According to new New York Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team is not tanking. But whether they will admit it or not, the Jets will almost certainly be in play for the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
One potential fit, USC quarterback Sam Darnold, has been mocked to New York in way-too-early mock drafts. However, if the Jets truly are sold on Darnold, they may have to wait even longer than 10 months.
That is because, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, the redshirt sophomore quarterback may opt to stay at USC as opposed to declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I also had several sources close to Darnold tell me they wouldn’t be surprised if Darnold played two more seasons at USC,” Jeremiah wrote.
In 2016 at USC, Darnold took over the starting role in Week 4 and led the Trojans to a 9-1 record, which included a thrilling 52-49 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes in his freshman season for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Jets were played by a top quarterback prospect. Twenty years ago, at the 1997 NFL Draft, New York nearly had the opportunity to take Peyton Manning. The Jets possessed the top overall pick, but after Manning announced his intent to stay at the University of Tennessee for his senior year, the Jets shipped the pick to the Rams. St. Louis picked Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace.
Manning’s decision, which came just over a month before the draft, altered the Jets search for that still-elusive franchise quarterback.
If Darnold does end up staying in school, the Jets would still have a few quarterback options at the top of the draft. A recent CBS Sports mock draft has five quarterbacks taken in the first round, including one with each of the first three picks. Those quarterbacks include Darnold, Josh Allen (Wyoming), fellow Pac-12 passers Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Luke Falk (Washington State) and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.