The New York Jets front office is back at work, with the 2018 NFL Combine completed and the start of college Pro Days. Here’s a full Jets mock draft based on if they sign Kirk Cousins or miss out on acquiring him via free agency.
Entering Season Four of the Mike Maccagnan–Todd Bowles regime, the New York Jets roster overhaul is almost complete. Before next week’s free agency and next month’s NFL Draft, 75 of the 82 Jets currently under contract are ‘their guys.”
The Jets have many holes to fill. So, in the likely scenario that Kirk Cousins signs with Minnesota for a reported $91M guaranteed — although don’t discount a short-term deal between the Vikes and Drew Brees — expect big money to be lavished on o-line, cornerback, edge rushers, and offensive weapons.
This draft class is teaming with mid/late-round value at running back, tight end and cornerback. The Florham Park brain trust has done some solid scouting — but none of that matters if they can’t get it right at quarterback.
Expect Trader Mike to trade down early and often, to replenish the thin roster. Here’s a full Jets post-Combine mock draft — including priority UDFAs — based on Maccagnan’s preference for lunch-pail players, and the need to rebuild this lineup from the inside out.
5. Day One
Round 1 (#6)
with Cousins – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
w/o Cousins – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
A line with Quenton Nelson and James Carpenter, with Brian Winters and Dakota Dozier in reserve, would give the Jets one of the NFL’s best guard rotations. By adding a decent center, RT Brandon Shell reaching his potential, and some solid draft picks, this line could become a playoff-ready unit.
In terms of NFL careers, Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson might turn out to be this Draft’s most productive QBs. Having said that, the electrifying Mayfield is made for this NYC job, while the run-first Jackson is that proverbial “square peg in a round hole.”
If the front office has their sights set on a different early Round One QB, Trader Mike may have to trade up from pick #6 to #3 or #4. Such a move would cost both of their Top 50 second-rounders. But that would be a small price to pay, to secure the future face of the franchise!
The Jets are said to be enamored with Josh Allen. But the Wyoming gunslinger has huge question marks, and he may not even be available after picks #1 and #2. That’s why April 26 will be one of the most important dates in Jets history.
Next: 4. Day Two
4. Day Two
Round 2A (#37)
with Cousins – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
w/o Cousins – Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
Round 2B (#49, from Seattle)
with Cousins – Darius Leonard, ILB, SC State
w/o Cousins – Frank Ragnow, C/G, Arkansas
Round 3 (#72)
with Cousins – Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
w/o Cousins – Lorenzo Carter, OLB, Georgia
On Day Two is where the Jets draft may change, either to give Cousins weapons or to replenish the line for the next young gun. So, the Jets can score big-time with those two Top 50 selections, or package those picks to move up in the first round and “get their guy.”
Nick Chubb’s Georgia backfield mate gets compared to Saints star Alvin Kamara. Does Sony Michel sound like the spark-plug to ignite this dead-end offense, or what? Same goes for the Combine’s WR star Equanimeous St. Brown, who may not fall to Round Three. If not, there may be a terrific receiver like Memphis’ Anthony Miller or New Mexico State’s Jaleel Scott.
Darius Leonard’s had a huge chip on his shoulder since Clemson snubbed him — resulting in four years of small-college dominance. If he’s already been selected, there’s also a lot to like about Kansas DE/OLB Dorrance Armstrong.
In the case of losing out on Cousins, the Jets especially need to focus on the O-line. Many teams will zero in on Will Hernandez after a monster Combine showing (37 reps of 225 pounds). But the UTEP Miner mauler may be a plug-in-and-play ten-year starter. Also, assuming that Iowa’s James Daniels and Ohio State’s Billy Price are off the board, the injury-ravaged Frank Ragnow projects as a Day One starter.
There’s a lot to love about the edge-rusher Lorenzo Carter. He and ex-Dawg Jordan Jenkins would make for a ferocious OLB tandem. Sure, this relentless pursuer has holes in his game — but the “next Leonard Floyd” may still be available late in Day Two. USC’s versatile DE Uchenna Nwosu makes great sense in a Todd Bowles hybrid defense, too.
Next: 3. Day Three, Part One
3. Day Three, Part One
Round 4 (#107)
with Cousins – Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
w/o Cousins – Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Mississippi
Round 5 (#157, via Dallas)
with Cousins – Greg Senat, OT, Wagner
w/o Cousins – Genard Avery, ILB, Memphis
The more one learns about Chase Litton, the man, the less there is to like. But the 6’6″ Thundering Herd gunslinger is that prototype NFL QB that “quarterback whisperer” and new OC Jeremy Bates can develop. With Cousins under center, there’d be no rush to play the 21-year-old. And you know he’s got “it” because the Patriots are scouting him (and Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta).
Korey Robertson’s star is rising so fast that he may not last until Day Three. But who wouldn’t love to snag a man-child receiver who just might be that next Dez Bryant? LSU’s DJ Chark may also still be on the board by pick #107.
Last year’s Day Three trade-down with Dallas yielded a fifth-rounder. Wagner hoops star Greg Senat has made the huge leap to offensive tackle. The raw gridiron talent — all 6’6″, 302 of him — has flashes endless upside with great technique and athletic finesse.
Genard Avery can be a bit of a one-dimensional ILB, weak against the pass. But the Memphis Tiger is both a totally driven tackling machine and a natural-born leader. So is Demario Davis — the man he’d learn from, and perhaps one day step in for. Avery’s a classic 3-4 “mad backer” who doesn’t do any one skill amazingly. These are the kind of players that could make a big difference in the transformation of this roster.
Next: 2. Day Three, Part Two
2. Day Three, Part Two
Round 6 (#179)
with Cousins – Braxton Berrios, WR/PR, Miami
w/o Cousins – Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
Round 7 (#235, via Seattle)
with Cousins – Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State
w/o Cousins – Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham
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If Cousins comes aboard, Braxton Berrios, a Danny Amendola/Wayne Chrebet type who’s also a lethal return-man, could do wonders. And any team would greatly benefit from under-utilized stud Notre Dame TE Durham Smythe.
Getting Jermaine Kearse (who they’re likely to retain) as well as the draft’s #49 and 235th pick, in exchange for Sheldon Richardson should be considered a net Jet positive. With that seventh and final pick, there are two ways the Jets could go. Illinois State’s Davonte Harris, likely the best FCS baller of 2017 projects as a fifth rounder. Murray State’s D’Monte Wade or Southern’s Danny Jackson are similar small-college cornerbacks who could also make the roster.
There’s plenty of lower-round draft value at RB. Chase Edmonds would be a solid selection. The Fordham star’s bruising running game could be a nice complement to scatbacks Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. Other possible options include Grambling’s Martez Carter, Colorado State’s Dalyn Dawkins, LSU’s Darrel Williams or Jacksonville State’s Roc Thomas.
Next: 1. Priority Undrafted Free Agents
1. Priority Undrafted Free Agents
Successful NFL franchises excel at uncovering gems in the final rounds and with undrafted free agents. The Patriots and Packers exemplify such talent evaluation. The Jets, on the other hand, have boatloads of 2018 free agent cash because of all the years of terrible draft-day moves.
Maccagnan has fared well with dipping his toes in the shallow end of the pool. But between the troubled Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall, and injured-reserved Doug Middleton and Xavier Coleman, there’s nowhere to go but up.
After the 256 picks in the upcoming draft comes a frenzy of priority UDFAs. Here are 10 possible future NFLers that fit this organization’s needs and player profiles:
Larry Allen Jr., OG, Harvard
Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt
Khalid Hill, FB/TE, Michigan
Teo Redding, WR, Bowling Green
Bilal Nichols, DT, Delaware
Andrew Vollert, TE, Weber State
Heath Harding, CB, Miami (Ohio)
Aaron Stinnie, OT, James Madison
Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State
John Franklin-Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin
Between the draft, and the 32 teams’ UDFA signings and tryouts, between 500 and 1,000 young jocks will earn a chance to realize their NFL dream. So, if you break down the mathematical possibilities, the odds are very much against that proverbial diamond-in-the-rough. In other words, Maccagnan and crew have got their work cut out — with little room for excuses.