[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Three hundred and sixty two days. That’s how long Jets fans have been waiting for this past weekend. And now it’s come and gone. This is the draft we’ve been looking at to take that step forward in the long, mostly excruciating rebuilding process led by Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles. They started the offseason by making some noise in free agency, bringing in starters and depth all over the roster but there were still some glaring needs going into the draft. They entered Thursday with 6 picks and left with 6 picks after a couple trades on Day 3. With those 6 selections they were able to bring in players to fill some of those “glaring needs.”
Round 1 Pick 3: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Maccagnan felt like he had to make a move early on, trading up from 6 to 3 (giving up three 2nd rounders in the process) on St. Patrick’s Day and boy did that pay off. What many believed to be the top QB on the board was able to get past the Browns and Giants and fall right into the laps of the Jets.
To be clear, Darnold is my QB1 as well, so I am still ecstatic just thinking about the pick. While he does have his concerns with protecting the ball, I think it is all fixable. He has a high IQ and can diagnose a defense but I think the poor talent this past year resulted in more forced passes which then turned into more interceptions. For fumbles he just needs to learn to value the football, keeping both hands on the ball at all times until he’s ready to pass. I expect that to be one of the first things the coaches will work on with him, it should be a relatively quick fix.
Darnold wasn’t the top QB because he was the best in every aspect because quite frankly he isn’t. But he just does things that you can’t teach. One of them being that he has the innate ability to make plays when everything breaks down and the other being that he is able to throw accurately with his feet out of place.
I think that is a major skill to have because you can’t always expect a clean pocket, you need to be able to make uncomfortable throws to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, he still needs to work on his footwork and work on connecting his feet to his eyes. Darnold can move out of the pocket, throw with touch and anticipation to all levels of the field but most importantly he is a leader on and off the field. He may not always get front page news for what he does or says like Mayfield or Rosen but maybe the antithesis of them is exactly what the Jets need.
2018 Expectations: Knowing Todd Bowles he is going to want the best chance to win even if that means playing 38 year old Josh McCown over Darnold to begin the season. While he might not start right away, I do expect Darnold to play before the halfway mark. As a fan I’m hoping it is by Week 3 when they go against Baker Mayfield and the Browns on Thursday Night Football.
Round 3 Pick 8: DL Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
Here’s a small school guy that many people will recognize not for his play but his incredible journey to get here. Shepherd is literally a grown man standing 6’3’’ and 315 pounds at 24 years old (turns 25 in October). The age is a big knock on him, but outside of that I really like the player. Coming from such a small school he showed he could dominate against that competition as you would hope. He did this with strength and aggressive hand-usage to go along with a nice first step.
He was even able to show he could do it against higher competition at the Senior Bowl until he unfortunately broke his hand. Shepherd is a bit raw as an interior pass rusher but should be able to compete day 1 to play on early downs as he fills gaps as a great run stuffer. Todd Bowles mentioned in his press conference that he can play the 3-tech or 5-tech spots depending on how many down lineman there are, but I wouldn’t even be surprised if he played some nose tackle every now and again. He has big upside and should only get better with NFL coaching.
2018 Expectations: I fully expect him to be in the rotation a good amount and wind up being the long term replacement for Mo Wilkerson.
Round 4 Pick 7: TE Chris Herndon, Miami
The very first weapon for the brand new QB of the future. Herndon was David Njoku’s backup in 2016 so he was able to show off his skill set a little more in 2017. However, his season ended with a torn MCL, forcing him to miss the end of the season and the Senior Bowl. He had to miss the Combine as well, so we don’t have any testing numbers on him; therefore, everything we know is purely off tape. When he was healthy he showed that he can be both a good blocker and receiver in line. Some have said he may be the best blocking tight end in the draft, while I wouldn’t go that far he is a big upgrade from last year’s rookie Jordan Leggett. He possesses soft hands catching passes away from his body and has the ability to create some plays after the catch. Looking at the depth chart he has a real chance of challenging for snaps right away and grow to be Darnold’s safety blanket for years to come.
2018 Expectations: Right now the TE group is less than stellar to say the least, consisting of Eric Tomlinson, Clive Walford, Neil Sterling and Leggett. Look for Herndon to get a chance to at least split snaps with one or two of these guys in Week 1.
Round 6 Pick 5: CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Another smaller school prospect here in the sixth round. I first heard of Nickerson at the Combine after he ran a 4.32 40 yard dash. I went to look at his tape, against two 2nd rounders Anthony Miller and Courtland Sutton, and thought he could go as high as early day 3. He obviously has great straight line speed but he shows quick, fluid hips to flip and turn and the willingness to get dirty so you could look at him in the slot too. The one thing you’ll notice about him are his 16 career interceptions, so he has some great ball skills. He doesn’t run into the receiver with his head not turned and he does a great job baiting QBs into passes. At 5’10’’ and 182 pounds he obviously isn’t physically imposing. He struggles against bigger WRs when it comes to press, jump balls, and getting off blocks. He may want to add on a few pounds at the next level as the WRs will be stronger and may be asked to play press in this defense. They needed depth at the position and Buster Skrine is on the last year of his deal, so look at Nickerson to be his replacement.
2018 Expectations: I don’t know if he’s ever done it but I could see him possibly being a gunner on punts which would be nice to have for once. Outside special teams he is a nice depth piece who could see time in nickel and dime packages every now and then.
Round 6 Pick 6: DL Foley Fatukasi, Connecticut
I’m a little shocked with this selection after taking Shepherd and trading for Henry Anderson. Fatukasi is not a player I scouted coming into the draft but I have heard good things about him. He is ideally a fit as a 5-tech who will only play on early downs. He is a two-gap defender that will eat up blocks for his teammates behind him. The defensive line didn’t have a ton of depth coming into the weekend but we’re leaving it with 2 players that could easily get playing time in the rotation with the possibility of Fatukasi as well if he beat out an Xavier Cooper in training camp this summer.
2018 Expectations: Don’t expect much out of Fatukasi. He isn’t a guarantee to make the roster but could potentially be stashed on the practice squad and at best he is depth that will rarely, if ever, see the field.
Round 6 Pick 30: HB Trenton Cannon, Virginia State
I can honestly say I didn’t know the name Trenton Cannon before his name popped up when the Jets picked him. He’s from a tiny school in Virginia who won’t produce many NFL players. What I have found out about him though is that he has a decent build at 5’11’’ and 185 pounds with legit speed running a 4.40 40 yard dash. The offense has lacked a player with legit speed at the position since maybe Leon Washington. Hopefully that’s what he can be for the Jets. He has been a kick and punt returner for the Trojans and Maccagnan has already mentioned that they are excited to see what he brings to the table in that aspect. He won’t be a lock for the roster but considering the only returner we have is 30 year old WR Andre Roberts, it looks like he has a legit shot.
2018 Expectations: The team has needed a reliable return man for so long now, hopefully Cannon can be the guy to fill that hole. He should compete with Roberts, as mentioned, who would only see time as a returner too. They already have a few spots taken at HB so it just depends on whether they wanna carry the extra HB or extra WR. If he proves himself, I’d rather the younger guy.
BONUS: Undrafted Free Agent FB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
I wasn’t planning on writing about any UDFAs but I absolutely love this pickup. He’s the best FB in the class who isn’t necessarily the prototypical bully of a fullback. He can actually make an impact as a receiver and with the ball in his hands. As a team that uses this position more than most, the Jets can get him on the field in a multitude of ways. They converted former DL Lawrence Thomas into their FB, and he was fine and all, but really wasn’t the greatest blocker or much of a threat of any kind.
2018 Expectations: Flowers comes in day one as the starter in my mind and wouldn’t surprise me at all if he had the longest career out of any of these players outside of Sam Darnold.
After being able to dig in a little more on these players I can truthfully say that I think they had a productive draft class. With that being said, it 100% all depends on if Sam Darnold pans out or not. If he succeeds the other picks could be terrible and it won’t matter all that much, if he busts this will be considered a bad draft no matter how well the other players perform. Outside of drafting my top QB, they got solid depth with multiple players that have the potential to turn into starters or legit contributors with the next couple of seasons. And based on Maccagnan’s history, he’ll give these rookies every opportunity a chance to make the roster. This is by far the biggest offseason this regime has had and they need to hit, otherwise they won’t be around for the next mess up.