I remember being one of those scribes who was already attacking the JETS at this time last year as they cut numerous vets, and many of us felt they were tanking the season to begin a roster rebuild. Well they certainly started an aggressive roster rebuild but with some solid coaching leadership from TODD BOWLES and his staff the team won 5 games and was within an eyelash of winning several more. That’s not tanking folks! Because of a trade to move up in Round 1 to assure getting one of the Top 3 QB, they turned what had looked like a voluminous draft class into a smaller group of 6 picks.
As the saying goes in today’s NFL (maybe always in the modern era) any team that doesn’t have a Franchise QB is trying to find one. And after trading multiple 2nd Round Picks to move up the JETS used their spot at Pick 3 to grab SAM DARNOLD/Southern Cal. The guy who I think fits the image of All-American Boy Li’l Abner from Dog Patch, USA has all the tools to grow into ELI Manning’s replacement as the ‘The QB’ in the Big Apple. At 6’3/221, he’s a full bodied athlete with a strong arm and very good overall athleticism. With Josh McCown still at the helm for now, and willing to nurture the young man, this looks like a very desirable situation. But can they keep him off the field as McCown’s caddy for a while to develop? And can OC Jeremy Bates develop a relationship and coach up the turnover prone young man? JOSH ROSEN might have been a better short term answer, but I think DARNOLD will be fine. Now McCown just has to stay healthy, at least into October.
Moving ahead to Round 3, the team made another solid choice IMO by taking NATHAN SHEPHERD/DT/FT. HAYS STATE. The big Canadian-born player was an early revelation at the Senior Bowl, tho be broke a bone in his hand in mid-Practice week. He has a man’s body (6’4/315) and a mature attitude about him. I had never seen him play before Mobile, and he dominated the first couple of practices with his energy and big body. He certainly looked pro ready to my eyes. I see him playing DE in their base 3-4 scheme, and sliding inside to DT in either 4 or 2-man DL formations. He may not be flashy but he’s tough and physical.
In Round 4 the team was happy to find TE/CHRIS HERNDON/Miami (F) still available at Pick 107. HERNDON emerged as a serious prospect in 2017 after star DAVID NJOKU headed to the NFL early. Herndon is a good all-around TE who will block and can stretch the field with his long strides, despite a somewhat disappointing 40-time of 4.76. HERNDON should give the team a very solid young pair of TE when teamed with last year’s draft pick at the position in JORDAN LEGGETT. At 6’4/253 Herndon should make a very nice target, underneath and over the middle for JETS QB.
Round 6, Pick 179 brought the JETS another post-season riser in CB/PARRY NICKERSON/Tulane. He’s a tad undersized at 5’10/182, much like current JETS slot-Corner BUSTER SKRINE, but with speed that SKRINE can only dream about. NICKERSON earned a Combine invite and caused heads to turn, if not spin, with his 4.30/40. He was a very productive player on a poor team during his time at Tulane, where he started all 4 years. In 2017 he had 8 PBU and 6 INT. Should also be able to help on Special Teams coverage units with that speed and willingness to tackle, despite his lack of size. If Skrine gets knocked out of the lineup with an injury I would suspect he will never get his starting job back, at least with the JETS. This could end up as a very high value late Pick.
At Pick 180, also in Round 6 the team got more help for their DL unit in FOLEY FATUKASI/DT/UCONN. Talk about a good player on a struggling team, here he is. FOLEY is a very talented athlete, who has incredible lower body strength to hold his ground along the DL. He’s longer than your average Interior DL/Nose Tackle product, but has the strength to play inside. But he could also man a DE slot IMO. he measured 6’4/318 at the Combine, with 34 1/8″ arms and 10 1/4″ hands. If DL Coaches ROBERT NUNN and LA’ROI GLOVER can get his attention and coach him up the JETS might have something special on their hands despite the Round 6 call. FATUKASI got scout’s attention with a very good practice week, and even better game performance at the Shrine venue in January.
In looking at Pick 204, it seems clear to me that the team was looking for an elusive return man, more than an actual RB, in TRENTON CANNON/Virginia State. At only 5’10/182 he certainly isn’t carrying the ball much at all from a RB slot. But at only 4.5 yards per Punt Return and just over 20 yards per Kick-off return as a team last season, it is clear they had a large void in their return game. CANNON runs about a 4.40/40, but quickness and elusiveness are the keys to his game. BRANT BOYER their Special Teams Coordinator will likely give this guy every chance in his power to win the team’s return jobs.
It’s a solid group of draftees who will upgrade several position groups on the team. But all eyes will be on Mr. Donald to see if he can be their best QB since JOE NAMATH. I’m not sure about that one, but I’d settle for their best since RICHARD TODD, which I believe he can be. After a bit of initial doubt on GM MACCAGNAN I have become a believer that he’s a solid NFL GM. I also like the apparent management style of current CEO CHRIS JOHNSON who has taken over active management of the team while his brother WOODY is playing ambassador out there somewhere.