Now that the dust has cleared, here are four takeaways from Joe Douglas’ first crack at the draft as GM of the New York Jets.
Although the NFL experts think the New York Jets made out well in the 2020 NFL Draft, they seem to be flying under to the radar to some degree. Mekhi Becton is a mountain of a man, but offensive lineman in the first round can only get so much love.
Additionally, general manager Joe Douglas traded down twice, which isn’t nearly as exciting as trading up to snag a star. This draft more than anything was about building a culture for Douglas and the Jets.
“We’ve talked about culture, and we’re trying to add to it,” Douglas said on a conference call via Robby Sabo of Jets X Factor. “When we go through the personal aspect of every guy, what they bring to the building and the locker room are important aspects. They bring a lot to the field and to the building, and we feel good about that.”
But now that the draft is over and the team is onto signing undrafted free agents, here are four takeaways from the weekend.
Sam Darnold gets help
This was the one area where there was consensus among writers, experts, fans, and anyone who has watched the Jets over the last two seasons. Sam Darnold has talent, but he can’t do it alone.
Douglas addressed the offensive line in a big way during free agency and he didn’t stop in the draft. Becton is an athletic freak who could become a wall on Darnold’s blindside for the next decade and the developmental prospect Cameron Clark is a good body to have for depth. Drafting two linemen is a welcomed change from the Mike Maccagnan era.
The Jets had the chance to go for an elite wide receiver at pick No. 11, but opted for the beef on the line. Thankfully, this wide receiver class was stacked with talent and the Jets were up again at 48. A trade down (more on that later) dropped Gang Green to 59 and they were able to snag Denzel Mims who has a massive chip on his shoulder after dropping deep into the second round.
Simply put, the Jets are committing to protecting Darnold and putting talented skill position guys around him. The work is far from over, but this offseason is a good starting place for Douglas.
Buy low on defenders
While Darnold and the offense were the priority, the defense had some sore spots that needed attention. The team’s pass-rushing needed help in a major way. Jordan Jenkins and Jamal Adams led the team with 8.0 and 6.5 sacks, respectively.
In the third round, Douglas took a chance on Jabari Zuniga, a defensive end out of Florida who struggled to stay on the field in his senior year. The speedy pass rusher is more talented than his third-round selection would indicate.
But the Jets were not done searching for overlooked talent. Bryce Hall could have gone in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he opted to return to Virginia. An unfortunate injury ended his season after six games. He’s a first-round talent with fifth-round injury concerns.
Ashtyn Davis wasn’t a case of “buying low” on a guy, but with his background as a walk-on in college, count on him to compete for time on the field. Although it was initially stunning to see the Jets add to a strong position at 68, the pick makes sense when you consider his versatility and ability to impact special teams with his athleticism.
The Jets are taking some risks with these picks, but they have a chance to pay off in a major way.
Wheeling dealing Joe Douglas
Jets fans were noticeably tense when Douglas traded the 48th pick in the draft to the New Orleans Saints. Sure, the Jets were getting back Nos. 59 and 101—but Denzel Mims was just sitting there, ripe for the taking.
Darnold desperately needed help and Douglas may have just passed on the dynamic receiver out of Baylor.
But pick after pick, there was no mention of Mims and he eventually fell to New York anyway. Whether or not he would have been the pick at 48 is unknown, but for the large contingent of fans who wanted him, it all worked out.
What Douglas did next was perhaps even more impressive. The New England Patriots—yes, those New England Patriots—traded up to grab 101 in exchange for picks 125, 129, and a sixth-rounder in 2021.
Declaring Bill Belichick the “loser” in a trade is somewhat of a risk, but that seems like an awful lot of compensation to use to move up to select a tight end, Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech.
The Jets added the most value to the 2020 class primarily on the shoulders of two trades.
In these trades, the Jets turned the No. 48 pick into picks 59, 125, and 129 in 2020, plus a 2021 sixth-round pick. pic.twitter.com/uT6etYnaLN
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) April 26, 2020
According to some experts, the Jets brought back the most value in trades of any team in the draft. Of course, bringing back “value” in trades is meaningless if the draft picks don’t pan out.
That being said, seeing Douglas wheeling and dealing should give Jets fans hope that this team is heading in the right direction.
New York Gators
There’s a nice little pipeline between The Swamp and 1 Jets Drive. Douglas drafted two guys out of the University of Florida in back-to-back picks, Perine and Zuniga, but he wasn’t done adding Gators.
Instead of drafting another Florida alum, Douglas flipped a sixth-round pick for cornerback Quincy Wilson, a second-round pick in 2017 who stalled out with the Indianapolis Colts. Wilson played with Zuniga and Perine in Gainesville.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator.