Here is what a New York Jets seven-round mock draft could look like if it were based primarily on analytics.
With the calendar officially flipped to April, the 2021 NFL draft is on the horizon. So, you know what that means: It’s time for everyone to participate in the great tradition of creating a mock draft just for the sake of getting to hear from the world why it is so awful and wrong. Fun!
This will be the first of a few analytics-based New York Jets mock drafts I will be concocting. These mocks will be a bit different from anything else out there. I will be relying on advanced statistics to make each selection for the Jets across all seven rounds, consistently going with the best player available according to their production from an analytics perspective (yes, team needs will still be taken into account).
These mocks are conducted using the Jet X Offseason Tool. No trades are made.
Keep in mind that these picks are not necessarily my personal preferences and are based entirely on statistics, so don’t knock me too harshly! The main purpose of this mock is to identify some of the most productive prospects who could be available at various points of the draft.
Round 1, Pick 2
- The pick: QB Justin Fields (Ohio St.)
- Also considered: QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
- Key names off the board: QB Trevor Lawrence (#1, Jaguars)
First off, I think it should be stated clearly that both Justin Fields and Zach Wilson have very strong cases to be considered the best player available at this spot regardless of position. If the Jets select Fields or Wilson, they would not be reaching just to take the best quarterback. Both prospects were absolutely dominant football players.
Regarding Fields vs. Wilson from a production standpoint, the decision comes down to whether you prefer to value the two-year sample of 2019-20 or solely the 2020 season.
If we look only at 2020, Wilson was narrowly better than Fields. While both were elite, Wilson seemed to have a slight edge. He was arguably the best quarterback in the nation.
However, in 2019, Fields had a case to be the second-best quarterback in the nation behind Joe Burrow while Wilson was mediocre. Fields had the nation’s fourth-best passer rating (181.4), third-best QBR (92.1), and second-best PFF grade (92.5) while Wilson ranked 75th in passer rating (130.8), 69th in QBR (57.1), and posted a 76.2 PFF grade that is closer to average-level (69.2 was the average among qualifiers in 2020) than elite-level.
Going with the player who has the more established track record of phenomenal performance, we take Fields here.
Round 1, Pick 23
- The pick: LB Zaven Collins (Tulsa)
- Also considered: EDGE Azeez Ojulari (Georgia)
- Key names off the board: RB Travis Etienne (#22, Titans), WR Rashod Bateman (#21, Colts), LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (#20, Bears), CB Jaycee Horn (#19, Washington), EDGE Jaelan Phillips (#18, Dolphins), IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker (#12, 49ers)
This is a tough decision between a pair of defenders who were otherworldly in two different areas where the Jets badly need help.
Ojulari was a dominant edge defender for Georgia in 2020, recording 9.5 sacks in only 10 games. Among all edge defenders nation-wide, he had the second-best PFF pass rushing grade (91.7), the fourth-best pressure rate (20.7%), and the ninth-best pass-rush win rate (24.0%).
As great as Ojulari was at getting after the quarterback, Collins was even better in coverage. Collins had a PFF coverage grade of 93.7 that was the best among all defensive players in the nation regardless of position. He gave up only 3.9 yards per target on throws in his direction, fifth-best among linebackers to face at least 15 targets. Collins had four interceptions (two returned for TDs) and two pass breakups while giving up just four first downs.
The Jets still need help at linebacker, particularly in coverage. Collins would help them immensely in that area. He could compete to start at WILL linebacker next to Mosley, and if the Jets want to ease him in, he could begin as the SAM/third linebacker while Jarrad Davis takes the starting job.
Round 2, Pick 2 (#34 overall)
- The pick: RB Javonte Williams (North Carolina)
- Also considered: IOL Wyatt Davis (Ohio St.), EDGE Gregory Rousseau (Miami FL)
- Key names off the board: EDGE Azeez Ojulari (#32, Buccaneers), WR Terrace Marshall (#31, Bills), WR Kadarius Toney (#27, Ravens), RB Najee Harris (#24, Steelers)
As much as I would like to address the interior offensive line with Wyatt Davis here, his production just doesn’t warrant a high second-round pick over other players who are still available. Davis posted a pass blocking grade of 67.1 in 2020, which only ranked at the 56th percentile among guards nation-wide. His allowed pressure rate of 4.2% ranked at the 39th percentile. He was also mediocre in the run game with a 66.4 run blocking grade that was barely above the positional median.
Gregory Rousseau is very intriguing at this spot. While Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, he showcased elite pass-rush potential in 2019 even as a raw player at the EDGE position. Rousseau racked up 15.5 sacks in 13 games and posted a pressure rate of 16.0% that placed at the 96th percentile among edge rushers nation-wide.
However, if we’re going best-player-available (at a position of need) based on the numbers, the obvious choice here is North Carolina running back Javonte Williams.
Splitting the load with Michael Carter, Williams ranked 20th in the nation in carries (157) but sixth in rushing yards (1,140) and third in rushing touchdowns (19) on the strength of a tremendous 7.3 yards-per-carry average.
That’s all great, but whenever you’re evaluating a running back, the number one priority is to evaluate what he brings to the table beyond what is presented to him. How much of his production is earned? Any regular running back can pick up the yards that are blocked or schemed up for him. What can this player add to your team?
Williams was an unbelievable creator of his own production in 2020. He posted the best PFF rushing grade among all running backs in the nation (95.9) on the strength of a position-best total of 76 missed tackles forced. His average of 0.48 missed tackles forced per carry ranked second-best in the country. Williams ranked sixth in total rushing yards after contact (720) and 13th in yards after contact per rush (4.9). Altogether, he was a playmaking machine, ranking second-best with a first down or touchdown on 45.9% of his rush attempts.
In addition, Williams has great receiving potential, as he placed at the 88th percentile among qualified running backs with an average of 1.64 yards per route run in 2020.
Round 3, Pick 2 (#66 overall)
- The pick: IOL Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
- Key names off the board: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (#59, Browns), EDGE Patrick Jones II (#57, Rams), LB Jabril Cox (#52, Bears)
In the third round, we luck into a player at a position of dire need who is productive enough to warrant a selection. Creed Humphrey was a very good center for the Sooners and has the physical makeup to also play guard at the next level.
Creed Humphrey isn’t a fantastic pass blocker, but he has done pretty well. In 2020, he ranked at the 66th percentile among centers with a 68.9 pass blocking grade and the 81st percentile with a 1.9% allowed pressure rate. Throughout his career, the pressures he allowed were generally minor. Of his 27 career pressures allowed, zero were sacks, two were hits, and 25 were hurries.
The run game is where Humphrey shines. He posted a tremendous zone-blocking grade of 87.5 at PFF in 2020.
Round 3, Pick 22 (#87 overall)
- The pick: EDGE Jordan Smith (UAB)
- Also considered: EDGE Quincy Roche (Miami FL)
The pick here is a toss-up between two very solid pass rushers off the edge. Obviously, Jordan Smith played against far lesser competition at Alabama-Birmingham than Roche did at Miami, but the production gap between the two players is large enough for us to go with Smith.
Among 326 edge defenders nation-wide, Smith ranked third in PFF’s pass-rush grade (91.4), third in pressure rate (21.7%), third in total pressures (50), and second in pass-rush win rate (26.1%).
Roche ranked 20th in pass-rush grade (87.7), 113th in pressure rate (11.8%), 27th in total pressures (36), and 77th in pass-rush win rate (16.4%).
Jets X-Factor’s Sam Crnic broke down Jordan Smith here.
Round 4, Pick 2 (#108 overall)
- The pick: IOL Trey Smith (Tennessee)
Continuing to add to their interior offensive line, the Jets snag a solid starting guard from an SEC school in the fourth round.
In 2020, Trey Smith ranked at the 72nd percentile among qualified guards nation-wide with a 73.1 pass blocking grade. He gave up just six pressures over 339 protection snaps for an allowed pressure rate of 1.8% that placed at the 90th percentile. Smith played left guard in 2020 but started at tackle during his Volunteers career as well, although he didn’t fare well at the position.
Smith posted a solid zone-blocking grade of 72.3, which is above-average for the position.
Round 5, Pick 2 (#147 overall)
- The pick: CB Olaijah Griffin (USC)
Finally addressing cornerback, we’re able to get a good starter from the Pac-12 in USC’s Olaijah Griffin.
Griffin is extremely lanky at six-foot-zero and 175 pounds, but his coverage resume is strong. In 2020, Griffin posted an 81.5 PFF coverage grade that ranked at the 97th percentile among all cornerbacks. He also ranked at the 98th percentile in yards allowed per cover snap (0.48) and the 97th percentile in NFL passer rating allowed (40.7). He was also stingy as a sophomore in 2019, yielding 0.59 yards per cover snap and a 67.7 passer rating.
Round 5, Pick 10 (#155 overall)
- The pick: CB Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma St.)
Double-dipping at corner, the Jets get another Power-5 starter with a great track record of production.
Rodarius Williams comes out of Oklahoma State as a redshirt senior. His younger brother, Andraez (better known as “Greedy”), plays for the Browns.
Williams earned a PFF coverage grade of 79.8 that ranked at the 96th percentile among cornerbacks in 2020. He was excellent at the catch point, registering a forced-incompletion rate of 33.3% that placed sixth-best in the country (99th percentile).
Round 6, Pick 13 (#187 overall)
- The pick: IOL Trey Hill (Georgia)
Loading up on the interior offensive line, the Jets go with Trey Hill, an intriguing pick in the sixth round.
Starting at center for Georgia in 2020, Hill was productive as he posted a 73.4 PFF pass blocking grade (81st percentile among C). He gave up only two pressures over 258 snaps in protection for a pressure rate of 0.8% that ranked sixth-lowest (96th percentile). He even posted a very solid zone-blocking grade of 78.2.
Hill has a lot of concerns that push him down to this point of the draft, namely his weight (330 pounds), medicals (surgeries on both knees in 2020 to end his season early), athleticism, and technique, but the production was there in 2020, and he did it in the SEC.
Here it is: Our first analytics-based New York Jets draft class.
- R1, #2 overall: QB Justin Fields (Ohio St.)
- R1, #23 overall: LB Zaven Collins (Tulsa)
- R2, #34 overall: RB Javonte Williams (North Carolina)
- R3, #66 overall: IOL Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
- R3, #87 overall: EDGE Jordan Smith (UAB)
- R4, #108 overall: IOL Trey Smith (Tennessee)
- R5, #147 overall: CB Olaijah Griffin (USC)
- R5, #155 overall: CB Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma St.)
- R6, #187 overall: IOL Trey Hill (Georgia)
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