The New York Jets might have found their long-awaited franchise quarterback with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But the rest of Mike Maccagnan’s fourth draft class has its share of question marks.
Sam Darnold is obviously the player who will define this draft class. But by trading up from No. 6 to No. 3, the Jets were left short-handed to address its bevy of other needs.
Here are my immediate thoughts on New York’s 2018 draft class:
- I’m a bit surprised Maccagnan neglected to address two of the team’s biggest needs – offensive line and edge rusher. Granted, it wasn’t a deep draft at either position, but it’s still somewhat disappointing that a player wasn’t added at either spot.
- The most intriguing pick of the weekend was Defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd in the third round. Shepherd’s journey to the Jets is fascinating. He played college football in Canada, but was forced to stop playing after his partial scholarship ran out. He worked at a plant nursery and in construction before landing at Fort Hays State, a D2 school in the middle of Kansas. Shepherd was named 2017 Defensive Player of the Year in the MIAA Conference. At 315 pounds, he will slot in as a defensive end in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. Bowles even said he expects Shepherd to factor into the rotation from the get-go. I’m not going to tell you I know who Shepherd is. But an obscure selection like this in the third round indicates the Jets have some serious conviction on him. Until he proves them wrong, I’m willing to take a wait and see approach. Perhaps Shepherd is a diamond in the rough.
- The Jets took another flier on a tight end. This time, it was Miami product Chris Herndon, who underwent season-ending MCL surgery in 2017. Herndon is viewed as a blocking tight end with upside as a pass catcher and caught 40 balls for 417 yards and four touchdowns last season. Maccagnan picked Jordan Leggett in the fifth round of last year’s draft and the raw Clemson product missed the entire 2017 season due to injury. Darnold can only hope Herndon’s rookie year goes a bit better. If not, it proves once again that Maccagnan botched the tight end position after letting Austin Seferian-Jenkins walk in free agency.
- Parry Nickerson, Tulane cornerback, could be the best value pick in this class. Nickerson ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, the fastest time at the NFL Combine. He plays a gritty style as an undersized corner and picked off six passes for Tulane last season. Nickerson’s speed and style of play makes him a natural fit at nickel corner, meaning the enigmatic Buster Skrine could be in trouble.
I won’t grade this draft class, but it’s fair to question Maccagnan. Yes, he got a potential franchise quarterback. But he didn’t do much to assist Darnold via the draft. Herndon is no sure thing, no offensive line help was added and wide receiver wasn’t addressed. I still think it’s naive to think Quincy Enunwa (off a neck injury), Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and Terrelle Pryor is a great receiving cast. The Jets have a ho-hum backfield, and the sixth round was too late to take a tailback.
Landing Darnold made Maccagnan’s aggressive trade worthwhile. But if Darnold flops, the Jets will be in an even uglier spot.