NY Jets: Instant grade and analysis for the Jabari Zuniga NFL Draft pick

NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets made their second pick of Round 3 electing to take a hybrid edge rusher in Florida pass rusher Jabari Zuniga with the 79th overall pick.

The NY Jets followed up their surprising first pick of the third round with the selection of Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga at pick No. 79 overall.

That marks two consecutive picks that the Jets have gone defense after adding both Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims in the first two rounds. And neither defensive pick was one that was very expected.

Jabari Zuniga is an intriguing prospect who played opposite infamous 2019 Jets draft pick Jachai Polite at Florida. But the 22-year-old is a very different type of prospect than what Polite was.

Rather than relying on flash and explosiveness, Zuniga is more of a power-based rusher who wins with strength and physical presence. That being said, he isn’t a bad athlete and he has plenty of twitch to his game as well.

Zuniga recorded 6.5 sacks in 2018 and was considered a mid-round prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft but he decided to return for his senior season in order to raise his draft stock. Unfortunately, that clearly didn’t go as planned.

After tallying three sacks in his first six games, Zuniga suffered a high-ankle sprain that would force him to miss essentially the entirety of his senior season ending any chances of a possible breakout campaign.

But in those six games, he showed incredible promise recording an incredibly high pressure rate of 15.3% in the process. On just 124 pass-rush snaps, Zuniga totaled a whopping 19 pressures which would have ranked in the 94th percentile amongst edge defenders.

Zuniga only played 5 games last season but he was great when out there. 19 pressures on 124 pass-rush snaps, a pressure rate of 15.3% that would rank at the 94th percentile among EDGE

— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) April 25, 2020

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However, there is a question of scheme fit when it comes to the Florida product. At 6-foot-3, 264 pounds, most scouts projected him as a true 4-3 defensive end as opposed to a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4.

Perhaps we could see more 4-3 looks from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as he gets creative with his personnel. Or perhaps Zuniga is asked to drop some weight and play more of a true stand-up role.

That remains to be seen, but the Jets are clearly enamored by his physicality and the possibility of tapping into the twitch in his game.

Certainly a surprising pick and many would have likely went with a different position or player. But Zuniga should be an instant contributor in the Jets’ front-seven with the chance to make a difference in their lackluster pass rush.

NY Jets: Instant grade and analysis for the Denzel Mims NFL Draft pick. Next

But the questionable fit is what holds this grade back from being any higher.

Final grade: C+