New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas recently revealed how his in-draft training process works, and it’s all about the “groundwork.”
Flexibility. It’s a word frequently utilized in the NFL executive world. It’s also what’s gained when a boatload of extra NFL draft assets are acquired. To that end, call New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas “Mr. Flexible.”
Douglas comes to the 2021 NFL draft party equipped with 10 picks. Extra first and third-round selections were added in the Jamal Adams trade last summer, while Sam Darnold helped the Jets in the sixth-round department.
It’s more than enough for Douglas to keep all options alive.
Trade up? Trade down? Stay put? It’s all on the table, as it should be. But just how does the pre and in-draft trade process work? When is the first hint of communication between two franchises?
If the 2014 film Draft Day is to be believed, craziness beyond even movie fiction is the name of the war room game. If reality serves as the basis of your world, you know a little better than to believe that. (Let’s also not glance over the idea that the very same guy who caught Nuke Laloosh in the 1980s was making big-boy decisions for the Cleveland Browns.)
Making NFL trades isn’t that easy. Actually, the root of many of these in-draft deals is planted well in advance, and Douglas is no different in that regard.
When asked about the draft-day trading process Thursday afternoon, Douglas happily provided answers. When do trade discussions start, and how does it all go down?
“I really think we start those conversations now,” Douglas said in his pre-draft Zoom session with the media Thursday afternoon. “Not only in-house, but we start making the calls—or receiving the calls—to other teams. (We) start greasing the skids, on maybe there’s interest in moving up or moving back.
“There’s groundwork that goes into these trades that happen before the draft.”
Douglas, 45, is prepping for his second NFL draft in New Jersey, but this time he’ll be at the Atlantic Health Training Center with his team.
Joe Douglas says he and his team will be in the building (AHTC) on draft night—unlike last year's NFL draft that kept everybody home. #TakeFlight
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) April 22, 2021
Douglas’s first iteration, commencing in the thick of the pandemic, kept him home. Home sweet home or not, his first crack at it saw him put an end to one of the team’s worst streaks in recent memory: the first-round offensive lineman-less horror. The Mekhi Becton selection at No. 11 marked the first time since 2006 the organization drafted a first-round offensive lineman.
The argument for staying put this time around is sound. After all, Mike Tannenbaum didn’t need to move up for either D’Brickashaw Ferguson or Nick Mangold. Then again, he did feel it was necessary to climb some first-round spots a year later.
In 2017, Tannenbaum traded for the Carolina Panthers’ 14th overall selection and a sixth-round pick (No. 199) in exchange for the Jets’ 25th overall selection, the first of their two second-round picks (No. 59) and their fifth-rounder (No. 164). The result was Pittsburgh product and eventual Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis.
A year ago, Douglas traded down in the second round to much of the fanbase’s dismay. A healthy heaping of Denzel Mims was the Jets fans’ order and risking it equaled insanity.
Fortunately, Douglas managed to trade down and still get his guy. In 2021, your guess as to what Douglas will do at No. 23 is as good as mine. The one thing we know for sure is this: Douglas is a value-driven executive who learned under Ozzie Newsome’s watchful eye.
Whatever they ultimately decide to do, it’ll be led with value and risk-reward calculations. This is especially the case when deciding on draft board movement during the draft.
“Once you’re in the draft, (and) you’re all together, a lot of it depends on who’s left on the board when you’re either the pick you’re trying to acquire or the pick you have, trying to move down,” Douglas added. “Most of it is going to depend on who’s left. (Are you) comfortable giving up what it takes to move up, or (are you) comfortable with moving back and getting the player that you’re still excited about acquiring?”
It’s clear that Douglas will always provide the answer that keeps as many doors open as possible. Already telling the world he’s intent on selecting a quarterback at No. 2 (in so many words) comes as a bit of a shock when thinking about his usual procedures.
Just don’t think he’s already provided a hint as to what he’s planning after No. 2. He hasn’t.
On Thursday afternoon, he revealed the hypothetical timeline in which pre and in-draft trade preparation happens. And you better believe he’s already had conversations with teams about most of his draft picks.
Whether he’s strongly considering a move up or down from 23, 34 or beyond is something that remains to be learned by anybody outside of his trusted inner circle.
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