Grading a Draft pick just hours after it is made makes no sense. We will not know the quality of these picks for years. That doesn’t stop major analysts from trying, though.
The Jets picked Will McDonald out of Iowa State last night. Let’s see what grades they received.
As a reminder, Draft grades are stupid ... unless they praise the Jets. This year’s grades are stupid indeed.
R1 (15) NEW YORK JETS (VIA GB): EDGE WILL MCDONALD IV, IOWA STATE
Pick Grade: Average
McDonald had the best season of his college career in 2022 and flashed incredible lateral quickness. PFF’s Sam Monson views him as the second-best pass-rusher in this draft class, but the Iowa State product was just the 29th-ranked player on the PFF big board. He finished his college career with 127 total pressures across 862 pass-rushing snaps.
New York Jets
Draft pick: Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald IV (No. 15 overall)
Analysis: In terms of impact on the first round this year, acquiring Aaron Rodgers from the Packers required the Jets to move down just two slots, from No. 13 to No. 15, where they picked McDonald, who has great length and the best flexibility of any edge in the draft class. He’d been pegged as a late-first or early second-round pick, though, because of his lean frame and inconsistency using his hands to beat better tackles. McDonald has potential if he’s able to mature, both physically and in his craft.
15. New York Jets: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State — McDonald needs some time to adjust to being a full-time defensive end in the NFL, but there’s no doubting that he has the physical traits to be an effective edge rusher in the league. He’s an older prospect, but traits trump all along the defensive line. He has legitimate bend to cut the corners on offensive tackles, which is something the Jets lack. Grade: B-
Will McDonald IV, Edge, Iowa State
Strengths: Gumby-like lower-body flexibility, good pass-rush plan with multiple moves, nose for the ball to create fumbles
Weaknesses: Long, lithe frame creates issues at point of attack, can’t get off blocks once engaged
Will McDonald IV’s film became a fascinating process of parsing skill set from scheme.
Iowa State utilizes a 3-3-5 variant, with three safeties on the field to offset college football’s high-octane passing games while maintaining the ability to attack downhill. As a result, the defensive ends don’t often line up wide on the outside to attack. Instead, they could be head-up or moving along the front.
But the 239-pound McDonald is a true rush-end. He’ll be at his best in the NFL aligned as a 7-technique or even Wide 9, where he’ll be given some run outside the offensive tackle to bend the edge and get after opposing quarterbacks.
To be fair, the three-time All-Big 12 performer still managed 33.5 tackles for loss and 27 sacks over the last three seasons. While McDonald is a slightly older prospect–he’ll turn 24 before the start of his rookie campaign–the defensive end can immediately contribute as a pass-rush specialist thanks to his natural gifts.
McDonald’s explosiveness was seen at the NFL Scouting Combine when he tied for first and finished sixth in the broad jump and vertical, respectively. He also has exceptional bend off the edge and lateral quickness.
The New York Jets were jumped by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted the final offensive tackle prospect carrying a solid first-round grade.
To call this particular selection a panic move is a bit of an overstatement. But it’s clear the Jets expected one of the tackles to be available to help protect new quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Instead, general manager Joe Douglas dipped into the second tier of prospects and chose McDonald. While the fit makes sense for New York’s defensive scheme, the Jets already have significant investments in Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and Jermaine Johnson.
Where the Jets were picking worked against them, as one of the higher-graded offensive tackles didn’t fall into their lap, but there were multiple better options at other positions.
15. Jets: Will McDonald, LB, Iowa State
I am not sure of this pick for this team. This is a little high for my liking and they had some more pressing needs. Is he a game changer? I doubt it. Good player, not worth this pick.
15. New York Jets (from Packers): Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
The Jets make a curious reach for more of a late-rising second-round prospect. Although McDonald has promising length and athleticism for Robert Saleh’s defense, he has to develop more against the run to play on regular downs. The Jets missed out on the offensive tackle run and also didn’t get an offensive skill player to boost Aaron Rodgers. This also is a head-scratcher for GM Joe Douglas after taking Jermaine Johnson as a third first-rounder in 2022.