FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets kicked off the NFL draft by getting their quarterback of the future — who might actually be the face of the franchise right now.
After taking Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold at No. 3 overall on Thursday night and Fort Hays State defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd in the third round Friday night, general manager Mike Maccagnan went to work on the draft’s final day to fill some sizable roster holes.
The Jets made three trades Saturday, including two swaps of draft picks with the Minnesota Vikings, and another with the Indianapolis Colts for defensive end Henry Anderson.
New York took Miami tight end Christopher Herndon in the fourth round at No. 107 overall. After all the wheeling and dealing, the Jets capped the draft with three sixth-rounders: Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson, UConn defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi and Virginia State running back Trenton Cannon.
“We feel we have some good young players,” Maccagnan said. “There are some guys we felt good (about) in our process. We like them both from an ability standpoint and we feel like we have some good character guys, too.”
But this draft will be remembered — and ultimately, judged — on what Darnold does.
No quarterback has ever been selected higher by the Jets in an NFL draft, and New York felt fortunate Darnold was still there when it went on the clock. After all, Darnold had long been considered a likely No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland, which ended up taking Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield instead. When the Giants went with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2, the Jets had their guy.
“Sam … man, oh, man … I did not think we would have a shot at you,” acting CEO Christopher Johnson said during his phone call with Darnold after the team drafted the quarterback. “I’m so happy. Dude, you’re gonna love New York.”
And New Jersey too, of course. Heck, Jets fans everywhere couldn’t help but feel giddy about Darnold holding up his green-and-white jersey.
Darnold was formally introduced at the team’s facility Friday after spending Thursday night in Dallas at the draft site. On Saturday, the new Jets quarterback surprised some young fans by visiting a pediatric hospital in New Jersey and posing for photos and signing autographs.
While Josh McCown, last year’s starter, is still here, it might not be long before Darnold — the cool and poised kid from California — takes center stage in the Big Apple.
“I’m very confident,” Darnold said. “It’s more of a quiet confidence. I am who I am and however people want to define that, that’s not really up to me. I’m just going to be myself. The best way to describe it is confident, but also knowing what needs to get done and being very, very serious when it comes to that.”
CROWDED QB ROOM
Along with Darnold and McCown, the Jets also have Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster. That’s a few too many quarterbacks.
Bridgewater is still recovering from a career-threatening knee injury nearly two years ago. Meanwhile, Petty — a fourth-rounder in 2015 — and Hackenberg — a second-rounder in 2016 — would seem to have their spots in serious jeopardy.
“There’s always conversations had with teams,” Maccagnan said, “and we’ll see how that unfolds here in the next little bit of time.”
BIG BOYS UP FRONT
The Jets went into the draft needing some depth on the defensive line, and they got some with the picks of Shepherd and Fatukasi. Both will help replace the departed Muhammad Wilkerson, who was cut in the offseason and signed with Green Bay.
Anderson is also a nice addition, if he’s healthy. He was a third-round pick of the Colts in 2015, but has finished all three of his NFL seasons on injured reserve. The most recent injury was a fractured larynx that required surgery late last season.
The trade is contingent on Anderson passing his physical with the Jets. If he doesn’t, they would get back the seventh-round pick they sent to Indianapolis, but in next year’s draft.
TIGHT END COMPETITION
Maccagnan likes what he saw from Herndon at Miami, saying he might be a little bit more athletic and more of a pass catcher than some of the other five tight ends New York has on its roster.
That list includes Eric Tomlinson, Neal Sterling, Jordan Leggett, Bucky Hodges and Clive Walford. Maccagnan said Herndon, whose senior season was shortened by a knee injury, is about a month away from being 100 percent so he’ll be limited in offseason workouts.
Nickerson will serve as the backup to Buster Skrine as the Jets’ nickel corner and could be the veteran’s eventual replacement. Bowles said Nickerson will also get work on the outside, where the cornerback said he played almost exclusively at Tulane.
Cannon fills a major need as a fast, athletic return specialist, something the Jets have lacked over the last two seasons. The Jets could look to add a few more speedy playmakers for the offense among undrafted free agents. Pass rusher has also been an issue for New York, and it could try to find a sack-happy UDFA to help fill that void.
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