Joe Douglas’ first NFL Draft with the New York Jets was a good one. Here are the grades for each of his nine picks.
The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books. Having made three trades and nine selections, Joe Douglas’ first draft with the New York Jets was a success. Gang Green entered the annual event with a multitude of holes and needs, and they came away from the ordeal in a much better position than when they arrived.
With plenty of quality additions on either side of the ball, the Jets may be primed to make some noise in the upcoming season. Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, so the AFC East is up for grabs. Can the Jets break their nine-year playoff drought in 2020?
If they have any shot at doing so, they’re going to need plenty of their selections to pan out during the upcoming season.
Here are my grades for each of New York’s picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville — Round 1, No. 11 overall
Many around the league expected Douglas to lose out on the top four tackles. Instead, he had to choose between two of them and came out swinging. In the end, the Jets made the right decision in selecting the physical specimen Mekhi Becton over Tristan Wirfs.
The 6-foot-7, 364-pound beast, who ran the 40-yard dash in 5.10 seconds at the combine, has superstar upside. He’ll come in and start at left tackle from day one. He’s a freakish athlete with rare traits who will help elevate the play of the entire offensive line. Douglas hopes to have found Sam Darnold’s blindside protector for the future. So does the young quarterback.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor — Round 2, No. 59 overall
Douglas took a gamble, one that I was very skeptical of, in passing on Denzel Mims to move down 11 spots and receive a third-round pick. It paid off, as Gang Green was still able to add the highly-regarded wideout from Baylor, whom many expected to go in round one.
Mims is a terrific addition for the Jets thanks to his elite blend of size and speed. At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, the 22-year-old was one of the fastest wide receivers at the combine, recording a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds. Mims is raw, but he’ll come in and make an impact, serving as Darnold’s big, physical red-zone target from the get-go. He also thrives in the immediate passing game, making him a perfect complement on the outside to the speed of Breshad Perriman.
Adam Gase won’t miss Robby Anderson. Mims carries the potential to fill that void and more.
Ashtyn Davis, S, California — Round 3, No. 68 overall
I really like what I’ve seen from Ashtyn Davis as a player and the way he’ll fit in with Gang Green. He’s the kind of versatile chess piece that Gregg Williams will absolutely love because of the flexibility he’ll provide to the defense. He’s played safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, and has also returned kicks. Needless to say, he can do it all.
I see him as almost a mix between Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The pick makes sense in that it’ll allow Williams to play Adams at the line of scrimmage more frequently. It gives the Jets insurance in case of injury or departure of either starting safety. I expect Davis to be a factor on defense and special teams this season.
Nonetheless, while Davis wasn’t a reach here, I would’ve preferred to see the Jets go a different direction with this pick. Matt Hennessy, Zack Baun, or Josh Jones probably would’ve made more sense here.
Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida — Round 3, No. 79 overall
I can’t blame Douglas for attempting to fill the Jets’ everlasting hole at edge rusher, yet I don’t expect Jabari Zuniga to be the answer. Gang Green needed to add a legitimate pass rusher here and there weren’t really any other standout options on the table.
However, unlike New York’s previous three picks, the former Florida Gator isn’t such a high-ceiling player. This was a safer bet, rather than another swing for the fences from Douglas. Following a somewhat unproductive college career throughout which he dealt with injuries, I don’t see Zuniga as much more than a situational pass rusher.
At the same time, the Jets need as much help on the outside as possible, and he’ll likely be given the chance to be a contributor from the start. It’s not like they have many other options. A simple four or five-sack season would be a success.
Lamical Perine, RB, Florida — Round 4, No. 120 overall
I didn’t see any issue with the Jets acquiring a running back in the fourth round. They need to prepare for the 2021 season, in which they’ll rely on a running back-by-committee to replace Le’Veon Bell. On the other hand, it seemed a little odd to select Lamical Perine, a player with many similarities to Bell.
The 22-year-old is very similar to the former All-Pro in that he’s a physical between-the-tackles runner, a solid receiver out of the backfield, and a back that lacks breakaway speed. I thought a speedy, outside-rusher like Anthony McFarland would’ve made more sense. This type of player would keep defenses off-balance and help open up holes for Bell. Maybe Douglas believes Josh Adams is that guy.
Regardless of that, Perine will probably be part of the group that replaces Bell. He possesses a similar skillset at nowhere near the same level.
James Morgan, QB, FIU — Round 4, No. 125 overall
The idea of drafting Darnold’s backup was never one that made much sense to me, especially in the fourth round. Darnold is still very young. In fact, he’s actually a few months younger than his newly acquired backup.
As Gang Green has learned the hard way, they need a capable understudy, but their franchise quarterback could also use a mentor. There are guys currently available — Matt Moore and Joe Flacco — who can do both, which is what makes this pick so confusing to me.
James Morgan has serious arm talent and has constantly been praised for his leadership skills. Yet, he’s also a very raw and developmental prospect. At the end of the day, I have a hard time believing that Morgan gives the Jets a better chance to win this season than Moore or Flacco would. And New York could’ve likely selected the former FIU signal-caller a round later anyways.
This was Douglas’ most questionable pick. A receiver like Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones would’ve made more sense.
Cameron Clark, OT, Charlotte — Round 4, No. 129 overall
The Jets entered the offseason with a mission to protect Darnold. Douglas has succeeded in doing so, adding talent in the trenches through free agency and the draft. Becton is the headliner, but I’m excited about Cameron Clark.
He mostly played left tackle in college, but he projects to be a versatile guard in the NFL. He has experience at all five spots.
I don’t expect Clark to start this season, but he certainly carries the upside to develop into a reliable starter. When it comes to the offensive line, the more competition, the better. Down the road, a left side of Becton and Clark could be scary for opponents.
The overhaul of the offensive line is complete.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia — Round 5, No. 158 overall
Drafting Denzel Mims in the second round was great value for Gang Green, yet snatching Bryce Hall in the fifth is possibly even better.
Hall, seen by many as a second-round talent, likely slid down draft boards due to a gruesome ankle injury he suffered last year. The talent is all there. If the 22-year-old can return to form, this will be an absolute steal for the Jets.
They needed help at the cornerback position, so this is a very smart gamble by Douglas. They’re hoping for a repeat of Hall’s 2018 season, in which he broke up a whopping 21 passes.
Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M — Round 6, No. 191 overall
Yes, a punter.
The Jets are going to rely on their defense to win games, so it will be very beneficial to add a top-notch punter who can flip the field whenever the offense struggles. Braden Mann sports a big, accurate leg and averaged a little more than 47 yards per punt in 2019. He additionally placed 26 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and can also take kickoffs.
The 2019 second-team AP All-American even recorded seven tackles last year. He holds the potential to be a top-five punter and Pro-Bowler in the NFL according to many across the league. This is a significant upgrade over Lachlan Edwards.
Douglas has his punter of the future. Nonetheless, he still needs to find a kicker.
At the end of the day, the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. We can only guess as to what these players will turn into. Nevertheless, Douglas seems to have come away with an exciting and encouraging haul.
Becton, Mims, Clark, Hall, and Mann are valuable additions, especially when you consider where each of them was selected. And although they weren’t all necessarily my favorite picks, Davis, Zuniga, and Perine should be contributors in 2020.
If the aforementioned draftees become the players that we expect, Douglas will have had an excellent first draft at the helm. While it isn’t necessarily a high bar to clear, it wouldn’t be shocking if Douglas’ first draft with New York is one of the team’s best since the mid-2000s.
Each draft class will inevitably have some busts and questionable picks. No general manager is perfect. Yet, this is a solid kickoff to the Douglas era. It all starts at the top, and Gang Green seems to have found a gem at the general manager position.
Only time will tell if the 2020 draft class pans out, but heading into the regular season, one thing is clear: For the first time in many, many years, the Jets are finally back on the right track.