Here is what a New York Jets seven-round mock draft could look like if it were based primarily on analytics.
This is the second 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).
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 analytically-impressive prospects who could be available at various points of the draft.
Round 1, Pick 2
- The pick: QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
- Volume 1 selection: QB Justin Fields (Ohio St.)
- Key names off the board: QB Trevor Lawrence (#1, Jaguars)
On the strength of his two-year body of work, we went with Justin Fields last time around, so we’ll switch it up here and go with Zach Wilson based on his edge in the 2020 season.
It should be clear that, from a production standpoint, these guys are neck-and-neck. You can’t go wrong with either quarterback if you are looking to take a player with a track record of putting up eye-popping numbers. Wilson had an argument to be the best quarterback in college football in 2020. Fields had a 2019 season that was just as impressive as Wilson’s 2020, and in 2020, he remained a top-10 passer, putting together a strong two-year body of work that Wilson cannot match due to his lackluster 2019 season. So, both guys offer an extremely impressive resume of production.
However, when looking at 2020 alone, you won’t find a quarterback who offers a better batch of advanced numbers than Wilson:
- 95.5 PFF passing grade (1st among 140 qualified FBS quarterbacks)
- 31 “big time throws” (8.6% of throws: 12th)
- 4 “turnover worthy throws” (1.0% of throws: 6th-lowest)
- +27 margin of big time throws to turnover worthy throws (1st)
- 80.3% adjusted completion percentage (5th)
- 67.9% adjusted completion percentage on deep throws (2nd)
- 6.8 air yards per attempt (2nd)
- 88.6 QBR (5th)
Round 1, Pick 23
- The pick: EDGE Azeez Ojulari (Georgia)
- Volume 1 selection: LB Zaven Collins (Tulsa)
- Key names off the board: RB Travis Etienne (#22, Titans), WR Rashod Bateman (#21, Colts), CB Patrick Surtain (#19, Washington), EDGE Jaelan Phillips (#18, Dolphins), IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker (#16, Cardinals)
Zaven Collins, who was PFF’s top-graded defender in coverage regardless of position in 2020, was our pick last time. Here, we go with Ojulari, an electric rusher off the edge.
Azeez Ojulari’s numbers compare very favorably to the rest of the EDGE class, putting him in the conversation to be the most accomplished pass rusher of the bunch. His 20.7% pressure rate in 2020 ranked at the 99th percentile among edge rushers nationwide and beat out rival prospects like Kwity Paye (17.2%), Gregory Rousseau (16.0%), and Jaelan Phillips (15.6%). It’s also important to note that Ojulari’s production was legitimate. Only 32.4% of his pressures were considered “unblocked” or “cleanup,” better than 70% of qualified FBS edge rushers.
With Carl Lawson and Ojulari as the starters on the outside, the Jets would be set up with their most explosive and talented EDGE duo of the 21st century. You could even argue it would be their best pairing in franchise history.
Round 2, Pick 2 (#34 overall)
- The pick: CB Eric Stokes (Georgia)
- Volume 1 selection: RB Javonte Williams (North Carolina)
- Key names off the board: IOL Landon Dickerson (#24, Steelers), RB Najee Harris (#25, Browns), WR Kadarius Toney (#27, Ravens), LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (#28, Saints), LB Zaven Collins (#29, Packers)
North Carolina running back Javonte Williams was our pick last time. Williams had perhaps the best statistical resume of any running back in the country in 2020, obliterating the competition when it came to breaking tackles and racking up yardage after contact.
This time around, we’re going to steer the Jets toward a position of greater need and go with Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes, who had a lockdown 2020 season. He ranked at the 95th percentile among cornerbacks with a 43.6 passer rating allowed on throws in his direction while also placing at the 97th percentile with an average of 0.51 yards allowed per cover snap. Stokes is also an outstanding tackler, missing just five tackles over 31 games with the Bulldogs.
Round 3, Pick 2 (#66 overall)
- The pick: TE Brevin Jordan (Miami)
- Volume 1 selection: IOL Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
- Key names off the board: TE Pat Freiermuth (#35, Falcons), RB Javonte Williams (#43, 49ers), IOL Creed Humphrey (#44, Cowboys), IOL Wyatt Davis (#48, Raiders), LB Jabril Cox (#57, Rams), TE Tommy Tremble (#61, Bills), EDGE Carlos Basham (#64, Buccaneers)
Even though the tight end position is not one of the Jets’ greatest needs, it is definitely on the shopping list. Chris Herndon may still have some upside at only 25 years old, but after an abysmal 2020 season, he doesn’t offer enough certainty for the Jets to pass on a tight end that they like. At No. 66 in this particular mock, Brevin Jordan is the clear best player available.
Joining Herndon as the second Miami Hurricane in the tight ends’ room, Jordan had a very good 2020 season. He ranked fourth among FBS tight ends with 72.0 receiving yards per game and tied for fourth with seven touchdown catches. Jordan racked up his high-volume production at a great level of efficiency, placing at the 95th percentile with an average of 2.70 yards per route run.
Jordan’s playmaking ability after the catch is easily his greatest attribute. He led all tight ends with 353 yards after the catch in 2020, 83 more than second-ranked Kyle Pitts, while his average of 9.3 YAC per reception led all tight ends with at least 30 catches. Jordan also ranked fourth at the position with nine missed tackles forced.
Round 3, Pick 22 (#86 overall)
- The pick: RB Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis)
- Volume 1 selection: EDGE Jordan Smith (UAB)
- Key names off the board: LB Pete Werner (#76, Giants), RB Michael Carter (#81, Dolphins), IOL Quinn Meinerz (#82, Washington), EDGE Quincy Roche (#83, Bears), WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (#84, Eagles)
Ohio State center Josh Myers is available here, but he is not on our radar after a brutal season of pass protection in which he ranked at the 16th percentile among centers with a 4.44% pressure rate allowed.
Kenneth Gainwell’s receiving ability makes him a great fit for the modern NFL. A 2020 opt-out, he led all running backs in the country with 610 receiving yards in 2019, the second-most by a running back over the past four years behind only Saquon Barkley’s 625 yards in 2017. Gainwell is also an amazing pass blocker, giving up no pressures over 79 snaps in protection throughout the 2019 season.
Round 4, Pick 2 (#107 overall)
- The pick: IOL Ben Cleveland (Georgia)
- Volume 1 selection: IOL Trey Smith (Tennessee)
Ben Cleveland put together four years of high-level play as a starting right guard in the SEC, posting a PFF grade of at least 72.0 in all four of his seasons at Georgia. In 2020, Cleveland earned a career-best grade of 78.8 that ranked second-best among SEC guards.
Cleveland allowed a pressure rate of 2.28% in 2020, placing at the 82nd percentile among qualified FBS guards. What made his success in that category even more impressive is the fact that Cleveland did it an offense that asked him to block for long periods of time at a high frequency. About 39.9% of Cleveland’s pass blocking snaps were considered “true pass sets,” placing at the 88th percentile among guards. To rank that highly in both categories is a sign of true pass-blocking excellence.
As a run blocker, Cleveland ranked at the 91st percentile among guards with a 77.4 grade. About 62.9% of his run blocking snaps came on zone concepts, so he will be ready for the increasingly zone-heavy NFL.
Round 5, Pick 2 (#146 overall)
- The pick: WR Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville)
- Volume 1 selection: CB Olaijah Griffin (USC)
While the Jets are already four-deep at wide receiver with Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and Keelan Cole, they still lack a receiver who is especially dangerous with the ball in their hands. They could use a “gadget guy” who has the speed, shiftiness, and elusiveness to make noise of screens, jet sweeps, and the like.
Dez Fitzpatrick has the chance to step right in and be that guy. Mekhi Becton’s former teammate flashed exciting ability with the ball in his hands in 2020, ranking 12th out of 322 qualified wide receivers (97th percentile) with 8.8 yards after the catch per reception. Fitzpatrick was clocked between a 4.43 and a 4.45 in the forty-yard dash at his Pro Day.
Round 5, Pick 10 (#154 overall)
- The pick: CB Thomas Graham (Oregon)
- Volume 1 selection: CB Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma St.)
Thomas Graham had a couple of solid seasons at Oregon before opting out of the 2020 campaign. He ranked at the 95th percentile among qualified FBS corners with an 82.9 coverage grade at PFF in 2019, and in 2018, he placed at the 88th percentile with a 79.8 grade.
Graham is an elite on-ball playmaker, racking up 33 pass deflections and interceptions across 151 targets from 2018-19, a 21.9% rate. That’s more than double the 2020 NFL average for cornerbacks (10.8%). Missed tackles and penalties are his primary issues, as he had 21 of each over his 40 career games with the Ducks.
Round 6, Pick 2 (#186 overall)
- The pick: K Evan McPherson (Florida)
- Volume 1 selection: IOL Trey Hill (Georgia)
It’s long overdue for the Jets to actually put some effort into the kicker position. For years, they’ve gotten out of it what they’ve put into it; investing pennies and getting league-worst results in return.
McPherson made 85.0% of his field goal attempts at Florida, giving him the best career field goal percentage in SEC history. He also made 149 of his 150 extra points. To boot, McPherson was a strong kickoff man, averaging 4.0 seconds of hang time (2020 NFL average: 3.98) with his average kickoff placing the opponent at their own 24.2-yard line to start the drive (2020 NFL average: 25.8).
Round 6, Pick 42 (#226 overall)
- The pick: WR Marquez Stevenson (Houston)
Again focusing on special teams, the Jets add some talent to the returner spot in the form of Houston’s Marquez Stevenson, who was a highly successful returner for the Cougars. From 2019-20, Stevenson scored three touchdowns over just 21 kickoff return chances, averaging an impressive 29.4 yards per return.
Stevenson has a great track record as a wide receiver, too. He posted 2,223 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns over 30 games from 2018-20, pacing him for about 1,186 yards and 12 touchdowns per 16 games. His career average of 2.72 yards per route run is elite – that would have ranked at the 91st percentile among qualified FBS wide receivers in 2020. He also showcased a lot of after-the-catch talent with a career average of 8.6 YAC per reception and 0.205 missed tackles forced per reception.
To boot, Stevenson can get open deep, scoring 10 deep touchdowns (20+ yards downfield) over the past three seasons with at least three deep scores in each season. In 2020, he caught five deep passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns over only five games.
Injuries are the primary question mark for Stevenson after he dealt with a broken collarbone, torn ACL, and various ankle injuries throughout his collegiate career.
Here it is: Our second analytics-based New York Jets draft class.
- R1, #2 overall: QB Zach Wilson (BYU)
- R1, #23 overall: EDGE Azeez Ojulari (Georgia)
- R2, #34 overall: CB Eric Stokes (Georgia)
- R3, #66 overall: TE Brevin Jordan (Miami)
- R3, #87 overall: RB Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis)
- R4, #108 overall: IOL Ben Cleveland (Georgia)
- R5, #147 overall: WR Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville)
- R5, #155 overall: CB Thomas Graham (Oregon)
- R6, #187 overall: K Evan McPherson (Florida)
- R6, #226 overall: WR Marquez Stevenson (Houston)
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