The New York Jets' draft produced a clear theme: Defense today, offense tomorrow. Their three defensive selections could contribute immediately, and their three picks on offense -- including a potential starting quarterback -- are considered investments for the future.
Best move: The Jets nailed their first-round pick, linebacker Darron Lee. He brings a new dimension to their linebacking corps -- speed. Yes, he's undersized at 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds, but he fits the new NFL. With so many spread offenses, you need linebackers who can cover and play in space. Nowadays, the 250-pound inside linebacker is a dinosaur. Coach Todd Bowles might envision Lee in a Deone Bucannon-type role. As the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator in 2014, Bowles had success with Bucannon in a hybrid inside linebacker/safety role. Lee might struggle if he's forced to play in the box against a power-running team, but the Jets can replace him in those situations. He'll start out as a nickel linebacker, but it's only a matter of time before he replaces Erin Henderson as the "Mo" inside 'backer in their 3-4.
Riskiest move: A no-brainer -- Christian Hackenberg. Desperate for a long-term answer at quarterback, GM Mike Maccagnan took a gamble in the second round -- the biggest risk in his short tenure as the general manager. Hackenberg has top-10 talent, but he struggled with accuracy and appeared skittish behind a porous offensive line. Did he peak as a promising freshman or did his star dim because of a bad supporting cast? The Jets are betting on the latter. Their coaches have to rebuild Hackenberg's psyche, so it makes sense to sit him for a year. They still hope to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and make him the starter for 2016, but it could be Hackenberg's team after that. So much for Geno Smith and Bryce Petty.
Most surprising move: Less than an hour after Bowles told reporters he was "very comfortable" with his offensive-line depth, the Jets acquired a fifth-round pick from the Washington Redskins and selected South Carolina right tackle Brandon Shell, the great-nephew of Hall of Famer Art Shell. It wasn't a cheap trade, as it cost them a fourth-round pick in 2017. Maccagnan explained the move by saying he was prepared to take Shell in the fourth round (he opted for cornerback Juston Burris). His reasoning also was based on the belief that he expects compensatory picks next year, softening the blow. It's still a lot to give up for a player who will ride the bench for at least a year.
File it away: Historically, the Jets haven't been adept at finding late-round gems, but wide receiver Charone Peake has a chance to break the trend. Any 6-foot-2 receiver with a sub-4.4 time in the 40 is worth a shot in the seventh round. Slowed by injuries for most of his time at Clemson, Peake blossomed last season, recording 50 catches, a 14.3 average and five touchdowns. Clemson is Wide Receiver U; maybe the Jets stole one of the Tigers’ unheralded products.
Thumbs-up: The Jets made a big splash with Hackenberg, a boom-or-bust pick who could shake up the depth chart. They overvalued his positive traits (size, arm strength) while ignoring two straight mediocre seasons. Desperation influenced their decision-making. They helped the defense with Lee and Jordan Jenkins (third round), both of whom should contribute immediately. Lee’s sub-4.5 speed adds a new dimension to the front seven. With seven picks, the Jets hit their main needs, including punter -- they picked Lachlan Edwards in the seventh.