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John Fennelly

Fennelly: New York Jets May Find Their Franchise Quarterback in Next Year’s NFL Draft

Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire

The New York Jets have been collecting some fine young players since Mike Maccagnan took over as general manager two springs ago. Jet fans are excited the team is transitioning their roster from a group of overpaid veterans to a cadre of hungry youngsters.

Whether the plan will work or not remains to be seen. The one ingredient still missing is a quarterback. A franchise quarterback to be precise. Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002, teams without a “franchise” quarterback have been on the outside looking in when it comes to winning the Super Bowl.

New England’s Tom Brady has won four of his five Super Bowls in that period. The Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, won two each as did Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. The other four Super Bowls were won by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. Enough said. You ain’t winnin’ without a top QB under center. Plain and simple.

That is why Jet fans, although excited, are still curious about who their QB of the future is going to be. The consensus is that neither Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are their guy. In fact, they could both be sitting behind 38 year-old Josh McCown this season.

Petty was a prolific college passer at Baylor, but he appears to be destined to be a backup in this league. Hackenberg is still a project, and a raw one at that. In a recent article, Rich Cimini of ESPN gave some stark analysis of where Hackenberg, who has yet to take a snap in an NFL regular season game, stands as he embarks on his second year.

“I talked to an opposing scout who studied him in pregame warmups for one game last season and was taken aback by how many off-target passes he threw,” Cimini wrote. “Accuracy is an issue for Hackenberg, whose adjusted completion rate (counting drops, spikes, etc.) was 64 percent in his final year at Penn State, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked 120th in the nation. The previous year, he was 104th.”

The Jets were apprehensive to put Hackenberg, a second round selection in last year’s draft, out on the field, even in the meaningless games the team played near the end of the season. Head coach Todd Bowles plans on letting the QB situation solve itself in camp, but it’s hard to see Petty or Hackenberg outplaying McCown for the job this summer.

So where does that leave the Jets, who are likely to win no more than five games this year? At the top of the draft again next spring, that’s where. But unlike this year, 2018 will have some very strong QB prospects. Franchise ones, as a matter of fact. The Jets may not – and should not – pass on them.

USC’s Sam Darnold is likely to be the draft’s top pick and the Jets could very well be in position to take him. Darnold (6′ 4″, 225) is a prototypical pro style QB who has shown he can shine in the spotlight. In this year’s Rose Bowl, Darnold tore through Penn State’s defense to the tune of 453 yards and five TDs. He also ran five times for 20 yards. The downside is, Darnold, as a redshirted freshman, has only one year of experience under his belt. Should he repeat, or better, his 2016 numbers, there’s no way he stays at USC and no way he’s not the top pick.

After Darnold, there are a pair of Joshes, Allen of Wyoming and UCLA’s Rosen. Josh Allen (6-foot-5, 222 pounds) passed for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. Another underclassman, Allen will be a junior this fall, and could very well decide to stay in college for another season, but since he had considered coming out this year, he’s expected to be available and compares favorably to many of the QBs taken in this year’s draft.

“Just based off what I saw last year, I think Allen is more talented than Mahomes. I would take him over Patrick Mahomes. I think he’s got better feet, quicker feet, he’s more natural,” Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah said recently on his Move The Sticks Podcast. “He’s under center, so in some of those things, he’s ahead of Mahomes, but they have the same strengths and the same weaknesses.”

 

Josh Rosen (6′ 4″, 220) was once considered the top QB recruit in this class, but shoulder injury last October that ended his season early has bumped him behind Darnold and Allen. But that doesn’t mean he’s not as good  a prospect- or even a better one – than they are. A strong 2017 could put him back up to the front of the line.

Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (6′ 5″, 235)  is a name that could climb into this group very quickly. Rudolph is a highly-productive, accurate passer that fits the ball into tight windows and his 63% completion rate is a stat NFL scouts are finding hard to ignore. If the Jets somehow find themselves towards the middle of the first round, Rudolph might be more than just a consolation prize for them. That is, if he doesn’t rocket up the board.Watching his highlights, you can easily see that happening….

 

 

 

 


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