New York Jets: Grading every 2016 NFL Draft pick
Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Darron Lee (Ohio State) after being selected by the New York Jets as the number twenty overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
For the New York Jets, the 2016 NFL Draft is officially over as now it’s time to grade each and every draft pick to see how the team fared.
General manager Mike Maccagnan by all accounts had another consecutive draft class that ends with an overall passing grade. Not only did Maccagnan address some of the immediate needs the Jets had on defense, he also added some much-needed pieces to develop for a very bright and positive future.
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A good general manager makes sure the “right now” issues are fixed but a great one knows it’s a fine balance. You need to address current weaknesses but also build for the future as some developmental players need more time to take their careers to the next level. That way, when everything comes together, they can be a serious contending team ready to make some noise.
Maccagnan proved yet again why he’s a great general manager and it showed not just with his selections but the overall scouting process. Of course he didn’t do anything different from other general managers but he has a great reputation for having a keen ability to find the best personnel that fits the overall chemistry of a team. He did it with the Houston Texans and now with the Jets.
Without further ado, here are my overall grades for the latest draft class of the Jets.
Next: An easy A
Linebacker Darron Lee: A+ (Round 1)
Easily the highest grade given to a player of the overall draft class of the Jets, linebacker Darron Lee is the perfect addition to add to a pass rush that was lacking speed and aggression. At 6’1 and 232 pounds, Lee brings a keen defensive skill-set and can easily earn a starting job at the inside linebacker position.
Lee will more than likely be in a situational role on the Jets’ defense. He will undoubtedly be used in packages to stop the opposition on key third down stops which is an area he should excel in. In his collegiate career at Ohio State, Lee totaled 146 tackles, 11.0 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.
As a possible cornerstone at linebacker of the future, Lee should have an easy transition to the NFL even though he might be a bit on the shorter side of the height required to be effective at the position. Height isn’t everything though as he has a high motor and should be able to be a difference-maker as soon as his rookie season.
Overall, Lee is a perfect plug-and-play kind of defender that will more than likely be utilized in many different ways in 2016. Expect to see him as a blitzer, coming off the edge or even as run-stopping support on defense.
Next: A quarterback that earns a B
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg: B+ (Round 2)
One belief that always works with the kind of problem a franchise like the Jets have when it comes to franchise quarterbacks is to keep drafting one every year until you find him. There is no guarantee that players like Geno Smith, Bryce Petty or even Christian Hackenberg have “franchise quarterback” written on them ready to be channeled towards major and consistent success.
Truth of the matter is, Maccagnan did the right thing using the second round pick of the Jets on Hackenberg. He’s the perfect developmental player that can be groomed for a future competition against quarterback Bryce Petty for the starting spot at the most important position of the team.
Maccagnan knows if he’s to finally fix the quarterback situation of the Jets, it all starts with adding more options than relying on just one. It’s no secret that Ryan Fitzpatrick might not even be an option in 2016 but the Jets should be just fine as they continue to groom Petty and now Hackenberg for the future. Plus if Smith delivers a memorable season, he could also be the answer they need.
Overall, Hackenberg, just like Petty, won’t see any starting time in 2016 but can just sit on the bench and absorb everything while being developed the right way. He might be the answer the Jets have been looking for or he could be a complete bust for all we know. For now though, it’s the step in the right direction for the future at the position for the Jets.
Next: A pass rusher that earns a B
Nov 28, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Jordan Jenkins (59) reacts after making a tackle against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia defeated Georgia Tech 13-7. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Linebacker Jordan Jenkins: B+ (Round 3)
The Jets knew heading into this year’s draft they had to add some much needed speed and youth to their overall pass rush. Drafting linebacker Jordan Jenkins is easily a sleeper pick for the Jets as he has some major potential to be an absolute beast on defense.
Between Erin Henderson, Lorenzo Mauldin and now Lee with Jenkins, the Jets’ linebacker corps just got some major players ready to make a name for themselves. Jenkins excels in his pass rush as he’ll bring consistency and a no-nonsense presence on defense.
In his collegiate career at Georgia, Jenkins totaled 204 tackles, 19.0 sacks and 39 tackles for loss. Needless to say, he will bring down anyone with the football faster than a New York minute. It will be very exciting to see what this defense will look like this upcoming season with all this new blood ready to prove their worth.
Overall, expect to see Jenkins live up to the hype that he was the athlete that did all the “dirty work” for linebacker Leonard Floyd at Georgia as the Jets truly got a very special player in him. One that once he gets himself situated on the Jets’ defense, will have quite the impact for many years to come.
Next: A cornerback that gets a C-
Nov 14, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball past North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Juston Burris (11) during the second half of the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Cornerback Juston Burris: C- (Round 4)
The Jets released cornerback Antonio Cromartie this offseason and Darrelle Revis is getting up there in age. Cornerback Dee Milliner has one more chance to prove himself before he’ll probably not be back after 2016. The Jets needed to add another quality cornerback into the mix but quite honestly, waited a bit too long in this year’s draft to add a better impact player.
Defensively, the Jets rely heavily on their cornerbacks just like everyone else in the NFL as the league has turned into a dominantly passing one. Problem is, Burris doesn’t exactly scream “shut down” cornerback to opponents that will undoubtedly be throwing in his direction the moment they see him on the football field.
In his collegiate career at Florida State, Burris totaled 121 tackles and just three interceptions. Hopefully with some proper coaching and training he’ll develop towards the next level but he has a whole lot of work ahead of him to be considered starting material.
Perhaps this was another developmental player Maccagnan sees potential in to be a quality defensive back in the future but for now, he’s easily a few years away and doesn’t have that required speed to be of that caliber.
Next: Decent depth to an aging offensive line earns a B-
Nov 15, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks offensive tackle Brandon Shell (71) blocks Florida Gators defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (90) during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Offensive Tackle Brandon Shell: B- (Round 5)
There was absolutely no way the Jets would have left this year’s draft without selecting another offensive lineman for depth purposes. They potentially got a steal here even though they had to trade up to get him, but offensive tackle Brandon Shell brings durability and raw natural skill to the Jets’ offensive line.
The Jets might have a serious problem on their hands if their offensive line either gets banged up or doesn’t have the necessary cohesiveness to deliver in 2016. The Jets plan to launch an offense that heavily relies on their ground game led by Matt Forte, Khiry Robinson and Bilal Powell.
It’s a new three-headed monster that should not only keep those chains moving but push this offense to new heights this upcoming season. It won’t work as envisioned if the Jets’ offensive line doesn’t hold up to establish those rushing lanes or protect whichever quarterback is under center in 2016.
Overall, Shell brings quality depth to the Jets and looks like he could be used in relief to the veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. Expect him to see some time as a backup and possibly starter depending on how the season goes for the Jets’ offensive line.
Next: B for the newest punter on the Jets
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Sam Houston State kicker Loc Edwards speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Punter Loc Edwards, B+ (Round 7)
Yes, the Jets drafted a punter which in the grand scheme of things, needed to happen. Punter Ryan Quigley wasn’t brought back by the Jets and landed with the Philadelphia Eagles as either way, Gang Green needed an upgrade at the position.
Special teams for the Jets last season was abysmal. Their punting was terrible as they left some great field positioning on the table because opponents had no problems running it back for more yardage or just calling a fair catch since it wasn’t punted far enough anyway.
Punter Loc Edwards will showoff his leg strength as he works hard to earn a starting job with the Jets. In his collegiate career at Sam Houston State, Edwards totaled 185 punts with an average of 42.8 yards. It was a wise decision for the Jets to invest a late-round pick on a potential punter that could be a cornerstone at the position for a very long time if all falls into place.
Hopefully Edwards earns the spot and can bring much better field positioning for the Jets’ defense by pinning opponents deep in their own territory when punting. The Jets score a nice B+ here since it’s about time they drafted someone to address the position.
Next: Taking a risk on a wide receiver earns a C
Jan 30, 2016; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad wide receiver Charone Peake of Clemson (9) gets past the tackle of North squad player Deiondre’ Hall of Northern Iowa (20) during first half of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Wide Receiver Charone Peake, C+ (Round 7)
If it’s one thing to learn about Maccagnan is he has an eye for talent and isn’t shy of taking risks for the overall benefit of the Jets. Such is the case with their final selection of this year’s draft in wide receiver Charone Peake.
Problem with Peake is he comes with a lot of red flags due to his injury history. He’s dealt with an ACL tear injury just a few years ago and several nagging issues with his knee. Hopefully he remains healthy heading into this upcoming season to put what could be a very impressive skill-set to good use.
If healthy, Peake could be the real deal as when he was, he made a nice impact at Clemson. In his collegiate career there, Peake totaled 1,172 receiving yards on 99 receptions for 10 touchdowns. As previously mentioned, most of his career so far has been riddled with injuries but when he was able to play fully, he showed some very good speed and consistent route running.
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Overall, the Jets drafting Peake gets a C+ due to his history of injuries but still gets a passing grade since the potential is there. Obviously Maccagnan saw something in him worthy of drafting him so hopefully everything turns out for the best and he brings that speed to the wide receiver corps of the Jets.