’ wide receiver situation anything other than dismal. Jamison Crowder is a quality slot receiver but one with an unappealing cap hit of over $11 million coming in 2021. Breshad Perriman is a total wildcard. He has 1,561 career yards in four seasons. Even more striking, around one-third of that production came in the month of December 2019. It is plausible that this is a sign of an upward trajectory, but historic trends make it more likely that December production was a meaningless outlier.
While this might seem like a lot of gloom and doom, there is a major silver lining. Many Draft analysts believe this year’s receiver group to be among the deepest classes in history.
In their recent history the Jets have not done a good job surrounding their quarterback with capable pass catchers.
For Mark Sanchez then-general manager Mike Tannenbaum regularly sought out talented receivers who were cheap because they were locker room headaches such as Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason. While Sanchez had some fleeting success with the first two players on the list, none was a reliable long-term option.
For Geno Smith then-general manager John Idzik compiled a group I affectionately referred to as, “Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, and a bunch of guys who belong in the CFL.”
I think it would be a stretch to say this was the primary reason Sanchez and Smith failed to develop into capable starting quarterbacks, but these circumstances clearly didn’t help matters.
Ideally the objective should be to provide Darnold with receivers he can grow with over the long haul. This Draft presents that opportunity. Many Draft analysts believe ten or more wide receivers are worthy of a pick in the top two rounds and future quality role players at the position could be available as late as the fifth round. This seems like the perfect year to double dip (or even triple dip with an early day three pick) to give Darnold the supporting cast he needs.
If every Jets pick through round four or five is either on the offensive line or at wide receiver it might not be the worst outcome in the world.
As stated above the Jets will need to adapt as situations present themselves, but this is where I see the bang for the buck in the 2020 NFL Draft as things stand now.