Entering the 2020 NFL Draft, NY Jets general manager Joe Douglas needed to find talent and players ready to make an early impact. With a team far from playoff contention and in need of contributors, he set out to find exactly that.
The Jets walked away with one of their better draft classes in years.
Mekhi Becton is going to lock down the left side for the next decade. Denzel Mims looks like he can be a starter at wide receiver in 2021. Many others, including La’Mical Perine, Bryce Hall, and Braden Mann all graded out very well in their rookie seasons too.
That does not mean though that the class did not include its fair share of blunders. Jabari Zuniga was not the greatest third-round pick after one season. The same goes for fourth-round pick Cameron Clark, who never saw the field.
Nonetheless, the most questionable and surprising choice by Douglas came in the fourth round. The Jets selected James Morgan, a quarterback from Florida International. And one that went on to never be active in a single game this season.
Morgan is a developmental prospect, who did impress in the pre-draft process. Though, with Sam Darnold on the roster, it was puzzling to use such a high pick on a backup quarterback who would prove to be nowhere near ready.
Of course, this is no knock at Morgan’s talent, rather why the team took him given their needs elsewhere.
So, what if the Jets did not draft James Morgan with the 125th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft? What if the Jets elected to go a different route, one that followed that immediate contributor or high-upside mold that the other prospects did?
Here are five other prospects the Jets could have selected instead of quarterback James Morgan.
Next: 1. Stealing a rival's playmaker
1. The NY Jets could’ve drafted WR Gabriel Davis instead of James Morgan
In a passing game that features Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis managed to be a huge piece to the Buffalo Bills passing game in 2020. With John Brown banged up, Davis moved up the depth chart, becoming the primary boundary receiver opposite of Diggs.
Playing in all 16 games, Davis had 11 starts as he totaled 599 yards and seven touchdowns. Taken three picks after Morgan, Davis certainly had the superior rookie season.
After losing Robby Anderson in free agency, the Jets needed to figure out a way to replace his production. The Jets had Jamison Crowder back for a second year, though little talent otherwise.
The Jets elected to sign veteran Breshad Perriman, hoping he would stay healthy. New York also had picked Denzel Mims in the second round. The hope was the two would be able to replace Anderson’s numbers and more.
Ultimately, that did not happen.
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Davis is 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, coming out of Central Florida. Coming out of the draft, he was viewed as a big, boundary receiver who can make for an excellent deep threat. While that may sound very similar to Mims, the Jets simply needed playmakers.
Actually, they still need playmakers, as wideout is on the top of the shopping list this year for Douglas. Of course, Davis is no number one receiver, as it does help to play opposite to Stefon Diggs.
Then again, he certainly would have been an upgrade over Perriman, and able to contribute more than Morgan did year one.
Next: 2. More talent to the secondary
2. The NY Jets could’ve drafted CB L’Jarius Snead instead of James Morgan
With the New York Jets having drafted Ashtyn Davis in the third round, it would not make sense to double up on safety, given at this time, they had both Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye on the roster. So, the Jets turn to fill another hole in the secondary — cornerback.
Even with drafting Bryce Hall in the fifth round, the Jets still would be in need of a cornerback. They entered training camp with Pierre Desir, who would go on to be released, and second-year cornerback Blessuan Austin as their top two. Behind them, the Jets were very thin in experience.
Luckily, they had a man named Brian Poole, who re-signed on a one-year deal. Poole had a very good year prior to landing on injured reserve late in the season, but his future with the team is up in the air.
Who knows if the Jets look to bring him back again, let alone if it will be more than a one-year deal again?
If the Jets were to have drafted any cornerback at this point, L’Jarius Sneed would have been the man to get. The 138th overall pick in the draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Sneed had a very productive year for the Chiefs.
In nine games, six being starts, Sneed had three interceptions, seven deflections, two sacks, three quarterback hits, and 41 total tackles. And he could have done even more damage had he not broken his collarbone early in the year.
Sneed, who is 6-foot and 192 pounds, can line up virtually anywhere on defense, most importantly at cornerback. With the ability to play both inside and out, Sneed could have proven to be a key chess piece moving forward, especially if the Jets decided to move on from Poole.
Next: 3. Fixing the inability to stretch the field
3. The NY Jets could’ve drafted WR Darnell Mooney instead of James Morgan
Going back to the wide receiver position, most of the league missed out on a good one late in the fifth round.
With the 173rd overall pick, the Chicago Bears selected Tulane wide receiver, Darnell Mooney. A pick at the time that received plenty of criticism given some of the other receivers on the board.
Now, Mooney looks like one of Chicago’s most versatile and talented building blocks moving forward. Mooney, starting nine of 16 games, caught 61 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He also added four carries for 20 yards on the ground.
One of the more reliable pieces in Chicago’s offense, Mooney was the team’s best receiver not named Allen Robinson. He even had more catches than Anthony Miller and more touchdowns than Chicago’s second-round pick Cole Kmet.
Mooney may be only 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, but he has the speed to stretch the field – something the Jets struggled to do in 2020. His shiftiness, once he has the ball, is also very valuable, despite his frame not containing much power.
Had the Jets selected Mooney, they would have given Darnold another viable playmaker, who also is a very good run blocker. Mooney saw 592 snaps out wide, as opposed to 183 in the slot, which would have fit perfectly given Crowder having the slot role.
Again, Mooney is a player that much of the league overlooked coming out of college, but one that any team regrets passing up on.
Yet New York’s lack of wide receivers who could separate leaves the team wondering what if they took a chance on him rather than Morgan.
Next: 4. Bulking up along the offensive line
4. The NY Jets could’ve drafted OG Michael Onwenu instead of James Morgan
It is one thing when a very talented player gets taken and becomes a day one stud for a team. It is another issue though when said player is taken by the team’s arch-rival.
In the first post-Tom Brady year for the New England Patriots, there were few bright spots.
They missed the playoffs for the first time in decades. The Cam Newton experiment failed. But the offensive line proved to be the stronghold of the team, in large part because of Michael Onwenu.
Taken with the 182nd pick in the draft, Onwenu was a versatile interior offensive lineman at Michigan, who was selected as a guard. Onwenu, who is 6-foot-3 and 334 pounds had a brilliant rookie season, even earning an 84.3 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Onwenu started every game, playing 92 percent of snaps for the Patriots his rookie season. Most impressively, Onwenu only had one penalty on his 1,001 snaps.
In 2020, the Jets offensive line was much improved compared to 2019. Nevertheless, it was far from perfect. The inconsistent play of guards Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten hurt the team, as any given week, one could be a liability.
Both have contracts structured so that they could be cut this season with little dead cap, leaving New York back on the market for starting guards. And while the Jets have hopes for Cameron Clark to have a sizeable role this season, they cannot bank on him to start in 2021.
Had the Jets taken Onwenu in the fourth round, maybe the team would only have one guard spot to worry about.
Next: 5. Correcting a player's draft-day slide
5. The NY Jets could’ve drafted WR Donovan Peoples-Jones instead of James Morgan
Lastly, the Jets return to the wide receiver position. For a team that had such a thin group entering draft weekend, it was surprising to see the team only walk away with Mims.
New York hoped to see a trio of Perriman, Mims, and Crowder create a functioning group for Darnold to work with. Except, injuries ultimately hurt the unit.
Perriman is a former first-round pick who has not panned out specifically because of his injury woes. He missed some time in training camp and was in and out of the lineup all season, missing four games.
Crowder also missed four games, though was the team’s best receiver every time he was on the field. Meanwhile, Mims was that playmaker the Jets were hoping for, only injures hurt him too, as he missed most of training camp and the first six games of the year.
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At the same time, the Cleveland Browns needed receivers to step up once Odell Beckham went down for the year. That’s where Michigan product Donovan Peoples-Jones comes into the picture.
It came as a bit of a shock to see Peoples-Jones fall in the draft, as he brings a great catch radius and excellent ball skills. The sixth-round pick went onto finish the year being their primary return specialist on top of having 304 yards receiving.
At 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, Peoples-Jones would have made for a quality receiver to put out wide this past season for the Jets.
Nonetheless, the Jets elected quarterback James Morgan with the 125th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to be inactive his entire rookie season.