With the combine behind them, the New York Jets are gearing up for the rest of the offseason. What is Joe Douglas’ plan to fix the offense?
The New York Jets have a ton of holes to fill this offseason. They will likely need to add at least four new offensive linemen, two cornerbacks, two edge rushers and two wide receivers.
Most of the holes are on the offense and the Jets need to fill those. Young quarterback Sam Darnold is entering a crucial third season in the NFL, the one that may make or break his career with his salary set to rise sharply in short order.
The Jets need to build around him. When Darnold had league average protection in 2019, he was a league-average or better quarterback. That comes with have well below league average wide receivers while getting no help from the running game.
If they can build a line that consistently protects Darnold, that would change the entire dynamic of this team. So it should come as no surprise that the Jets spent time with a number of offensive linemen at the combine.
Make no mistake about it: the combine is an unbelievable display of athleticism, and that matters some, but it’s not the main purpose of the event. The combine is about giving teams their first opportunity to meet the prospects and interview them.
With that in mind, here’s a look at where the New York Jets stand after the combine:
Round 1: Andrew Thomas, LT, Georgia
Andrew Thomas has been steadily falling down boards since the end of the college football season. When the national championship rolled around, he was the top offensive lineman in the draft.
Fast forward two months and he’s the clear cut fourth-best offensive lineman in the class. What caused the fall? Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton flew up draft boards with their athleticism and better than expected technique. Meanwhile, Jedrick Wills Jr. became the best technical lineman in the class.
Thomas’s draft stock has taken hit after closer evaluation of his tape should he’s not the polished pass blocker evaluators originally thought. He tends to lean, which takes away the advantage his incredibly long arms give him, and it makes him susceptible to counter moves.
His run blocking is stellar, but is that enough at left tackle in the NFL? It’s very likely that all of Becton, Wirfs and Wills will be off the board by the time the New York Jets get on the clock making Andrew Thomas the most likely selection.
This is play for the future. Thomas has Pro-Bowl potential, but it’ll take a little while to get there. Year one is likely going to be a struggle for the former Bulldog.
Round 2: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Jalen Reagor had an up-and-down combine. He’s clearly an explosive athlete. He finished second in both the vertical and broad jumps, which shows off the explosiveness. The issue is that he timed terribly in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill.
Reagor was expected to be a super athlete. His 40 time was supposed to be sub 4.4, but it wasn’t. Reagor ran a 4.47, which is awful considering the expectations. That awful time will hurt his draft rating, especially with other WRs like Denzel Mims over-performing their expectations.
His fall could be the New York Jets gain. With Robby Anderson potentially leaving in free agency, the Jets need another big-play threat, and Reagor can be exactly that.
He was a dominant big-play receiver at TCU and his explosiveness suggests that should carry over to the NFL. He’s electric with the ball in his hands and he’s a huge deep threat.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas has talked all offseason about adding explosive weapons to the offense, Jalen Reagor fits the bill.
Round 3 (Giants pick): Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The New York Jets are desperate for help at cornerback. Bryce Hall can help with that. Hall is a big and athletic cornerback who’s falling due to his poor man coverage and a serious ankle injury.
Hall missed most of 2019 with an ankle injury that is still bothering him. He was at the combine meeting with teams, but he wasn’t able to participate. That’s going to drop him down draft boards.
The poor man coverage isn’t a big issue for the Jets. Gregg Williams runs a zone heavy coverage scheme that Hall’s skillset fits into perfectly.
He also checks all the off the field skills that Joe Douglas looks for. Hall is a leader on the field and a tone-setter in the locker room. He held much the same role at Virginia that Jamal Adams held at LSU. Those intangibles are going to be attractive to Joe Douglas, who loves strong character players.
If the New York Jets go cornerback early in the draft it’s likely to be Bryce Hall.
Round 3: Matt Hennessy, C, Temple
Matt Hennessy is going to be a plug and play center day one. He’s smart and he’s athletic; plus, he’s from New York. He’s everything the New York Jets need in the middle of their offensive line.
So why is Hennessy going to be available in the middle of the third round? He’s a center and teams simply don’t value centers in today’s game. Only two centers went in the first two rounds in the 2019 draft.
Hennessy is a top-five center in this class and he’s good enough to start day one, but that’s not good enough to be taken early in the NFL draft. NFL teams’ absurd obsession with positional value could be the Jets’ gain.
The team is desperate to fill their hole at center. Since Nick Mangold retired, the Jets have been playing musical chairs at center. They’ve had four centers in three years, including Ryan Kalil who they pulled out of retirement days before training camp.
Hennessy should be a long-term answer at center. If the Jets get the chance to take Hennessy with their second third-round pick they should run-up to the podium.
Round 4: Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland
The New York Jets need speed in their offense any way they can get it. Anthony McFarland brings that, but not much else.
He’s not very elusive and he’s going to truck anyone over. The one thing he brings to the field is speed at all levels. That’s all he has to bring to be an effective player for the Jets.
The team was overly reliant on Le’Veon Bell and his ability to create yards in 2020. While that helped negate negative yards and mostly kept the Jets running game afloat, it also limited it.
There was no big-play threat out of the backfield. The Jets longest run of 2019 was 24 yards… by Sam Darnold. That’s unacceptable and they need to fix that in 2020.
McFarland’s speed makes for a perfect complement to the steady and elusive Bell. He also adds the home run threat the Jets desperately need in their running game.
McFarland likely won’t be a starter at any point in his career, but he’ll be an excellent change of pace back.
Round 5: Derrek Tuszka, Edge, North Dakota
Derrek Tuszka is an intriguing small school prospect. He’s not the best athlete and the technique could use work, but the potential is there.
He has a non-stop motor and makes himself known in every game he plays. He’s likely never going to be a starter, but he doesn’t have to be. He could carve out a role as a situational edge rusher and a special teams player.
If he does become a starter it’ll be because his technique improves. That’s the strongest part of his pass-rushing arsenal and he dominated the FCS with it. The move up to the NFL is going to a huge jump in competition and he’ll struggle with that.
If he takes the time to learn and gets better on the bench, Tuszka could be a future starter. It’s not likely, given the lack of athleticism at his size, but the potential is there.
Round 6: Juwan Johnson, WR, Oregon
The New York Jets could use a big body in their receiver room. Jalen Reagor is just 5-foot-11 and Jamison Crowder is 5-foot-9. They need someone who can go up and get a jump ball and be a red zone threat. Juwan Johnson has the potential to be that guy.
Johnson was not a productive college receiver and he doesn’t have the athleticism that makes scouts giddy. His size is his defining trait. Johnson stands at 6-foot-4 230 pounds.
Johnson isn’t the most athletic. He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, his vertical and broad jump were also not impressive, yet he crushed the agility and acceleration drills. Johnson had the second-best three-cone time and was top-10 in the 20-yard shuttle.
At his size, that’s all he needs to be a useful player. Stick him in the red zone and have him make one move and throw the ball up for him to make the catch. It seems simple enough, but it’s not.
Johnson has routinely failed to use his physical gifts to his advantage at the college level. He’s a bad route runner and his football IQ isn’t the highest.
He needs to be coached up, but the potential is outstanding. For him to be worth a sixth-round pick all Johnson has to do is develop into a red-zone threat, something his physical abilities say he should be able to do.