It’s unlikely that the Patriots are losing sleep over the Jets draft picks, but how did Gang Green do with their selections?
First there was inside linebacker Darron Lee. Lee was on the 2014 Ohio State championship team, and was Defensive MVP of the 2015 Sugar Bowl with seven tackles and two sacks against Alabama. As if that’s not impressive enough, it was Lee’s first season as a linebacker after being recruited as a Safety.
Lee was one of five Buckeyes taken in the first round. Seven-time Pro Bowler Nick Mangold was a Buckeye, but Jets fans also remember Vernon Gholston and his zero sacks in three seasons.
Under Todd Bowles, the Jets had one of the top defenses in the league, holding teams to under 20 points per game. The Broncos and Panthers showed everyone that despite the NFL being an offensive league, it’s still defense that wins championships. Adding a linebacker with experience playing for a winning team is a plus, especially when Lee was still available at #20 overall.
In the second round, the Jets put Ryan Fitzpatrick on notice. Kind of. New York took Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg with the 51st overall pick. The Nittany Lion had a terrific freshman season in 2013 when he threw 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and completed almost 59% of his passes. But then Bill O’Brien left and Hackenberg regressed, throwing 12 touchdowns and 15 picks. With a more conservative offense in 2015, Hackenberg completed 184 passes, by far the fewest in his three years at Penn State. His completion percentage fell to 53%. On the bright side, he threw 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Head Coach James Franklin had a ball control offense although it shouldn’t be lumped in with some of the offenses from years back. It wasn’t quite John Shaffer winning the 1987 Fiesta Bowl while completing five passes. The QB that may have gotten by everybody (except Oakland) is Connor Cook. Cook threw 70 touchdowns and 21 interceptions over his last three years at Michigan State. Cook led the Spartans to a pair of Big 10 titles and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for best Senior quarterback.
And Hackenberg may need a few years in a system to really thrive. Is he a better option that Fitzpatrick? Is he even a better option than Geno Smith or Bryce Petty?
The negativity of the Hackenberg pick may have taken away from some later selections which should solidify the defense. Gang Green added Jordan Jenkins, an outside linebacker from Georgia and Juston Burris, a cornerback from North Carolina State.
The Jets also added a little protection up front for the quarterback, whoever that may be, with Brandon Shell, an offensive tackle from South Carolina. Then came Lac Edwards, a punter from Sam Houston State, and Charone Peake, a wide receiver from Clemson.
It’s a decent draft by the Jets, and a very good first round pick of Lee. It usually takes years to properly grade a draft, but this seems like a fairly standard one. Even if Hackenberg doesn’t work out, it’s not like he’s a top-10 pick, or even a top-50 one. DRAFT GRADE: B