The Jets are in need of another great Draft day performance from Joe Douglas. Last year saw the Jets pick the DROY and the OROY with their first two selections. They also added developmental players who have some great upside. I said immediately that Joe Douglas just had the greatest NFL Draft in Jets history, and I stand by that statement today.
The Jets are still in need of numerous positions with one of them being the QB position. Zach Wilson is still under contract, and I am hoping he is working hard on his technique as we speak. Sadly there is no high quality QB to trade up for this year; none; zero. Will Levis has that Brett Favre type arm and excitement, but he is still raw and would need to sit in order to become an NFL QB. There is no assurance he will. C. J. Stroud may have a chance to be a decent starter, but he will probably be selected in the top 5 which would cost the Jets a fortune in Draft capital to trade up for. It’s not worth the gamble.
Just remember that the Eagles recently won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles at QB. Now Nick Foles has meager talent. When you have a quality defensive team helping you and can help your quarterback out with a plan and an offensive line it can work out.
So the Jets have needs at the offensive tackle position; both left and right. They need a complement to Wilson as a receiver. They need another two offensive linemen, at least one safety (maybe two), plus some linebackers who do a lot of the dirty work. I could go on too.
The positions the Jets will have to upgrade in the Draft will depend on what they do in free agency. If the Jets want to bring in an NFL starting QB they will have to clear plenty of cap space. A trade of a John Franklin-Myers would save the Jets $11.2 in cap space million. He is young so teams may have an interest. You would want a Draft pick back for him rather than just release him.
The position the Jets do need a serious upgrade on the defense is free safety. Lamarcus Joyner is small and well past his prime. I was surprised the Jets brought him back for 2022. His play was not awful but not good either; it was somewhere in between. Jordan Whitehead wasn’t a lot better, but he is just 26 years old and fits the strong safety position better than a deep safety. The Jets could double up at safety as long as they bring in quality and not another Calvin Pryor who was a huge reach by the Jets as a 1st rounder and barely lasted four years in the league.
There are some quality safety prospects available headed by Brian Branch out of Alabama. He is a little small for my liking as an early round pick, but he would be awesome close to the line. He would be a great slot coverage guy who can also tackle. He is smart, quick, great in coverage, and only missed an amazing 4 tackles in 176 attempts in the past 3 years. Add to that 20 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 INTs and 23 passes broken up in the same time frame.
Others include Antonio Johnson, Jordan Battle, and JL Skinner who are like small linebackers playing as a safety; Ji’ayir Brown and Brandon Joseph are players who could be a SS or FS.
Then there is Christopher Smith from the national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Smith is a safety prospect who has great instincts, solid fundamentals, superior intelligence with ball skills and big play ability. He has a high football IQ. He is very smart. Teachers raved about him as a classroom leader in high school in Atlanta. He is a student of the game, studies tendencies, and believes what he sees which allows him to plays fast and jump plays. He is a former CB who uses his coverage skills well in the slot.
He also has solid tackling skills and uses leverage in the open field to bring down ball carriers. He is a hard worker on technique and very coachable. He should continue to develop in the NFL. He lined up in multiple spots at Georgia but was primarily a free safety. He played there 2/3 of the snaps in 2022. He is a team leader who has great character. He was voted captain on numerous occasions. He is a big play maker with 95 tackles, 6 TFL and 6 INTs in the past two years. He played in the premier conference against quality teams every week on a Georgia team with excellent coaches.
He has great range as a deep safety. He takes great angles in the run game to minimize any defensive lapses in front of him. He plays downhill, bringing a powerful jolt to the tackle. He knows how to use leverage in coverage very well. Here he comes from his deep safety position (17 yards off the ball) to make a tackle for a 2 yard loss.
This play is made because Smith studies his opponent so he understands what the offense is trying to do. Notice the entire offense flows to the right taking the defensive line and linebackers with them. Smith never moves. He’s seen this before. He reads the play then takes off once the handoff is made. This is a textbook tackling technique as Smith races upfield he looks to target the inside shoulder of the RB. By doing so he is just off center of the player which forces him to continue toward the sideline, no cutbacks will happen, or the runner will literally run into the tackle.
Now Smith has him so he slows down ever so slightly as he begins to break down into proper tackling position. Smith then runs down the RB by putting his head in front of the thigh of the runner with his shoulder pad contacting the hip. At the same time he wraps his arms around the legs of the runner which allows him to use his momentum combined with his weight to bring down the runner for a two yard loss. His is a forceful, solid tackle. The runner had no chance to escape. No throwing his body or rolling into the ball carrier. Just a sure tackle that immediately puts the offense behind the sticks; nice play.
Later in the same game Smith again uses his knowledge of the Oregon offense to make a splash play with a huge pick as the Ducks were moving down the field. His pick stopped the momentum that was forming. It gave the ball back to his offense in great field position.
Georgia is in a two deep safety look which should force the throw short. This is just a terrible read on the QBs (Nix) part as he thinks the left ILB is going to cover his man (#11) who is backing off from the slot. Once he sees the step from the ILB towards his man he believes the safeties will drop and he will be able to fit the ball between them to his TE down the seam.
Smith knows this formation and where Oregon wants to go with the ball. He takes a precautionary drop step then read the QBs eyes so he knows where the throw is going. This is part great preparation along with eyeing the QB and believing what he sees. Many players are able to study the opponent, but they are hesitant to commit themselves to what they see. They would like to play it safe, allow the completion, and then make the tackle. At least they didn’t allow the TD, but they just let the offense motor down the field. Smith here uses his preparation and his eyes to confirm what he thinks then immediately makes the pick; no hesitation.
Teams like to build their roster to make a run at a championship. Yet no one knows how good a team is unless they can prove it on the field. Fans know this. Coaches know this too. So do the players. Sure players will repeat all the platitudes you always hear, but if you ain’t won a championship, you ain’t no champion. Georgia has had a great team every year for a while, but they didn’t have a championship. Alabama was one of the teams they couldn’t get by; Clemson was once in Georgia’s boat. They were good but no cigar at the end.
Then Clemson beat Alabama in Tampa in the 2016 season for their first title. They came back in 2017 ranked #1 only to lose to Alabama in the Super Dome. They came back in 2018 to beat Alabama in Santa Clara to win their 2nd title in 3 years. Clemson then finished 2nd in 2019 (To Joe Burrow and LSU) and 3rd in 2020.
Georgia was looking for respect and a signature win against a perennial powerhouse to stake their claim at a title. Their chance came in the first game of the 2021 season when they were up against a Clemson team looking to continue a great run. Georgia had been good (7th in 2018, 4th in 2019 and 7th in 2021) but never played for a championship.
This game turned into a great defensive battle, but with just over 3 minutes left in the half of a scoreless game Clemson was on the move. With Clemson at the 30, Smith was playing off coverage against the slot receiver. At the snap Smith can see the receiver (thinking he has an easy completion on the slant) doesn’t come off hard in which Smith reads like a book.
With Smith reading slant he takes a couple of rabbit steps in towards the center of the field. By doing so if the receiver makes an in cut he would have the receiver and the QB in his field of vision. Once he sees the receiver round out his cut on a lazily run dig route Smith sees the QB cock his arm for the throw;. He darts in front, makes the pick, and is off to the races. This was the only TD scored in a season opening 10-3 victory against the Tigers.
Georgia went on to win the championship in Indianapolis over their rival Alabama. That never would have happened unless the dogs beat Clemson. Without that pick there is no telling how that game would have turned out. Smith made the play to give the Bulldogs the belief in themselves that they could be a champion. Talk is cheap, but in order to win you have to make plays.
When you make plays sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you are smart so you create our own luck. Smith did both in the SEC Championship Game this past year.
This time it happened on special teams which shows you what type of player Smith is. There are not a lot of team captains playing on special teams, but Smith is one of them.
Here Smith just keeps his head in the game, knows the situation, and makes a huge play in a scoreless game.
LSU drives the field. They have a first and goal situation but take a loss of yards so they have a 4th and goal at the Georgia 12 yard line. They send in the field goal team to attempt a FG.
When the kick is blocked and while nearly everyone on the field is either celebrating or disappointed Smith realizes that the ball is live and returnable if he chooses. He first looks around to see where the LSU players are. No sense picking up the ball if you’re just going to be tackled where you stand. The Bulldogs would get the ball at the 22 if Smith lets the ball die, but while his teammate is telling him to leave the ball alone Smith understands the situation because he knows the rules and kept his head in the game.
Since the ball never stopped, Smith had the right to return it. Again he realized the situation and had the intelligence and daring to make a play. A player can see a situation, but unless he acts nothing will happen. Seeing and believing in a situation with the nerve to make the play are innate abilities. This decision is made in a heartbeat. Not every player has that type of skill.
This was a smart play by Smith.
The second is a very similar play to the previous play against Clemson. This is the first play of the 2nd half in a close game in Atlanta. Smith is again in off coverage so the offense thinks it has a quick completion to start the half. This time the receiver wasn’t lazy. He took a hard cut inside looking to protect the throw with his body between Smith and the pass. The receiver takes the route a little deep which allows Smith into the play. Also the pass is high which allows Smith to make a play on the ball.
He can see the ball as again he has both the receiver and the QB in his field of view. When Smith sees the throw go high, he makes a play for the ball at the same time he collides with the receiver.
The ball then pops into the air then bounces off the receiver’s helmet (he has no idea where the ball is) then deflects off safety Tykee Smith to the waiting arms of Smael Mondon who takes the ball to the LSU 22. This was a barn burner of a game with LSU eventually scoring 30 points so every big play was critical for Georgia to win the game.
This last play is another example of Smith using his head to make a smart play. It’s a play you can see quite often with a different result many times. Smith on the play is playing as a single high safety. He is the last player who can prevent a TD by the opponent. Here the QB rolls to his right then throws back to his left deep to the slot receiver.
The slot receiver runs an out and up against a freshman CB in Malaki Starks who is beaten badly. The throw is on target to a wide open receiver for a possible huge play. Smith races across the field to make a play but realizes he can’t affect the pass. He has to try and dislodge the ball without hitting the receiver near the head. Easier said than done with a man running full speed. Smith decides to go low to the midsection which would keep him away from the receiver’s head but also stop him cold.
By doing so Smith kept himself from drawing a penalty, knocked the ball away, and also took a hard hit like he was nailed by a Cadillac going about 25 MPH. He took one for the team and kept the Ducks from any hope of getting back into the game.
Smith will also pound receivers using proper technique to dislodge the ball at the catch point but doing so as to not draw a penalty on a defenseless player. He had no way of doing that here.
I think Smith is a little underrated by some Draft people. He does not have elite speed but makes up for by making quick correct decisions. He is also under six feet and just under 200 lbs, but he plays much larger. He has superior character and he should interview well at the combine.
Smith was a team captain who made huge plays when his team needed it most. I think he will be drafted around the mid 2nd round ,but things could change from now until then. It’s early in the cycle, but I really like this kid. As of now I consider him a must get by the Jets. The safety position is a gaping hole in the Jets defense. Smith can be a difference maker on the back end for years to come. I am also looking at some players later in the Draft like Sydney Brown or Jammie Robinson. There are also Jakorian Bennett and Jartavius Martin whom I have yet to get much solid tape on. Eventually I will get it. A 2nd safety (SS) later in the Draft would be a solid move, a player who the Jets could develop while he plays on special teams his first year.
Like I mentioned to start, the Jets have a lot of decisions to make which will affect what they do later on. This Draft class has few elite prospects, but a few gems are going to slip through the cracks. You can still get a quality player in the 4th round if you are wise.
We shall see what happens.
I will be back with other prospects for your perusal.
Let me know what you think...