Badlands: A Jets Podcast

Connor Rogers’ 2020 New York Jets Draft Grades

April 29, 2020

If Joe Douglas felt any pressure during his debut draft as general manager of the Jets, he certainly didn’t show it. The team took a calculated, patient approach in a year where they were able to acquire more picks, address needs and most importantly improve the roster.

Let’s dissect each pick, with grades given based on value (pick vs. player grade), scenario (who else was on the board?) and of course fit. Buckle up.

 

1st round, 11th pick overall: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Value: Becton was my 17th ranked player overall, but factoring in the premium position that is left tackle, this is far from a reach.

Scenario: The only other player you could make an argument for here is Tristan Wirfs, who from my understanding the Jets viewed better at guard rather than tackle (6’5, 320 lbs. with 34 inch arms compared to 6’7, 364 pounds with 35 5/8 arms for Becton). 

I loved the top of this wide receiver class, but without bolstering the line it’s hard to imagine one making a drastic difference.

Fit: Dear god did the Jets need to upgrade at least one tackle spot. It was the team’s biggest need, strictly to give Sam Darnold a chance and to create space for the rushing attack (Le’Veon Bell had nowhere to go last year). 

On top of that, Becton has the feet and movement ability to thrive in a zone blocking scheme. That’s rare to say for a player his size, but that’s why he was highly coveted in this class. 

If he can keep his conditioning in check and is coached up in pass protection, he can very well become a pro bowl player.

Grade: B+

2nd round, 59th pick overall: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Value: Mims was my 37th ranked player overall and WR8. He watched 12 wide receivers come off the board before getting the call. That’s incredible value, especially when you factor in the selections Joe Douglas got back from moving out of the 48th selection.

Scenario: This was my top choice, as I yelled for it on the Bleacher Report broadcast not once, but twice (both at 48 and 59). The Jets desperately needed to upgrade their wide receiver group.

Fit: By default, Mims is penciled in as a starter and there will be some expectations (not by me) to be the number one wide out. Over time, he projects as a top end number two for me (they needed that, too!) with size in the red zone and speed to win between the 20’s.

If Mims can continue to improve his catch rate and routes, he’ll be a go-to target for Sam Darnold for quite some time.

Grade: A

3rd round, 68th pick overall: Ashtyn Davis, FS, Cal

Value: Davis was my 53rd ranked player overall as the Jets capitalize on value here yet again.

Scenario: Temple center Matt Hennessy was still on the board, who I had ranked 62nd overall but presented a much bigger need (Connor McGovern would move to guard in this scenario). Some people won’t like drafting a safety here, but Davis was a player I loved since early Fall as explained below.

Fit: Better to be one year ahead than one year late. This is what many are taught in old school scouting systems and I’m sure Joe Douglas heard it during his long tenure in Baltimore. 

The long-term scenario is this: Marcus Maye will hit free agency after this season. The Jets are most likely going to pay Jamal Adams a lot of money, meaning Maye will walk unless he was willing to take a very team friendly deal. 

Davis, who has much more range to play single high safety, can give Adams more freedom long term in the box. The Jets, in my eyes, are slowly putting the pieces in place to convert to a much more aggressive defense. It was good to see Gregg Williams voice heard from the front office after an impressive showing in 2019.

Now, the short-term scenario. Davis was one of the most athletic cover players in the entire draft. He has size (6’1, 202 lbs.) and tremendous speed (he was originally on the Cal track team). This won’t be a draft and stash scenario, as Davis will be on the field in three safety looks this season. I could also see Gregg Williams deploying him as a big nickel player to match up with athletic move tight ends. 

Davis fell due to being injured during the draft process (no senior bowl, no combine, no workouts). We’ll see if the gamble pays off.

Grade: B+

3rd round, 79th pick overall: Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida

Value: Zuniga was my 89th ranked player overall as he went right in his projected range.

Scenario: Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards, two talented SEC wide receivers, were on the board. The Jets passed and the Raiders smiled, as they made Bowden the 80th overall pick and Edwards the 81st overall pick.

Everyone knew the Jets were going to take Hennessy with this pick as Atlanta beat them to the punch at 78. I could also make an argument for Lloyd Cushenberry here, who went 83rd overall. 

The Jets desperately needed edge pass rush help, but the Zuniga risk here was not worth it in my eyes with those other names still available.

Fit: When healthy, there is no denying Zuniga is an explosive pass rush and run defending presence. He’s quick off the ball with very impressive closing speed, as on display in his 2018 6.5 sack campaign. 

He was banged up in both 2017 and 2019, slowing down his season and sack totals. This is not your Calvin Pace or Jordan Jenkins edge setter, effort rusher selection. Zuniga is a boom or bust prospect, but certainly was a huge need.

Grade: C+

4th round, 120th pick overall: Lamical Perine, RB, Florida

Value: Perine was my 189th ranked player overall.

Scenario: Maryland’s Anthony McFarland Jr. was on the board, a player I thought was more explosive and had more juice at the position but a lower floor than Perine.

Fit: A jack of all trades, master of none pick. Perine is a good pass catcher, an effective runner with minimal burst and average power. This seemed early for that kind of selection at running back (Eno Benjamin went in the 7th round!). 

He won’t look out of place and can be a reliable backup for Le’Veon Bell, but he also won’t make the Jets offense much better.

Grade: C

4th round, 125th pick overall: James Morgan, QB, FIU

Value: Morgan was my 157th ranked player overall and my QB8.

Scenario: Amik Robertson was on the board, who I think will be the best slot cornerback to come out of this draft. Brian Poole is on a one year deal and remember what I said about being a year early vs. a year late?

Fit: If you’ve been watching or listening to Stick to Football, I wouldn’t shut up about Morgan being my favorite day three QB in this draft class. When the Jets took him, I might have been the only person in the fan base actually excited.

Let’s be real, they should’ve signed a back up in free agency and avoided this. With that being said, Morgan is actually an exciting player. He’s not a noodle armed, physically limited back up. Some of his intermediate and down field throws are insanely impressive, but the talent around him at FIU did not do him many favors

Morgan’s mechanics are all over the place and it can lead to errant throws. His backyard style will be fun to watch in the preseason as well as his progress. Best scenario, he turns into an asset the Jets can trade. Realistic scenario, he’s their backup for a few years that brings a high variance in terms of play. Worst case scenario, I will still be crying the Jets did not take Amik Robertson, but that’s ok.

Grade: B-

4th round, 129th pick overall: Cameron Clark, OL, Charlotte

Value: Clark was my 163rd ranked player overall, but was easily one of the best offensive lineman left on the board when selected.

Scenario: Not much different than the previous one and the Jets had to take another swing at improving their offensive line.

Fit: Clark was Charlotte’s left tackle (and team captain, like most of the Jets day three selections) but projects as a guard at the next level. 

This was the beginning of the bounce back picks for me, as I love Clark’s nasty demeanor and expected transition to the interior. Him and Mekhi Becton train together, which brought a very excited reaction from the latter when the card was turned in. 

My question going into his evaluation was how would Clark handle top competition, but when watching him against Tennessee and Clemson he played quite well. 

I don’t think he has the feet to play tackle at the next level, but his insanely powerful (11 inch!) hands put people in the dirt. It wouldn’t shock me if he’s a starting guard in 2021 and a decent one at that.

Grade: B+

5th round, 158th pick overall: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

Value: Hall was my 74th ranked player overall. Seriously, he was.

Scenario: The scenario is that he was the best player on the board by a lot.

Fit: I truly feel for Bryce Hall. After he led the FBS in 2018 in passes defended, he surprisingly opted to go back to school for his senior season.

He was on everyone’s radar as a top corner in a deep class, but a significant ankle fracture ended his season and tanked his draft stock.

Not to go full doctor, something I hate doing, but this is a fracture rather than a ligament tear. It was a really bad fracture, but Hall has a great chance of getting back on the field very close to the player he once was. Let’s talk about that player.

At 6’1, 202 lbs. with long arms (32 1/4!), Hall is your ideal press corner. He disrupts receivers routes, stays in their hip pocket and does an excellent job at finding the football. 

His long speed remains a question, but this is the type of cornerback I think you’ll see Joe Douglas target for Gregg Williams (keep in mind Pierre Desir is also 6’1 with 33 inch arms). 

I’m excited for Hall’s return to the field not only as a potential legitimate starting cornerback, but also for his comeback.

Grade: A

6th round, 191st pick overall: Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M

Value: I didn’t rank punters, kickers and long snappers this year. I will do better in the future.

Scenario: Lach Edwards has not been good.

Fit: If you’re going to draft a specialist, just make sure they are really good. Braden Mann is one of the best college punters I have ever seen. He can legitimately flip the field and even gets in the mix as a tackler (please don’t get hurt, the Jets had to punt a lot last year).

Grade: A

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