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A scout's take on Jets' potential quarterback saviors in '18 draft

USC quarterback Sam Darnold "plays the game fast and smart" and is the early favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Harry How/Getty Images

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Looking out for No. 1: They haven't said this publicly, but the Jets' rebuilding plan focuses, in large part, on next year's quarterback-heavy draft. Owner Woody Johnson, always fixated on the quarterback position, is thinking big -- 2017 season, be damned.

The three prospects creating the most buzz are USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen (both listed as 6-foot-4), along with Wyoming's Josh Allen (6-foot-5). I spoke with an AFC scout who has done extensive work on all three, and he shared his thoughts on the condition of anonymity. Keep in mind, they're draft-eligible underclassmen, so there's no guarantee they will turn pro. (See: Peyton Manning, 1997.)

"It makes a whole lot of sense if they get a Sam Darnold to start their re-boot," the scout said of the Jets' plan. "Honestly, if they're pulling a Cleveland Browns, they can't go wrong with any one of these guys."

His thoughts on each quarterback:

  • Darnold (career stats: 13 games, 67.2 completion percentage, 31 touchdowns, nine interceptions): "He's pretty much as advertised. He's extremely heady and smart. He's technically sound and very accurate. He sees the game and he sees the big picture. There's a poise about him that's uncommon. He just plays the game fast and smart. He won't have as many weapons this year, so that will be something to watch. ... I didn't (scout) Deshaun Watson, but I think he's a better prospect than (Patrick) Mahomes and (Mitchell) Trubisky. He doesn't have as good an arm as some guys, but he's accurate and has great instincts for the position."

  • Rosen (19 games, 59.7 percentage, 33 touchdowns, 16 interceptions): "He's probably the most polished of all three. If you drew up a prototypical pocket passer in your head, it probably would come out looking like him. He has good mechanics and a smooth delivery. Good athleticism. He just makes plays. ... I'd say Darnold is a better runner, but they're both very good athletes. Unfortunately, he got hurt last year (shoulder), so it'll be interesting to see how he comes back from that."

  • Allen (15 games, 56.2 percentage, 28 touchdowns, 15 interceptions): "He's definitely not as far along as the other two, but he has freakish tools and size and arm strength. He makes flash plays that tell you he has NFL-starting ability. I'm glad he went back to school because he still has room to make another jump. The game will slow down for him and he'll become more of a passer. ... He has a lot of upside. I think he's similar to Mahomes. Mahomes had more experience at a higher level, but this kid is bigger, faster and a better athlete."

2. What about Christian Hackenberg? The Jets haven't given up on the former second-round pick, who is making some progress, but he's hardly a sure thing. From a scouting perspective, he doesn't have as much upside as Darnold, Rosen and Allen.

Toward the end of last season, an unnamed Jets assistant told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Hackenberg "couldn't hit the ocean." The other day, new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates painted a different picture, saying, "I think he's real accurate. I think he’s throwing the ball well. He’s throwing it on time. Part of accuracy is knowing where to go with the ball, and each day, he plays faster. He gets in a rhythm. And I think everyone in the building is excited to see where he’s going. I think he’s accurate.”

Unofficially, Hackenberg completed about 60 percent of his passes in minicamp, but spring stats mean nothing. The first real test in Aug. 12, the preseason opener.

3. History of top picks: Judging from the comments on my Twitter timeline, it seems like most Jets fans are willing to suffer this season if it ensures a potential franchise quarterback in the draft. A word of warning, though: History tells us a high quarterback pick doesn't guarantee a championship.

Of the 22 quarterbacks picked in the top five since 2000, only three have played in a Super Bowl -- Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning, the only one to win it. Moral of the story: You need an elite quarterback to contend, but it also takes a strong supporting cast.

4. Wide-receiver jinx: It's tough to be a Jets receiver these days. Consider the rash of injuries that occurred during the offseason program: Devin Smith (torn ACL), ArDarius Stewart (thumb and groin surgery), Quinton Patton (foot surgery), Chad Hansen (knee) and Quincy Enunwa (shoulder/neck).

And let's not forget about the off-the-field issues: Jalin Marshall (four-game PED suspension) and Robby Anderson (arrest).

Oh, yeah, one more: Their most accomplished receiver, Eric Decker, got fired.

5. Money matters: The Jets still have an important piece of bookkeeping to address before the start of training camp -- Jamal Adams' contract.

Adams (No. 6 overall) is one of eight unsigned first-round picks, including four of the top six. Because of the rookie wage scale, it's uncommon for a contract dispute to extend into training camp, although we saw a long and nasty battle last summer between Joey Bosa (No. 4 overall) and the Los Angeles Chargers. Eventually, Adams will land a four-year deal for $22.3 million, fully guaranteed.

Adams doesn't seem concerned. He said he's looking forward to his first summer vacation since high school, with getaways to Orlando and out West. He plans to work out daily, adding, "I'm always thinking about football."

6. A true sleeper: After a one-year exile in Cleveland, Demario Davis is revitalized in mind and body. He dropped five pounds in the offseason (down to 240) and swears he's "much faster" than in previous years.

"I rebuilt my engine," said Davis, the favorite to replace David Harris at middle linebacker.

How'd he do that? He credited a "great diet" and a lot of sleep. He believes a proper amount of sleep helps the body recover faster. His nightly goal: 9 1/2 hours. Personally, I'd sign up for that.

7. Praise from a Hall of Famer: In his first interview since being hired, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene expressed an affinity for rookie Dylan Donahue. He said Donahue "is a hunter. He has a hunter's heart. That's what you need as a player, playing his position -- pass rusher. You have to continue to hunt the quarterback, and he has that. He's wild and he's on the edge, and I like that, too. It's all good."

Donahue, a fifth-round pick from Division II West Georgia, got quality reps in minicamp, working with the first-team nickel defense. Greene's praise notwithstanding, the Jets won't know what they truly have in Donahue until they begin contact practices and games. He's a high-motor player, and they tend to stand out in padless practices. The dynamic changes when they start hitting.

8. Breaking: Jets will employ a fullback: They didn't have one last year in Chan Gailey's one-back system, but things will be different under new offensive coordinator Johnny Morton. Not only will they carry a fullback, but they expect him to be good. The candidates are Julian Howsare and Anthony Firkser, an undrafted rookie from Harvard.

"I'm excited about that position," running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. "It will not be a deterrent, it will not be a letdown. Those guys will get the job done."