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Teddy Bridgewater

New York Jets 2018 NFL Draft Preview: The Competitive Rebuild

Come Thursday night, the New York Jets will have a new franchise QB. I’m one thousand percent positive. If I’m wrong, I’ll print out this article and post a video of me eating it. Whoever they take with the 3rd overall pick, he will be the first QB that the Jets have taken in the 1st round of the draft since Mark Sanchez in 2009. Lets pray that things turn out better this time around.

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After a strong offseason that started with the signing of the highly sought-after CB Trumaine Johnson, the Jets continued to address depth issues and holes throughout their roster. They signed 4 LBs, most notably Avery Williamson. All 4 LBs are 27 or younger. They signed two Centers, both of whom are 27 years old (they can both play Guard as well). They signed two TEs, aged 22 and 26. They signed RBs Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, aged 25 and 24. Teddy Bridgewater (25) was brought in on a team-friendly deal as well. For those of you counting at home, thats 11 players, all under 30 years of age, in positions that the Jets were in desperate need of depth for years. The Jets were plagued by expensive contracts of veteran players and after a two-year roster purge and a couple retirements, the Jets suddenly found themselves with an abundance of cap space. They attacked the free agency market and while they did miss out on Kirk Cousins (which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise), they solidified their foundation and addressed the back end of their roster.

Who am I to predict who the Jets draft this week? Well I accurately predicted the Jets selecting Jamal Adams and identified Jordan Leggett as a good mid round TE in my write-up last year – https://thedailydart.com/2017/04/25/forgetting-brandon-marshall-a-new-era-in-jets-football-begins-thursday/. I also suggested that they end their PR/KR woes by drafting now-Cowboys Ryan Switzer, but alas, nobody listened.

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As for the Draft. The Jets traded up from the 6th overall pick to the 3rd with the Indianapolis Colts. They gave up this year’s 37th and 49th picks, as well as their 2nd round pick in 2019’s draft as well. It seems like a steep price to pay for just three spots in the draft, but if they draft the QB of their future, it’ll all be worth it. At #6, the Jets were in a position that could allow another QB-needy team such as the Bills, Cardinals, or even the Patriots to jump ahead of them. The Browns, Broncos, Giants, and obviously the Colts all were open to trade discussions, so the Jets had to make sure that they put themselves in the best position possible to land their guy.

Some people consider this year’s QB class a three-man race, others consider it a four. USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield headline this class, and they all could quite possibly be the first four players taken off the board. Josh Allen is considered to be the dark horse out of the four, as his on-field production isn’t up to par with the other three but his physical intangibles are everything that a team looks for in their QB. He has the size and arm strength that has some front offices salivating, but his accuracy in college is a huge red flag. He played in the Mountain West Conference, where he didn’t exactly dominate, and whenever Wyoming played against a Power 5 conference team, his performances were troubling:

The Jets have already fallen for the ‘prototypical QB build who maybe was in the wrong system in college’ with Christian Hackenberg. I am PRAYING that the Jets won’t be fooled again. In a perfect world, the Cleveland Browns draft him #1 overall so that the Jets will be in a position to choose from at least two of the three other remaining top QBs.

Here’s how I rank the top QBs in this draft class and which current/recent NFL QB they remind me of:

Give me any of the top 3 guys and I’m a happy man. All three QBs have strong upsides and I think that they will all be at least long-term starters in the NFL. They all have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day I’d be more than pleased to have any of them wearing green this year.

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On The Clock:

After trading away their two 2nd round picks to the Colts, the Jets have six picks in this year’s draft.

Round 1, Pick 3 (3)

Round 3, Pick 8 (72)

Round 4, Pick 7 (107)

Round 5, Pick 20 (157)

Round 6, Pick 5 (179)

Round 7, Pick 17 (235)

With 69 (nice) picks between their first and second picks, they’re going to need to rely on their scouts to find some mid-round talent. They haven’t been great in finding talent in the mid to late rounds this decade, with Bilal Powell and Quincy Enunwa being the only real notable selections. Assuming that they’re going to draft their next QB, I wouldn’t be surprised if two of their picks are on large and athletic offensive linemen. Not the sexy picks, but the ones that will protect their new and most important asset.

First Round Options:

Assuming that the Jets are out on Josh Allen (PLEASE), they will have the opportunity to select Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, or Baker Mayfield. Even if the Browns and Giants take a QB each, the Jets will be able to draft the 3rd as a very good consolation prize. Darnold has been tied to the Browns the most, and Rosen has been tied to the Giants the most, so it is very likely that Baker Mayfield will be sitting there when the Jets are on the clock. The Giants are also rumored to be interested in RB Saquon Barkley and are even interested in trading down.

The Browns are going to pick Sam Darnold. I hope for their own sanity that they don’t fall for the Josh Allen trap. I think

With the 3rd Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Jets Select…..

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Baker Mayfield will definitely be on the board at #3 if the Giants stay at #2. The Dolphins and Bills both have expressed interest in Mayfield, but they’d have to work out a trade with the Giants to do so. Mayfield has his strengths and weaknesses, but his on-field production and leadership at Oklahoma is second to none. He’s cocky, talks a little too much, and had a public intoxication arrest in college a couple of summers ago. He’s drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel, but both Manziel and Mayfield have distanced themselves from that comparison, with both parties saying that Mayfield is in a much better place mentally than Manziel ever was. Mayfield is slightly undersized, but I think that is an outdated way to grade QBs. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have done a great job of changing the narrative of ‘short’ QBs busting in the NFL.

Mayfield was very successful in college and is 7th all-time in NCAA passing yards. He’s a Heisman winner and proved last year that he doesn’t need a Biletnikoff Award winner at WR (Dede Westbrook) to be a stud.

Does success in college guarantee success at the next level? Absolutely not. Look at Manziel, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, etc etc. But the Jets selecting Baker Mayfield would show that they’re going after it. They have an underrated roster and have been on the cusp of a deep playoff run more often than not these past few years. They haven’t had a legitimate franchise QB since Mark Sanchez (if you count that) and Baker Mayfield offers tremendously higher upside.

Position Needs:

QB: The Jets have 4 QBs on their roster with a 5th on the way. I doubt that Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg will be on the roster come Week 1. Josh McCown proved to be at least an average QB last season and has a good track record of mentoring younger QBs. He can be very valuable to both Teddy Bridgewater and whichever rookie QB the Jets select. If Bridgewater bounces back, then the Jets will suddenly have some quality depth at the most important position in all of sports. Ask last year’s Super Bowl champions about QB depth.

RB: By signing Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, I think the Jets took themselves out of the running for taking a RB in this year’s draft. They drafted Elijah McGuire in the 5th round last year, and he had a productive season playing behind Bilal Powell and Matt Forte. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Powell at age 29 is a trade chip at some point this season. There is some late round talent at RB with players such as Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, Notre Dame’s Josh Adams, and Tennessee’s John Kelly, but the Jets don’t really have a spot for another young RB at this time.

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WR: The Jets currently have 15 WRs on their roster. Robby Anderson could be facing a short suspension for telling a cop that he was going to nut in his wife’s eye. Quincy Enunwa is coming off of a neck injury that hopefully won’t have a lasting impact. Jermaine Kearse had a productive year for the Jets, coming from Seattle in the Sheldon Richardson trade. This offseason, they signed Terrelle Pryor, who looked lost last year in Washington after a 1,000 yard season in Cleveland. The Jets drafted WRs ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen, but they combined for only 15 receptions for 176 yards. The Jets have a lot of question marks at WR, but with FIFTEEN of them on the roster combined with a relatively weak WR draft class, I don’t see them drafting one this year. Given how weak this WR class is, teams that need receivers will have to snatch the ‘good ones’ earlier than they would usually. One guy I am really interested in, however, is Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs Jr. I wrote his name down in my phone on August 31, 2017 when he was putting on a show against Ohio State. He has drawn some Mike Evans comparisons but suffered an ankle injury last year. If he’s available in the 6th/7th round, I wouldn’t hate that pick at all.

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TE: The Jets listened to me and drafted Jordan Leggett last year, but he was injured most of the season. This offseason, they added Clive Walford and Bucky Hodges, who are 26 and 22. With five TEs on the roster, I don’t think that they’ll draft another one this year.

OL: The Jets don’t have an offensive lineman older than 29 on their roster. This is good for development, but the O-Line is still a glaring issue for this team. Last year, PFF ranked the Jets’ line as 30th in the NFL, and they allowed the 6th most sacks in the league. With the Jets drafting one QB, having a 38 year old as the starting QB, and another QB coming off of a career-altering injury, the Jets will absolutely continue to address their offensive line and will be in the market for their future LT/someone that can step into RT right away. I would not be surprised at all if a tall, athletic offensive lineman is selected in the 3rd round. I don’t know shit about O-Line, but Geron Christian looks good to me.

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DL/EDGE: This is another one of the Jets’ most glaring issues. They are poor at pressuring the QB, which is big trouble when that’s paired with a weak secondary. Coming into last season, I loved LSU’s Arden Key based off sheer athleticism. He is comparable to Jadeveon Clowney in college, including the questions of whether or not he takes plays off. Key had a down year, so his draft stock has fallen quite a bit, but not far enough for him to slip into the 3rd round. Had the Jets kept their two 2nd rounders, I think that they may have been lucky enough to grab him there.

This is a pretty deep class for edge rushers, and half of them seem to be from Ohio State. Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jerome Baker, and Jalyn Holmes are all OSU front 7 guys that could all be gone in the first three rounds. With that much talent on one team, it does beg the question of whether or not each of them are individually great talents or if they are a factor of a strong defensive unit from a well-coached system. Dorance Armstrong is a late round edge rusher that I like…he even laid off Baker Mayfield knowing that they’d be teammates in a year.

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Also if the Jets take this literal reincarnation of Wolverine I wouldn’t be opposed:

LB: The Jets signed 4 LBs this offseason and have two young early-round draft picks on their roster in Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins. They suddenly have a lot of depth at this position for the first time in a long time. However, if an OLB with speed off the edge becomes available in the later rounds, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets take one. Perhaps one of Baker Mayfield’s former teammates Obo Okoronkwo?

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DB: The Jets took Jamal Adams 6th overall last year and surprised many people by taking Marcus Maye in the 2nd round. With the safety position locked up for the foreseeable future, the Jets still do need help at Corner, especially in defending slot receivers. Buster Skrine has been a liability and has suffered quite a few concussions in his playing career.  Tarvarus McFadden is a late round option at CB whose stock plummeted this past year. McFadden and Derwin James were supposed to carry Florida State’s defense to glory last year, but a Week 1 injury to their QB1 turned their season upside down. Also at 6’2″ 204, he fits the big body mold that so many teams need against WRs that keep getting bigger and bigger around the league. Considering the two CBs that the Jets selected last year played four combined games, the bar for McFadden to jump over is not high by any means.

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So there you have it. This is an exciting time to be a Jets fan. We’re just a few days away from having a franchise QB after years of juggling aging veterans and mid round question marks. The Bills are in no mans land, the Dolphins just sold off all their players, and the Patriots have a bunch of question marks of their own to deal with. If the Jets have a solid draft and they stay healthy this upcoming season, a .500 season is very attainable and a Wild Card berth isn’t too crazy to think about.

In a perfect world, here is how this upcoming weekend will turn out:

Round 1, Pick 3 – QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Round 3, Pick 8 – OT Geron Christian, Louisville/EDGE Arden Key, LSU/CB Carlton Davis, Auburn

Round 4, Pick 7 – EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas/RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa/WR James Washington, Oklahoma State/OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan

Round 5, Pick 20 – OLB/EDGE Obo Okoronkwo, Oklahoma/RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame/EDGE Chad Thomas, Miami

Round 6, Pick 5 – CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State/OL Will Clapp, LSU

Round 7, Pick 17 – WR Simmie Cobbs Jr, Indiana/RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern/DE Joe Ostman, Central Michigan

 

Live look-in at me if the Jets follow my draft guide:

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Sifting Through the Fake First Day of Free Agency

Despite the 2018 NFL season not technically starting until Wednesday at 4:00, calls were being made, hands were being shook, and tweets were being tweeted all day Tuesday about new landing spots for this upcoming season’s free agents. Mike Glennon is somehow now on the Arizona Cardinals despite still being on the Chicago Bears. Wade Phillips described it best:

Amidst the chaos, the New York Football Jets had a quietly productive day that got more impressive as it went on. The worst kept secret around the NFL was that Kirk Cousins had an agreement with the Minnesota Vikings for weeks leading up to Tuesday. The Jets were vocal in their interest, but when Cousins said that he wasn’t making any visits to East Rutherford to meet with the front office, the writing was on the wall.

Only a few hours after Kirk Cousins’ agreement with the Vikings became “official,” the Jets made their first splash of the day.

QB Josh McCown – 1 year, $10 million

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Listen, Josh McCown is far from a consolation prize. I think that even he knows it. However, of all QBs in the league, McCown currently has the best grasp on the Jets’ offense and all of the moving parts within it. Rumors have been swirling around the league for nearly 2 years now about McCown becoming a coach, and I can honestly see him in an unofficial coaching position by the end of the year.

McCown has never played more than 14 games in a season, but was able to string together 13 mostly productive starts last year. The Jets went 5-8 during those games, and McCown set a career high in yards (2926) and TDs (18). The 38-year old also led the team in rushing TDs with 5. He kept them competitive for the most part, but all in all the season was unsuccessful and McCown’s hand injury may have been a blessing in disguise as he may have accidentally led the Jets to another victory or two down the final stretch, messing up their order in the draft.

With durability and overall talent as two huge question marks for Josh McCown, it was definitely strange to see the Jets signing him for $10 million during the early hours of free agency. With such a deep draft class at QB as well, having an almost 40-year old in the way seems counterproductive. Except.

Except. Except when you consider who the Jets are most likely to get if they do draft a QB in this draft. It’s 95% either going to be Baker Mayfield or Josh Rosen, two super-talented QBs who have had their own share of an and off the field issues (Mayfield especially). In almost every single draft scenario, I see the Jets selecting Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel ever since he was arrested and tackled on video for public intoxication. Both Mayfield and Manziel have distanced the comparisons from one another, both saying that Baker is much more focused on the game than Johnny was at his age.

Why does this matter? Manziel has been working out and talking to reporters about his rocky past couple of years and what things both helped and hindered him. One of the few positives that he always mentions is his relationship with Josh McCown when they were both on the Browns. Manziel said that he would have been absolutely lost if it weren’t for him up there. McCown was about 14 years Manziel’s elder up there, had his own kids and family to care for, but still set out to try to make a difference for Johnny. That type of leadership is invaluable and could easily become the Jets’ most important asset if there’s a rookie QB walking through their facility in just a few weeks.

But then, the Jets made another splash in the QB market.

QB Teddy Bridgewater – 1 year, $5 million

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Signing a 25-year old former 1st round QB for only $5 million seems like a no-brainer in my book. Before the gruesome knee injury, Bridgewater was immediately thrust into the starting role in Minnesota and had a 65% completion percentage with a 28:21 TD:INT ratio over two seasons. Teddy fought back to potentially play last season, but the Vikings caught fire with Case Keenum and he found himself buried in the depth chart with Keenum and Sam Bradford ahead of him. This is a low risk, high reward signing for the Jets. Who better to mentor a young QB with a shaky injury history than the old man QB who is on his 7th NFL team despite his own shaky injury history?

I do know that the Jets currently have 5 QBs on their roster with a 6th more than likely on the way. Best case scenario here is that Teddy has a healthy and productive preseason and first few weeks of the season and eventually takes over the reigns. If there is a rookie QB in the mix, he’ll learn under Bridgewater and McCown and then be ready to compete for the starting job in 2019. No need to throw a 21-year old into the fire prematurely like so many teams have done in the recent past. After the season is done, Josh McCown hangs up his cleats and rejoins the team as a QB coach and begins a long and successful career there. Worst case scenario is that  the Jets finally have some legitimate depth at the QB position instead of guys like Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg who always have and will be considered “projects”. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles how beneficial is was to have a more than suitable backup QB on their team.

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RB Isaiah Crowell – 3 years, terms TBD

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This was another somewhat puzzling signing by the Jets, given the depth of this year’s rookie RB class from top to bottom. However, Crowell is still just 25 years old, and has never had more than 206 carries in a season. So there absolutely should still be plenty of tread on his tires. He is tough to tackle and excels at yards after contact, something that they’ve been missing ever since Chris Ivory left. He’s faster than Ivory, which is good, and he is even a decent threat in the passing game. He has a comparable skillset to Bilal Powell, and with Powell coming up on 30 years of age, this signing could be a clue that the Boom Boom Powell days are coming to an end in New York.

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What I’m most concerned about with Crowell is his attitude. He ran into some trouble in college with a gun charge and also posted a graphic instagram that depicted violence on police in 2016. He donated a paycheck to the Dallas Police Department and that was the last we heard of that. There were also always reports of Crowell and his coach, Hue Jackson, getting into arguments about playing time. Luckily, Crowell is another player with ties to Josh McCown, as they were teammates for 2 years in Cleveland. Perhaps Uncle Josh will keep Isaiah Crowell in check, too.

CB Trumaine Johnson – Multiyear, $15 million

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The Jets paid big money for the best CB available in free agency. At 6’2″ 208 lbs, Johnson is a tall and strong corner that can battle with the new age big bodied receivers. He immediately becomes the best CB that the Jets have had since Revis’ first go-around. With Johnson joining Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in the secondary, the Jets are now a force to be reckoned with. This signing should pique Morris Claiborne’s interest into re-signing and if not, EJ Gaines should be on speed dial. Think of Trumaine Johnson as Antonio Cromartie with more consistent tackling and better press coverage. He should thrive in Todd Bowles’ defense. I’m still all about the Jets drafting another DB in the early to mid rounds this year. Get some depth, draft some athletic guys and let them fly. Also, goodbye Buster Skrine? He’s had his fair share of injuries and the Jets could save something around $8 million if they let him walk.

ILB Avery Williamson – Terms TBD

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PFF ranked the 26 year old linebacker as the 10th best overall from the 2017 season. Demario Davis, who had a career year last year for the Jets in his age 29 season, was ranked 8th. So the Jets made a lateral move in production but got 3 years younger in doing so. I’m not trying to undersell Williamson’s value. Last year was the first time in his career that the Titans didn’t utilize him as an every-down LB. Most 3rd downs, he was off the field. It appears to have been more of a scheme thing than a skills thing, as evidenced by PFF. The Jets employ a different defense, and Demario Davis didn’t miss a single defensive snap last season. Williamson has only missed one game over his 4 year career, so his track record made the Jets comfortable in pulling the trigger on a guy that they believe was underutilized last year. NFL experts much smarter than me have pegged this as a fantastic signing for a defense that needs a lot of help straight up the middle.

Also, it’s going to be nice to see these two former foes dressed up in green together soon:

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The bottom line here for the Jets is that they’re making moves and grabbing some impact players on both sides of the ball early in free agency. While these moves may be creating more questions than answers, they’re at least not being stagnant. They signed a 25, 25, 26, 28….and 38 year old on the fake first day of free agency and I don’t think they’re going to slow down. EJ Gaines is still out there. Ryan Jensen is still out there. Tyler Eifert is still out there. Morris Claiborne may be open to coming back. Kony Ealy may be open to coming back. ASJ may even be open to coming back. There are still a lot of dominos yet to fall, and the Jets have one of the deepest purses in the league. It’s been a crazy fake first day of free agency and you have to at least be a little optimistic if you’re a Jets fan. They’re getting better, they’re getting younger, and they aren’t finished yet.

As another half day of fake free agency is upon us, Wade Phillips has one more thing to say:

Tanking for a QB is Not the Solution

The NFL isn’t the NBA. There are 11 players on the field at a time, and 53 on the roster. NBA teams have 5 players on the floor and 14ish on the roster. That means that one individual basketball player has a much higher chance to change the course of a game. If one individual doesn’t do his job, that means that a basketball team is only being 80% efficient on the floor. If one football player doesn’t do his job, the team is still being 91% efficient. Some positions are obviously more important than others (Quarterback), but if you put the world’s best QB behind the world’s worst offensive line he won’t be able to reach his full potential.

Continue reading “Tanking for a QB is Not the Solution”

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