The New York Jets 2017 NFL Draft class features a trio of pairs. Two safeties, two wide receivers, two cornerbacks. Oh, and five trade backs.
Yes, general manager Mike Maccagnan was certainly wheeling and dealing this weekend. But there are some fun facts worth discussing. The Jets didn’t draft a quarterback for the first time since 2012. New York picked consecutive players at the same position three separate times and also took four SEC players.
The way the Jets proceeded also makes it seem as if Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles are operating under the impression their jobs are safe. There were plenty of calls for Bowles to be fired after the 2017 season, but it looks like he’s sticking around. Together, New York’s front office drafted players with a distinct identity: Athletic, versatile and nasty.
The 2017 class is truly one of the most unique groups in franchise history, but could it turn out as one of the best? Let’s breakdown each pick, give it a grade and then grade the entire class as a whole.
Round 1, Pick 6: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
This was a no-brainer. Maccagnan found good fortune at No. 6 again and landed arguably the safest prospect in the draft. Adams has the potential to be a cornerstone on the back-end for many years to come and is a perfect building block for New York’s depleted secondary.
Round 2, Pick 39: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
This is where the bizarre began. Nobody saw the Jets going safety again after investing a top-10 pick in a safety. But Maye isn’t limited to just that role. He can play all sorts of positions and even saw time at slot cornerback at Florida. Him and Adams could phase 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor out of the equation, even though Bowles said he likes to use three-safety packages.
Round 3, Pick 79: ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
This might be my favorite pick of the entire draft. Stewart is a missile of energy and he’s outstanding with the ball in his hands. He’s not a burner or a one-trick pony like Devin Smith and thrived in an Alabama offense that doesn’t feature much of a vertical passing game. He was also catching passes from a true freshman quarterback and was named first-team All-SEC anyways. Stewart needs some polish in his technique, but he will challenge Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall and Smith for significant playing time.
Round 4, Pick 141: Chad Hansen, WR, California
Again, more weirdness. The Jets traded down with the Rams from pick No. 125 to No. 141 after acquiring the 125th pick by trading down from pick No. 107 at the end of the third round. Yes, it’s hard to keep up. Hansen is an intriguing prospect who can make a name for himself on the perimeter. His route running is polished, but also basic in Cal’s pass-heavy offense. He’s a pure receiver, albeit maybe not a flashy one. But you have to wonder whether the Jets really needed to take him after trading back twice and taking Stewart the round prior. I don’t dislike the player, I dislike the circumstances.
Round 5, Pick 150: Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Nine picks later, New York finally found a tight end. Leggett’s an intriguing prospect because he has great size for the position as well as versatility coming from Clemson. However, there are questions regarding his motor and work ethic. He’s not a great athlete, but has sure hands and that might be enough to earn a starting job as a rookie. However, his upside will be determined by how much he wants it and how much new offensive coordinator John Morton can get out of him.
Round 5, Pick 181: Dylan Donahue, DE, West Georgia
The Jets traded back from No. 160 in the fifth round with the Browns and added Donahue, who set a Gulf South Conference record with 13.5 sacks last season. He has good genes, as his father Mitch played four NFL seasons in San Francisco and Denver. He just doesn’t have great size and is likely slotted to play outside linebacker in New York’s 3-4 scheme. Donahue is versatile, however, and could find some playing time as a pass rusher in sub packages. It seemed a bit early to take a DII prospect, but he must’ve been high on Maccagnan’s board.
Round 6, Pick 188: Elijah McGuire, RB, UL-Lafayette
McGuire was a productive player throughout his career with the Ragin’ Cajuns. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards the past three seasons and also possesses value as a pass catcher and punt returner. The Jets are constantly looking for special teams options and McGuire could be of assistance. He also could factor into the equation behind Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. New York’s depth is pretty thin. Romar Morris and Brandon Wilds are the other two backs competing for a roster spot.
Round 6, Pick 197: Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan
A lot to discuss with this one. First of all, it felt awfully late for the Jets to take a cornerback, which is one of their greatest needs. That makes me think a guy like Maye will factor in as a cornerback more often than we think. Clark is also coming off of an ACL injury and said he’s 75 percent healed. Clark is a rangy cornerback who could be an asset in press coverage. He might not be ready for training camp, but if he is could compete for a depth spot behind Morris Claiborne, Marcus Williams, Buster Skrine, Juston Burris and Darryl Roberts.
Round 6, Pick 204: Derrick Jones, CB, Ole Miss
Jones is another lengthy corner who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, something Bowles requires out of his corners. He picked off 2 passes during his final season with the Rebels and will have to compete for a spot in training camp.
Overall grade: C+
Adams is a home run, but there aren’t many safe bets within the rest of this class. At times, it seemed Maccagnan was apprehensive to make a pick. There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling picks, but it’s curious to see how many times he traded down in the middle-to-late rounds as the talent pool diminished. Maye and Stewart have the chance to be impact players with some coaching and I’m curious to see how Hansen fits into the roster. If Leggett pans out, this has the chance to be a very good class. McGuire and Donahue also have upside as productive, albeit unheralded players.
There’s some upside with this class, but I’m on the fence for now.