Each member of the New York Jets’ 2020 draft class has a chance to make an impact and most will have a chance to start right away.
General manager Joe Douglas and the New York Jets received rave reviews following the 2020 NFL Draft. Douglas committed to rebuilding the offensive line and giving third-year quarterback Sam Darnold more weapons.
Obviously, few draft picks ever reach their ceiling as players. Nonetheless, here is the best-case scenario for the Jets with each member of the 2020 draft class.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
This is a pretty simple one. The Jets drafted Mekhi Becton to protect Darnold’s blindside for the next decade. He has all the physical tools to develop into one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
It’s unwise to saddle any rookie with Hall of Fame expectations, but a gold jacket in Canton is a picture-perfect scenario for the Jets.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Plenty of fans were miffed when the Jets passed on a wide receiver in the first round. The wide receiving corps needed a significant boost and now the Jets are pinning their hopes on a late second-round pick.
Still, despite dropping in the draft, Denzel Mims is coming into the league with the chance to become a true No. 1 wide receiver on the outside. If he and Darnold have chemistry on the field, they could become the next great duo like Drew Brees and Michael Thomas or Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill.
The point isn’t that Darnold or Mims will reach the same level of those other pairings, but the Jets’ best-case scenario for Mims is that he becomes Darnold’s go-to guy.
Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
When the world learned the Jets were taking a safety in the first round, most fans connected to the dots to Jamal Adams’ looming contract negotiations. In fact, it’s more likely that Douglas drafted Ashtyn Davis to be Marcus Maye’s replacement.
Davis can play the single-high guy in three-safety sets for the time being, but his future is likely as a starting safety alongside Adams.
Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida
How long have the Jets been waiting for a dominant edge-rushing threat? Five years? Ten? Twenty? I guess it depends on one’s definition of “dominant.”
Semantics aside, the Jets have only had three double-digit pass rushers since 2010—Muhammed Wilkerson in 2013, 2015 and Calvin Pace in 2010. Jordan Jenkins led the team with 8.0 sacks in 2019.
The likelihood of Jabari Zuniga turning into the second coming of Mark Gastineau is low. However, is it possible for Zuniga to become an above-average edge rusher who can put together multiple seasons with double-digit sacks in green? Certainly.
Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
On draft day, the Jets appeared to have found their change-of-pace back who would spell Le’Veon Bell. Unfortunately for Lamical Perine, the Jets later signed future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and the rookie dropped on the depth chart.
Don’t expect to see much Perine in year one, but he could become a key cog in the offense in the next few years. When Gore retires, he’ll slide into his role as Bell’s understudy. When Bell’s contract is up, Perine could even become the featured back in the offense.
In a perfect scenario, the Jets are going to be a high-octane offense with Darnold slinging the ball all over the field. Perine’s versatility as a runner, blocker, and pass-catcher could set him up to be Darnold’s long-term security blanket.
James Morgan, QB, FIU
James Morgan is the first and only player on this list who would do more for the Jets on another team. Let me explain.
In the Jets’ absolutely perfect future, Darnold is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. So where does that leave Morgan in this unblemished vision of the future? Well, he’ll serve as Darnold’s backup in the meantime, but trading Morgan for draft capital is the end goal.
Flipping Morgan, a fourth-round pick, for a day two pick would be a major success for Gang Green. He can serve as Darnold’s backup for a few years while his stock rises. Then, when the time is right, the Jets can flip Morgan to a team that envisions him as a starter.
Cameron Clark, OL, Charlotte
Is it possible for Cameron Clark, a guy who is largely seen as a developmental prospect, to start as a rookie? Probably not at his college position, offensive tackle, but there’s a slight chance Clark starts at guard if he wows in training camp and the preseason.
Although he played tackle at Charlotte, the best-case scenario for the Jets would involve Clark moving to left guard full-time and forming a wall on that side of the field with Becton.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Bryce Hall is not a typical fifth-round pick. In fact, had he left Virginia after his junior season, he could have gone as early as the first round. A gruesome injury limited Hall to just six games during his senior season and scared away NFL GMs in the process.
If healthy, Hall has first-round talent. He’s a natural fit for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ system. In a perfect world, Hall becomes a starter from day one and develops into a Pro Bowl-type corner.
Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M
Sixth-round picks who become immediate starters are few and far between in the NFL, but punters are a different story. Braden Mann is going to take over for long-time Jets punter Lachlan Edwards and unless something drastic happens, Mann will be the immediate starter.
Punters don’t often stay with teams for their entire careers. If Mann develops into an elite punter and the Jets can hold onto him for the next five years, that would be a smashing success. Sixth-round picks rarely make that kind of impact, but in Mann’s case, he can change New York’s field position fortunes.