Joe Douglas has shown an affinity for high-character NFL Draft Prospects; who might he have his eye on this year?
La’Mical Perine. James Morgan. Cameron Clark. Bryce Hall. Braden Mann. Besides the fact that all these players were 2020 NFL draft selections by the New York Jets, what do they all have in common?
One could likely come up with a multitude of answers to that question, but none more important than the fact that they were all high-character team captains in college.
Translation: Joe Douglas doesn’t just want good football players for the team he’s building; he wants leaders.
Considering the fact that the players named above were all consecutively taken by the Jets last year, it’s a reasonable assumption to make that Douglas will be deploying a similar strategy in this year’s draft. As with any draft class, there are certainly a handful of prospects this year whose character stands out from the available pool.
Here are three high-character 2021 NFL draft prospects to keep an eye on for Gang Green come draft time:
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
In all likelihood, Kwity Paye will end up a first-round pick. But luckily, the Jets have two of those. His stock has slipped a bit since earlier in the draft process, so there is at least some chance he falls to the Jets at pick No. 23.
Born in a refugee camp in Guinea while his family fled the Liberian Civil War, Paye’s story evidently had quite a beginning. After escaping, he grew up in Rhode Island, where his mother worked several jobs to support eight family members living in a shared apartment.
Paye promised his mom that if she put him through high school, he would find a way to attend college for free. He made good on that promise.
Paye is also extremely active in his community. During the summer of 2020, he helped lead his teammates on a Black Lives Matter march through the University of Michigan’s campus. He is also an executive member of The Uniform Funding Foundation (TUFF). TUFF is a nonprofit organization that provides teams comprised of at-risk youth in low-income areas uniforms and gear, as well as talks from current college and NFL players.
Paye is similarly impressive in the classroom as well; he takes academics very seriously. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, and he even cited earning a third academic honor as a reason for returning to school for his senior year.
Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina
Chazz Surratt’s path to the NFL draft has been a unique one, to say the least. Out of high school, he was actually a highly-touted All-American quarterback prospect. Unfortunately, his career at UNC got off to a rough start with two seasons of poor quarterback play, the second of which ended prematurely due to a wrist injury.
UNC was severely lacking in experience and depth at linebacker, and it was starting to become quite obvious. So it was heading into his third season that Surratt decided to approach the coaching staff and volunteer to switch positions.
Switching to linebacker not only benefited the team but also provided Surratt a better opportunity to play football at the next level.
Making Surratt’s story even more impressive is the fact that his position switch came just four short months before the start of the 2019 season. It was during those months that Surratt cemented himself as the hardest working individual on the team. He trained every single day, often twice a day, ensuring that his initial lack of experience would be countered by his unrivaled work ethic.
They say actions speak louder than words, and Surratt’s decision to switch positions not only demonstrates maturity, but also overall selflessness and commitment to his team.
Outside of football, Surratt makes routine visits to UNC’s Children’s Hospital on Fridays before game days—a long-standing tradition of the program. He also graduated early from UNC and is currently working on his master’s degree in business, focusing on leadership development.
One hiccup on Surratt’s resume that is certainly worth noting, however, is that back in 2018, the school learned that he and 12 teammates had sold school-issued sneakers in exchange for up to $2,500 in cash. Surratt was one of nine Tar Heel players suspended for four games following the incident.
By no means is this a deal-breaking issue, especially seeing as it occurred even before his position switch. Nonetheless, Douglas will certainly need Surratt to address it before deciding to spend a valuable draft pick on him.
Robert Hainsey, OG, Notre Dame
Robert Hainsey may not be one of the biggest names in the draft, but throughout his time at Notre Dame, he’s been one of the unquestioned leaders of the Fighting Irish’s dominant football team.
This past season, he was named a team captain for the second consecutive season. It’s worth noting that only 23 players in the history of Notre Dame football have ever served multiple seasons as team captain. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that the program has been around since 1887.
Hainsey is also a four-time SWAT leader, captaining a group of teammates through intense spring and summer workouts and training each year.
Outside of football, Hainsey is a member of Notre Dame’s Rosenthal Leadership Academy, which aims to develop and enhance strong leadership. The program supports self-awareness and commitment to team goals. (Student-athletes must be nominated by their peers, as well as be approved by their coaching staff in order to be admitted.)
This is by no means a prediction of who the Jets will select come draft time.
However, Jets fans should absolutely keep an eye on these guys. The small sample size of Joe Douglas draft prospects that we have suggests that they’re likely on his radar.
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