Oct 17, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) before a game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the roster of the New York Jets has few impact players. General manager Mike Maccagnan — hired for his talent evaluation acumen — must hit pay-dirt with his third NFL draft.
There’s good reason to still believe in Trader Mike. ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that only 16.9 percent of draft choices actually stick, and noted that general manager Mike Maccagnan ranks slightly above that mark at 19%. But we all know that an 81 percent failure rate ain’t gonna cut it with the New York Jets.
Criticism for the first-time general manager runs deep, mostly over last season’s No. 2 pick, reclamation project Christian Hackenberg. Sure, the Nittany Lion delivered one of the most inept preseason quarterbacking performances in Gang Green history. But Hackenberg’s overall upside is so great that he should not be completely written off.
Please stop dwelling on the brutal personnel moves made under the pencil-pusher regimes of Mike Tannenbaum and John Idzik. 2015’s No. 1 pick Leonard Williams will one day be in enshrined in the MetLife Stadium Ring Of Honor. Last year’s first-rounder Darron Lee and No. 3 Jordan Jenkins form the basis of a solid young linebacker corps and will benefit from third-down edge pursuit by 2015’s third-rounder Lorenzo Mauldin. Quarterback Bryce Petty, nose tackle Deon Simon, cornerback Juston Burris, tackle Brandon Shell, punter Lachlan Edwards, and wide receivers Charone Peake, Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall (the latter two undrafted free agents) have all shown flashes.
Don’t be surprised if the Jets trade down to the middle of the first round to accumulate additional picks. You shouldn’t second-guess the general manager if he chooses to trade down for a sack machine like West Virginia’s Charles Harris or a road-grading lineman like Utah’s Garett Bolles or a game-breaking rusher like Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. Who knows, he could even draft a tantalizing young gun like Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes or Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. And if they’re still sitting there at No. 6 with “the next Ed Reed” Malik Hooker or “the next Ndamukong Suh” Jonathan Allen available, the Florham Park brain trust better think long and hard.
My post-combine mock draft offered a safe and sensible approach to the rebuild (as did my solid 2015 mock). For this pre-draft mock, every player cited has shown dynamic skill sets, and regardless of their “Big Board” rankings, have got what it takes to contribute on any given Sunday.
Next: Round 1
Round 1 (#6) – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Yes, the roster has far more pressing needs, with a serviceable rushing game led by Bilal Powell and Matt Forte. The running backs even include Christina Millian’s latest boy toy, late-season addition Brandon Wilds!
Beat-down Gang Green fans may fret that Fournette would be an epic “boom or bust” move on par with Blair Thomas or Johnny “Lam” Jones. But the LSU phenom has been called “the Michael Jordan of football” — and such once-a-generation superstar is just what this franchise desperately needs. Sure, he’s a got a helluva lot of attitude, but so did Joe Namath.
With a murky quarterback situation, a raw offensive line, a young receiving corp, and a rookie offensive coordinator in John Morton, this move makes great sense moving forward. But this may all prove to be conjecture, as the man will likely be off the board by pick No. 6.
Next: Round 2
Mar 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; LSU Tigers defensive back Tre’Davious White participates in workout drills during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2 (#39) – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
The Jets would find great value by selecting two Baton Rouge Tigers back-to-back. White will never be the next Darrelle Revis, but he certainly looks ready to step in and contribute. Plus, he’s a game-changing punt returner, which this team hasn’t had since Leon Washington.
Many recent mocks have catapulted the Shreveport product into the top-tier of the first round. So even if the Jets trade down in Round1, he might still be worthy of consideration.
One criticism you really don’t like to hear about White is that he’s a poor tackler lacking the physicality to play every down. So it’s doubtful Gang Green would place a first-round grade on nickel back Buster Skrine’s heir apparent. But as the 39th pick in the draft, the crafty man-to-man baller could offer immediate returns
Next: Round 3
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) prior to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3 (#70) – ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
A great wide receiver and punishing runner — for whoever the heck becomes the future quarterback of the Jets. The 6’1”, 205 lb. Crimson Tide beast’s highlight reels compare favorably to college footage of Jarvis Landry or Steve Smith.
You know that Stewart — with 129 total catches under Nick Saban’s run-heavy offense — has got what it takes because he’s rumored to be picked by virtually every team in the league. With good coaching, ArDarius could be special, but as of now, the underclassman’s has got to work on his dropped passes and erratic blocking.
The equally talented Cooper Kupp straight outta Eastern Washington will likely be gone by the end of Round 2, but he’d be an amazing offensive injection for this team in the slot position, with true potential to be that next Wayne Chrebet.
Next: Round 3 (Compensatory Pick)
Mar 2, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; West Virginia offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3 Compensatory Pick (#107) – Tyler Orlosky, C, West Virginia
By no means a first-round Ring of Honor center like Nick Mangold. But like Mangold, Orlosky is an Ohio-bred blue-collar “leader of men” that can step right in and play.
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Steelers castoff Wesley Johnson filled in admirably when Mangold went down last season and has earned the center job for 2017. But he is best-suited as a fill-in guard for Brian Winters or James Carpenter.
Orlosky, standing 6’3”. 300 lbs., anchored the nation’s No. 12 offense. He is not rated as highly as Ohio State’s Pat Elflein or LSU’s Ethan Pocic because of his inability to blow out huge holes in the run game.
Instead, this mean Mountaineer is one of those of those stocky workout warriors with good technique who rarely gets beats on his blocks — and he is powerful and nasty enough to take on those monster NFL nose tackles.
Too bad they had to lose Damon “Snacks” Harrison — now widely considered the league’s top defensive interior lineman — to receive this compensatory pick.
Next: Round 5
Jan 26, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad wide receiver Zay Jones of East Carolina (7) runs the ball against inside linebacker Connor Harris of Lindenwood (16) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (#150) – Connor Harris, ILB, Lindenwood
This Missouri Christian small-college grad — a two-time first-team Division II All-American — holds the NCAA record for 633 career tackles. He’s that classic undersized overachiever with a relentless work ethic and a nose for the football.
Harris excelled against top talent at this year’s Senior Bowl, and he has impressed many previous non-believers in private workouts. In other words, he has “NFL” written all over him.
A season learning behind, and even along side, savvy veteran David Harris could do wonders. And an inside linebacker group based around him and Darron Lee would become a core roster strength going into 2018. Connor also has all the makings of a special teams demon.
Check out his intense Lindenwood promotional reel.
Next: Round 6
Jan 24, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad tight end Mike Roberts of Toledo (80) catches a pass against safety Lorenzo Jerome of Saint Francis (PA) (22) during practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6 (#191) – Lorenzo Jerome, S, St Francis (PA)
This relatively local Division II legend — famed for leading his lowly-regarded Red Flashes to their first FCS playoff appearance — is universally considered a top-10 strong safety talent going into this year’s draft.
On his biggest stage, at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (a showcase for possible latter-round selections), Jerome was voted MVP with two interceptions. He’s a bit undersized, but the three-time all-NEC ballhawk displayed great instincts, good hands, excellent tackling, and showed potential as a return specialist.
With major questions regarding the future of hard-hitting, weak-tackling 2014 No. 1 draft choice Calvin “The Louisville Slugger” Pryor, perhaps Lorenzo could battle it out at strong safety with fellow Pennsylvania small-college overachiever Rontez Miles (of rival California University of Pennsylvania).
Next: Round 7
Sep 3, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) makes a touchdown catch against Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Samson Ebukam (3) during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Eagles won 45-42. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7 (#224) – Samson Ebukam, DE/OLB, Eastern Washington
Watching the tape on this edge-rusher is scary. He’s a Nigerian-born nightmare with freakish athleticism, in the vein of the G-Men’s Jason Pierre-Paul.
Ebukam’s got good technique, but his “motor” is off the charts. He can maniacally dash to the opposite side of the field to crush a running play, but his lack of discipline has also lead to plenty of blown assignments.
The two-time second-team All-Big Sky Conference selection (from the same college as the aforementioned Cooper Kupp) excelled against Division I talent, like with his two sacks and five hurries on the road against Washington State.
Last season, he amassed 9.5 sacks and 71 tackles. At worst, you know that he’d be terrific on special teams. If the Jets pass on Samson, they may want to consider a similarly relentless player in TCU Horned Frog DE Josh Carraway.