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Report: First round pick Will McDonald frustrated with role in first year

Can McDonald use his frustration to motivate him for a second year leap?

NFL: New York Jets at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets selected edge rusher Will McDonald IV with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft. The pick was surprising given that the Jets were deep at edge rusher. Nonetheless, many gave the New York Jets the benefit of the doubt, citing how the Jets had previously used the first year of 2022 first round pick Jermaine Johnson II as what amounted to a red shirt year. In year 2 Johnson rewarded the Jets with a Pro Bowl campaign.

However, just because a development plan is a good one does not mean that everyone is happy with it. For Will McDonald, this was the first time he saw significant time on the bench in years. McDonald was reportedly unhappy with his playing time within his first year according to ESPN beat writer for the New York Jets Rich Cimini, who wrote:

Coach Robert Saleh said McDonald has “superstar” potential. Buried in a deep defensive-line rotation, McDonald’s opportunities were limited but he had three sacks. After four productive seasons at Iowa State, the lack of playing time was a shock to his system. It got to a point where he wondered if the Jets were the right fit. He hit the reset button and now is looking forward to a significant role. The Jets will be relying on him, especially if they lose edge rusher Bryce Huff in free agency.

I think some will treat this unhappiness as a bad thing. Sure, it’s never great when a valuable young player is unhappy. However, I think this says a lot about McDonald and his desire to contribute. Being unhappy with being paid handsomely to ride the bench suggests that McDonald truly loves and enjoys playing football. It seems like all the great players have that in common.

The article also mentions that McDonald is hoping to raise his weight from 237 to 250+ pounds. While nothing is guaranteed, a stronger version of McDonald paired with a high motivation to earn more reps sure sounds like fertile ground from which a breakout season might emerge. Fingers crossed it happens.