New year, same burning question: Will the New York Jets draft a quarterback in the first round?
For the record, they've done it only four times in the common-draft era, most recently in 2009 with Mark Sanchez. On the eve of another draft, the speculation is more intense than ever as the Jets could be in position to pick Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson.
Our free advice to general manager Mike Maccagnan: Don't do it.
Seven reasons why they shouldn't use their first pick (sixth overall) on a quarterback:
1. This is a mediocre quarterback class. There are no plug-and-play starters, no players with the "can't-miss" label. Trubisky is widely regarded as the best prospect, but he's a projection because he had only 13 college starts. That would be the fewest for a first-round quarterback since 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 teams. (Sanchez owns that distinction with 16 starts.) Watson is a seasoned winner, but he threw 30 interceptions in the last two years.
2. This is a strong draft in areas where the Jets need help -- cornerback, safety and tight end -- and they should use it as an opportunity to build a foundation. Instead of investing draft capital in a "project" quarterback, they should attack weakness by plugging in highly-rated players. Some are calling this one of the best defensive drafts in history; the Jets need to capitalize on that.
3. Christian Hackenberg still hasn't had a chance to play. If the Jets pick a quarterback at No. 6, it'll be akin to giving up on Hackenberg before he steps on the field. That would be ... uh, unorthodox with a second-round pick. Granted, the organization isn't exactly bubbling with optimism about his future, but it also isn't ready to pull the plug, either.
5. The Class of 2018 could be loaded with top quarterback prospects. It can be dangerous to wish upon a future star -- who knows which underclassmen will declare for the draft? -- but it has to be a consideration for the Jets. No, we're not suggesting they tank the season to get a high pick in 2018, but it should be part of the thought process.
6. Jets coach Todd Bowles deserves an honest chance to save his job. A first-round quarterback won't help him win games, and he needs to do some winning if he wants to be back in 2018. Trubisky or Watson wouldn't be ready to play right away. If a rookie cracks the lineup during the season, he'll struggle because the supporting cast is suspect. If the player is redshirted, a la Hackenberg, it brings us back to reason No. 4. Essentially, they'd be drafting a quarterback for the next coach. And what if that next coach is an offensive guru who wants his own quarterback? You can see where this is going.
7. The Ron Wolf Method doesn't apply. The Hall of Fame executive, who served as a consultant during the Jets' GM search in 2015, told Maccagnan that he liked to draft a quarterback every year because of the position's importance. In fact, he drafted seven in a 10-year span for the Green Bay Packers. Maccagnan likes to share the Wolf anecdote when sharing his own draft philosophy, but here's the difference between the two situations: None of Wolf's picks were higher than the fourth round. He had an ace in the hole -- Brett Favre -- and was simply drafting for investment purposes. News flash: The Jets don't have a Favre.
The sense around the league is the Jets won't pick a quarterback at six.
"It wouldn't shock me, but I'd be slightly surprised," one AFC personnel director said. "You'd be drafting for need in that moment because the consensus in the NFL is that Mitch Trubisky isn't one of the six best players in the draft."
The Jets have thoroughly investigated the top quarterbacks, from Trubisky and Watson to Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer. Their interest has been well documented, which some perceive as a smokescreen.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know if there’s going to be a year where I -- or we as a team -- don’t look strongly at that position,” Maccagnan said.
But there's a difference between looking and choosing. If the Jets opt for the latter, it will be out of desperation and impatience.