A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Shaky investments: The Jets invested heavily in their future by acquiring 2021 and 2022 first-round picks in the trade of safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks, but those golden tickets lost potential value with the news that the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences canceled their fall seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic. If the other three power conferences follow suit, it will have a major effect on the 2021 NFL draft and the entire scouting process.
"The picks next year won't be as valuable if we don't play college football," former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum said on Get Up.
The reason is that many of the top prospects will lose a season of development, assuming they opt out of their final college season. Some already have opted out, and the numbers will multiply in the coming months -- yes, even if their conferences play a spring schedule. The pro-caliber players won't risk injury. The all-star games and scouting combine will increase in importance, but the scouting community won't have nearly as much game tape to evaluate.
The Jets already have graded the notable draft-eligible prospects for 2021, based on their 2019 tape, but there's a huge gap from 2019 to 2021. Any scout will tell you, the more information on a player, the better chance for an accurate evaluation. Imagine if rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton didn't have the 2019 season at Louisville; he wouldn't have been drafted in the first round after a mediocre 2018 and he would not be NFL-ready.
The questions surrounding college football reportedly factored into Seattle's willingness to part with two first-round picks for Adams. Jets general manager Joe Douglas is betting on himself and his team of scouts to overcome any obstacles.
"You bring up a great point, there is a lot of uncertainty in sports in general and we don't have a crystal ball to know exactly what the college season this year is going to look like," Douglas said in late July after the Adams trade. "What I do feel confident about is the group of guys that we have on our college scouting staff. ... There was a lot of excitement [with the trade] because, hey, look, the onus in on us to hit on these picks moving forward. Obviously, there are going to be challenges this year, but we have the right group of guys to overcome those challenges."
But that was before the Big Ten and Pac-12 bowed out of the fall.
Tannenbaum raised an interesting point, wondering if Douglas might consider trading one of this 2021 first-round picks for a proven player such as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon or Jacksonville Jaguars pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Judon signed his franchise tender ($16.8 million) but still doesn't have a long-term deal. The disgruntled Ngakoue, looking to get out of Jacksonville, still hasn't signed his tender ($17.9 million).
My understanding is the Jets have no interest in Ngakoue, but Judon is a better all-around player and would fit nicely into the Jets' 3-4 front. We all know they need an edge rusher. Douglas already had left the Ravens when Judon was drafted in 2016, but his player personnel director, Chad Alexander, was on the Baltimore staff at the time.
I can tell you this: Douglas views the four first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 (his own two, plus Seattle's two) as vital resources in the Jets' rebuild, so it would have to be a sweet deal to part with one of them. Then again, you wonder if the changing landscape could alter his thinking.
2. Battles everywhere: On Monday, the Jets will practice in pads for the first time -- the real start to training camp. Let's handicap the key positional battles:
WR3: Vyncint Smith wins by default. Rookie Denzel Mims is the preferred choice, but the second-round pick is sitting out with a hamstring injury. For rookies, every lost rep is magnified in an abbreviated training camp. I still think Douglas adds a veteran at some point in camp, this year's version of Demaryius Thomas. Who knows? Maybe it will be Thomas, still a free agent.
LT/RT: Becton prevails at left tackle (hardly a shock), with George Fant edging Chuma Edoga on the right side. Fant-Edoga is a toss-up, but it would be hard to keep Fant's $9 million salary on the bench.
3. Last two standing: Without Brian Winters, Bilal Powell and Quincy Enunwa on the roster, linebacker Jordan Jenkins and nose tackle Steve McLendon are the longest-tenured players on the team. Mind you, they have been around only since 2016.
"It's crazy that I'm one of the longest-standing guys in here," Jordan said.
4. Johnson & Johnson: In recent days, players such as Jenkins and running back Le'Veon Bell were asked by reporters to comment on the Woody Johnson situation. That's a tough spot for the players because Johnson hasn't been around the team since 2016. In 2017, he accepted the post as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. In their eyes, the Jets' day-to-day boss is CEO Christopher Johnson.
Gut feeling: Christopher will remain in that role even after his older brother, the owner, returns to the United States. In my opinion, it would be difficult for Woody Johnson to function effectively in a visible role in light of everything that has surfaced. Even though most of the players don't know him personally, they've learned he allegedly made racist remarks. I'm curious to see if the league takes any action against him. So far, they have punted -- a bad look.
5. Digging deep: How much background work did the Jets do on safety Ashtyn Davis? Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he watched Davis' tape from Santa Cruz High School in California.
Williams doesn't like Davis; he loves him. Don't be surprised if he secures an early role.
6. 'Three' is (not) company: I think it's safe to say Williams isn't a fan of the Cover 3 defense. Not only did he poke the Seahawks, but ESPN research shows he played Cover 3 on 16% of the Jets' defensive snaps last season, 25th in the league.
7. Sleeping Jets? When a team finishes a season by winning six out of eight but falls short of the playoffs, it often becomes a trendy pick for the following season. Experts like to invoke the "springboard" theory. Funny, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the Jets, who are getting no love in league power rankings and preseason predictions.
Could that be a good thing?
"If people want to sleep on us, they can sleep on us. We're fine," Jets quarterback Sam Darnold said. "We're worried about what we have to do here."
8. Maye day: Without Adams, Marcus Maye has a terrific opportunity to show his value. And it happens to be a contract year, so the timing is right. Maybe he can expand his game, too.
In 2019, Maye played 816 of 1,024 snaps at free safety, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He often was deployed in the deep middle, sometimes 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. He's eager to show he can mix it up in traffic near the line of scrimmage.
"Playing down in the box or playing in space deep, I feel like I can do both jobs pretty well," Maye said. "I feel like I don't have any limits when it comes to that."
9. The last word: "Honestly, when I came here, the Jets didn't really have a winning history, and it really sucks that in the last four years we couldn't get it done. But me being back here, four going on five years, I’m tired of f---ing losing. So we have to ramp s--- up and try to get the ball rolling." -- Jordan Jenkins, who has lost 43 of 64 games as a member of the Jets.