The 2019 season was supposed to be one of promise for the New York Jets. The storied franchise finally moved on from the Todd Bowles era, turning the controls over to offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase. They landed arguably the league’s top running back in free agency in Le’Veon Bell, and the ascending Sam Darnold appeared poised for NFL stardom. The season of optimism was quickly derailed, however, as the Jets battled a myriad of injuries and a lack of cohesiveness on both sides of the ball throughout the year. The 2020 season presents a clean slate for Gang Green, and general manager Joe Douglas has been hard at work retooling the roster to fit his vision — most recently with the NFL Draft. Here’s a look at the Jets’ 2020 Draft grades.
Who did the New York Jets draft?
Round 1, Pick 11:Mekhi Becton, OT Louisville
Round 2, Pick 59:Denzel Mims, WR Baylor
Round 3, Pick 68:Ashtyn Davis, S Cal
Round 3, Pick 79:Jabari Zuniga, EDGE Florida
Round 4, Pick 120: La’Mical Perine, RB Florida
Round 4, Pick 125: James Morgan, QB FIU
Round 4, Pick 129:Cameron Clark, OT Charlotte
Round 5, Pick 158: Bryce Hall, CB Virginia
Round 6, Pick 191: Braden Mann, P Texas A&M
Best Player: Mekhi Becton
Last season, the New York Jets fielded perhaps the worst offensive line contingent in football.
Veteran Ryan Kalil was pulled out of retirement late last summer to man the center position, and the former Pro Bowler often looked like a shell of his prior self. In fact, Kalil was benched during the early-season Monday Night Football thrashing against the Cleveland Browns, before ultimately being placed on injured reserve in November.
Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell provided little relief at their left and right tackle posts, respectively. While Shell landed on his feet with the Seattle Seahawks during free agency, Beachum remains on the market. The Jets filled one of the vacancies, signing George Fant to a three-year, $30 million deal. The veteran tackle offers the flexibility to play on the right or left side. Chuma Edoga, last year’s third-round pick, should remain in the mix for a starting spot but is considered vastly undersized for the position and still very much a work in progress.
Jets hoping Becton can fill some missing voids
The Jets took Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick, the third tackle to come off the board at one of the strongest positions in this class. Becton, all 6-foot-7, 364 pounds of him, was considered by many to be the top tackle prospect in this class. His massive frame, nimble feet, and innate athleticism make up for his lack of overall polish — and it’s a big part of why he possesses the highest ceiling among his immensely talented counterparts. He has the tools to become one of the premier tackles in the NFL and should vehemently protect Darnold’s blindside for the next decade.
The one concern I have with Becton is his weight, but provided he keeps it under control, the Louisville product boasts perennial All-Pro potential.
Best Value: Denzel Mims
The Jets’ aerial attack was essentially non-existent a season ago. Quincy Enunwa missed most of the season with a neck injury, Robby Anderson disappeared for stretches, Demaryius Thomas appeared to be on his last legs, and tight end Chris Herndon ended up missing the entirety of the season for multiple reasons. Jamison Crowder, a chain-moving slot receiver, was their most reliable option.
In the weeks leading up to draft day, Mims was considered a near-lock to hear his name called at the tail end of opening night. Though not nearly as polished of a product as some of his peers, his upside is arguably higher than the vast majority. But once the first round drew to a close, Mims found himself on the outside looking in. In fact, his unusual skid continued into the second day, before Gang Green plucked the Baylor product off the board with the 59th pick.
Mims has the potential to be a premier receiver
There wasn’t a wide receiver that elevated his stock more during the pre-draft process than Mims. The Baylor product performed well at both the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, as evaluators came away impressed with his explosiveness, body control, and catch radius. Struggles with his releases, physicality at the catch point, and precision route running likely led to his draft day tumble, however.
Viewed as more of a projection at this stage of his career, Mims has all the tools to become one of the premier receivers of this historic class in time, and his value boosts the Jets’ 2020 Draft grade.
Biggest Reach: La’Mical Perine
The Jets failed to establish a second option behind workhorse running back Bell in 2019. Free-agent addition Ty Montgomery was criminally underused, and it was evident that Bilal Powell didn’t have much juice left. Without a competent running mate to speak of, Bell carried the ball 245 times — often finding little running room.
The Jets addressed the backup running back position by selecting Florida running back La’Mical Perine with the 120th overall pick. Perine has innate patience at the line of scrimmage and better-than-average vision, often allowing him to navigate through the smallest crease. He doesn’t have the burst or long speed to break off long runs consistently at the next level, and his pass protection is a work in progress, but the former Gator has the athletic traits to find early success in a reserve role.
That said, there isn’t a particular facet of Perine’s game that stands out, and he was taken a round too early. I’m nitpicking a bit here, as I like the fit behind Bell, but Perine was likely to have been available in the later rounds.
Biggest Sleeper: Bryce Hall
Teams feasted on the Jets’ patchwork cornerback group in 2019. Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts struggled mightily manning the boundary out of the gate, and Nate Hairston — a late summer add courtesy of the Colts — failed to impress despite ample opportunities. Nickel cornerback Brian Poole was far and away the unit’s most consistent performer week in and week out.
Had it not been for a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula that ended his 2019 season prematurely, Hall would have likely been an early second-day selection. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, Hall has the prototypical frame that teams covet in boundary players and cuts his teeth as a physical, hard-nosed defender that offers inside-outside versatility, plus ball production, and an astute football IQ.
Hall is expected to be full-go for training camp, whenever that may be, and will likely be in competition with Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson to start opposite Blessuan Austin in 2020.
New York Jets 2020 Draft Grade: A-
The Jets aced their 2020 Draft grade, as they shrewdly addressed their ongoing offensive line woes and added future starters at wide receiver, safety, and edge rusher on the second day. Hall in the fifth round was an absolute steal, as he offers starter upside as a rookie and brings added value as a nickel defender and sub-package safety.
Florida International’s James Morgan, my sixth-ranked quarterback in this class, is the quintessential developmental signal-caller behind Darnold, and Charlotte’s Cameron Clark impressed me at the East-West Shrine Bowl with his athleticism and offers intriguing upside as a swing tackle.
The roster deficiencies that plagued the Jets in 2019 have been fortified with an impressive draft haul, but only time will tell if the prospects can live up to their billing.