It’s mid-December and the New York Jets are (predictably) out of the playoff race, meaning it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first mock draft of the draft season Wednesday and believes Gang Green will go defense in the first round for the ninth consecutive year.
McShay sent LSU defensive end Arden Key to the Jets with the ninth overall pick in his mock draft. It’s important to note top quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen were already off the board within the first five picks of McShay’s inaugural mock.
“The Jets are another QB-needy team, but in this mock, the top three QBs are all already off the board,” McShay wrote. “This is a spot where Baker Mayfield could be considered (or Allen if he’s still available). The pass rush needs help, though, and Key is the most talented natural edge rusher in the draft. He left LSU this summer for personal reasons and has been banged up this season (only 4.0 sacks), so his draft stock could slip a bit, but the talent is there.”
New York’s young defense has shown strides throughout the 2017 season. However, the Jets still don’t get to the quarterback enough and enter Week 15 tied for 22nd in the NFL with only 26 sacks. As someone who covered LSU during Key’s freshman season, I can tell you his talent was blatantly obvious in limited playing time. He racked up five sacks in 2015 and posted 12 during a breakout sophomore season.
Key’s drawbacks are his durability and his commitment to football, the latter concern being something plenty of NFL teams will dig deeper into during the pre-draft evaluation process. Key took a leave of absence last February and missed spring practice before returning to the Tigers in June.
LSU hasn’t been as nationally prominent in the college football landscape, but it still serves as a factory for NFL talent. Jamal Adams, New York’s 2017 first-round pick, has had a strong rookie season and fellow first-rounders Leonard Fournette and Tre’Davious White are making immediate impacts in Jacksonville and Buffalo, respectively.