Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Darron Lee (Ohio State) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell 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
The New York Jets entered the 2016 NFL Draft needing to add youth and speed to their linebacker corps. With Darron Lee now in the mix, he could prove to be very effective.
The New York Jets faced many questions at linebacker heading into 2016. They have struggled in recent years rushing the quarterback. A lot of work had to be done to an aging, depleted unit with unproven starters looking to start the 2016 season.
General manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles knew it was imperative to address the holes within this unit, and with the 20th pick in this year’s draft, the Jets selected Darron Lee, linebacker out of Ohio State.
In two seasons with the Buckeyes, Lee totaled 146 tackles (27 for loss) with 11 sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. Stats aren’t everything with Lee as he has a motor that doesn’t stop running and gives his all on every play.
It was time to address linebacker in New York and Lee is their guy. Here are the top five reasons why Lee being drafted makes sense for the Jets.
Next: 5. Lee is a genuine class act
5. Lee is a genuine class act
In interviews and press conferences in the short amount of time since the draft, Lee has proven to be very well-spoken, polite, humble and grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL and for the Jets. He answers fully, quickly and concisely.
Being well-spoken and polite might not be a big deal in many other markets in professional sports, but in New York it is always a good quality to have. Otherwise, the media will eat you alive.
One of the first things Lee posted about after becoming a Jet was in memory of Brock Johnson, a child from Ohio who suffered from an unknown auto-immune disease.
Wearing Green reminds me of Brock…I know he's smiling down on me #BrockStrong
— Darron Lee (@DLeeMG8) May 2, 2016
All signs point that it’s not all about Lee, and that he cares for others around him; family, friends, fans, coaches, whoever, but most importantly the community surrounding the team.
Next: 4. The Jets needed youth and speed
Feb 28, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee participates in workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Jets needed youth and speed
Desperately, the Jets needed to add depth along with youth and speed to the linebacker corps. The draft, on paper, was a success in trying to upgrade this unit.
Obviously, New York was able to draft Lee in the first round, but they also added an outside linebacker from Georgia, Jordan Jenkins. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s a step in the right direction for the Jets.
Lee doesn’t have the size an inside linebacker would generally have, but he has the speed of a safety. He adds great side-to-side range, coverage ability and versatility in the middle of the field.
The Jets needed to move on from having any sort of expectations from Calvin Pace at outside linebacker, though it is not far-fetched to think Pace could return given the right (cheap) price. Lee and Jenkins being mentored by David Harris and Pace would be a great start for their careers.
Next: 3. Lee is part of the new breed of linebackers
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee (43) makes a diving tackle of Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams (33) during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
3. Lee is part of the new breed of linebackers
There seems to be a “new breed” of linebackers starting to enter the NFL. A linebacker/safety hybrid of sorts. Players that have a little more length, are more lean and are much more athletic and versatile.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of big, field general or enforcer type backers out there set to come out of college right now. Guys like Ray Lewis, Lawrence Taylor, Jack Lambert and others that would just strike the fear out of you don’t come out of college anymore.
The game, all-around, is getting faster as years go by. Speed is a hot commodity in the NFL right now, especially after seeing the success of the Denver Broncos in 2015. A lot of teams are looking to add speed both inside and outside to get pressure in the backfield as much as possible. Lee fits that bill perfectly for the Jets, standing 6’1″ and weighing 232 pounds.
He has great skill, but he will need to polish his technique a bit to play more of a traditional inside linebacker role in the 3-4; not get away from what he is, just enhance his game.
Next: 2. Confidence is key
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee gestures to the crowd in the fourth quarter against the Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
2. Confidence is key
Lee was not always a linebacker. He played quarterback, wide receiver, safety and returned kicks. He had offers to be a quarterback from Boston College, Duke and Illinois. Lee wanted Ohio State, but they didn’t want him. We all know what happened there.
In an article written by The New York Times’ Dave Caldwell, here is what Candice Lee said about her son:
"“I said to him, ‘Don’t let anybody tell you differently — you’re a confident person. If someone says you’re arrogant, that’s their problem, not your problem.’”"
If it’s one thing Lee does not lack or fail to exhume, it’s confidence. It was a constant throughout the pre-draft process that Lee was scrutinized for being undersized. To him, that doesn’t matter.
Put him up against Rob Gronkowski or another big-time tight end. It doesn’t matter. Lee is confident he can pick up on things such as the routes they run and how they get open to exploit them and make it an easier task.
It’s one’s mindset. Going out there knowing that you are going to make a big play. It’s physicality. Learning how to expose the opposition and executing is key.
Next: 1. Undeniable skill on the field
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Thomas Tyner (24) is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee (43) in the first quarter in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
1. Undeniable skill on the field
Lee is an incredible talent. He is a natural three-down linebacker with great quickness, athleticism, flexibility and knowledge of the game.
With his quick feet, agility and ability to diagnose the opposing offense, Lee is very efficient in finding routes to the ball. In doing so, he is able to get pressure in the backfield on the runner or the quarterback.
Versatility is key with Lee. He is comfortable in space and with great sideline-to-sideline range, he displays his effectiveness both against the run and in coverage, especially man coverage. His targeting ability in zone coverage could use a little fine-tuning.
Lee is the whole package. A hybrid linebacker/safety type. With a little work in the weight room to add some size, some work with coaches on linebacker techniques and reps on defense, Lee could be the successor to Harris as the field general for Bowles and the Jets moving forward.