With the 2018 NFL Combine getting underway this week, it’s time to start seriously thinking about the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Jets have an abundance of needs entering this pivotal offseason. Yes, a lot remains unsettled with free agency still a few weeks away. But New York can’t address every need by opening their checkbook. Plus, general manager Mike Maccagnan might not spend lavishly after his disappointing splurge during the 2015 offseason, his first year on the job.
Below is our first big board of draft season, with the names and rankings subject to change as the offseason progresses. Keep in mind, this big board ranks these prospects based on the Jets’ needs and shouldn’t be viewed solely as prospect rankings.
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback in this class. Yes, he’s a bit confounding off the field. He’s also injury prone. But he can make every throw and could be a great fit in the Big Apple. Rosen’s arm talent is astounding, and the Jets would be lucky to get him at No. 6.
2. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold’s turnover propensity in 2017 is alarming, but he also lost a ton of weapons from his breakout season. Darnold’s maneuverability is the best in this class and often reminds me of Aaron Rodgers. Darnold throws darts on the run and is athletic enough to extend plays. He was my top QB entering the 2017 season.
3. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
The Jets have had Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams surprisingly fall into their laps at the sixth pick. They’d be equally as lucky to land Chubb, the best pass rusher in a lackluster class. Chubb could be the edge rusher the Jets have sought for years. With Muhammad Wilkerson most likely gone, Chubb could slot right in and make an immediate impact.
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Don’t even mutter the words “Dee Milliner.” Fitzpatrick is a completely different player. He has safety qualities, but has played cornerback in the past. Todd Bowles loves versatility in his secondary, and Fitzpatrick could be worth a shot as a hybrid defensive back. Fitzpatrick also had nine takeaways during his Crimson Tide career and we all know the Jets need more defensive playmakers. He’d likely play corner for New York and address arguably the team’s greatest need besides quarterback.
5. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson isn’t a sexy pick, but he’s a necessary one for New York’s decrepit offensive line. Guard might be New York’s biggest strength on the offensive line, but James Carpenter will turn 29 next month and is coming off a disappointing season. Brian Winters played through pain last season, but he didn’t do much to return the team’s investment in him last offseason. Nelson is clearly the best blocker in this draft, the only problem is he likely can’t make the switch to tackle.
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley is supremely talented and could serve as a crucial building block for any offense. Drafting a tailback in the top-10 is risky, and the Jets would need to build a better offensive line around Barkley. But the talent is obvious. His athleticism is off the charts and he’s proven he can play all three downs. New York has a pedestrian group at tailback with Bilal Powell and Eli McGuire. I’m assuming Matt Forte gets released as a cap casualty this offseason.
7. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Josh Allen is your prototypical quarterback. He’s got great size, a cannon for an arm and can make the big boy throws. His accuracy is a major concern and he didn’t play well against top Division I programs. Allen plays recklessly and would be characterized as a Jay Cutler or Brett Favre type of gunslinger. Cutler seems like the most appropriate comparison, while a career like Favre’s is in the realm of possibilities.
8. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Brown projects best as a powerful right tackle. The Jets desperately need a right tackle given the lackluster production they’ve gotten at the position for several years. Brown might not be worth the sixth overall pick, but could be an option if the team opts to trade back a few spots.
9. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Heisman Trophy winner has seen his draft stock skyrocket this year. Is Mayfield made for New York? Maybe. He needs a coach who will hold his hand from a schematic standpoint. Mayfield comes from a high-powered Oklahoma offense that didn’t involve many complex intricacies. And of course, he’s only 6 feet tall (gasp).
10. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward would certainly fill a need for Gang Green. He’s a ready-made defender who has good enough ball skills to become a No. 1 cornerback. He might not be worth taking at No. 6.
11. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
If there’s a wide receiver worth taking in the top-10 this year, it’s probably Ridley. He wasn’t used as much as he should’ve thanks to the limitations of Crimson Tide QB Jalen Hurts. But Ridley’s ability in the open field is impressive. He’s a threat on every play.
12. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
To maximize Jackson’s talent, an NFL team must be willing to adapt their principles. Jackson is not a conventional quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find a niche at the next level. I haven’t been high on him in the past, but maybe it’s time for teams around the league to open their minds up to a new style of quarterbacking.