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Initial Thoughts on the 2022 New York Jets Draft Class

NFL: APR 28 2022 Draft Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is now complete. Below are some initial thoughts I have on what the Jets did. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future as events dictate.

  • It seems like everybody is excited about what the Jets did. This comes as no surprise. At the end of every Draft every front office and fanbase is convinced their team did an amazing job. The sentiments you hear about the Jets are similar to those you hear among the other teams. They are also similar to sentiments we have heard about past Jets Draft classes.

Of course things are a bit different for the Jets this year in one significant way. The team is walking away from the 2022 NFL Draft with four of the top 36 selections. With this in mind, it was a virtual guarantee the team would receive a lot of praise for this class. Going in the Jets were going to walk away with an inordinate number of top picks, and it was preordained they would be declared an immediate “winner.”

It reminds me a bit of a quote from the famous general Sun Tzu in his book The Art of War, “Every battle is won before it’s even fought.”

Joe Douglas seems to be getting a lot of praise because he picked a lot of the top prospects in a Draft where he had an inordinate of top picks. I would argue he should be praised more for the planning and execution that allowed him to enter this year’s Draft with all of those top picks.

It’s almost impossible to overstate how difficult of a job Douglas inherited three years ago. He was hired at a point where the Jets had just spent a then-record amount of money in free agency. Mike Maccagnan’s offseason essentially saw the team spend two years’ worth of cap space. Implicitly in firing Maccagnan when they did and admitting he was not up to the task, the Jets might have been the first team in NFL history to completely overhaul their roster and realize it needed to be torn down again before a game was even played.

Unfortunately Douglas couldn’t do much his first two years. The 2019 roster was already set by the time he arrived. That team struggled to a 7-9 record. The team did finish 6-2 in the second half, but that run was a mirage. The Jets were not rising in the second half of 2019. I think many general managers would have mistakenly thought his team was close after that 6-2 run and perhaps sacrificed the team’s long-term health for a short term boost to get the team the two to three extra wins necessary to make the Playoffs the next year. To his credit, Douglas seemed to understand his roster just wasn’t that good, and that second half run wasn’t sustainable. He had a modest 2020 offseason where he made a few low risk bets to try and fill holes but otherwise was content to reset the team’s long run salary cap health at the expense of the short run. A 2-14 season follow.

Instead of going all in, Douglas decided to tear down a team that could not win. He cashed in Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold while their respective values were still high to add necessary Draft capital.

Over the last decade, the word “rebuild” has been thrown around by the Jets a lot, but they never committed to it until now. Douglas is the first general manager in some time to show fiscal discipline and patience in building this team. This has helped the Jets land seven players selected in the top 36 picks of the last two NFL Drafts.

There are no guarantees in this league. The picks actually need to be as good as advertised. Sometimes prospects don’t pan out how you want. However, an approach like this loading your roster with blue chip prospects is the most viable path to executing a turnaround in the NFL.

This isn’t to say Joe Douglas is above criticism. The Jets had two picks in the top ten of the first round and two picks in the top ten of the second round this year. Half of those picks came because the Jets were only 4-13. Douglas did have the means to build a better roster for 2021. To date his record in free agency has been...well...terrible. The early returns on his Draft picks have been uneven.

However, all of that will really just go down as a distraction in the long run. Everything he has done has been building to this moment. With these seven premium picks over the last two years he has at least given himself a chance to build something great. If these players are as good as advertised, a great era of Jets football is about to begin.

You might wonder why I talk so much about process mattering. Process is what got the Jets all of these early picks that could change everything.

  • Through the offseason I have felt the top priority of the front office needed to be building a solid infrastructure around Zach Wilson. A lot of improvement will need to come from Wilson himself independent of what the Jets put around him, but the team’s goal should be to make life as easy for the second year quarterback as possible.

The most obvious way to me was to bring in a proven wide receiver who could hit the ground running. In an ideal world, you could get somebody who has the savvy to know where he needs to be in any situation. There’s something to be said for going young at the position, but in an ideal world Zach Wilson might benefit most from somebody not in need of on the job training.

As we know, the Jets were not able to land that veteran receiver. The team’s actions through the offseason suggest that Joe Douglas also viewed this as a major priority. We know for a fact he made a big offer to Kansas City for Tyreek Hill. The details vary, but there are numerous reports there was a generous package offered to San Francisco for Deebo Samuel.

Looking back, I am sure we will find both that Douglas made some missteps along the way, and there were factors beyond his control that amount to bad luck.

As we approached the Draft, it became obvious that a Plan B might be necessary. The only one that made sense to me had two phases. The first phase would be to take a relatively polished receiving prospect in the top ten of the Draft, somebody who knew how to run crisp routes and could hit the ground running. Garrett Wilson was the name that came to mind for me.

The Ohio State receiver could replicate some of the production of a proven star receiver, but it really wouldn’t be fair to ask him to be great on day one. There would have to be another way to make up for the difference. What came to mind to me was leaning more into the run game. A back like Iowa State’s Breece Hall struck me as a perfect fit. He is the rare running back prospect who profiles as a legitimate difference maker. I believe he could be the type of star talent the offense runs through. And Michael Carter becomes a overqualified sidekick who has legitimate lead back talent himself.

Through the two-step of adding Wilson and Hall, it now feels to me like the Jets have the pieces in place necessary to support their young quarterback.

One thing I look for in a general manager is how adaptable he is when his initial plan doesn’t work. One of my biggest problems with John Idzik during his tenure is that there were numerous instances where he seemed unsure what to do when his Plan A fell apart (opposed to Mike Maccagnan who didn’t seem to have a plan at all).

I greatly appreciate that when Joe Douglas was able to find a different solution to his problem when he wasn’t able to do what he wanted.

  • I usually try to avoid going out on a limb like this, but shortly after the attempted trade fell apart, I offered a bit of a hot take that we might remember not getting Tyreek Hill as one of the best things that ever happened to the Jets. I had concerns about how Hill will age, his enormous salary, and his potential production outside of the Kansas City delivery system. The take might very well age poorly, but it will be interesting to compare Hill’s production over the next few years in Miami with Jermaine Johnson, Breece Hall, and Jeremy Ruckert, players who were selected utilizing the picks that would have gone to the Chiefs in a trade.

  • Over the last two years, Joe Douglas has been very aggressive trading up in the Draft. On three different occasions he has moved up in the first or second round to get a player. These are also years where the Jets had an excess of Draft capital.

I hope in future years as the Jets have a more normal allotment of picks that this does not become a trend. Anybody who has studied the Draft knows that while a well-timed occasional trade up can work wonders, consistent trade ups rarely result in success.

I think rolls of the dice like this were fine for 2021 and 2022. Having extra picks to fall back upon makes it easier to swing for the fences moving up for a prospect. The Jets still left this Draft making seven selections, the same every team is initially allotted. The picks Douglas made were higher value than your typical seven, though. Instead of making one pick in every round, the Jets made three in the first, two in the fourth, and single picks in the second and third rounds. Thus they still came away with a surplus of value.

In future years they will not have extra picks, and frequent trade ups will deplete the well. My hope is that Douglas takes this into account.

  • When it comes to the rationale behind the two trade ups the Jets made this year, I have a different perspective on each.

I will begin with the Breece Hall trade. I stated above my reasons for loving Hall. The Jets moved up two slots in the second round, and only gave up a fifth round pick at 146 to do so. That fifth round pick has a minimal expected value. It is very rare to find a useful player in that range of the Draft so there is a minimal opportunity cost.

I would also state that most trade ups are speculative and self-defeating. Teams are afraid a specific player might not fall to them, but they are guessing. That didn’t seem to be the case here. We will never know for sure, but there is evidence that the Houston Texans were set to select Hall one pick in front of the Jets.

Combining the importance of landing Hall, the likelihood of Houston taking him, and the low opportunity cost of the move, I find it difficult to criticize this trade.

Anybody who knows me might think of me as the king of opposing both trade ups and drafting running backs in the early rounds.

As you form your opinion, just consider the fact his royal highness favors this trade up for Hall.

  • The Jermaine Johnson trade up is a bit more nuanced. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a bad move or even that I disagree with it. On the contrary, I was a big fan of the prospect. But unlike the Hall deal, I see a bigger opportunity cost.

I think the NFL Draft is a balance between evaluating the individual circumstances that are unique to each year with long-term trends.

This offseason I did my best to study the typical value of picks in each portion of the Draft based on the last 25 years. I wanted to get a sense of the true value.

Johnson might have been a top ten talent from this class. It’s also true that most of the time there isn’t a great difference between the value of a player picked at 26 and the value of a player picked at 35. There is, however, a big difference between what you could typically expect at 69 and what you could expect at 101. At 69 I would guesstimate based on the data I reviewed that you have about a one in five chance of getting a plus starter, a borderline Pro Bowler. At 101 you probably have about a one in five chance at getting a quality role player.

If Johnson truly is a top player, I don’t think there’s any question the trade up will be worth it.

So I wouldn’t say the trade is bad. I think I would say the trade puts more stress on the selection of Johnson. While he is nominally the Jets’ third pick in the first round this year, for all intents and purposes he is really their second AND third round pick (along with whatever value Jeremy Ruckert provides).

Unlike giving up 146 for Hall, there is a tangible opportunity cost when looking at the player who were on the board at 35 and 69.

So Johnson needs to be as good as advertised. I think he can get there. In fact, Johnson is probably the only player I could justify such an aggressive more for at that point of the Draft. That’s how much I like him as a prospect.

  • The final three picks for the Jets fell at 101, 111, and 117. The first came late in the third round. The latter two were early in the fourth round. As I mentioned, I would venture to say those picks all give you a roughly one in five shot at a good role player.

Even a great drafting team is going to miss on most of the picks in this range. Success typically would be hitting in this area once every few years.

That said, with three picks it is reasonable to hope the Jets found one player here. Good drafting isn’t about batting 1.000. It’s about beating the house. With a trio in this range, the Jets have a real shot at doing just that.

I would say one of the following three things needs to happen. Jeremy Ruckert needs to develop into a viable second tight end. Max Mitchell needs to develop into a good swing tackle. Michael Clemons needs to develop into a solid situational pass rusher.

Of course you would gladly take an outcome better, but if one of those three happens, Joe Douglas did his job with his final picks.

  • This is a very minor complaint in a Draft where I am largely pleased so don’t get too focused on this point. Still I wish the Jets had either been able to hold onto or execute a trade back to land a couple of picks in the later rounds.

These picks are really lottery tickets. However, as a famous lottery slogan goes, “You have to be in it to win it.”

It would have been nice to have a couple of swings of the bat to find some late round projects with some upside.

The expected return of such picks is quite small. In fact the Jets probably didn’t miss out on anything. Still, it’s not like the roster is so deep that the Jets would have had trouble carrying an extra couple of picks.

Late round picks are basically undrafted free agents. The difference is you get to guarantee your top targets end up with you rather than needing to convince them to choose you over other teams.

I reiterate this is a very minor complaint, but it’s a thought I had on Saturday.

  • There’s this weird view in the NFL that a pick next year is not as valuable as a pick this year. This year’s Draft is a perfect example of why I find that logic difficult to follow.

How future picks are discounted in value vary from team to team, but one way of doing it is reducing a value of next year’s pick by one round. For example, a first round pick next year is only worth a second round pick this year. A second round pick next year only is worth a third round pick this year.

The Jets pulled off a couple of trades in 2020 and 2021 where they got a premium pick that required them to wait an extra year before they utilized it. What if they had gotten the pick sooner?

For example instead of sending the Jets their 2022 first round pick for Jamal Adams, the Seahawks might have sent their 2021 second round pick.

And instead of sending the Jets their 2022 second round pick, the Panthers might have sent the Jets a 2021 third round pick.

Now let me ask you this. Would you have rather seen the Jets get that 2021 Seattle second rounder and 2021 Carolina third rounder instead of what they actually got?

I’m guessing the answer is no.

And I’m going to say that the value of future picks shouldn’t be discounted by teams.