Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets have crucial decisions to make in the 2017 NFL Draft. With that being said, they need to make the correct decisions given their state as a rebuilding franchise.
The 2017 NFL Draft is upon us. It’s every fan’s favorite event of the offseason and it’s every general manager’s most important event. For rebuilding franchises like the New York Jets, they have no room for error. Youth is how struggling teams get back into playoff contention and Gang Green seems to be headed in that direction.
They parted ways with veterans Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall, Breno Giacomini, Erin Henderson, Ryan Clady and Ryan Fitzpatrick to save a boatload of cap space. With that room, they signed Josh McCown, Kelvin Beachum, Morris Claiborne, Quinton Patton and Chandler Catanzaro. McCown is the only guy in that group over 27 years of age.
He’s also one of a mere six players on the roster 30 years or older. This shows how young general manager Mike Maccagnan is willing to go. Ex-GM John Idzik’s refusal to spend cap space forced Maccagnan into building the Jets how he did in 2015. If he didn’t spend, New York would’ve gotten punished by the league. He can now officially build from scratch.
At sixth overall, he’ll have a variety of options. He could go quarterback, running back, cornerback or safety. If he somehow finds a way to trade down, wide receiver, tight end, and outside linebacker come into play. He can’t go best player available like he did with Leonard Williams because the roster has holes in several areas.
Without further ado, here are top five moves the Jets should make during this year’s draft.
Next: 5. Trade Calvin Pryor on day three
Sep 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) makes an interception against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
5. Trade Calvin Pryor on day three
Calvin Pryor has not lived up to the hype of an 18th overall pick. He’s not necessarily a bust, but Idzik definitely took the wrong safety in 2014. At 21st overall, All-Pro Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went to Green Bay. The Alabama product has 274 career tackles while the ‘Louisville Slugger’ has 191. He additionally leads in the sack and interception department. Clinton-Dix plays for a Super Bowl contender while Pryor doesn’t, although it’s hard to ignore the disparity between the two.
Maccagnan came out weeks ago and said Pryor’s fifth-year option. This means he could walk in 2018 and the Jets would have to bank on gaining a compensatory pick. Since New York is in the midst of a rebuild, it’s unlikely they gain a compensatory pick because they’ll be acquiring too many players. A trade has to happen here before it’s too late.
The lingering question is Pryor’s value. There’s a chance the Jets could get a sixth-rounder from a team like Cleveland or San Fransisco. They have the cap space to ink him to an extension and he’d fill a need. However, his ineptitude in pass defense could make him worth just a seventh-rounder for most teams. He earned a coverage grade of 58.2 on Pro Football Focus in 2016, which ranked 80th out of 91 safeties who received at least 200 coverage snaps. Gang Green should find themselves a new strong safety. Perhaps a certain someone at sixth overall?
Next: 4. Trade Sheldon Richardson on day two
Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) on the sideline during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium. The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-16.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
4. Trade Sheldon Richardson on day two
The Jets had major issues on the defensive side of the ball last year. One of those issues was the misuse of Sheldon Richardson. He isn’t big enough to play nose tackle and Williams took his role as a starting end. As a result, he was utilized out of position at outside linebacker and he even played snaps at inside linebacker. He recorded only 1.5 sacks and he became a cancer in the locker room toward the end of the season.
Maccagnan was supposedly close to a deal with Dallas before the trade deadline, but he was asking for a bit too much in return. Now, New York would be lucky to get anything close to what they were asking for. Richardson’s cap hit in 2017 is expensive ($8.069M) and he’s due for a massive contract in 2018. Factor in the off-the-field troubles and you have a guy with plenty of baggage.
Just like the Pryor situation, we don’t have a great grasp of Richardson’s value. The general consensus is that he’s worth anywhere from a mid third-rounder to an early fourth-rounder. The Jets would be taking a hit by selling this low, although they have no other choice. As stated previously, a compensatory pick is unlikely for a rebuilding team. The other reality is that the defensive line can probably survive without Richardson now. It’s time to get him off of the roster.
Next: 3. Draft a tight end on day two
3. Draft a tight end on day two
New York had a golden opportunity to address their tight end need in free agency. Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Dion Sims and Gavin Escobar highlighted the big names in the pool last month. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins being the best one on the Jets’ roster, it’s stunning they chose not to bring in a respectable body. By the way, he’s suspended for the first two games of the regular season. That leaves offensive coordinator John Morton with slim pickings.
It won’t be much of a concern if New York goes tight end on day two of the draft. O.J. Howard would be a tremendous selection in round one, however, Maccagnan shouldn’t pull the trigger on him unless he trades back. David Njoku will most likely be off the board when the Jets pick in round two, which makes Evan Engram the next best candidate. He played his college ball at Ole Miss and strung together an impressive career. He racked up 162 receptions for 2,320 yards and 15 touchdowns.
If Gang Green passes on him, a guy they could take with one of their two third-rounders is Jake Butt out of Michigan. He was a key cog in the school’s recent success, but he tore his ACL in December and he’ll obviously need time to recover. Two other prospects CBS Sports thinks are worth a look are Adam Shaheen and Gerald Everett. Shaheen is a 6’6,” 278 monster from Ashland University and Everett played at South Alabama. Both should be available in round three if all else fails.
Next: 2. Address the secondary in Round 1
Dec 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; LSU Tigers defensive end Tashawn Bower (46) celebrates LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) defensive play against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
2. Address the secondary in Round 1
Head coach Todd Bowles did a horrible job with the secondary in 2016, but it wasn’t all his fault. He ran out of bodies and had minimal talent to begin with. Revis showed he had nothing left in the tank, Marcus Williams missed games and Buster Skrine was forced to play outside of the slot where he struggles. It was no different at safety. Pryor was a liability in coverage while Marcus Gilchrist significantly regressed from his first season as a Jet.
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New York can make it all go away by addressing the unit in round one. Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are top-tier safeties who have the potential to be the face of a defense. Adams was a thumper at LSU and Hooker was one of the best ballhawks in the Big 10. Marshon Lattimore is another guy who would upgrade the Jets’ secondary instantly. Williams is currently the team’s No. 2 corner and Claiborne is by no means a long-term solution.
One of these three will be available when New York is on the clock at sixth overall. Cleveland and Jacksonville have no reason to go secondary and Solomon Thomas won’t fall past Chicago. If I had to guess which one the Jets would end up with, it’s Adams. Tennessee has a need at corner after cutting Jason McCourty, which makes Lattimore their best fit. With Thomas most likely landing in San Fransisco, Chicago can get their playmaker in Hooker and wait to address their defensive line. Adams has the best chance of falling.
Next: 1. Don't draft a quarterback at all
Sep 10, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) looks to throw in the first quarter against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
1. Don’t draft a quarterback at all
Gang Green has no reason to go quarterback at any point in this year’s draft. Of course, there’s a pressing need at the position, but they have enough youth there at the moment. Bryce Petty is entering his third season and Maccagnan took him in the 2015 NFL Draft in the fourth round knowing he could eventually become the starter. Christian Hackenberg is the other youngster who was taken in the second round of last year’s draft.
Since the Penn State standout hasn’t touched the field yet, it’d be dumb to take another quarterback who has to be groomed. He was stashed so deep on the depth chart to where he has barely been evaluated outside of practice. He saw snaps during the meaningless final tune-up against Philadelphia. That outing is solely for undrafted free agents and journeymen veterans to make their last push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
With all that said, Hackenberg is essentially New York’s project at quarterback. It makes little sense to take another at any point in the draft. Petty is your starter, Josh McCown is your backup/mentor and Hackenberg is ‘the process.’ If the Jets struggle as much as they should in 2017, they can find their franchise guy in the 2018 NFL Draft. We all know how talented that class is supposed to be. Maccagnan should too.