The NY Jets will hope to see their 2020 NFL Draft class make a big impact this season.
NY Jets‘ general manager Joe Douglas entered his first offseason with the organization knowing that a substantial overhaul was needed. And while previous regimes might have turned to free agency to accomplish such, Douglas took a different path.
The first-year GM spent modestly on the open market and instead focused his attention on building through the draft.
Typically, that’s how the NFL’s best teams are often built. However, you obviously need to hit on your picks for the strategy to be effective.
Plenty of teams have attempted to build through the draft only for those picks to become complete whiffs. It’s a common occurrence and one that Douglas will be hoping to avoid.
A lot is riding on the Jets’ 2020 NFL Draft class, both for Douglas and the organization. After years of lackluster drafting, the Jets need this nine-player class to have a large impact not only in year one but in the future as well.
The success of this class will be directly tied to the success of both Douglas as a GM and the Jets’ franchise over the next couple of years. And in 2020, we should get an initial idea of how this group of rookies might perform.
An unorthodox offseason has presented a unique challenge for the NFL’s rookies this year. But with no time for excuses, these players must step on to the field and perform as if they had gone through the typical offseason process.
What should Jets fans expect from their 2020 rookie class this season? Let’s take a look at three modest predictions for Douglas’ first crop of rookies.
Next: 3. Cameron Clark and Bryce Hall with start
3. Cameron Clark and Bryce Hall will start a handful of games for the NY Jets
The Jets were bitten by the injury bug in training camp this year, but thankfully, they escaped mostly unscathed. However, two players who won’t be ready for Week 1 are Cameron Clark and Bryce Hall — two members of their rookie class.
Clark is dealing with a shoulder injury and was placed on injured reserve while Hall is still sidelined as he recovers from a serious ankle injury that he suffered nearly a year ago. Both players will miss at least the first three weeks of the season.
Now, on the surface, this doesn’t appear to be a huge loss. After all, neither was expected to start in 2020, barring injury.
But what if I told you that even in spite of their respective injuries, each player will still end up starting a handful of games in 2020? That’s exactly what I’m predicting right here.
Of course, this requires both players to return to full health relatively soon — Hall’s injury definitely being more concerning. But if healthy, the opportunity could be there.
The duo of Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten at guard is uninspiring and it wouldn’t be shocking to see one replaced at some point this year by Clark. The former Charlotte tackle is being transitioned to a full-time guard role and the Jets could try him out early if either Lewis or Van Roten struggles.
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As for Hall, the fifth-round pick was expected to be in the race for the No. 2 cornerback job in training camp if he was healthy. Unfortunately, he never managed to get on the field. But when healthy, there’s no questioning his talent.
Both Pierre Desir and Blessuan Austin have extensive injury histories so expecting both to be healthy for all 16 games is a stretch. Hall would have to surpass the likes of Quincy Wilson and Arthur Maulet on the depth chart, but it’s not impossible.
Perhaps Hall can even pull off something similar to what Austin did last year.
Either way, don’t be surprised to see Cameron Clark and Bryce Hall in the starting lineup by the end of the season.
Next: 2. Mekhi Becton will be the Jets' second-best OL
2. Mekhi Becton will be the NY Jets’ second-best offensive lineman
The fate of the Jets’ 2020 draft class largely revolves around the success or failure of first-round pick, Mekhi Becton. Becton will be tasked with giving the Jets a long-term building block at left tackle.
And his first edition for that role will come in his rookie season.
Becton will be taking over for veteran Kelvin Beachum who was a serviceable starting lineman over the past few years. But the Jets expect more than serviceable from Becton — at least in a few years’ time.
But what about in 2020? What should we expect from Becton in his rookie season?
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Let’s just get this out of the way — there are going to be some rookie struggles. Becton is going to get overzealous in pass protection from time to time and whiff badly, it’s bound to happen.
But overall, the player some have called a “major project” will look more NFL ready than many are expecting. He’s already arguably the best run-blocker on the team and many of his concerns in pass protection are overblown.
His footwork is smooth and his technique is solid most of the time, his issues are primarily mental. Those issues won’t go away in his rookie season, but they’re sure to be alleviated as the year goes on.
While it’s a stretch to say he’ll immediately be the team’s best offensive lineman — hello Connor McGovern — second place certainly would be promising for the former Louisville standout.
Next: 1. Denzel Mims will struggle
1. NY Jets second-round pick Denzel Mims will struggle to make an impact
While Becton may shed his “project” label with a surprisingly strong 2020, the same isn’t as likely for second-round pick Denzel Mims.
Much like Becton, Mims was viewed as a developmental prospect coming out of Baylor. A physically-imposing athletic specimen, few receivers in the 2020 class could match up with Mims from a physical perspective.
But while the traits are there, the polish is not.
Mims ran a limited route tree at Baylor and needs some time to learn the nuances of the wide receiver position in the NFL. Unfortunately, his offseason has been detrimental to his growth as a player.
No rookie minicamp, no OTAs, no preseason, and a training camp wiped out by injury, Mims will enter Week 1 with very little preparation. And for a player who needs as much time to develop as he does, that’s far from ideal.
The 22-year-old is already listed as a backup to start the year behind veteran Chris Hogan. Expect to see him get more looks as the year goes on, but it’s far-fetched to expect any sort of significant impact.
Realistically, Mims will be more of a bit player in the Jets’ offense who flashes from time to time. But the real breakout should be expected in 2021 if all goes according to plan.
That doesn’t exactly help a Jets’ receiving corps that needs him to contribute now. But reality doesn’t always coexist with ideals.
And that will likely be the case with Denzel Mims.