Michael Nania brings the fire of advanced statistics to conduct a seven-round 2020 New York Jets mock draft.
Here. We. Go. Just four days remain.
This is my fourth and final analytics-based Jets mock draft. These mocks are a bit different from anything else out there. I rely on the advanced stats to make each selection for the Jets across all seven rounds, going with the best player available according to the data (yes, team needs will be taken into account).
These mocks are conducted using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine. No trades are made. Keep in mind that these picks are not necessarily my personal preferences and are based almost entirely on statistics, so don’t knock me too harshly!
You can find the previous three mocks here:
Let’s hop into it!
Round 1, Pick 11
Key names off the board: OT Tristan Wirfs (#5, Dolphins), OT Mekhi Becton (#6, Chargers), OT Andrew Thomas (#8, Cardinals), OT Jedrick Wills (#10, Browns)
This is the scenario that would put the Jets in a difficult position when they come on to the clock at No. 11. None of the top-four tackles are available. If one of them does fall, it seems likely the Jets would pull the trigger on that player, but in this situation, they are left without a plausible option at their greatest position of need.
Given the depth of the wide receiver class, the ideal one-two punch for the Jets would be to grab an elite tackle prospect with the 11th selection and then focus on wide receiver in the second and third rounds. Unfortunately, they will not be able to take that idealistic route if Becton, Thomas, Wills, and Wirfs are gone.
The Jets’ first reaction in this situation should be to explore the trade-down market. Instead of taking a wide receiver in the first round (a historically poor bet) when there will likely be an unusually strong level of talent in the second round (a historically strong bet), the more efficient route would be to stockpile assets and move down into an area where one of the tier B offensive linemen (Josh Jones, Austin Jackson, Isaiah Wilson) is a sensible value.
Luckily for the Jets, if the trade-down does not materialize, there are a couple of phenomenal consolation prizes waiting for them.
CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are elite prospects who could immediately step into a starting role opposite Breshad Perriman, each possessing the potential to be a top-flight target for Sam Darnold over the next decade-plus. Lamb and Jeudy would be locks to go in the 5-10 range of most drafts (they still could be). They have seen their stocks hampered only by the massive amount of talented peers sitting below them on the totem pole. Teams may not feel the pressure to take one of them in the top-10, leaving them there as exceptional fallback options for Joe Douglas and company.
So, who do the numbers like better? Jeudy or Lamb?
From a statistical perspective, Lamb’s 2019 season for Oklahoma was one of the best in college football history. His average of 3.99 yards per route run was tops among all qualified FBS receivers. Lamb’s production looks like that of a created player on Madden with 99 ratings in every category, as he performed at an elite level in just about every facet. He forced 26 missed tackles, averaged 10.6 yards per screen play, gained 24.5 yards per deep target (20-plus yards downfield), and showcased soft hands with an excellent drop rate of 4.5%. Lamb averaged 102.1 yards per game on just 6.7 targets, averaging a downright insane 15.1 yards per target. Only a small portion of receivers (at any level) can even claim to average 15.1 yards per reception.
Jeudy’s numbers seem pedestrian next to Lamb’s inordinate production, but Jeudy produced at an elite level as well. He ranked seventh among FBS wide receivers (minimum 300 receiving snaps) with 3.30 yards per route run, even while competing for targets against DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs. Aside from his average-level drop rate, Jeudy was phenomenal in nearly every other area. Lamb’s numbers are just that good to where they make even his closest competitors appear to be vastly inferior.
In my opinion, I think Jeudy is the better prospect – he showcases superior route-running ability and for that reason, I believe his production is more transferrable to the NFL than Lamb’s – but we have to stick to the numbers here. Lamb’s analytics are otherworldly.
The pick: WR CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)
Also considered: WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
Vol. 3 pick: OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia)
Round 2, Pick 48
Key names off the board: OT Ezra Cleveland (#36, Giants), WR Jalen Reagor (#37, Chargers), IOL Cesar Ruiz (#38, Panthers), IOL Lloyd Cushenberry III (#39, Dolphins), WR Brandon Aiyuk (#42, Jaguars), WR K.J. Hamler (#44, Colts)
If the Jets take a wide receiver with the 11th overall pick, the ideal move in the second round would be to take an offensive lineman, but it is anybody’s guess as to whether the board will fall in a way that makes it prudent for the Jets to do so. Successful front offices do not pigeonhole themselves to a round-by-round plan based on team needs. That is how reaches on inferior talent occur, which lead to disappointing seasons and people getting fired.
Teams have to find a happy middle ground. While they must not feverishly draft to fill needs, teams also cannot go full-on “best player available,” a la Mike Maccagnan. That approach results in poor resource allocation and thus a lack of talent at essential positions – just look at the current Jets. As with anything in life, balance is key. Consider needs, talent, scheme fit, off-field factors, everything; and take the prospect that offers the most promising blend of all there is to evaluate.
In this simulation, things play out in the Jets’ favor. Southern California offensive tackle Austin Jackson is here for the taking at No. 48, which I have seldom seen (if ever) throughout the many simulations I have run throughout the past few weeks. A highly-regarded player who fits a position of desperate need is on the board.
The question is, do Jackson’s analytics pass the test? Jackson is known as a raw prospect who is not quite where he needs to be technically but has malleable tools for coaches to mold. In our analytics-based mock, we need to see a track record of strong production to build off of.
While his numbers are not as dominant as other Day 1-2 tackle prospects, Jackson owns an analytical profile that is good enough to warrant a gamble on his upside. He allowed 14 pressures on 562 protection snaps in 2019, placing him at the 85th percentile among the nation’s tackles in pass-blocking efficiency (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks). He posted an excellent pass-blocking grade of 71.2 on “true pass sets,” a positive note regarding his transferability to the NFL.
The pick: OT Austin Jackson (USC)
Also considered: None
Vol. 3 pick: EDGE Terrell Lewis (Alabama)
Round 3, Pick 68
Key names off the board: WR Laviska Shenault (#62, Packers), CB Cameron Dantzler (#63, Chiefs), WR Tee Higgins (#65, Bengals), OT Lucas Niang (#66, Redskins), EDGE Julian Okwara (#67, Lions)
Before turning the dial to the direct middle between “best player available” and “biggest needs,” we keep our focus shifted a bit towards the side of need. There are some intriguing safeties, interior defensive linemen, and running backs on the board here, but the Jets have no business looking at those positions this highly in the draft while similarly talented wide receivers and offensive linemen are on the board.
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones is on the board, but his numbers are far too mediocre to warrant a third-round pick. He averaged 1.73 yards per route run, good enough for the 53rd percentile among all wide receivers in the nation with at least 200 receiving snaps. Slightly above-average in college is far from promising. Peoples-Jones also had a 9.5% drop rate, a 36.4% contested catch rate, and caught only 2/10 passes over 20 yards downfield.
Chase Claypool, a wide receiver/tight end tweener from Notre Dame, is also on the board. Claypool’s deep production is eye-popping. He hauled in 16/30 deep targets for 494 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder was a beast in contested situations, grabbing an elite 57.7% of contested balls (15/26) – his 15 contested receptions tied him for 17th-most in the entire nation.
To boot, Claypool flashed impressive elusiveness for his size. Claypool forced 14 missed tackles (0.212 per reception) and averaged 11.4 yards per screen reception across seven grabs (80 yards). He picked up six touchdown receptions on targets under 10 yards downfield, tied for the most in the nation.
The question with Claypool and the Jets comes down to his fit. New York already has Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin locked up at tight end, each of whom frequently line up in positions where Claypool could be best utilized in the NFL. Could Claypool be a third weapon on the outside after Lamb and Perriman?
We’ll hold off on Claypool for now and turn our attention to the offensive line. Robert Hunt out of Louisiana is interesting in this spot. The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Hunt absolutely dominated at right tackle for the Ragin’ Cajuns. After allowing only seven pressures over 409 protection snaps in 2018, Hunt allowed two pressures over 196 protection snaps in his injury-shortened redshirt senior season. His 86.0 run-blocking grade in 2019 was elite as well. Hunt will most likely convert to guard in the NFL, so he fits the profile of the developmental interior offensive line prospect that the Jets sorely need.
Both Claypool and Hunt have great arguments to be the pick here. Looking at the board, it seems more likely that Hunt lasts through the next 10 picks and makes it to No. 79, so I am going to go with Claypool. He may not be the picture-perfect representation of what the Jets need at wide receiver – even after adding Lamb – but his alluring mix of tools makes him plenty worth bringing into the building despite the question marks regarding his position. Scheme fit is important, but sometimes it makes sense to sacrifice some certainty regarding compatibility in favor of talent.
The pick: WR Chase Claypool (Notre Dame)
Also considered: IOL Robert Hunt (Louisiana)
Vol. 3 pick: WR Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona St.)
Round 3, Pick 79
Key names off the board: EDGE Jonathan Greenard (#72, Florida), EDGE Darell Taylor (Tennessee), OT Prince Tega Wanogho (#77, Broncos)
Success! Hunt slipped through the cracks and fell to the Jets here at No. 79. The Broncos made the lone offensive line selection since our last pick, electing to go with Auburn tackle Prince Tega Wanogho over Hunt.
We go with Hunt, planting the seeds of a guard pipeline behind the mediocre trio of Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten, and Brian Winters. Ideally, Hunt is seasoned for a year and takes over one of the starting guard spots in 2021. He is already going to be 24 this season, which is a downside, but the added experience and physical maturation could bode well as he transitions from the Sun Belt to the NFL.
With a dominant career at Louisiana that was forged largely through pure physical dominance and a tremendous mean streak, Hunt has the makings of an excellent tackle-to-guard convert if he can master the necessary technical nuances while spending time in the incubator.
It is probably not realistic for the Jets to go offense with each of their first four picks, but you wouldn’t hear me complaining.
The pick: IOL Robert Hunt (Louisiana)
Also considered: None
Vol. 3 pick: IOL Matt Hennessy (Temple)
Round 4, Pick 120
Key names off the board: EDGE Bradlee Anae (#115, Browns)
Time to go with some defense. Late-round mock draft favorite Bradlee Anae out of Utah is off the board to Cleveland, but we still have some solid options to choose from.
With our eyes on pass-rushing production, three edge rushers stand out. One is Kenny Willekes from Michigan State, who racked up 48 pressures (10 sacks) over 415 pass-rush snaps to check in at the 75th percentile among the nation’s edge defenders in pass-rush productivity (per-snap pressure rate with greater weight to sacks).
Syracuse’s Alton Robinson bested Willekes with 48 pressures (4 sacks) on just 348 pass-rush snaps, landing at the 83rd percentile.
However, the third-best FBS edge rusher in the 2020 class when it comes to pass-rush productivity is still on the board. That would Alex Highsmith of Charlotte.
While his production needs an asterisk beside it because of the fact that he played in Conference USA, Highsmith was simply dominant against that lesser competition. He posted 50 pressures (15 sacks) on 339 pass-rush snaps, generating the 15th-best pass-rush productivity score in the nation out of 421 qualifiers (97th percentile). Among players in the 2020 draft class, only Terrell Lewis (Alabama) and Chase Young (Ohio St.) have Highsmith beat.
Highsmith has the explosiveness and short-area quickness traits that teams covet in a stand-up outside pass-rusher. At 6-foot-4, 242 pounds, Highsmith is best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a role he can compete for with the Jets. Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham regularly played the position for Gregg Williams in 2020, producing mediocre pressure totals. The Jets have been looking for a stud pass-rusher in that outside linebacker spot since the Jurassic period.
The pick: EDGE Alex Highsmith (Charlotte)
Also considered: EDGE Kenny Willekes (Michigan St.), EDGE Alton Robinson (Syracuse)
Vol. 3 pick: WR Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)
Round 5, Pick 158
Key names off the board: EDGE Nick Coe (#145, Eagles), OT Terence Steele (#147, Bengals), WR Lynn Bowden (#150, Giants), WR Gabriel Davis (#152, Panthers), WR Collin Johnson (#157, Ravens)
He’s here, and we’re picking him again. If you have been following this series, you know who I’m talking about. The most slept-on wide receiver in this draft class – Tyler Johnson of Minnesota.
I am now the official conductor of the Tyler Johnson train. This is the fourth consecutive time I have selected him. The temptation has been too strong to switch things up. It would be criminal to pass on this production in the fifth round:
- 3.64 yards per route run (3rd among FBS WRs, minimum 300 receiving snaps)
- 91.8 overall PFF grade (best among WRs)
- 66.7% contested catch rate (tied for 12th in the nation with 16 contested grabs, more than double the amount of Lamb and Jeudy combined)
- 13/18 deep targets caught for 485 yards (26.9 per target)
For some reason, Johnson keeps on slipping down the Mock Draft Machine simulations. In my first mock, I took Johnson way up at No. 68 with the first of the Jets’ two picks in the third round. In the second and third editions, I selected him with the No. 120 pick in the fourth round. Somehow, he is here at No. 158 in this particular simulation.
From watching Johnson play, his numbers do not seem to be a fluke. He consistently beat corners off the line and finished plays with excellent tracking ability while defenders were draped on him.
With Lamb, Claypool, and Johnson all coming in, the Jets have aggressively combated their need at wide receiver. The odds are slim that none of these three players turn out to be a long-term stud.
The last time that a team invested this heavily in wide receivers during one draft (taking a WR in R1 plus at least two more) was when the Browns took Corey Coleman (R1-15), Richardo Louis (R4-114), Jordan Payton (R5-154), and Rashard Higgins (R5-172) in 2016. Needless to say, that did not work out, but let’s hope Joe Douglas is a better evaluator than Sashi Brown.
The pick: WR Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)
Also considered: None
Vol. 3 pick: CB Dane Jackson (Pittsburgh)
Round 6, Pick 191
Key names off the board: CB Dane Jackson (#183, Giants), RB Joshua Kelley (#184, Panthers), WR Isaiah Hodgins (#185, Dolphins), OT Charlie Heck (#188, Bills)
Looking for some help at cornerback, we turn to a familiar name but a new face in Nebraska cornerback Lamar Jackson. Jackson allowed a 55.7 passer rating in 2019, good enough for the 93rd percentile among all cornerbacks in the nation. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds with 32¼” arms (79th percentile among CBs), Jackson has the physical profile to develop into the prototype press corner.
The pick: CB Lamar Jackson (Nebraska)
Also considered: CB Essang Bassey (Wake Forest), CB John Reid (Penn St.), CB Kindle Vildor (Georgia Southern), S Julian Blackmon (Utah)
Vol. 3 pick: CB Josiah Scott (Michigan St.)
Round 6, Pick 211
Key names off the board: OT Alex Taylor (#199, Colts), CB Essang Bassey (#199, Rams), S Tanner Muse (#204, Patriots), OT Calvin Throckmorton (#209, Packers), IOL Cameron Clark (#209, 49ers)
At this stage, the goal should be to find players who can contribute on special teams and have one or two interesting traits that give them at least a tiny shot of becoming a starter.
Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene fits the bill. He is a tenacious blocker that should be able to compete for a spot on the kickoff and punt return blocking units and possibly the kick coverage teams.
Offensively, he has a little bit to work with. Keene dropped only one pass against 21 receptions in 2019, and may have some untapped potential in the open field as he evaded nine tackles on 59 career receptions, an average of 0.153 per reception that is solid for a tight end. He also boasts slightly above-average blocking grades of 63.4 in the passing game and 62.3 in the run game.
While I have faith in Trevon Wesco, who improved as a blocker down the stretch, the simple fact is that the Jets have a weakness when it comes to tight end blocking until proven otherwise. A healthy Chris Herndon would be an upgrade, as his blocking is around average, but Ryan Griffin and Daniel Brown greatly damaged the Jets offense in 2019 with their poor blocking. The best-case scenario would be seeing Wesco elevate to a stud blocker on the regular, but the Jets can use some added competition in this facet to maximize their chances of eliminating the issue.
The pick: TE Dalton Keene (Virginia St.)
Also considered: TE Charlie Taumoepeau (Portland St.), RB Darius Anderson (TCU), WR Isaiah Coulter (Rhode Island), RB James Robinson (Illinois St.)
Vol. 3 pick: IOL Kevin Dotson (Louisiana)
Previous analytics-based mock drafts: