Jets fill some big needs in Joe Douglas’ first draft as GM
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Douglas and the New York Jets entered the NFL draft looking for protectors, playmakers and leaders.
Check. Check. And, check.
The Jets filled several needs over three days, taking nine players they envision being part of the franchise’s foundation.
“I feel like we added a lot of quality football players, quality people,” Douglas said. “We’re better after this weekend than we were before the draft started.”
New York kicked off its haul by taking massive offensive tackle Mekhi Becton from Louisville with the No. 11 overall selection, and added Charlotte offensive tackle Cameron Clark in the fourth round.
Douglas, in his first draft as New York’s general manager, also addressed the Jets’ lack of offensive playmakers for coach Adam Gase and quarterback Sam Darnold by selecting Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second round and Florida running back La’Mical Perine in the fourth.
The defense added some physical talent with California defensive back Ashtyn Davis (third round), Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga (third) and Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall (fifth). Douglas traded the Jets’ final pick, a sixth-rounder, to the Colts for cornerback Quincy Wilson.
The Jets will have a new punter after selecting Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in the sixth round, the first player taken at his position.
LOCKER ROOM LEADERS
Of the nine players New York drafted, six served as team captains for their college teams — including all five taken on Saturday. Clark was also Charlotte’s MVP last season, a rarity for an offensive lineman.
“We’ve talked about culture and we’re trying to add to it,” Douglas said. “We felt a lot of the guys that we brought in today, they bring a lot to the field and the building.”
BIG BOYS UP FRONT
After the Jets’ offensive line struggled mightily last season with injuries and inconsistent play, Douglas made a point of making big changes to help protect Darnold.
New York will likely have five different starters on the line from what it had in Week 1 last year — highlighted by Becton, who’ll likely start along with George Fant, signed in free agency, at the tackle spots.
Clark could serve as a backup tackle and/or compete at left or right guard.
The Jets traded down 11 spots in the second round and snagged Mims, a wide receiver who could contribute immediately. The former Baylor star had 66 catches for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and will help fill the void left when Robby Anderson, the Jets’ top receiver, signed with Carolina last month in free agency. Mims could end up starting alongside Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman.
Perine should complement Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. He’s a bruising back at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds. Perine had 2,485 career yards rushing, the eighth-most in program history, and 30 touchdowns.
GETTING TO THE QB
New York re-signed outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, but still needed another pass-rushing presence. Zuniga could help fill that, and certainly doesn’t lack the confidence expected of a sack-happy presence.
“I definitely consider myself the steal of the draft,” Zuniga said.
The 6-4, 255-pound defensive end played in only six games last season because of ankle injuries, but had 18 1/2 sacks in four years with the Gators.
Hall could develop into a starter despite his draft stock falling because of an ankle injury that ended his college career. He was projected as a potential late first-rounder or second-rounder before he was hurt.
“I didn’t come to the NFL to prove them wrong,” Hall said of teams that passed on him. “But where I landed, it motivated me even more, to work 10 times harder. I believe in myself and what I can be one day.”
The Jets cut their primary starting cornerbacks last season in Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, and signed Pierre Desir in free agency. Desir will be a starter, so Hall could compete with Bless Austin and Arthur Maulet on the other side if he’s healthy — something Douglas believes he’ll be. Wilson, a second-rounder by the Colts in 2017, could also be in the mix.
Davis is a versatile, athletic presence who was a walk-on at Cal and could be a factor on special teams and in three-safety/nickel sets in New York’s secondary. He could also be a long-term replacement for Marcus Maye, whose rookie contract is up after this season.
The one pick that raised some eyebrows was the Jets taking FIU quarterback James Morgan in the fourth, with some considering the selection a bit of a reach.
Morgan, who idolized Brett Favre as a kid while growing up near Lambeau Field, will compete with David Fales and Mike White for the backup job behind Darnold. The 6-4, 213-pound QB threw 40 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions as FIU’s starter the last two years after transferring from Bowling Green.
“You need to have depth at that position,” Douglas said. “We found that out last year.”
He was, of course, referring to the struggles the Jets had at the position after Darnold’s bout with mononucleosis and injuries to backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk.
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