The New York Jets haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since 1990. Will that trend be bucked in 2017?

In Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, he suggests that the New York Jets should go best player available. Not a bad strategy, especially considering that general manager Mike Maccagnan has often said that’s his draft strategy.

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Mel Kiper:

“Wait — what?” I can hear you. Let me explain. The Jets do have a quarterback problem to solve, but that seems more likely to come in free agency after they took a QB in Round 2 just last year. They could also draft a defender here, but the top cornerback is off the board. So why Fournette? For one, if they truly go with the best player available here, there’s a real chance it’s him, just as Ezekiel Elliott was for Dallas at No. 4 last year. Secondly, they know they can get a ton of reps from Fournette right now, and this is a team that needs to be better. (Via ESPN Insider)

Taking a look at the rest of his mock draft the next running back off the board is Dalvin Cook at 17 to the Washington Redskins.


So the next question would be, “How big is the differential between Fournette and Cook?” Well, according to a scout I talked too, he says not much. So if the talent gap isn’t big, and the next back off the board falls to the second half of round one, why would the Jets go RB at sixth overall?

Especially considering their variety of other needs, which we’ve diagnosed time after time on this site, Kiper knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing mock drafts for the last 25-plus years.

But the Jets would be better served trading back to that 17 range and collecting picks, which would be a very similar scenario to when the Jets traded up to take Mark Sanchez. The Jets were at 17 and moved up all the way to No. 5.

While the Jets got a relative bargain with the asking price, more so because Eric Mangini was in Cleveland. The Jets could get future firsts and help stabilize the organization. Consider this: why do we never discuss franchise tag and Jets players?

Because the Jets never have players worthy of tagging. Of course, that could change in 2020 when Leonard Williams is up, but the Jets could get more players in the conversation if they can build their draft capital.

Let’s discuss both sides of this. The Jets desperately need offensive talent. They haven’t had a home run threat at the position in a long time. Fournette would provide an identity on offense. Plus, whoever is starting at quarterback for the Jets would have a talented runner behind them.

We’ve talked about the security blanket a tight end would supply, but a three-down running back is nearly as valuable. While the Jets do have Matt Forte and Bilal Powell in the backfield, they could use a young buck.

Forte isn’t going anywhere with the structure of his contract and Powell just signed an extension. It’s been 27 years since the Jets have drafted a first round running back and it just may be time to buck that trend.

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