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Mock Off-Season: The Justin Fields Edition

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second instalment of my mock off-season series, as I try and play GM for the Jets and build a winning team. If you missed the first instalment (Sam Darnold edition), then head over and give it a read.

Justin Fields

So the main feature of this scenario is that I’m taking Justin Fields with the #2 overall pick.

I think the narrative on Justin Fields has got a little out of hand, you just need to spend a few minutes on Twitter in draft discussion with Jets fans to think that Fields is the second coming of Dwayne Haskins, the only similarity between the two is that they both went to Ohio State, that’s where it ends. Their games are completely different and judging them based on the uniform they wore is nonsensical.

The whole he comes from Ohio State, look at their history at QB doesn’t make sense to me. Look at the history of Texas Tech QB’s in the league, can you name a good one that preceded Mahomes? B.J Symons? Nope. How about Kliff Kingsbury? Absolutely not. Judge him on his game and not the school.

Fields is one of the most accurate passers at the college level I’ve ever seen. These aren’t fake inflated numbers either, only 13.39% of his passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage, he has the fewest % of screen yards of any QB in this class, and his 4% of yards on screen passes is significantly lower than the likes of Trevor Lawrence (22%) and half that of Zach Wilson as well (8%).

In this system, you need to be able to throw the beep ball, but it’s your accuracy between 10-20 yards that will be tested. Fields has a 124 passer rating on throws between 10 and 20 yards and it would have been higher if not for several drops by the receivers. In fact against Nebraska he completed 20 of 21 passes and the one that wasn’t completed was on target as well.

Fields ticks all the boxes for arm talent, he’s accurate, he’s strong and he can push the ball to all levels with timing and accuracy. Some of his best numbers are on curls, digs and slants that rely on these traits.

What about his processing speed? This is the main concern that you will hear when Justin Fields name is brought up. He had more time to throw than most, because he was put behind a good offensive line. It worried me when I watched the Northwestern tape. So I started doing a little digging.

Ohio State run a fair amount of wide receiver options, Ryan Day has publically spoken about it over the last year. What that basically means is that a receiver reads the defense and then decides on the best route to run, so he may curl against zone but post against man coverage. For a QB, this means that you need to wait to see which option your WR has taken before throwing the ball. So what looks like a lack of anticipation is actually just a drawn up WR option play.

Now I’m not saying that Fields doesn’t need to speed up, he absolutely does and it is still a worry for me. However, he has so much talent, so much ability, so many good things on tape, I’m going to bet that in a QB friendly system like ours, he’ll be absolutely fine.

I’ve also seen people say that he can’t throw into tight windows, which is so far from the truth. I’ll cover that and some other things closer to the draft when I look at him in more detail, but here’s just a little preview of one such play:

Cuts

I’m going to work on a similar principle for this mock off-season, so instead of going through the cuts and cap space situation again, I’ll refer you to the Sam Darnold edition and just start with the $82 million of cap space that is available post-cuts.

The cuts I made were Henry Anderson, Alex Lewis and Ryan Griffin.

Sign Marcus Maye to a four year $48 million contract ($11 mill annual salary)

Sign Brian Poole to a two year $12 million contract ($6 mill annual salary)

Sign Neville Hewitt to a two year $8 million contract ($4 mill annual salary)

So after re-signing the above three players we’re going to be going into free agency with $61 million of cap space.

However, in this scenario we’re going to be trading Sam Darnold over to the Colts for their first-round selection, which also saves us around $5 million on the cap according to OTC’s calculator, which gives us $66 million to use instead.

I’m going to start this free agency scenario with the same signing as I started the last one, which is solidifying the trenches.

Sign Joe Thuney to a 4 year $56 million contract ($14 mill annual salary)

Thuney hasn’t missed a single game over his 5-year career and has continually improved. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 hits on his QB in 2020 over the course of 980 snaps, that’s extremely good. I wouldn’t say he’s a premier run-blocker but he has good agility for a guard (he was an offensive tackle in college) and should work nicely in the outsize-zone scheme the Jets are expected to employ. We need guard improvement and he would not only improve that position but he’d help develop Becton as well.

Sign Corey Linsley to a 3 year $33 million contract ($11 mill annual salary)

Continuing the trend of building up from the trenches, this move would make a lot of sense for me. Connor McGovern did not perform to the standard that you can’t move him, we may not be able to move on from him because of the cap hit, but we can certainly kick him to guard to bring in the best centre in football in 2020. He comes from the LaFleur system so we know he can excel in this kind of offense and with a rookie QB, it makes sense to give him a veteran presence.

Sign Curtis Samuel to a 3 year $25 million contract ($8.3 mill annual salary)

In my last off-season mock I had us signing Allen Robinson, but I’m moving in a different direction here. Samuel is a multi-faceted tool that excels with the ball in his hands. In an offense that relies on getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers in space, this makes a lot of sense. He won’t cost nearly as much as Robinson and that’s because he’s not as good, but he could work wonders in this system.

Sign Carl Lawson to a 4 year $48 million contract ($12 mill annual salary)

Here’s a player that I really like and a guy who I feel is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. He had 64 total pressures in 437 pass-rush snaps, which is not a bad number at all. His true sack rate (so taking out coverage sacks etc) is right up there despite him only recording 6 in 2020. I feel as though he’s a player just waiting to burst out and I’d back Saleh to get the best out of him.

Sign Keanu Neal to a 2 year $10 million contract ($5 mill annual salary)

Neal is a player that I really admire at the safety position and his ability to line up in different formations and play down in the box is something that Saleh would appreciate in his system. I’m still undecided on Ashtyn Davis, When he was drafted by the Falcons he played in a hybrid cover 13 zone system which he excelled in. Saleh likes his SS to play in and around the line and drop into zones underneath, it’s basically the perfect role for Neal.

Sign Cairo Santos to a two year $3.5 million contract ($1.75 mill annual salary)

Jets kicking this year has been an absolute disaster, fortunately, when you’re a 2-14 team it doesn’t really cost you a lot, but if you want to build a winning franchise you can’t be missing 3 points on a regular basis, even decent kickers can cost you in the long run, just look at Doug Brien. Jets have a great kicker and they let him go, time to bring in an established guy. Santos hit 94% of his kicks in 2020 and showed an ability to connect on kicks of 50 yards+.

Doing the above leaves us with around $14 million in cap space which we’ll need to re-sign the draft class.

So speaking of which. Here is the mock draft for this scenario, including the selection we received in exchange for Sam Darnold.

First of all, with the PFF mock simulator you can’t just trade players, so ignore the compensation with the Colts. Obviously, you’d never do that, but I just needed that pick for this scenario to play out. So where it has us trading multiple first-round picks, that’s really just us trading Sam Darnold.

So here’s my logic with the draft. You get Fields behind your new shiny offensive line of Thuney and Linsley, so you need to give him some weapons to use. Rondale Moore has all the potential to be elite in this league, and he’s another player that you want to get the ball to in space. His acceleration is elite and he has the potential to take every pass to the house.

You get your #1 corner in Jaycee Horn, a receiving RB for the system in Etienne, help on the defensive side of the ball with three players with good upside in Weaver, Davis and Adebo who I think is a perfect fit for a zone-heavy defensive system. You get a tackle to mould in Brady Christensen who had a fine year at BYU and a receiving tight end that is a little bit of a tweener, but who may be able to work in the right system.

You’ll also see I selected Simi Fehoko, a player I’m really high on and a guy I featured in an article yesterday.

Personally, I’d prefer this mock off-season as opposed to the last one where we kept Darnold. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

I will do one more mock off-season which has us trading for Deshaun Watson, you can substitute Wilson for Fields in this scenario as I have them both highly ranked and both deserving of that #2 spot.