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Draft

Jets make big roster upgrades in 2019 NFL draft

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 25: A video board displays an image of Quinnen Williams of Alabama after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 25: A video board displays an image of Quinnen Williams of Alabama after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The Jets took care of some unfinished business at this weekend’s NFL Draft.  Here are some positive spins on what got accomplished, and what to expect.

The Jets had so many roster holes and depth concerns to address going into Nashville — too much to adequately solve with just six picks over three days.  But GM Mike Maccagnan and his Florham Park brain-trust, for the most part, took care of business.

Going into the draft, most Jets fans knew about the dearth of talent at offensive and defensive lines, edge rusher, wide receiver, and cornerback.  And they whiffed on finding a center, flanker or cover corner.  Many Jets fans and analysts are still stewing over such sins of omission.

But it would be wrong to categorize the franchise’s meat-and-potatoes moves as a “meh” draft.  Especially in light of some excellent UDFA moves.

NFL insiders reported on Magic Mike’s job security and rifts with new coach Adam Gase, reportedly over not pursuing Broncos center Matt Paradis.  Such rumors have been steadfastly denied.  On one hand, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  On the other hand, it’s difficult to believe that even this ownership would allow Maccagnan to spend $120 Million on free agency, hire the next coaching staff, and run a crucial draft, only to cut ties months later.

The next few pages break down each draft pick, along with what each athlete can bring to the Gang Green program.  J-E-T-S 2019, let’s do this!

Next: Break Down the Walls

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 25: Quinnen Williams of Alabama reacts after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 25: Quinnen Williams of Alabama reacts after he was picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Break Down the Walls

Most NFL Draft prognosticators and Jets insiders felt “Magic Mike” would select Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen with the third overall pick.  But he made the correct move taking this Alabama behemoth, an interior threat who compares favorably to legendary Hall of Famers Reggie White and Mean Joe Green.

If you read interviews with Tom Brady or Eli Manning, they express far more concerns over the league’s trend towards ferocious interior pressure than maniacal edge rushers.  Williams was not only this draft’s top talent; he was also probably the best person.  So it’s relatively easy to endorse this choice.

Unlike Todd Bowles’ staggering misuse of long-departed D-line studs (see Sheldon Richardson at OLB, Snacks Harrison at DE) — expect Gregg Williams to efficiently rotate Steve McClendon and Nathan Shepherd with his “big three”: Harry Anderson, with Quinnen and Leonard Williams.

If Leonard can’t dominate placed next to Quinnen, then the five-year-veteran may not merit resigning to a max contract.  Why do you think the Jets have invited ten additional defensive linemen to Florham Park, including six intriguing UDFAs?

But imagine if this D-front does fire on all cylinders.  It would signal a return to the punishing run-stuffing, QB hurries and ferocious sacks unseen since the “glory days” of Rex Ryan.

Next: Livin' on the Edge

STARKVILLE, MS – SEPTEMBER 29: Jachai Polite #99 of the Florida Gators celebrates a sack during the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS – SEPTEMBER 29: Jachai Polite #99 of the Florida Gators celebrates a sack during the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Livin’ on the Edge

Polite is a rude edge rusher with serious red flags in terms of maturity and motivational issues.  The Florida Gator was destined for first-round millionaire status before one of the worst Combine showings in recent memory, with slow cone times and self-centered nonsense.

So if any coach can possibly motivate this bad boy to NFL greatness, it’s Gregg Williams.  It’s reasonable to believe that a focused and driven Jachai can be that answer to the Jets’ eternal lack of an edge rush.  But considering that this selection came right before Michigan OLB Chase Winovich — a surefire Patriots ten-year-starter — Maccagnan better-be right.

The Jets are hopeful they’ve found a Day One starter rampaging on the edge.  At his worst, the third-rounder should immediately project as an impactful situational contributor.

You can take it to the bank that Polite will be eons better than Maccagnan-drafted edge-rushing washouts Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue; both under age 25 and out of football.  Yet he remains a risky boom or bust prospect that could blow up in their face.

Next: Hold the Line

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 02: Chuma Edoga #70 of the USC Trojans waits for a huddle during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 02: Chuma Edoga #70 of the USC Trojans waits for a huddle during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Hold the Line

Priority number one should be protecting Sam Darnold.  The league’s #25-ranked O-line didn’t exactly have their young QB’s back last season.

This two-year USC starting tackle would’ve gone first-round if he was two or three inches taller, and his red flags are far less egregious than that of Jachai Polite.  Chuma admits to his rocky college career and wants to turn over a new leaf with the Jets.

The selection of this mad Trojan — linked to Gang Green for a while —  provides the young QB a degree of comfort.  The Jets project Edoga as a swing tackle, who may need to kick inside to guard.

His selection also speaks volumes about the future of starters Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell, both entering the final year of their Jets contracts.  Don’t expect much of Edoga in 2019.

Next: The Last in Line

MORGANTOWN, WV – OCTOBER 25: Trevon Wesco #88 of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts after a catch in the first half against the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field on October 25, 2018 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
MORGANTOWN, WV – OCTOBER 25: Trevon Wesco #88 of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts after a catch in the first half against the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field on October 25, 2018 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Last in Line

The Jets went into Day Three with just two remaining picks.  After trading down twice, they had three; in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

Trevon Wesco, TE/FB, West Virginia

A tough, physical presence, a dominant blocker, a better-than-advertised receiver, and a special teams demon.  The Jets may have found another fourth-round gem at tight end (see Chris Herndon).  He’s that classic “H-back” who should excel under Adam Gase.  This writer projected the pick.  NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger referred to Wesco as “Baby Gronk.”

Blake Cashman, ILB, Minnesota

The draft’s #157 pick is worth rooting:  a college walk-on, overachieving lunch-pail baller with all the physical tools.  The Jets identified this unrelenting Golden Gopher as the top special teamer available.  A mauler particularly strong in nickel and dime packages, who’ll learn fast behind CJ Mosley.  But can a hair-on-fire tackler overcome three shoulder surgeries?

Blessuan Austin, CB, Rutgers

The Jets final pick (#196) is a potentially productive long-term project who first needs to prove he can stay on the field.  After two ACL surgeries on his left knee, this Queens kid has only played four games over the past two years.  He isn’t yet medically cleared to play, and will probably start his first pro season on the PUP list.

We now know what the Jets did in Nashville — and what they didn’t do.  For instance, this team still need another pro center not named Jonotthan Harrison.  (Stefan Wisniewski, anyone?)  As for cornerback, we might yet still see the re-return of Morris Clairborne.  Does that excite you, Jets fans?

This GM does a nice job of finding talent throughout the post-draft UDFA process.  There are now 17 undrafted hopefuls with paid invitations to Jets training camp.  That includes intriguing and draft-rated wide receivers, edge rushers, and offensive and defensive linemen — all addressed next post.

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