After lots of trades and picks, Jets fill big needs in draft
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets went wheeling and dealing at the NFL draft, and filled a handful of needs with their nine picks.
The Jets capped Saturday by making three trades, even gaining a pick next year in the process, giving them five deals during the three-day draft.
“You roll the dice a little bit when you move back,” Maccagnan said. “But there were situations that we felt, hey, there might still be some players that we can get or acquire.”
Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets entered the draft with plenty of needs and got what appears to be at least three possible rookie starters in first-round safety Jamal Adams , second-round safety Marcus Maye and fifth-round tight end Jordan Leggett.
After going safety first in the opening two rounds , New York made a run on offensive playmakers. The Jets took Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart in the third round Friday night, and selected California wide receiver Chad Hansen in the fourth round Saturday and Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett in the fifth.
New York went back to defense later in the fifth, taking West Georgia linebacker Dylan Donahue. With their three sixth-rounders, the Jets went with Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire and a pair of cornerbacks in Michigan’s Jeremy Clark and Mississippi’s Derrick Jones.
In draft-day deals with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland, the Jets traded down a franchise-high four times. To cap things off, New York dealt its sixth-round pick to Dallas for the Cowboys’ fifth-rounder next year. So, after entering the draft with seven scheduled selections, the Jets ended up with nine players.
“To a certain degree, we’ve added some good, young players who hopefully will be the foundation of what we’re going to try to build and achieve here,” Maccagnan said.
Here are some other things to know about the Jets’ draft haul:
NO QB: With veteran Josh McCown and the inexperienced Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, there was some speculation that the Jets might try to take a quarterback early. It turned out, they somewhat surprisingly didn’t take any.
“We have a veteran quarterback and two young quarterbacks, and we’re going to go from there,” Maccagnan said.
Coach Todd Bowles said each of the three would have opportunities to take snaps with the starting offense throughout the spring.
CATCHING ON: After drafting Stewart and Hansen, it gave the Jets 12 wide receivers on their roster. But then Maccagnan announced that Devin Smith, New York’s second-rounder in 2015, is out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
While the general manager said the injury didn’t necessarily affect the Jets’ approach to the draft, the rookies give New York some solid alternatives.
Stewart is a physical receiver who could also help on special teams. Hansen established himself as a go-to target at Cal while leading the Pac-12 Conference with 92 catches and 1,249 yards receiving.
A PLAYMAKING PRESENCE?: The tight end position has largely been a non-factor in the receiving offense for the Jets the past few seasons. That could change this year with the selection of Leggett.
The 6-foot-5, 258-pound former Clemson star had 46 catches for 736 yards and seven TDs last season. He was also used in a variety of ways, from in-line tight end to receiver to H-back.
“I feel like I pose a big matchup on the field anywhere against anybody,” Leggett said. “I love man-to-man coverage. Other than that, I like to make a difference on offense — in the running game or in the passing game.”
CORNERING THE MARKET: One of the biggest needs for the Jets entering the draft was at cornerback, and it took a while, but they finally addressed that with their last two picks.
And the Jets went big — just the way Bowles likes his cornerbacks.
Clark is 6-3 and 220 pounds, and can match up with big receivers. He’s coming off a torn ACL which limited him to four games last season, but he said he’s “about 75 percent healthy” and expects to be fully healthy by training camp. Despite his size, Bowles said the Jets plan to keep him at cornerback rather than move him to safety.
Jones is 6-2 and 188, and has solid ball skills.
“They’ve got size, they’ve got height, weight and speed, and we’ll see how they fit in with the group,” Bowles said.
STILL NEED: The addition of Donahue should help on special teams and perhaps as an outside pass rusher — he had 13 ½ sacks for Division II West Georgia last season — but the Jets will likely look to add depth at linebacker via undrafted free agents. Defensive end Sheldon Richardson and safety Calvin Pryor remain on the trading block, and could net difference-makers and/or draft picks if the Jets decide to deal them.