Having a large total of draft assets may not guarantee much of anything for New York Jets’ future
It won’t come as a shock to anyone to hear that the New York Jets have excellent draft capital this year (thank you very much, Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold). But it may surprise you to hear that not only do the Jets have the most draft capital of any NFL team in 2022, but they have the second-most valuable draft asset collection since 1999.
the Jets have the 2nd most draft capital of any team since at least 1999
(Browns in 2018 only team with more value) pic.twitter.com/WiAsMvTbVU
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) February 23, 2022
Having a lot of valuable draft picks doesn’t seem to guarantee success. The jury is still out on the Jaguars’ class of 2021 and although the same could be said for the 2020 Dolphins class, it’s not looking good.
The Jets are one of three teams to eclipse the 130 mark on the draft asset value chart, the other two being the Jaguars in 2021 and the Browns in 2018.
I thought it would be interesting to look at the 2018 Cleveland Browns draft, which consisted of the most valuable draft asset collection since 1999.
2018 Cleveland Browns draft class
There was a lot resting on that 2018 class. The Browns hadn’t made the playoffs since 2002 and had finished fourth in the AFC North for seven straight seasons. The 2018 draft was seen as an opportunity at a reset for an organization that was once a mainstay in the post-season, heading there seven times in the 1980s.
How did the Browns spend the most valuable draft assets in over two decades? Here is their 2018 draft class:
- #1 overall – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB
- #4 overall – Denzel Ward, Ohio State, CB
- #33 overall – Austin Corbett, Nevada, OT
- #35 overall – Nick Chubb, Georgia, RB
- #67 overall – Chad Thomas, Miami, DE
- #105 overall – Antonio Callaway, Florida, WR
- #150 overall – Genard Avery, Memphis, LB
- #175 overall – Damion Ratley, Texas A&M, WR
- #188 overall – Simeon Thomas, Louisiana, CB
Like the Jets, the Browns had five picks inside the first 75 selections of the NFL draft. The hope is the Jets do a much better job with their draft assets than the Browns did with theirs.
You look at this draft class and you don’t see a franchise-shifting set of players. You see two good players in Denzal Ward and Nick Chubb (5 Pro Bowls between them), a highly inconsistent QB, and a lot of players who many won’t even recognize.
The failure of the later-round picks won’t surprise you – they’re long shots by their nature. Simeon Thomas getting cut in his first off-season and ending up in the CFL last season didn’t ruin this class. Damion Ratley catching 29 passes over 4 years didn’t ruin this class.
Trading second-round pick Austin Corbett to the Rams for a fifth-round pick doesn’t sound good, but the Browns have two of the best guards in football in Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio. Although many thought Corbett could make it as a center, Cleveland has a stud there in J.C Tretter, so Corbett being moved wasn’t a surprise. In fact, many thought he’d be cut outright. Corbett actually ended up starting for the Rams and performing well for the Super Bowl champions.
It’s all hindsight but that Corbett pick could have been used on Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, Denver receiver Courtland Sutton or Tennessee linebacker Harold Landry, all of whom went within the 10 picks after Corbett was selected. The Browns did end up taking a linebacker and two receivers but elected to wait on those positions.
Chad Thomas is another player who just never lived up to his draft billing. Thomas lasted just two years in Cleveland, barely playing his rookie year, disappointing in 2019, and being out of football afterward to pursue his music career.
Antonio Callaway had a good rookie campaign, putting up 586 yards and five touchdowns, but his 2019 season was a disaster. After being suspended for the first four games due to violating the league substance-abuse policy, he was waived for showing up late to meetings and generally having a bad attitude.
This is all to show that draft assets don’t mean a lot if you make the wrong decisions. It’s important to remember that the 2018 Browns class was largely celebrated immediately after, giving more proof to the theory that immediate grades are beyond pointless.
Denzel Ward is a top 20 kind of cornerback at this point – not elite but very good. Nick Chubb is one of the better RBs in the league coming off a 1,258-yard and 8-touchdown season. But if that’s all you’ve got from the most valuable draft asset collection in the last 20-plus years, then you got it wrong.
Baker Mayfield had a very good season in 2020, but he crashed back down to earth in 2021 while being plagued with injuries. He’s still a huge unknown. Is he the 26 TD/8 INT passer that he was in 2020? Or more like the 22 TD/21 INT passer he was in 2019? The Browns will really need to sort out his future this off-season to bring clarity to the position.
The Browns did break their playoff drought by securing a wild-card spot with a strong 11-5 record in 2020, but after beating the Steelers in a shootout they were bounced by the Chiefs in the Divisional round and then regressed to an 8-9 record in 2021.
You may wonder why I am going on about this Browns class so much. Well, their draft assets were similar to the assets the Jets will go into the 2022 draft with, and Cleveland’s lack of success with those assets is further evidence of the crapshoot that is the NFL draft.
At the end of the regular season, Jets general manager Joe Douglas was asked if he would consider using his draft assets to trade for a veteran, and his response was that it would be under consideration.
Personally, I think we get too attached to our draft assets. The unknown potential of an unknown player is more appetizing than the known production of a player, even if that player is a good player like Calvin Ridley. The fear is that you trade a pick for someone like Ridley and you get yourself a good player, but maybe you’re missing out on an even better one, like a Cooper Kupp or a Tyreek Hill.
When I was growing up my parents always used to tell me that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” I never really understood that. What they meant was the known is more valuable than the speculative.
If the Falcons are keen to move Ridley and he checks out medically, I’d have no issues with the Jets trading a second-round pick and a conditional future pick to bring in a guy who already has a 1,000-yard season to his name. Sure, that second-rounder could turn into something great, but that pick also could turn into Stephen Hill, Denzel Mims, Devin Smith or Jace Amaro… the list is endless.
I’m not calling for the Jets to go into L.A. Rams mode and trade away all their assets for the next 10 years. I’m calling for the Jets to be brave and aggressive in the trade market with their assets if the value is there.
There are many ways to build a good team, and most of the best teams are built via a combination of drafted players, free-agent signings, and trades. Just having a haul of draft picks doesn’t always guarantee success, as we see with the disappointing 2018 Cleveland Browns draft class.