Mike Maccagnan has completed his third draft as general manager of the New York Jets and there shouldn’t be much for fans to complain about. Arguably the smartest decision Maccagnan made during this draft was not selecting another quarterback. Maccagnan recognized that this class of quarterbacks is not ready to play right away and the organization is not in a favorable position to add another project, with two of their own waiting in the wings. It appears more evident now that Christian Hackenberg will get to play at some point in 2017. The ideal scenario would be for him to earn the starting job out of camp rather than waiting for Josh McCown to get benched or injured.
Safeties – Round One and Two
Taking Jamal Adams with the sixth pick was by far the easiest selection of the draft for Maccagnan. The talent and versatility is undeniable but the thing that separated Adams was his leadership while at LSU. For a school that has produced a number of outstanding NFL defensive backs, there was never a negative comment from scouts regarding Adams’ character. As arguably the safest player in the draft, it was a miracle that he was still available at six. What also stood out was his interview with Deion Sanders after he was drafted. When Prime Time told him how the Jets want to win right now, Adams vowed that his versatility and leadership will help the Jets “get this thing rolling and back to that Super Bowl.”
The real stunner of the Jets draft came in the second round with the selection of Florida safety, Marcus Maye. That’s right, another safety. I was convinced that Maye’s teammate, cornerback Quincy Wilson was the pick. Morris Claiborne has durability issues, Marcus Williams isn’t a proven starter, Buster Skrine is a nickel corner, and the jury is still out on Juston Burris. Wilson was an ideal scheme fit as he excels in press coverage, something Todd Bowles asks his corners to do quite often.
However, it is hard to argue that Maye made sense as well for Gang Green. The Jets were often out of sync on defense last year, particularly in the back end of the secondary. There were a number of coverage break downs and their current defensive backs were simply not getting the job done. Maye is a complete safety who has solid ball skills and doesn’t shy away from contact. The plan is for Maye and Adams to compliment each other.
The wild card is Calvin Pryor, who was shopped during the draft. The former first rounder has underperformed but Maccagnan has expressed interest in retaining him for this season because Bowles likes to play three safeties on the field all at once. Having said that, his fifth year option will almost certainly not be picked up for next season. As for Marcus Gichrist, the veteran safety will be on the PUP list to start the season but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jets were to release him.
Wide Receivers – Rounds Three and Four
Wide receiver wasn’t viewed as a glaring need with young talent at the position already on the roster and veteran Eric Decker. Despite that, the Jets drafted Alabama’s ArDarius Stewart and California’s Chad Hansen in rounds three and four. Stewart is a scheme fit as John Morton will emphasis yards after catch. At 5’11, his height isn’t any indication of his tenacity as he will get physical at the line of scrimmage and has a sure set of hands. Hansen is a solid possession wide receiver that looks to contribute right away as well. With Devin Smith out for the season and Jalin Marshall suspended for four games to start the season, the Jets just got much better at a position that was already considered to be one of their strengths.
Jets Get Their Tight End, Butt was it the Right Choice?
The Jets would go on to address the tight end position in the fifth round. Michigan TE Jake Butt could have been a flat out steal but he didn’t reach the Jets, who passed on him several times in round four. Considering the additional picks Maccagnan had already accumulated, it could have been wise for them to explore trading back up for Butt.
Instead, they opted for Clemson’s Jordan Leggett. Leggett is a definite size mismatch at 6’5, 258 pounds, and could already be the best tight end on the roster, which isn’t saying much considering Jets tight ends’ caught just 26 passes in the past two years. Butt was a much better collegiate player and was much more polished, however a torn ACL led to him being taken only five picks before Leggett.
Special Teams Help on the Way
The special teams unit was disastrous last season and that’s being kind. Luckily for the Jets, help is on the way with their other fifth round pick, West Georgia OLB Dylan Donahue. A small school product, Donahue is praised for his high motor and play on special teams. Donahue also produced 25.5 sacks over his final two seasons, so there is potential for him to contribute on the defensive side of the ball.
Another player who figures to contribute on special teams is sixth round pick, running back Elijah McGuire, who will compete for punt return duties. McGuire will have a chance to contribute on offense as well, rushing for 1,127 yards while catching 29 passes for 238 yards in his final season at UL-Lafayette. McGuire figures to be a solid addition to the depth chart behind Bilal Powell and Matt Forte.
Help at Corner
Adding depth at cornerback was certainly a need for the Jets entering the draft, and Maccagnan went back to back at corner with his final two picks. Michigan CB Jeremy Clark was having a productive season as a fifth-year senior before a torn ACL ended his season early. Clark is a lanky corner at 6’3 but will certainly need some time to develop and work his way back from injury. The Jets would also add another lanky corner in the sixth round with Ole Miss’ Derrick Jones. Listed at 6’2, Jones was a wide receiver turned defensive back, who will also look to make a mark on special teams while continuing to develop at corner.
Trading back four times for additional late round picks, as well as a fifth trade that landed the Jets a fifth round selection in 2018, speaks volumes on how much Mike Maccagnan values draft picks, especially towards the back end of the draft. After all, it is in his DNA as a longtime scout who was constantly on the road searching for hidden gems. It is a refreshing change from the previous two regimes. Mike Tannenbaum loved trading away late round picks in order to move up in the early rounds or to acquire veteran players. John Idzik had twelve draft picks to find talent on a roster devoid of it but other than Quincy Enunwa, failed miserably in doing so. This year’s draft class looks very promising and only time will tell how Maccagnan will be judged for it.