The 2018 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp are officially in the books for the New York Jets as now the real process begins. Here are final grades of every draft pick made by the Jets.
After months of preparation, research, and patience, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally in the books for the New York Jets. It wasn’t easy and boy, did the Jets get lucky once again or what?
Quarterback Sam Darnold, considered to be the No. 1 quarterback in this year’s draft class, was still available for the taking when the Jets were on the clock with the No. 3 overall pick. It was a no-brainer for general manager Mike Maccagnan as he made Darnold his final decision to hopefully be his next franchise quarterback for years to come.
The rest of this year’s draft class helped address other needs on the roster. The Jets drafted another defensive lineman, tight end, cornerback, defensive tackle, and yes, one more running back to add to their backfield.
Here’s the full draft class of the Jets for 2018:
Round 1 (No. 3) – Quarterback Sam Darnold (USC) Round 3 (No. 72) – Defensive Lineman Nathan Shepherd (FHSU) Round 4 (No. 107) – Tight End Christopher Herndon (Miami) Round 6 (No. 179) – Cornerback Parry Nickerson (Tulane) Round 6 (No. 180) – Defensive Tackle Foley Fatukasi (UConn) Round 6 (No. 204) – Running Back Trenton Cannon (Virginia State)
What final grades do these players deserve so far based on team need and how they fit into the Jets future plans? Here are final grades for every decision made by the Jets in this year’s draft class.
Nothing screams excitement and hope more than drafting a quarterback with a top-five pick in the first round of an NFL Draft. Such is the case for the Jets who used the No. 3 overall pick on Darnold out of USC.
Darnold is a pro-style quarterback who can literally start for the Jets in Week 1 if he’s able to put everything together quickly and outplay other players on the roster. As of right now, he’s on a depth chart that is stacked with other players with something to prove.
From veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater to a roster bubble player like Christian Hackenberg, Darnold has his work cut out for him. So far, Darnold has been great with the always tough New York media as he continues where he left off from in college. He has a lot of promise to finally be “the guy” under center with the Jets leadership regime promising to not rush nor limit his development which bodes well for Darnold.
He is a quiet professional who will let his actions on the field speak for everything he brings to the table. The Jets got lucky here and got it right by selecting Darnold since he was there for the taking which easily gives them a final grade of “A” since he also looked good for the most part during rookie minicamp.
Next: Round 3
It’s no secret that the Jets have had pass rush issues for the past two seasons. They addressed it quickly in Round 3 of this year’s draft by selecting defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd out of FHSU.
Shepherd is a 6’5 300lbs. monster who is a plug and play kind of defensive lineman. He can play the inside or outside well and uses his massive size to make his presence known against opposing teams.
With his speed and ability to take down anyone holding a football, the Jets might have potentially gotten a steal here since Shepherd comes from a small school and produced. In his final year at FHSU, he totaled 38 tackles, 12.5 of which were for a loss, and had four sacks.
If Shepherd can translate such results in the pros, he could be a nice pickup for the Jets and one that helps out their pass rush nicely from the defensive line. The Jets get a final grade of “B-” here since it’s easy to see him initially used at first in a rotational role to bolster the middle part of their defensive line.
Next: Round 4
Last season was a great one for the Jets in regards to finally having productivity from the tight end position. It was a good part of offense and not just to have an extra blocker in pass protection. The Jets want to continue building on that and by doing so, added more talent to the positional group.
In Round 4, the Jets selected tight end Christopher Herndon out of Miami to see if his unique skill-set translates well in the pros. If the Jets are able to get Herndon and another young tight end in Jordan Leggett to step up and remain healthy, both could be nice contributors on offense to add more to its efficiency.
That’s the only knock on Herndon was he’s coming off MCL surgery that will require time to heal. Herndon will likely miss some early offseason programs with the Jets but should be fine once training camp finally arrives.
The Jets get a final grade of “C+” here since Herndon is coming off a serious knee injury that might not make him play 100 percent when it matters most. Herndon has some good upside but in rookie minicamp didn’t participate in positional drills so he’s already off to a slow start in preparing for his rookie year.
Next: Round 6
If it’s one thing to know about head coach Todd Bowles it’s that he loves having a plethora of cornerbacks in his arsenal. Maccagnan likely drafted a young stud here with hopes that he could be quality depth for the Jets but cornerback Parry Nickerson out of Tulane has a long road ahead.
Nickerson is a bit on the short side and will likely have a lot of bumps heading into the pros. Nickerson is a fiery competitor who hustles on every play and listens well to coaching and training but will likely have to work harder than the rest due to his size.
At just 5-10 and 182lbs., Nickerson’s small frame is a bit undersized when it comes to covering some of the taller and premier receiving threats he will eventually face. Combine that with the fact that he will be challenged early and often by opposing quarterbacks means Nickerson has to bulk up a bit to withstand what awaits.
The Jets get a “C-” here since if anything, Nickerson is a nickel cornerback at best to be sparingly used in specific defensive plays to see what he can handle. Expect to see Nickerson start off in special teams and work his way up to earn playing time.
Next: Round 6
When the Jets drafted defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi out of UConn, they knew he was a special player ready to make some serious noise in the pros. At 6-4 and 318lbs., Fatukasi is as versatile as they come and just like Shephard, can play several positions on the defensive line well.
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Fatukasi has the ability to be a very strong and disruptive defensive tackle once he gets the right coaching and training to take his career to the next level. The talent is there but it might take a year or two of development for him to reach his true potential.
As a classic overachiever, Fatukasi will be a good fit on the Jets defensive line as he has a knack for always going above and beyond in everything he does. In his collegiate career with UConn, he totaled 168 tackles, 14 sacks, and played multiple positions on defense.
For this pick, the Jets get a “C+” since Fatukasi is another good decision here who looks like he can contribute on both defense and special teams. Fatukasi has special teams ace written all over him if he’s able to take down opposing kickoff/punt returners faster than a New York minute since he has the capability to do so.
Next: Round 6
With their final pick in this year’s draft, the Jets selected running back Trenton Cannon out of Virginia State. That’s right, the all-time leading rusher of their school, Cannon has the potential to be a difference-maker for the Jets both on offense and special teams.
It feels like forever since the Jets had a special teams returner capable of running back a kickoff or punt for a touchdown but Cannon could finally address that role. Considering the crowded running back situation of the Jets, expect to see Cannon used in a kickoff/punt return role since, during rookie minicamp, that’s exactly what they had him work on.
With his blazing speed and elusiveness, Cannon can be quite the offensive weapon if he’s able to separate himself from the rest in the positional group. This was a solid decision here by Maccagnan since Cannon should very well turn into a household name once all is said and done.
The Jets get a “B-” here since Cannon addresses one huge need for the Jets in their kickoff/punt returner role. It’s been years since the Jets had a consistent special teams returner that gave their offense incredible field positioning or even helped out with a score. Hopefully, that will change since Cannon is officially in town.