Fans of the New York Jets were nervous coming into NFL Draft weekend. This was Joe Douglas’ first draft as general manager and the anticipation of what he was going to do was high. Judging from the reaction of Jets fans, it looks like JD had a great first draft. What were some of the themes of the first draft by Joe Douglas?
Theme #1: Fortify the Line
Douglas used free agency to help rebuild an offensive line that was one of the worst in the NFL last season. Head coach Adam Gase was forced to use 11 different line combinations due to injury, inconsistency, and roster turnover. The Jets signed tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern, and guard Greg Van Roten. That rebuild continued on draft night one on Thursday.
The Jets drafted Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton as their first overall pick at offensive line since 2006. Douglas wasn’t done; on draft day three, the Jets drafted Charlotte tackle Cameron Clark. Douglas actually traded the 79th overall pick on Friday night (more on that later) for the 129th pick, which they used to draft Clark.
Theme #2: Captain’s Day
In draft day 3, the Jets went on one of the more interestingly themed draft runs. Along with the aforementioned Clark at 129, the Jets drafted Florida running back La’Mical Perine with pick 120; Florida International quarterback Daniel Morgan with pick 125; Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall at 158; and Texas A&M punter Braden Mann with pick 191. What do all five of these draftees have in common? They were all team captains in their final year at their respective schools.
Douglas and his management team not only did their homework for the draft, but they did extra credit as well. Clark might move to the interior, but gives the Jets offensive line depth. Perine will be a fine understudy for Le’Veon Bell. Morgan can develop into a capable backup. Hall gives the secondary depth. Mann was in the top five in punting in the NCAA last season. But the biggest factor in these five draftees is leadership.
Theme #3: Go Deep
The Jets had a positional depth problem last year due to a number of injuries or illnesses at key positions. This included quarterback, offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver, and in the secondary. Douglas addressed all of these positions in the draft. Two draft picks on draft day two were used to bolster depth on the defensive line and in the secondary.
With the 68th pick (thanks, Giants!), the Jets selected Cal-Berkley safety Ashtyn Davis. The former NCAA hurdles champion was a walk-on with the Golden Bears, but is versatile and can play any of the secondary positions. He was also an exceptional member of their special teams. At pick 79, the Jets selected Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga. Zuniga is considered a project player the Jets can hope to become a premier edge rusher. Former Gator and Jets draft pick Jachai Polite was supposed to be last season. (Ironically, Polite was the Jets’ 68th pick in last year’s draft.)
Theme #4: Joe Douglas Wasn’t Afraid to Trade Down or Out
The Jets had eight draft picks coming into the draft. On draft day two, Douglas swapped their second-round pick at 48 to the Seattle Seahawks for their second-round pick at 59. With that pick, the Jets took wide receiver Denzel Mims from Baylor. Mims dropped further than what many of the draft gurus projected. The Jets filled a need after Robby Anderson went to the Carolina Panthers. While Mims will take time to develop, his combine numbers are ridiculous. (Oh, and Mims was a team captain at Baylor.)
Douglas continued the trading on draft day two when he sent their pick at 101 to the New England Patriots (wait, what?!?) and select at 125 and 129. The Jets also received a sixth-round pick in 2021, though it’s unclear if it’s the pick they sent to New England last season for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The Jets, as previously mentioned, took Morgan at 125 and Clark at 129. Before the draft was done, Douglas opted to trade out of the draft altogether. The Jets traded the 211th pick to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Quincy Wilson.
Douglas learned while in Baltimore and in Philadelphia that to craft a championship team, an organization shouldn’t be afraid to make moves. With the exception of the trade that brought in quarterback Sam Darnold in the 2018 draft, the last two general managers failed to go by this principle. The result is one winning season in the past decade.
Here’s to hoping that Joe Douglas’ first draft turns the Jets’ fortune around.
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