By Jason Keidel
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While the Giants are adding strokes to a fairly complete portrait of a football team, the Jets will enter this year’s NFL Draft with their ancestral mayhem, more holes than plugs they can fill in three days of scouting, sweating, and picking.
And it feels like Gang Green’s rite of spring is to enter the big day with a big pick, in the single-digits of the first round. In this case, the Jets have the No. 6 pick overall. Not quite good enough to bag the best player, but plenty good enough to snag a supremely talented player.
And as always, there are as many opinions as options. The media and masses have the Jets picking anyone, from anywhere, clear across the nation and across the gridiron. Some say the Jets will draft a quarterback — a hole they have yet to properly fill in 40 years — while others have them picking someone for the secondary, another place of great need.
The Jets aren’t exactly the Cleveland Browns, who are yearly and wholly inept, but they have mimicked the Browns with some of their first-round duds, like Dee Milliner and Vernon Gholston. But Gang Green has also unearthed some gridiron gold, in Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis, at least one of whom is a surefire Hall of Famer.
God bless Darryl Slater. The local sportswriter culled a list from the deep pool of prognosticators — from CBS to ESPN to FOX to Bleacher Report, each with its own army of pundits — and posted them on NJ.com, making a total of 50 possible picks for the Jets on April 27. And it feels like the picks are as varied as the men making them.
Since we’re talking home teams, let’s glance at the big board from CBSSports.com. In the mock draft our six experts have the Jets taking — you can’t make this up — six different players. The crack CBS squad has Gang Green drafting TE O.J. Howard, QB Mitchell Trubisky, CB Marshon Lattimore, FS Malik Hooker, QB Deshaun Watson, and SS Jamal Adams.
The talent is spread so evenly that the experts can’t even agree on which players a team will select at the same position.
While some folks bemoan Trubisky’s lack of high-grade experience, the presumed first QB to be picked this year, Deshaun Watson, has no dearth of dominant film. It’s not the same as manhandling the NFL, of course. Think Vince Young, who torched the USC Trojans in perhaps the best bowl game ever played, then bombed as a pro.
But by all accounts, Alabama has trotted out the best defense in college football over the last two years. Some go so far as to assert their latest iteration was the best in history. Yet Watson shredded both with alarming ease, as though playing them on PlayStation with the cheat code. So it says here that while Trubisky may have that ever-elusive and often overrated “upside,” we’ve seen Watson toy with actual NFL prospects who will play on Sundays for the next decade.
If the Jets want instant impact with inherent risk, they should pick Watson, or, if available, that bruiser from LSU, running back Leonard Fournette. (They could pick hulking, pass-catching tight end Howard, but what’s the point if Josh McCown is throwing to him?)
Fournette is tricky. He’s a wildly gifted athlete with rare, seductive talents, with the feet to run around and the power to run through defenders. Do the Jets play it safe and grab from the gaggle defensive backs? Roll the draft dice and select Fournette? (Two of the six CBS experts have Fournette available at No. 6.) Or pick the best player at the most important position (Watson)?
The Jets could go close to the vest and sip from the soup of defensive backs. Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore — think Urban Meyer gets enough talent? — are the latest in the conveyer belt of NFL prospects churned out by Ohio State every year. Or they could look toward Fournette’s teammate, Jamal Adams, a hard-hitting safety who would look most handsome in Gang Green. With the decay of Revis and the woeful pick of Milliner, the Jets are rather emaciated in the secondary.
Maybe Jets fans are a little too annoyed to play it safe this season. Unless Myles Garrett is available — and he won’t be — this draft is a bit of a crapshoot, all up and down the board. No one will bash the Jets if they take one of the Ohio State tandem or the stand-alone safety from LSU. But it’s hard to see a home run in any of them unless one turns out to be a transcendent talent.
There’s a chance Fournette is such a talent. And While Watson must learn to take more snaps under center, work on his release, ball security, and footwork, it’s hard to watch him dissect the Crimson Tide, twice, and not think the Jets could score a TD with him. Or that either will score many more for the Jets over the next few years.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel