Jets fans everywhere let out a collective groan of misery on Dec. 20 when they won their first game of the season. Being just the sixth team in NFL history to have a winless season is no aspiration for a franchise to have. However, with their first win of the season, the Jets fell from the number one to number two overall pick in the draft. With the greatest quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft since Peyton Manning surely going first overall next year, that makes all the difference in the world. However, this may not end up being the loss it has been made out to be.
This certainly will make plenty of hot takes look downright frigid, but the Jets would have been making a mistake for their future by drafting Trevor Lawrence number one overall. Now before I lose the readers, allow me to explain.
Every year, the NFL produces NFL Draft profiles for each prospect who is entering the draft after the combine. In each player’s draft profile, they are given a prospect grade out of eight. A grade of 6.3-6.4 translates to an expectation the player has the potential to be a starter within their first two seasons, a rating of 6.5 translates to a boom-or-bust prospect, a rating of 6.7-6.8 translates to a year one quality starter, a rating of 7.0-7.1 translates to a pro bowl talent, a rating of 7.3-7.5 translates to a perennial all-pro, and a rating of 8.0 is the perfect prospect.
When the Jets drafted Sam Darnold third overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, he was given a prospect ranking of 7.1 by NFL Draft analyst and scout Lance Zierlein. For perspective, the only offensive players that ranked ahead in that draft were Saquon Barkley and Quenton Nelson who are two likely future Hall of Famers at their positions. Coming into the NFL, Darnold’s scouting analysis written by Zierlein highlighted his accuracy, arm strength, NFL size, and poise. Zierlein noted “there isn’t a throw he fears” and that Darnold “doesn’t get shaken by in-game mistakes.” It didn’t take long of Darnold being on the Jets until that all went out the window and he was “seeing ghosts.”
Many are quick to simply write Darnold off as a bust. However, the Jets are plenty to blame for this. In Darnold’s rookie season, the Jets were bottom ten league-wide in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, points scored per game, passing yards allowed per game, rushing yards per game, and also points allowed per game. They also fumbled the ball nine times that season in the running game which was the fifth-worst league-wide. Darnold was drafted into a situation that didn’t allow much room for him to succeed.
Outside of roster skill and achievement, perhaps the biggest influence is head coach Adam Gase. Gase admitted himself to failing to properly develop Darnold, stating “I came here to help him, help him develop his career, and we haven’t been able to do that.” Darnold is not completely blameless and his poor play in his first three seasons should not be ignored entirely due to his poor situation. However, to say Darnold developing to his full potential was an uphill battle from the beginning is an understatement.
Of course, Trevor Lawrence is NO Sam Darnold and is leaps and bounds better of a prospect than Darnold was. Nonetheless, this Jets team simply is not prepared to take in a rookie quarterback and hand them a situation to succeed and develop properly yet. New York would be much better off to address other areas of dire need such as offensive line, running back, defense, and the coaching staff before taking on their quarterback of the future.
Now I know, prospects like Lawrence only come around about once in a decade. However, if the Jets approach finding their signal-caller of the future with patience and first address the offensive line, receivers, running back position, defense, and coaching staff in the upcoming couple drafts and years it would serve them well. Then, they could draft a talented rookie quarterback with promise into a position where they can succeed and develop with minimal obstacles and better set themselves up for the future. With the Jets now likely being encouraged to forego the quarterback position while dropping from the first to second overall pick, they just may be forced to take a more patient approach that will pay off in the long run. Essentially, the Rams may have saved the Jets from themselves.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars also benefit big from this change in the draft order. While the Jets may not yet be ready to bring the best out of a lucrative quarterback prospect, Jacksonville is. The Jaguars struck gold this draft as undrafted rookie running back James Robinson managed to cement himself as one of the league’s best as a rookie. Robinson was third in the NFL in rushing as a rookie before sitting out this week due to injury with over 1,000 rushing yards in just fourteen games. He also has not lost a single fumble all season and ranks sixth among all running backs this season in receptions.
The Jaguars also have seen flashes of brilliance from rookie receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. who has caught 75% of his targets this season at a solid 10.3 yards per reception rate. Additionally, he has done this while starting ten of twelve games this season and receiving a decent total of 63 targets. On the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars have a couple of young playmakers to develop in cornerback CJ Henderson, and edge rushers K’Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen.
On top of this all, the Jaguars are not just projected to have the number one overall pick for Lawrence, but also will have an extra first-rounder from the Rams, and two picks in the second round. As if that isn’t enough capital for a promising rebuild, the Jaguars have the most cap space in the NFL this upcoming offseason. The Jaguars are more than prepared for a full rebuild around Lawrence as their quarterback of the future.
While the Jets have the league’s second-most cap space right behind Jacksonville, and two first-round picks of their own, they are simply an even more dysfunctional franchise right now with more doubt than hope. Jacksonville has a young offense fueled by one of the league’s best running backs and a handful of young players yet to see their prime. Meanwhile, the Jets roster primarily consists of aging veterans on the decline such as starting running back Frank Gore.
Jacksonville is a team better built for the future with young pieces already surrounding a possible new rookie quarterback. Meanwhile, the Jets would be wise to play the long game and draft around the quarterback position before selecting their future signal-caller in a couple of seasons down the line.
With the Rams beating New York on Dec. 20, they may have saved the Jets from themselves while putting Trevor Lawrence on the team where he’s better set up to succeed. Nonetheless, it will be intriguing to see how Trevor Lawrence shows up for his future team.