By Steve Lichtenstein
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Not even the Jets could botch that chip shot.READ MORE: Yankees Ace Gerrit Cole Tests Positive For COVID-19, Will Not Make Scheduled Start Tuesday
Similar to two years ago, when lineman Leonard Williams, the consensus top defensive player in the NFL Draft, fell into Gang Green’s lap in the same spot, general manager Mike Maccagnan had to be grinning from ear-to-ear Thursday night when he saw LSU safety Jamal Adams’ name still on the board when New York was on the clock to make the No. 6 overall pick.
To some (like ESPN’s Jon Gruden), Adams was a brighter prospect than No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, the defensive end chosen by the Browns. According to a recent ESPN report, the Jets told Adams during his visit, “You’re wasting your time. Why are you here?”, because of their certainty that he would be gone within the first few selections.
When it was his turn on Thursday night, Maccagnan, of course, had to take Adams.
Adams checked off both boxes — he was undeniably the best available player and he filled a need, as he will be the favorite to supplant incumbent Marcus Gilchrist as the fulcrum of the defensive backfield. Gilchrist, who is slated to count $6,625,000 against the Jets’ salary cap this year if he somehow isn’t cut, is coming off a season-ending torn patellar tendon injury.
Unlike many of the alternatives in the draft at his position, Adams is a complete safety. At 6-foot and 214 pounds, he can play center field and excels at making tackles in open space. In addition, the Jets were enthralled with his leadership abilities in college.
Though there are no sure things in an NFL Draft, Adams appears to be the type of player a defense can rebuild around.
And make no mistake, the Jets’ defense massively underachieved last season. Despite much preseason hype, the unit placed 28th in the league in points allowed per game and were gashed often by big pass plays. Only Jacksonville picked off fewer than the Jets eight interceptions.
It would be absurd for me to quibble over Maccagnan’s choice here. However, I am a bit concerned about an unintended consequence. In my view, the No. 6 pick was the Jets’ best opportunity to cut into their roster imbalance.
As bad as the defense performed in 2016, the offense was even more putrid. The Jets averaged 17.2 points per game, third-worst in the NFL. They were brutal in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on a league-worst 35.2 percent of their opportunities.READ MORE: Exclusive: Cellphone Video Shows NYPD Sergeant Throw Man To Ground During Violent Arrest On Lower East Side
At least the defense has some talent, especially up front. However, if ever a football unit screamed “Help!”, it would likely be coming from new offensive coordinator John Morton’s room.
Unfortunately, when it comes to Draft Day, the Jets typically have ignored those pleas. Adams marks theteam’s ninth consecutive first-round pick (in an eight-year span) used on a defensive player. Over the last 16 years, the only offensive players chosen in Round 1 have been: Mark Sanchez (2009, No. 5 overall), Dustin Keller (2008, 30), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (2006, 4) and Nick Mangold (2006, 29).
Maccagnan has gone defense first in all three of his drafts. A year after tabbing Williams, Maccagnan, with the 20th overall pick, chose Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, who had a mixed rookie season playing mostly out of his comfort zone on the inside.
As for the Jets’ recent second-round history, it may have been offensively concentrated, but it’s also the most ignominious of any team in the league. Since 2010, the Jets have selected: Vlad Ducasse, Stephen Hill, Geno Smith, Jace Amaro, Devin Smith and Christian Hackenberg.
Yuck. Only Devin Smith and Hackenberg remain on the roster, albeit somewhat tenuously given their less-than-stellar reviews to date.
Maccagnan has yet to find a way to balance his football team through the draft, instead patching holes in his offense with past-prime and overpaid free agents. The best home-grown offensive player on the Jets’ roster, in my opinion, is running back Bilal Powell, and he isn’t even listed as the starter.
As it stands now, the offensive line is one big question mark. The receivers, outside of Eric Decker, are relatively raw. Will the Jets even line up with a tight end in Week 1? And the quarterback … we’re headed for a season of epic incompetence.
Other teams fix these areas with long-term solutions through the draft. The Jets, however, tend to let warning signs become recurring issues.
So feel free to give Maccagnan a pat on the back for not overthinking things and acquiring a player who had no business dropping to him. Just know that Friday night’s second- and third-round picks (the Jets hold the 39th, 70th and 107th overall selections) must at least start to correct the team’s imbalance or else this draft will go down as yet another failure in the overall scheme.MORE NEWS: New York City Councilmember 'Baffled' By Mayor's Hesitance To Mandate Masks As Delta Variant Spreads
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1