It’s time to take out our red pen and pick apart the Jets 2018 draft class.
We won’t truly know how stupendous or horrific these picks actually are for a few years, but it’s always fun to reveal our immediate impressions. Here are our pick-by-pick grades:
Round 1 (3): USC quarterback Sam Darnold
Did the best quarterback in this coveted draft class really land in Gang Green’s lap? Pinch me. This must be some sort of glorious dream. For the third time in four years, a blue-chip prospect projected to be off the board when the Jets were on the clock fell to Mike Maccagnan. Here’s hoping the Jets general manager has already sent a fruit basket to the Giants for passing on the USC signal caller.
I’m borderline giddy about this pick. Darnold will be a star as long as the Jets don’t screw it up.
Trust the process. Don’t rush the process.
Darnold will get an opportunity to play this season, but don’t expect miracles.
First order of business: Let’s see how quickly the rookie absorbs Jeremy Bates’ playbook in practice, training camp and the preseason. Josh McCown will be a terrific mentor during this process.
Darnold has the makings of being a difference maker. I am head over heels about this pick.
Round 3 (72): Fort Hays State DL Nathan Shepherd
Talk about a circuitous route to the NFL.
Here’s what we know: Shepherd is likely an extremely nice human being. After all, he’s Canadian. Here’s what we don’t know: Will a guy who took two years off in the middle of his college life (for financial reasons) and thrived in Division II be able to make a meaningful contribution in the NFL?
The scouting community loves the 6-4, 315-pounder. Todd Bowles will use Shepherd as a 3-4 defensive end to help replace Mo Wilkerson. Best case scenario: The rookie can find his niche as a rotational player in 2018.
Although Mike Maccagnan downplayed the fact that Shepherd will turn 25 in October, that sort of bothers me. He’ll need time to adjust to this level of play.
Fourth Round (No. 107): Miami TE Chris Herndon
Herndon might be the most athletic tight end on the roster when he is healed from a torn MCL suffered last November. The 6-4, 253-pounder isn’t expected to be fully healthy for another 4-6 weeks. The Jets desperately need pass-catching help. Herndon and Jordan Leggett, who missed his rookie season due to injury, will get plenty of opportunities this summer. Herndon has the athletic and pass-catching edge. Who knows, maybe he solves Gang Green’s problem at this position.
Sixth Round (No. 179): Tulane CB Parry Nickerson
This could be a sneaky good pick for Maccagnan. Nickerson is a massive health risk given his history of multiple knee surgeries, but he’s a blazer. His 4.32 40-yard dash time is clear evidence of that. The 5-10, 182-pound Nickerson didn’t play in the slot in college, but that will be his best opportunity to see the field in 2018. Current nickel corner Buster Skrine will be a free agent after the season.
If he can stay healthy – and it’s a big if – the Jets might have gotten a steal.
Sixth Round (No. 180): UCONN DT Foley Fatukasi
The 6-4, 318-pound Queens native will have an opportunity to be a part of Bowles’ defensive line rotation. He might be able to provide some nose tackle relief.
At this point in the draft, you’re just keeping your fingers crossed that the guy is good enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Seventh Round (No. 204) Virginia State RB/KR/PR Trenton Cannon
The Jets are keeping their fingers crossed that the 5-11, 185-pound Cannon can emerge as a viable option on kick returns and punt returns. His Division II college production in the backfield was nothing to sneeze at (1,638 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns), but he’ll have to prove his worth on special teams. Gang Green desperately needs returner help. Why not take a flier with this kid?
The brain trust addressed a couple of important areas of need. No, offensive line was not one of them. But I’m not going to get bent out of shape over it. Let’s see how the current group performs in Rick Dennison’s scheme. In the end, this draft will be judged on how Darnold’s career unfolds. If he becomes a franchise quarterback, Maccagnan will be hailed a genius. If not, well, you know.
But I got a pretty damn good feeling about the Malboro Man’s grandson.
OVERALL GRADE: B (with a possibility of being an A-plus in five years).
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