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313308582 041620 JOE DOUGLAS treated art version 1 2020 NFL DRAFT

313308582 041620 JOE DOUGLAS treated art version 1 2020 NFL DRAFT

The work Joe Douglas did in his first year as general manager of the Jets was less than inspiring. His first draft class was OK. He traded away some really good players. Most of the free agents he signed didn’t really work out.

But the payoff was always supposed to come now, and again in 2022. Douglas has painstakingly acquired 20 draft picks over the next two years, including five in the first three rounds of each of those drafts. This is where his rebuilding-through-the-draft project really begins.

And here’s a look at how his second draft as Jets GM might go:

First round (2nd overall) – BYU QB Zach Wilson

Perhaps you’ve heard: The Jets traded Sam Darnold, three years after drafting him third overall, and are starting over with a new Franchise Quarterback du jour.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Wilson isn’t everybody’s second-favorite quarterback in this draft, but he is right behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence for most NFL people. He was outstanding against weak competition at BYU last year, but scouts love his arm, his ability to create plays on the run and the way he can throw from all types of body and arm angles.

Is this the year the Jets finally get their search for a new franchise quarterback right? That’s to be determined. This new Jets regime certainly thinks so. But Jets fans have heard that before.

First round (23rd overall) – Northwestern CB Greg Newsome

The Jets could take an edge rusher here, if one they like slips. But it’s impossible to ignore the way they’ve ignored the cornerback position during free agency. They seem content going into the season with Bless Austin and Bryce Hall as their starters, but that’s really hard to believe. At least at edge, they signed Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry. At the corner, they’ve done nothing at all.

What they do here also might come down to which cornerback gets this far. It won’t be Alabama’s Patrick Surtain or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. It could be either the 6-foot, 192-pound Newsome or Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Farley had consistently been regarded as a better prospect, but the combination of him opting out of the 2020 season and the surgical procedure he had on his back on March 23 has made some skittish.

If he falls, the Jets probably would be willing to take the risk that he won’t be ready for the start of camp because they know they’re still a couple of years from contention. But Newsome is the safer bet. And it’s hard to ignore the number of scouts who seem to think his size, speed (4.38 in the 40) and instincts make him a perfect fit for Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme.

Second round, 34th overall – Penn State DE Jayson Oweh

Here’s another reason to pass on an edge rusher at 23: This is not a well-regarded class of edge rushers, so a decent prospect is likely to slip. It’s not guaranteed that the 6-foot-5, 257-pound Oweh will get out of the first round – certainly not after he lit up his Pro Day with a blazing 4.36 in the 40, a 39.5-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 11 feet, two inches.

But there are enough NFL people worried about the zero sacks he had during his seven-game final season at Penn State to wonder if a team will be willing to take an early shot on an athletic freak without the production to match. The Jets could for a couple of reasons. One is that, again, they know they have a couple of years to develop players. But another is that they have a head coach in Saleh who is known for getting the most out of his players on the defensive side of the ball.

Yes, the lack of production in college is alarming. But NFL coaches will likely find reasons for that and figure he’ll be much more productive in their scheme. And Oweh could take a year as a rotational player behind Lawson and Curry, then take over when the 32-year-old Curry moves on next year.

Third round (66th overall) – North Carolina RB Michael Carter

If Clemson’s Travis Etienne gets to the Jets’ second-round pick (34) he’s going to be really tempting. After all, as has been mentioned many times, running backs are really the engine of the Kyle Shanahan offense that new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is going to run.

But here’s the thing: In Shanahan’s four years in San Francisco so far, his leading rushers have been Carlos Hyde (a second-round pick), Matt Breida (an undrafted free agent), Raheem Mostert (a street free agent who had played for six teams in the year-and-a-half before the 49ers put him on their practice squad) and Jeff Wilson (an undrafted free agent). And they’ve made 32 picks in four drafts since Shanahan arrived, and they’ve only taken one running back – a fourth-rounder in 2017 named Joe Williams (Utah) who hurt his ankle in training camp and has never taken an NFL snap.

So history suggests that this scheme makes running backs, not the other way around. And it suggests LaFleur will be happy with a committee. Whether he’s happy with the current group of La’Mical Perine, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams remains to be seen. So a running back can’t be ruled out, even though it likely won’t be a priority.

If the 5-foot-8, 201-pound Carter could be the perfect choice to lead a committee in the Jets’ backfield. He’s smaller, less shifty and less heralded than his Tar Heel backfield-mate, Javonte Williams, but he’s strong and difficult to tackle. He was productive, too, with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including 1,245 as a senior when he averaged 8 yards per carry. He can block and return kicks, too.

He’s got the ideal power to be the main back in a rotation with Perine, Coleman et. al. And he may slip this far because many scouts don’t believe he’s built to carry a full workload alone.

Third round (86th overall) – Georgia G Ben Cleveland

Given Douglas’ oft-stated focus on the offensive line, plus the poor performance of the line last year, and the Jets’ largely inactive free agency at this position, it’s really impossible to imagine that the Jets won’t draft a lineman (or two) in the first two days. And with veterans Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten and Dan Feeney as their top three guards, an interior lineman feels necessary.

The 6-foot-6, 343-pound Cleveland is a good one. He was a right guard at college, though it’s easy to imagine him forming a 700-pound wall on the left side playing next to the 6-7, 364-pound Mekhi Becton. Due to his size, he’s not the fastest lineman or the most athletic. But the power is definitely there.

He will clear the way for the Jets’ running backs. There’s potential in his pass-rushing skills, too.

Fourth round (107th overall) – Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace

They signed Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and will pair them with Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder, but that won’t stop the Jets from adding weapons for their new quarterback. For one thing, the futures of Cole and Crowder beyond 2021 are uncertain. And for another: One big lesson from the Darnold years is “The more playmakers, the better.”

In the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Wallace, the Jets get a smallish, quick, tough receiver who can play inside or outside. He was a huge weapon for the Cowboys in 2018, with 86 catches for 1,491 yards and seven touchdowns. But he tore his ACL late in the 2019 season and he really wasn’t the same last year.

He can still fly, though, running a 4.39 in the 40. If he can regain his 2018 form, he’ll be a steal this late. And his injury, plus the depth of this receiver class, could push him down this far.

Fifth round (146th overall) – Missouri S Tyree Gillespie

The Jets are hopeful of eventually signing safety Marcus Maye to a long-term contract, but that’s not a guarantee. It’s also unclear who’ll be the second safety of the future in the Jets’ defensive backfield even if Maye returns.

Ashtyn Davis has some promise, but the 6-foot, 210-pound Gillespie could provide some long-term competition. He’s got good size for a safety and the 4.38 he ran in the 40 at his Pro Day shows he’s got the speed for NFL pursuit and coverage.

The one knock against him is big, though: In 34 collegiate games over four years he had zero interceptions and two sacks. He wasn’t much of a play-maker, even though the skills are there.

Fifth round (154th overall) – Iowa OT Alaric Jackson

The Jets’ only young tackle prospect besides Becton is Cameron Clark, a fourth-round pick a year ago who didn’t play a single snap in 2020. So yeah, the Jets are going to add another tackle at some point in this draft.

The 6-foot-5, 321-pound Jackson played only the left side for the Hawkeyes, so he’d have to be taught the right to stick with the Jets. But with veteran George Fant back, the Jets can buy him some time. Jackson certainly has the size and strength to do it. Some scouts say he needs to refine his technique. Some others think he’ll eventually settle in as an NFL guard.

Sixth round (186th overall) – Syracuse CB Trill Williams

Injuries forced him to opt out midway through his junior season for the Orange, otherwise the 6-foot, 208-pounder might be easily a Day 2 pick. He has good size for almost any position in the defensive backfield and he ran a 4.4 in the 40 at his Pro Day to show he’s got speed.

He was mostly a slot corner at Syracuse, though, and there’s some uncertainty about what his position will be in the pros – outside, as a nickel, or even back at safety. The versatility and potential in a player drafted this low is quite an asset, though, especially for a team like the Jets which such a thin group of DBs.

Sixth round (226th overall) – Auburn ILB K.J. Britt

The Jets brought in Jarrad Davis to be their middle linebacker and they still have C.J. Mosley, but who knows if either of them will still be around in 2022? The Jets need to start getting some promising inside linebackers in the pipeline and the 6-foot, 235-pound Britt fits the mold.

He’s a powerful, aggressive player and he was one of the leaders of the Tigers – not just on defense, but of their entire team. He also plays special teams very well, which is essential for a late-round pick. He could easily spend this year mostly on specials and giving the Jets a potential future option if the Davis signing doesn’t work out.

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