Sam Crnic introduces his grading scale for the upcoming draft cycle along with discussing initial prospects that may catch the eye of Jets fans.
After securing their quarterback of the future in Zach Wilson, their franchise offensive guard in Alijah Vera-Tucker, and various other offensive and defensive chess pieces in the 2021 NFL draft, a glass-half-full attitude among New York Jets fans following free agency has blossomed into full-blown confidence entering OTAs.
What did all of this tell us, of course?
Joe Douglas plans to continue building this team primarily through the draft, yet is more than ready to spend an extra dollar in free agency to put this young team over the hump.
Entering the 2022 draft, the Jets are positioned with two first rounders, two second rounders, one third rounder, two fourth rounders, two fifth rounders, three sixth rounders, and a seventh-round pick to top it off. These 13 picks serve as ammunition; not only to build around Wilson, but to continue building the culture Douglas and Robert Saleh are installing on 1 Jets Drive.
New York’s draft scouting department will be kept busy regardless of how the 2021 season unfolds. Let’s take a look at some of the prospects they may already have their eyes on.
Introduction to Scouting Notes
This will be my second year covering the draft for Jets X-Factor, with the 2021 cycle being the first. While I was happy with how much film I watched, my final rankings of each position, and the level of confidence in my opinions, I wanted to find a way of providing consistent draft content to Jets X-Factor fans and subscribers.
I’ve decided to create Scouting Notes as a result.
Every other week, in addition to other draft-related content such as film breakdowns or prospect rankings, I will be updating Jets and NFL draft fans with a weekly install of opinions on prospects, who I’ve watched, what I’ve heard, draft Q&As, and other random draft tidbits worth discussing. If there are weeks without Scouting Notes, expect other draft-related content to fill its spot.
The prospect pool will get so much deeper in a non-COVID year, increasing the need for even wider-ranging draft coverage.
Prospect Grading Scale
For future scouting reports and big boards, every organization needs a grading scale to compare prospects of the same or even different positions. Eliminating the vanilla terms “first-round talent, second-round talent,” or “Day 1 talent” and “Day 2 talent” is the overall goal with any prospect grading scale. In addition, giving these grades as in-depth of a description as possible allows for accurate placement of each player on the eventual big board.
The rules for my grading scale is the following:
7: The perfect, generational prospect. This player has elite and unique traits across the board for his specific position while possessing All-Pro ability the second he steps foot on the field. There is no second thought when in the position to grab this player. A 6.5 or higher overall grade would warrant this description.
6: A very good prospect that can make an impact for a team right away. This player has rare traits and abilities for their position, and still represents a franchise-changing talent that sees an extremely important role on the field. A 5.5 to 6.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
5: This is a good player who possesses above-average ability relative to their position. These types of players are key playmakers for NFL rosters and can be seen as high upside prospects who do not possess enough elite or very good traits to be graded as a 6 or 7. A 4.5 to a 5.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
4: Either an average starter or a rotational/situational backup, this player has solid or average ability relative to their position and can make up a good amount of NFL rosters. While not ultra-talented, bringing in these types of players on the roster can be the difference between wins and losses. These prospects can compete with anyone in the NFL. A 3.5 to a 4.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
3: A below-average player in the NFL, these prospects possess adequate or mid-low level ability in relation to their position. While they may be able to compete with other average or below average talent, they mostly win with effort and will lose against higher-skilled players with a better grade. These players are mostly if not always backups in the league. A 2.5 to a 3.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
2: Mostly a practice squad player, these type of prospects have minimal ability compared to their competition and usually lacks functional ability as well. If not on a practice squad, they can usually compete in camp before a season. A 1.5 to a 2.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
1: This is a rejected prospect who displays a lack of any ability in relation to their position regardless of effort or positioning. These types of players are off the big board entirely. A 1.0 to a 1.4 overall grade would warrant this description.
To create the overall grades, each prospect is graded trait-by-trait in their respected position. Each trait is graded 1-7, ranging from elite (7) to poor (1). Once all traits are graded, the average is taken to arrive at the overall final grade. The big board can be generated using these grades once everything is calculated.
While the grading scale is subject to change and adjustments on a year-to-year basis, this is the first edition of my public one.
A Preview of the 2022 Draft Class
As of now, the Jets possess four out of the top 64 picks. One could assume that they are primed to take two, three, or even four top 50 prospects in accordance with their board. There are not many teams in a better position for the first post-COVID draft than the Jets.
Let’s take an initial look at three top 50 prospects that make sense for Douglas and the Jets.
Top 10 Range: Derek Stingley Jr. | CB, LSU
The widely-accepted preseason CB1, Stingley was a 2019 consensus All-American and First Team All-SEC as a freshman. In 2020, even while dealing with injuries and an illness, he won both awards again as a sophomore.
"He's not a future superstar – he's a superstar."
Derek Stingley is special. pic.twitter.com/1B9n8ZFn41
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 8, 2019
Having Stingley and freshman standout CB Eli Ricks was a luxury that LSU will take better advantage of in 2021. When both were on the field, LSU ran man coverage on 49 percent of dropbacks. This would’ve ranked No. 2 in the entire SEC. Having the luxury to play man and essentially trust your CBs to make plays regardless of the situation, LSU can stack the box easier and become more aggressive in the pass rush.
The Jets could do the same thing with Stingley if they find the right talent at CB on the other side.
Top 25 Range: Drake Jackson | EDGE, USC
Simply put, I love Drake Jackson and his potential in the NFL. In 2020, Jackson totaled 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and an interception in six games. This earned him All-Pac-12 second team during his sophomore campaign.
USC DE Drake Jackson is going to be getting lots of buzz/attention this fall #2022NFLDraft
Trimmed down to 255lbs in 2020, after coming to USC & playing 2019 at nearly 275lbs
Can win in a variety ways as a rusher – love the inside moves (spin/rip) & then a 3-tech win 1on1 vs OG pic.twitter.com/ueNVwehHd2
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 16, 2021
While trimming down to 255 pounds in 2020 with a 6-foot-4 build, I can see Jackson filling out his frame and becoming a 5-tech defensive end in a 4-3 Even front at the NFL level. Teams will love Jackson’s get-off, bend, and the variety of pass rush moves he can pull off ranging from the 3-tech to the 5-tech.
Top 50 Range: Cade Mays | OG, Tennessee
If Jets fans have learned anything during the tenure of Douglas as general manager, it’s that he loves drafting big men with positional versatility. Mays is another Tennessee-built nasty finisher, this time a transfer from Georgia after his freshman and sophomore year. In 32 games, he’s made 25 starts; 18 at right guard, three at right tackle, two at left guard, and two at left tackle.
Cade Mays back… pic.twitter.com/9hwfen2iwE
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 3, 2020
Cade made six starts at RG and one start at RT as a member of the Vols in 2020. While he had the ability to enter the 2021 NFL draft, consistency issues in the run and pass game forced him to stay put one more year.
His 2021 season will be a defining one for his draft stock. If he can show the NFL that he can move in space and bend at the knees (and not at the waist), there’s not a doubt he can be a Day 2 or even Day 1 pick. If these are still technical errors in his game, there’s a chance Mays could have a Trey Smith trajectory and not land on a team until Day 3.
Stay tuned for the next volume of Scouting Notes, where I will be providing in-depth coverage of potential 2022 draft targets for the Jets using exclusive All-22 film angles. Be sure to subscribe to Jets X-Factor to ensure access to all of the upcoming coverage and film breakdowns.