Rich Cimini breaks down the New York Jets' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 6 overall: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
My take: This is an excellent pick for the Jets, who desperately needed a safety. Adams -- whose father, George, was a first-round pick of the New York Giants in 1985 -- was regarded as one of the best players in the draft; the Jets never thought he’d fall to them at No. 6. In fact, they told him that on a recent visit to the team’s facility. Sometimes you get lucky. This is similar to what happened in 2015, when defensive end Leonard Williams unexpectedly fell to them at sixth overall. Adams will help the pass defense, the run defense and the chemistry in the locker room. He’s a terrific leader. The Jets preferred him over Ohio State's Malik Hooker because he’s a complete safety, not just a “center fielder.”
Safety first: At 6-foot, 214 pounds, Adams is a bigger, faster version of Calvin Pryor, New York's disappointing first-round pick from 2014. Scouts say Adams is better close to the line of scrimmage (7.5 tackles for loss last season), but he’s also capable of playing the deep middle and covering tight ends. The one knock on him is that he didn’t make a lot of plays on the ball: only one interception in 2016. He ran a disappointing 40 at the scouting combine (4.56 seconds), which raised some eyebrows. He improved at his pro day, running a sub-4.4. He’s not a game-changer in the Hooker mold, but the Jets say they’re comfortable with his ability to play in space. He has a high football IQ, capable of calling signals for the secondary. In his career, he had 21 disrupted dropbacks (sacks, interceptions, batted passes and passes defensed), according to ESPN Stats & Information. “This kid is special,” one NFC scout said. “You should see him in practice. He runs the whole defense. He’s similar to Landon Collins, but he’s better than Collins coming out.”
The QB question: Mitchell Trubisky was off the board, but Deshaun Watson was available when the quarterback-needy Jets were on the clock. One of the most accomplished quarterbacks in college football history was there for the taking. Will the Jets regret the decision? You know they’ll hear about it if Watson, picked by the Houston Texans at No. 12, turns into a star ... or Michael Jordan, as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney predicted. But they made the right call. It wasn’t the right time or the right quarterback to take the plunge. Watson needs time to develop, and the Jets already have two projects in the building, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. They invested a second-round pick in Hackenberg, and they need to find out if he’s the answer. He might not be, but he deserves a shot.
Round 2, No. 39 overall: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
My take: Two picks, two safeties. After selecting Jamal Adams in the first round, the Jets went back to the same position, grabbing Maye. Just like that, they revamped one of their weakest positions last season. Last year’s starters, Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist, probably aren’t long for the team. The Jets were shopping Pryor before the pick, a source confirmed -- an indication his days are numbered. If they can’t trade him, they probably will release the former first-round pick -- a stunning fall. Pryor regressed last season and the organization wasn’t happy with his approach and attitude. This explains why general manager Mike Maccagnan refused earlier in the week to say whether they will exercise Pryor’s fifth-year option. But back-to-back safeties? It seems like overkill. They still have other needs.
How he fits: The Jets’ downfield pass defense was horrendous, as they allowed a league-high 17 yards per attempt on throws of at least 20 yards. Maye (6-foot, 210 pounds) is versatile, meaning he can play strong and free safety. Ditto, Adams. Maye was a three-year starter for the Gators, compiling 210 tackles, five interceptions and seven forced fumbles in 45 games. He suffered a broken left arm last season and missed the final four games. Scouts say he has good instincts and good speed, but he allowed 10 touchdowns in his career, according to NFL.com. Tracking the ball in the air isn’t one of his strong suits.
Round 3, No. 79 overall: ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
My take: You can’t pick the best available safety in every round, can you? This is a solid choice by the Jets, who added a potential weapon to their young receiving corps. Stewart isn’t a burner (4.49 in the 40), but he’s sure-handed and productive after the catch. He’ll be a nice fit in the new West Coast offense because of his YAC ability. He has been compared to Anquan Boldin, who happens to be an old favorite of new offensive coordinator John Morton. Stewart is only 5-foot-11, but he’s tough and a fierce competitor. Playing in a run-oriented offense at Alabama, he made 54 catches for 864 yards and eight touchdowns last season. About 70 percent of his yardage came after the catch. Some scouts believe he has a lot of untapped potential. He also has kick-returning potential. He was suspended one game last year for a violation of team rules.
How he fits: Suddenly, the Jets have a glut of receivers -- Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Quinton Patton, Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith. They can’t keep ‘em all. This certainly doesn’t bode well for Smith, a former second-rounder who hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It’s remarkable how the Jets have remade their receiving corps over the last few years.
Round 4, No. 141 overall: Chad Hansen, WR, Cal
My take: Forty years ago, the Jets struck gold when they picked a Cal wide receiver: Wesley Walker, a second-round choice and now a member of the team’s Ring of Honor. This selection is a bit curious because they took Stewart in the third round. They now have 13 receivers on the roster, so this raises questions about the future of veteran Eric Decker and 2015 second-round pick (and oft-injured) Devin Smith. Don’t forget, the Jets have a new offensive coordinator, John Morton, a former NFL receiver and a former receivers coach. The front office is remaking the position with players who fit his West Coast system.
How he fits: Hansen (6-foot-2) is coming off a huge year at Cal, where his quarterback was Giants third-round draft pick Davis Webb. He caught 92 passes for 1,249 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Idaho State transfer has good speed (4.53) for his size. He struggled with press coverage, and his route tree consisted primarily of vertical routes and bubble screens. There will be a transition as he expands his repertoire.
Round 5, No. 150 overall: Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
My take: Leggett checks all the boxes from a size-production standpoint. He’s 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and he finished his career as Clemson’s all-time leader for tight ends in catches (112), yards (1,598) and touchdowns (18). He delivered in the biggest games, including a seven-catch, 95-yard performance against Alabama in the national championship. He’s a smooth receiver, capable of threatening a deep seam. On the downside, he’s not a great blocker and his passion and urgency have been questioned by scouts.
How he fits: Have you seen the Jets’ depth chart at tight end? It’s ... well, terrible. The only proven player is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, hardly a lock to make the team. And, by the way, he must serve a two-game suspension to start the season. Maccagnan had to pick a tight end at some point in the draft. Leggett has a chance to contribute immediately as a rookie, and he should be a factor on special teams.
Round 5, No. 181 overall: Dylan Donahue, DE/OLB, West Georgia
My take: This is an outside-the-box pick for Maccagnan, who usually doesn’t take small-school players. Donahue dominated at the Division II level, but can he make the transition to the NFL? He has short arms, which will make it hard to win one-on-one battles in the trenches. But he has a great motor and good genes; his father, Mitch Donahue, was a fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1991 and played four years in the league. This selection has Kevin Greene’s fingerprints on it. The Jets’ new outside linebackers coach, an NFL Hall of Famer, loves high-intensity players. Donahue set a school record with 25.5 career sacks, including 13.5 last season.
How he fits: At 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, Donahue might have to switch to outside linebacker in the Jets’ 3-4 front. Projections are always risky, but it was worth a shot in the fifth round, considering the need for an edge rusher. He will be expected to contribute on special teams.
Round 6, No. 188: Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
My take: General manager Mike Maccagnan went again to the small-school ranks, taking a running back who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in three straight years. He ran for 1,168 yards last season on 232 carries, including seven touchdowns. McGuire (5-foot-10, 214 pounds) finished his career with more than 4,000 total yards. He made 29 receptions in 2016, demonstrating sure hands and an ability to get deep. He's kind of a scat back, so he might have to focus on a third-down role.
How he fits: The Jets didn't address the running back position in free agency, leaving Bilal Powell and Matt Forte as their only established backs. Coach Todd Bowles likes to carry at least three, so it made sense to add a young runner into the pipeline. McGuire's skill set doesn't translate to an every-down role, but he could develop into a situational player. He was hampered by a foot injury last season, but he said he's healthy.
Round 6, No. 197: Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan
My take: The Jets waited too long to address their need at cornerback. When they finally addressed it, they took a player who probably won’t be ready for the season. Clark tore an ACL in Michigan’s fourth game last fall, ending his season and removing him from the pre-draft testing process. On Saturday, he told reporters he’s 75 percent healthy. He applied for an extra year of eligibility, but he was denied by the NCAA because he took a healthy redshirt year in 2012. He got off to a nice start last season (10 tackles, two pass breakups), but now he qualifies as a gamble.
How he fits: He’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with long arms (close to 33 inches) -- just the way Todd Bowles likes his cornerbacks. Clark has press-man skills and good speed (sorry, no exact time; he wasn’t able to run for scouts), but he struggles with his instincts and fluidity. Some talent evaluators projected him as an undrafted free agent. The Jets, in the midst of a secondary makeover, decided to take a flyer.
Round 6, No. 204: Derrick Jones, CB, Ole Miss
My take: The Jets closed an eventful day by picking yet another defensive back -- their fourth in a three-day span. If you’re keeping count, it’s two corners and two safeties. This is a major projection because Jones (6-2, 189 pounds) was a wide receiver until last season. In 2016, he played nine games at corner, including only three starts. He was suspended three games for violating a team rule. He has serious hops -- a 41-inch vertical jump.
How he fits: Jones has “special teams” written all over him. The Jets’ special teams were awful last season, and they’re making a concerted effort to add youth and speed. If Jones makes the team, he’ll be expected to contribute in a variety of roles on the kicking units while he learns the nuances of being a cornerback.