NY Jets: Final grades for the team’s entire 2020 NFL Draft class
By Justin Fried
The NY Jets looked to the 2020 NFL Draft to address some of the team’s most glaring roster needs. But when all was set and done, how did the team do?
The NY Jets looked to remake their roster and restart their franchise with their selections in the 2020 NFL Draft. With numerous pressing needs that required addressing, the Jets sought the comfort of the draft to improve their roster.
Three days and nine picks later, the hope is that that’s exactly what they accomplished.
From their colossal Day 1 addition to a collection of under-the-radar Day 3 picks, the Jets did their best to address their roster’s most evident weaknesses. And for general manager Joe Douglas, this was his first major chance to prove himself to Jets faithful.
Douglas and the Jets remained inactive for much of free agency instead opting for primarily second-tier signings. That strategy may prove fruitful in the long-run, but only if he hits on his draft picks.
Although it will likely be a few years before we could understand the true impact of this draft class, it still doesn’t hurt to give an initial analysis on the team’s haul. After all, where’s the fun in waiting three or more years when it’s so easy to prematurely assign arbitrary grades right now?
While pointless to some, initial draft grades could be used as a basis for determining where the perceived value lies in a class. Players who were projected to go earlier but instead fell to later rounds are perceived to be value selections.
And at this point, projection and perception are the only two things we’re working with.
With that, let’s take a look at the Jets’ entire draft class and determine said projections based on our perception.
Next: 1. Mekhi Becton
Round 1, 11th Overall: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The Jets kicked off their 2020 NFL Draft class in a big way — literally. Douglas and the Jets went with the massive Mekhi Becton with their first-round pick over the more polished Tristan Wirfs.
Time will tell if they made the correct decision or not, but there’s no underselling Becton’s upside.
The Louisville product possesses a monumental frame standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing in at over 360 pounds. Few players to ever play in the NFL have been able to match his combination of size and athleticism.
And that alone is what led to his meteoric rise up draft boards this past winter. But rest assured, Becton is far from solely a physical specimen.
The newly-turned 21-year-old is already a dominant run blocker powering through defenders at the point of attack with ease. A true road-grader in every sense of the term, Becton was regularly seen last season pushing defenders back 5-10 yards or simply disposing of them into the turf.
He’s mean, nasty, and an athletic freak who ran a stunning 5.10 40-yard dash at over 360 pounds. All the makings of an All-Pro and perhaps Hall-of-Fame-level talent.
However, he certainly doesn’t come without his share of concerns.
Becton is far from the most technically-refined prospect with his pass protection needing a ton of work. Too often he will look to engage with defensive linemen early in the rep as opposed to drifting back and letting the play develop.
He’s overaggressive and looking for contact — but when you’re that big and strong, how can you blame him?
Technique can be coached. Footwork can be cleaned up. Traits, however, they’re priceless.
The Jets went for upside over refinement and it might take some time before we’re truly able to assess the outcome of this pick. So for now, we’ll give this pick a ‘B’ for bold and just play the waiting game.
Final Grade: B
Next: 2. Denzel Mims
Round 2, 59th Overall: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
After opting for potential over polish in Round 1, the Jets turned around in Round 2 and did the exact same snagging Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims with the 59th overall pick in the draft.
Only this time, they didn’t select a player at their allotted draft slot.
The Jets traded back 11 spots from 48 to 59 and picked up an additional third-round pick in the progress. That alone must earn Joe Douglas some props, especially considering that the same player most wanted the team to pick at 48 was still there 11 picks later.
Mims is another freak athlete who ran a blazing 4.38 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds. You just don’t see that type of speed from a player as large as Mims very often.
The 22-year-old product has a superb catch radius with the ability to make contested catches seem routine. He plays much larger than his 207-pound frame when matched up one-on-one with a cornerback but plays smaller than his 6-foot-3 stature when separating and showing off his athleticism.
Mims is truly a rare breed of an athlete at the receiver position, but he’s far from a finished product.
Working in a simplistic Baylor offense, Mims didn’t run a full route tree in college and will take some time to adjust at the NFL level. On top of that, he had a tendency to let some of the easier grabs slip through his hands in college.
He’d make the easy ones look hard and the hard ones look easy.
Mims is a little raw, but he possesses otherworldly talent that you don’t find very often — let alone at the end of the second round.
As a pure value pick based on upside, this was one of the best selections in the entire draft. But much like Becton, we’ll have to wait and see if Mims can reach his potential before declaring the pick a success.
But given the swindling that Douglas did to trade back, we’ll give this selection a slightly higher grade.
Final Grade: B+
Next: 3. Ashtyn Davis
Round 3, 68th Overall: Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
After a pair of near-universally-praised picks in the first two rounds, the Jets surprised a lot of people with their first selection in the third round.
Rather than tackle some of their most pressing needs at cornerback, edge rusher, or even doubling up on the offensive line or at receiver, the Jets made the curious decision to select Cal safety Ashtyn Davis at No. 68 overall.
At first glance, this seems like an odd choice. But a closer look reveals that there’s quite a sound thought process behind it.
Davis is another do-it-all athlete (sensing a theme here?) who wore a number of different hats in college. He was primarily a free safety, but he was also tasked with manning the slot, playing down in the box, and even patrolling the middle of the field as a linebacker.
He’s a hybrid defensive back and a perfect chess piece for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to play with. In that sense, Davis was an excellent pick who will not only serve as a sub-package defensive back, but could see some time at cornerback in a pinch.
But this is as much a move for the future as it is for the present.
With a Jamal Adams extension and a Marcus Maye free agency in the near future, the Jets might be forced to make a difficult decision. Both will be looking for lucrative deals and the team is unlikely to pay for both of them.
Maye might be a goner and the Jets seem to have drafted Davis to be his eventual replacement. Now, that won’t come until 2021 at the earliest, but until then, Davis will be used in a variety of ways on both defense and special teams.
Simultaneously a pick for the future as much as it was for the now, the selection of Davis could be looked at as one of the best moves of the draft in a few years’ time.
Final Grade: B+
Next: 4. Jabari Zuniga
Round 3, 79th Overall: Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
With their second pick of the third round, the Jets continued to bolster the defensive side of the ball with the selection of Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga.
And once again, there was an immediate question of how he would fit in.
Zuniga filled a position of need on paper, sure, but a closer look at the player leaves more questions than true answers.
At 6-foot-3, 264 pounds, Zuniga was projected as a standard base 4-3 defensive end at the next level. He never really played a stand-up role in college and asking him to do so at the NFL level would require learning a completely new skillset.
Yet, the Jets made him the pick at 79 raising questions about the scheme that they might run in 2020.
Gregg Williams has shown to be flexible and it’s likely the Jets will mix in a variety of different fronts — some 4-3 looks will undoubtedly be included. But it’s also worth wondering if Zuniga was the right pick regardless of fit.
The Florida product is a powerful, twitchy rusher who relies on his upper-body strength to push through opposing linemen. But he lacks the bend and flexibility needed to come off the edge regularly.
Zuniga seems to project as a rotational front-seven defender who can be used equally as much as an interior rusher as he will be as an edge rusher. And for a Jets team desperately needing a dangerous pass-rush presence on the edge, it doesn’t appear as though Zuniga is that player.
However, there’s some untapped potential in the 22-year-old that the Jets are hoping to uncover. There’s starting upside to be found, but Zuniga will likely slot into the usual front-seven rotation where Williams will find a use for him.
Not the pass rusher Jets fans were hoping for, but certainly not a bad selection either.
Final Grade: C+
Next: 5. La'Mical Perine
Round 4, 120th Overall: La’Mical Perine, RB, Florida
The Jets went back to the offensive side of the ball on Day 3 by selecting another Florida player in running back La’Mical Perine. It seemed like a lock that the Jets would target a running back either late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 and Perine was the pick here in Round 4.
Needing a running back to spell Le’Veon Bell in the short-term, the Jets opted for the well-rounded Perine to fill that void. But make no mistake about it, this isn’t solely a short-term addition.
Given Bell’s disappointing production last season and the structure of his contract, it seems highly unlikely at this point that the Jets will stick with the former All-Pro running back past this season.
For that season, it made sense to add a young back into the fold who could at the very least be a part of a future committee. And if everything went according to plan, perhaps he could take over as the team’s lead back as soon as the following season.
The Jets are hoping that Perine could be that guy and there’s reason to believe that he could be. The 22-year-old doesn’t have one particular trait that makes him stand out, instead he’s a well-rounded, versatile back who should immediately make an impact as a rookie.
Perine has soft hands and hauled in a whopping 40 receptions in 2019 showing off his ability to make plays out of the backfield. He’s also a capable blocker which bodes well for his chances of being a reliable third-down running back.
But as a runner, he leans on his physicality and finishing ability. Perine isn’t easy to bring down on first contact and he’ll often be seen carrying multiple defenders with him to the ground on the end of runs.
While he doesn’t have blazing speed, Perine has surprising acceleration in the open field and he broke a few long runs for touchdowns in college. Don’t get it twisted, he isn’t slow.
Perine’s aggressive running style should mesh well with Bell’s patient approach in Year 1 and it’s possible that he could see a greater share of touches as soon as 2021.
A solid pick here in Round 4 with a player who could be a fixture of the Jets’ offense for years to come.
Final Grade: B
Next: 6. James Morgan
Round 4, 125th Overall: James Morgan, QB, FIU
And now we’ve reached the most surprising, head-scratching pick of the Jets’ entire draft class. Rather than continuing to address the team’s most important positional needs, the team opted to draft FIU quarterback James Morgan with their second pick in the fourth round.
Morgan was a player that the Jets head their eye on in the pre-draft process and they were reportedly smitten with his leadership traits and high-character. So much so that they decided to make him the pick here at 125th overall.
The former FIU signal-caller is an intelligent passer who can read defenses and progress through his reads quicker than most quarterbacks his age. On top of that, he likely had some of the best arm talent in the entire class.
For a team looking for a mid-to-late-round developmental project, you likely couldn’t have done much better. But for a Jets team in search of a capable, reliable quarterback to backup Sam Darnold this upcoming season, the fit doesn’t really make much sense.
Morgan will need plenty of time to develop as his decision-making and ball placement need some serious work. The potential is there, but potential isn’t exactly what the Jets should have been going for.
And aside from that, was it really worth drafting a player who you hope never sees the field as early as the fourth round? If the Jets were going to spend a draft pick on a young backup quarterback, it would have made more sense to do so in the later rounds.
Not to mention that they could have simply signed a veteran backup in free agency — something that’s still not entirely off the table. This one seems puzzling in terms of the positional value and overall fit.
Who knows, down the line Morgan could turn out to be the steal of the entire draft. But at this very moment, this was definitely the most confusing decision of the weekend.
Final Grade: D
Next: 7. Cameron Clark
Round 4, 129th Overall: Cameron Clark, OT, Charlotte
Following their curious selection at 125, the Jets went back to the offensive line and selected Charlotte offensive tackle Cameron Clark just four picks later.
Clark is a developmental lineman who shares a similar trait to first-round pick Mekhi Becton — nastiness.
The Charlotte product is a cerebral blocker who was known for his mauling ability while in college. Clark would regularly be seen pancaking defensive linemen or blasting them back into the second level with ease.
In particular, his tape against Clemson last season is incredible to watch.
On top of that, he’s surprisingly agile for his size (6-foot-3, 308 pounds) using his quick feet to climb the defense and lead the way on zone runs.
Clark made 35 starts and played in a school-record 49 games throughout his career, all at left tackle. But he likely projects better as a guard in the pros given how he struggled with speed off the edge in college.
Players only get faster and twitcher at the NFL level meaning that Clark’s days as a tackle are probably numbered. But that’s perfectly fine and likely how the Jets envisioned him when they made him their final fourth-round pick.
A future pairing of Becton and Clark on the left side of the offensive line may not be too far in the future and Clark has the ability to start by his second NFL season if all goes according to play.
A great pick here at the end of Round 4 in a player who will be groomed as a future starter on the offensive line.
Final Grade: B+
Next: 8. Bryce Hall
Round 5, 158th Overall: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Perhaps the Jets’ best value selection, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall experienced a somewhat surprising fall only to be snatched up by the Jets in the middle of the fifth round.
Hall was considered by many to be a late-Day-2/early-Day-3 talent but fell in the draft, likely due to medical concerns. But before his injury in his senior season, Hall was fresh off a 2018 season that saw him named second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC.
The 22-year-old led the FBS with 24 passes defended in 2018 and added a pair of interceptions in 13 starts. That was enough to earn him considerable draft consideration, but he decided to return for his senior season.
Unfortunately, that decision likely cost him a sizable chunk of money.
Hall would play in just six games in 2019 before suffering a devastating ankle injury that ended his college career abruptly and prevented him from participating in the NFL Combine or much of the pre-draft process.
Given the uncertainty surrounding players with medical concerns in the unique situation of this year’s draft, Hall was sadly a victim of circumstance. But if healthy, Hall might prove to be one of the steals of the entire draft.
At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, Hall is a lengthy cornerback who pairs his large frame with excellent ball skills. He has a nose for the football as evidenced by his large number of passes defended in college.
Hall isn’t the most explosive athlete and there are questions about his deep speed, but he has refined technique and footwork that should be able to make up for his athletic deficiencies. On top of that, he’s a willing tackler who has never been lacking in run support.
The ankle injury is a concern, but the Jets will likely take it slowly just as they did with Blessuan Austin last season. And if all goes right (a recurring theme of this article, I’m aware), Hall could pair with Austin to be the team’s starting cornerback duo of the future.
Either way, it’s hard to argue that the value wasn’t phenomenal here and as long as the medicals check out, Hall should have no problem making the teams who passed on him regret their decision.
Final Grade: A-
Next: 9. Braden Mann
Round 6, 191st Overall: Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M
With what turned out to be their final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jets selected Texas A&M punter Braden Mann. Now prepare yourselves for an in-depth punter analysis.
The Jets decided to let the incumbent Lachlan Edwards walk in free agency this season after four years as the team’s punter. The Aussie specialist was a reliable, albeit unspectacular punter rarely making a mistake but also rarely making much of a difference.
Edwards has a below-average leg but relies on his impressive hangtime allowing the coverage team ample time to get downfield and limit the return. It’s an effective strategy, but not one that ultimately impacts many games.
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Combine that with his poor directional skills and you have a capable punter on paper, but a surprisingly ineffective one in actuality. The Jets were aware of this and they knew that they could use an upgrade despite their highly-ranked punt unit.
That upgrade came in the form of a player who might just be the polar opposite of Edwards from a stylistic perspective.
Mann has an absolute cannon of a leg setting the NCAA record with an average of 51.0 yards per unit back in 2018. That season, he also placed 19 of 50 punts inside the 20-yard line and forced 11 fair catches en route to winning the Ray Guy Award given to the nation’s top punter.
The Texas A&M product not only has a powerful leg, but his coffin-corner skills are significantly better than Edwards’. Rather than relying on his coverage team to get downfield and pin the ball deep in opposing territory, he made a habit of angling the ball out of bounds within the 10-yard line.
That’s something Edwards would rarely even attempt to do.
There are some concerns with his consistency and I’m sure we’ll get a glimpse of that early on in his career, but the Jets needed an upgrade. And Mann has the ability to be the field-flipping, coffin-cornering punter the team has been searching for.
Punters are people too — and this punter packs a punch.
Or rather a kick, I suppose.
Final Grade: B+