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Joe Douglas’s 2020 draft class might be the New York Jets’ best in well over a decade when Eric Mangini was in town.

Robby Sabo

A feeling of irresponsibility arises whenever a draft class is evaluated too soon. Rarely is one season enough of a sample to properly grade out an NFL rookie. Unexpected events and character-driven aspects of a personality oftentimes don’t pop up until well after that first year.

That doesn’t mean a draft class should be totally ignored in the early going—especially as it relates to an organization struggling to string tremendous drafts together.

Joe Douglas‘s first draft class as a big-boy general manager looks pretty legit. So legit that it just might be the New York Jets‘ best draft class in well over a decade. Granted, that outcome might reflect more poorly on the franchise’s previous personnel decision-makers, but Douglas’s intent on building this thing the right way must remain in the forefront.

2020

Thus far, Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims and Bryce Hall look to have the goods. Perhaps Becton is a bit overrated from a hype perspective—as his legitimate production doesn’t quite match the fan narrative—but we’re nitpicking here.

Becton led all AFC tackles in Pro Bowl fan voting. Although he didn’t make the squad, there’s a lot to like. The mountain of a man represents the decade-long tackle the Jets had previously neglected over the prior 14 years. Dig into any one of Joe Blewett’s film reviews and you will get a fantastic glimpse of how dominant the kid has already been at times this season.

Not selecting a first-round offensive lineman since 2006 (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold) can be labeled the football crime of the century. Douglas ignoring the wide receiver hype and going with the boring left tackle is the most impressive thing we’ve seen in Jet land in quite some time. (Then again, Becton isn’t exactly a boring offensive tackle.)

Currently ranked 31st among all tackles by PFF, with an above-average 74.1 grade, Becton still has some work to do. But he certainly projects as the Jets’ decade-long tackle. To be even just solid as a 21-year-old rookie blindside protector is a tremendous feat.

Mims clocks in as the eighth-ranked rookie wide receiver, per PFF. Several weeks back, he found himself in the top five. Since Sam Darnold reemerged, Jamison Crowder‘s production has been elevated while Mims and Breshad Perriman have taken a backseat.

One glance at the film makes it clear: Mims is the real deal. This kid’s catch-radius is stunning, he’s athletic, and he’s a willing run blocker.

The rest, especially Hall and Braden Mann, have shown tremendous upside. Hall is currently the third-ranked rookie cornerback and Mann’s talent is evident. We know he can tackle, as well, saving three touchdowns this season.

Ashtyn Davis is a hard-worker whose character traits give him a great chance to improve, and La’Mical Perine has done enough to showcase that he can be a part of a productive backfield.

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Quinnen Williams #95 of the New York Jets on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. Bills beat the Jets 27 to 17.
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

2019

Mike Maccagnan’s final first-round pick is coming into his own. Despite the injuries sustained this season, Quinnen Williams is a star defensive tackle in the making and deserved Pro Bowl recognition in 2020. Ranking fifth among interior defenders in combined pressures, stops, and pass breakups at the time of his injury in Week 15, there’s no questioning that pick.

Maccagnan usually hit on his first-rounders. But hey, it’s a lot easier to do so when picking in the top six every year. It’s the rest of the draft that leaves a lot to be desired. And more importantly, it was Maccagnan’s overall team-building vision that lacked promise.

2018

Unloading assets to move up three spots to take Sam Darnold third overall in 2018 is starting to look like a complete bust. It’s tough for Jets fans to come to grips with that idea, as Darnold was once the savior of the franchise, but how could anybody argue it at this point?

Go ahead and blame coaching. Blame the kid’s supporting cast. That’s all fair. Just don’t completely eliminate Darnold from the conversation when doing so. He’s culpable as well.

To not select an offensive lineman in the 2018 draft was one of the more egregious personnel moves I’ve seen in quite some time. The Jets were desperate for help up front, yet Maccagnan continued to let that unit slide past them in the draft.

Nathan Shepherd has been solid, especially as of late. Folorunso Fatukasi is hands down the best pick of this draft. Chris Herndon, however, is now complicating matters.

Much like 2019, the 2018 class can’t touch 2020.

2017

From a top-of-the-draft and single-player standpoint, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were two excellent picks. Everybody knows Adams’s credentials, and Maye’s steady play backs up his second-round choice. The problem in 2017 is Maccagnan’s vision.

It’s a sin for a general manager to select two safeties at the top of the draft with massive holes on the offensive line and on the edge. Football is a simple game. It works from an inside-out idea. Development ceilings are raised more so with the outer positions when the trenches are first solidified. It doesn’t work nearly to the same degree the other way around.

What a solid offensive line does for a wide receiver is incredible compared to what a wide receiver’s play can do for an offensive lineman. The same can be said when discussing the edge rusher-cornerback relationship, or edge-rusher-safety relationship. Maccagnan’s constant “best available player” motto never allowed the Jets to enter into a true team-building vision required to take the next step.

2016

The 2016 draft should have just been thrown out from the get-go. The only time Maccagnan didn’t select in the top-six, he chose Darron Lee. Christian Hackenberg at No. 2 set the team back tremendously.

Jordan Jenkins is the lone solid pick from the class.

2015

Leonard Williams has turned out to be a solid pro, but again, where are Maccagnan’s value picks? There’s just nothing here, and Devin Smith not working out at No. 2 was a killer.

2014

Now we get into the John Idzik years, which means we get into the Rex Ryan era. Ryan, though he was head coach, was the de facto personnel boss in a lot of ways. Remember, both Idzik and Mike Tannenbaum came from the financial side of the front office. Neither were personnel guys, which meant Ryan played a major role.

It was a major role that seemingly helped destroy the once-great roster of 2008-2010. With each passing year, the roster deteriorated from the Eric Mangini-Tannenbaum era.

There’s no reason to even pick apart the 12-man 2014 draft class other than the sole shout out to the oft-injured Quincy Enunwa in the sixth round.

Mike Tannenbaum, Eric Mangini, John Idzik, Rex Ryan, Mike Maccagnan, Todd Bowles, Joe Douglas, Adam Gase
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

2013

Idzik’s first draft class edges his second, but that’s no grand accomplishment. Sheldon Richardson and Brian Winters are solid players. Can that alone edge what we’ve seen from Becton, Mims, Hall and the rest of 2020? I don’t think so.

2012

The final Tannenbaum draft falls in line with a Ryan-led feel. Remember, Rex told Quinton Coples that he was going to be a Jet if he lasted until the 16th pick. It happened, but Coples could never quite live up to the first-round status.

As far as Stephen Hill is concerned, forget about it. The Demario Davis pick in the third round turned out to be a tremendous one.

2011

The 2011 class is decent. Muhammad Wilkerson looked the part early in his career. He seemed to be a monster in the making. Then, reality struck and everything crumbled.

Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley were workmanlike pros. There’s just no way this class can compete with Douglas’s first crack at it.

2010

At this point, the Jets were riding high. Shocking the world by making the AFC championship game after a 9-7 season had them thinking big things. HBO Hard Knocks was coming, and the roster was still arguably the deepest in the NFL (sans a quarterback).

The 2010 draft was a complete bust. It was costly, too, because they needed Kyle Wilson to fill that slot role. Tannenbaum allowing Rex to draft John Conner in the fifth round was another major mistake.

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets reacts in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2009

Mark Sanchez was Rex Ryan’s guy. By every account, Tannenbaum rarely denied Rex a wish. They worked side-by-side with Rex providing personnel input on the same level as Tannenbaum, and that was the case when they snagged Sanchez in the five-hole of the 2009 NFL draft.

It’s a shame, too, because Shonn Greene and Matt Slauson were great picks in each respective round.

2008

The final Eric Mangini draft was a costly one. Winning their final game in 2007, the Jets went with Vernon Gholston instead of having a shot at Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

Dustin Keller and Dwight Lowery were fine picks, as was usually the case with the Mangini-Tannenbaum combo, but they whiffed hard on Gholston.

2007

The second draft of the Mangini-Tannenbaum era is what really cemented the team’s place as a tremendous roster. They didn’t have a great 2007 season, but things were slowly coming together.

Trading up for Pittsburgh product Darrelle Revis and snagging David Harris in Round 2 cemented things.

2006

This is the draft that really kicked things off. This is the gold standard any Douglas draft should be compared to. Not one but two tremendous offensive linemen coupled with four effective players in Eric Smith, Brad Smith, Leon Washington and Drew Coleman immediately placed the Jets in the big-boy club of personnel evaluating.

Shocking the NFL with a 10-6 record that year, many pundits thought the Jets had the worst roster in the league heading into the season. It was the overall vision of the Mangini-Tannenbaum era that lifted the franchise. Start from the trenches and eventually work out to the other positions, was the motto. A year prior, New York trotted out one of the worst offensive lines in football.

Chad Pennington played horribly, which prompted Matt Leinart calls. Instead, the Jets went boring, solidified the most crucial five-man unit in sports and took off in 2008.

Final thoughts

Where the 2020 draft class fits into the grand scheme of things remains to be seen, but the fact we can safely say it’s the best Jets’ draft class in over a decade is a troubling yet exciting thing.

It’s already knocked off any of Maccagnan’s drafts. The 2017 class has the two safeties at the top, but the overall vision lacks substance. It’s already much better than any of Idzik’s classes. And it’s probably head and shoulders above any of the Ryan-Tannenbaum classes.

We would have to travel all the way back to the Mangini-Tannenbaum days to reach a point that saw the Jets not only draft well but do so with an idea of how to build the roster properly.

It’s still early. Final grades on the likes of Becton, Mims and Hall are years away. However, at the very least, New York Jets fans should know that Joe Douglas understands what to look for in a player (beyond his football talents) and how to go about building a team correctly (inside-out).

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Sean Bird
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Sean Bird

Zack Wilson declared for the 2021 draft.

Sean Bird
Member
Sean Bird

Davis looked pretty good before his season-ending injury.
DBs- Hall, Guidry, Jackson, and Davis
Edge- Huff and Zuniga
OT- Becton
WR- Mims and Cager
Punter- Mann
OG- Clark
QB- Morgan
Clark and Zuniga suffer injuries, so I will say TBD.
Morgan was inactive and don’t know what the story on that is.

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Broken record, consider the outstanding group of UNDFA’s. Guidry, HUff , Cager & Jackson.. Second , Zuniga has not been impressive. Fatukasi & Shepherd barely played in their first year. Defensive lineman take a little time.