By Jason Keidel
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While some teams are buried in playoff permutations, our local NFL clubs are already gazing upon next season.
The Giants still have to decide if they need to start fresh with a new quarterback, close the Book of Eli, or allow Manning to write his own epitaph at MetLife in 2018. The Jets have no such ambiguity. They have no quarterback of the present or future. Evidently, Chistian Hackenberg is so bad, he can’t even get into a game with the starting QB out for the year and the team out of the playoffs.
Only four teams have fewer wins than the Jets (5-10), while three have an identical record. Provided those three win and the Jets lose in Week 17, Gang Green will pick in the NFL Draft next spring. Various mock drafts have the Jets picking between the fifth and 10th slots. No matter what happens, the Jets will have a top-10 pick, which is fairly fertile ground for a high-end college quarterback.
Maybe the Jets won’t qualify for Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, presumably two of the top three names on the board. But if the Jets select sixth, they will surely get a shot at someone with a high draft grade, from Wyoming’s Josh Allen to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield to Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
(And to the Kirk Cousins crowd … please don’t. First, he will command nearly $25 million a year, devouring cap cash needed to sprinkle across the roster. Also, there’s little, if anything, to suggest taking another team’s franchise QB will work for your team. Also, If he were that great, why would Washington let him walk?)
Of all the blue-chip quarterbacks expected to be gobbled up in the first round, Heisman winner Mayfield, seems to be the biggest variable. Everyone loves his moxie, toughness, and frothing competitiveness. Of course, such unchecked fervor hasn’t always served Mayfield well.
The sports world has watched — likely many times — his eyesore of an evening on Feb. 24, which featured the shortest police chase in American history. It was a relatively muted affair, with cops imploring Mayfield to tone down a verbal spat with a woman. Clearly intoxicated, Mayfield bolted, embarking on the slowest 40-yard dash since Tom Brady’s combine 20 years ago.
After an audible “WTF” from law enforcement, a couple cops lunged, grabbed, and nabbed Mayfield, tackling him like a few OSU linebackers. The apparent inebriated Mayfield shrieked “Oh my God!” in ugly succession, somehow baffled by why he was being handcuffed, while the cops reminding him how absurdly silly his midnight run was.
Then we had Mayfield grabbing his privates on the sideline this autumn, directed at the other sideline. It wasn’t befitting a big-time college QB, or a leader, and certainly not what you want from your potential franchise NFL signal-caller.
But we still love his spunk. What we don’t know is whether Mayfield is Brett Favre reincarnated or Johnny Manziel redux. So if the Jets want to play it a bit safer they may go saner.
CBSSports.com, for instance, has the Jets picking last year’s Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson, with the 10th pick. It’s hard to think of a more accomplished QB who’s been more quickly ignored, if not forgotten. Especially when you consider that the Louisville QB is still playing, playing well and, according to some pundits, playing as well as he did when he won the 2016 Heisman.
Indeed, in 2017 Jackson has completed a higher percentage of his passes, thrown fewer interceptions, and posted a higher passer rating than he did last year. He’s also averaged a full yard per rush more this year than last. And for those who think Jackson is a glorified halfback who throws a perfunctory pass once in a while, consider this: he’s thrown for 7,032 yards and 55 TDs in the last 24 months. His passer rating over that period is 150.2. In the NFL, Jackson won’t average seven yards a rush or score 21 times on the ground, as he did last year. But Jackson is hardly an embellished wishbone quarterback.
No matter whom the Jets have under their scouting lens, they will have a crack at a gifted NFL QB. The same CBSSports mock draft has the Browns bagging Rosen with the top pick, and Darnold going to the Jets’ co-tenants inside MetLife Stadium. Then CBSSports.com projects the QB-starved Denver Broncos — led by John Elway, the best QB to ever draft another QB — picking Mayfield at No. 9.
Which leaves the Jets at No. 10 going with Jackson, who’s not the first Louisville QB to enter the NFL. Though hardly a college QB factory, a few Louisville alumni have graced the gridiron, with varying level of success.
Is Lamar Jackson the next Chris Redman or Dave Ragone? Another Browning Nagle or Brian Brohm? If the Jets draft Jackson they’ll hope he plays remotely like another Louisville alum, John Unitas.
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