Look out for the New York Jets to target this kind of prospect in the 2022 NFL draft
Now that Joe Douglas has completed two drafts as the mastermind of the New York Jets front office, we can start to get a feel for some of his tendencies as a drafter. What traits does Douglas tend to favor in the players he selects?
When looking at Douglas’ 2020 and 2021 Jets draft classes, one thing stands out clearly: he loves to target players with incredible athletic ability.
Joe Douglas ranks highly when it comes to drafting uber-athletes
Before getting to the specific numbers on Douglas’ tendencies, here’s a brief explanation of how I arrived at my conclusions.
I compiled the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) for every player drafted in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. I then calculated all 32 teams’ cumulative RAS among the players they drafted over that span, giving us a feel for how much each franchise valued athleticism in its draft picks.
RAS is a metric recorded by Kent Lee Platte, which he defines as “a metric that can easily and intuitively gauge a player’s athletic abilities relative to the position they play”. It is a 0-to-10 rating that takes into account a player’s performance in various testing drills relative to their height, weight, and position.
Essentially, RAS correlates with a player’s all-time percentile rank at their position. In other words, a player with a 5.0 is more athletic than approximately 50% of players at his position in the history of testing data, a player with a 6.0 is more athletic than about 60% of players at his position, and so forth.
Keep in mind that not every player has a RAS to their name. If the player did not partake in a sufficient number of drills at the NFL Scouting Combine or their pro day, a RAS cannot be calculated for them.
The majority of players do have a RAS. Of the 514 players drafted from 2020-21, 448 of them have a RAS (87.2%). It’s a decent enough sample for us to execute this study, but do keep in mind that it’s an imperfect sample due to the absence of about 13% of players.
Without further ado, let’s get into the numbers.
The Jets drafted 19 players from 2020-21. All of them were RAS-eligible except for Zach Wilson, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall, giving them 16 players who qualified for this study.
Of the 16 RAS-eligible players drafted by New York from 2020-21, a whopping seven of them had an RAS of 9.0 or higher. That’s a 43.8% rate, ranking fourth-highest in the NFL behind the Saints (66.7%), Raiders (50.0%), and Chiefs (50.0%).
New York’s total of seven draft picks with a 9.0-plus RAS tied the Commanders and Broncos for the most in the NFL over the past two years. Here are those seven players:
- DT Jonathan Marshall: 9.99 (2021 Round 6, Pick 207)
- OT Mekhi Becton: 9.85 (2020 Round 1, Pick 11)
- IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker: 9.80 (2021 Round 1, Pick 14)
- CB Jason Pinnock: 9.78 (2021 Round 5, Pick 175)
- WR Denzel Mims: 9.77 (2020 Round 2, Pick 59)
- DE Jabari Zuniga: 9.74 (2020 Round 3, Pick 68)
- CB Brandin Echols: 9.15 (2021 Round 6, Pick 200)
It seems likely that Ashtyn Davis would also be in this group if he had tested during the 2020 pre-draft process. Davis was a track star at Cal and showcased fantastic speed on tape.
So, it’s clear that Douglas is attracted to the tantalizing potential offered by the draft’s most impressive athletes. Few general managers have a stronger tendency to draft top-10% athletes.
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Joe Douglas will not rule out lesser athletes, however
Interestingly, New York only ranked 15th out of 32 teams when it came to the average RAS of their draft selections. The Jets’ 16 eligible players combined for an average RAS of 7.59, which is slightly above the league average of 7.55 for drafted players from 2020-21.
This is because Douglas was still willing to take chances on low-RAS players even though he had a very strong tendency to draft high-RAS players.
Douglas drafted the following players with a RAS below the league average of 7.55:
- P Braden Mann: 7.19 (2020 Round 6, Pick 191)
- RB Michael Carter: 6.23 (2021 Round 4, Pick 107)
- CB Michael Carter II: 5.73 (2021 Round 5, Pick 154)
- RB La’Mical Perine: 5.31 (2020 Round 4, Pick 120)
- IOL Cameron Clark: 4.31 (2020 Round 4, Pick 129)
- LB Jamien Sherwood: 4.24 (2021 Round 5, Pick 146)
- QB James Morgan: 3.88 (2020 Round 4, Pick 125)
It’s nice to see Douglas show some balance here. He’s not married to the athletic numbers and will gamble on a lesser athlete if he likes the player. This strategy could yield some success through Michael Carter and Michael Carter II, who each had impressive rookie years despite lackluster RAS numbers.
One thing that stands out about Douglas’ group of below-average athletes is that they were all selected on the third day of the draft. While Douglas won’t cross these players off his draft board, it seems he is not willing to take a chance on them until the later rounds. He is yet to select a below-average RAS player prior to the fourth round.
On the other hand, all five of Douglas’ RAS-eligible picks from rounds one through three had a RAS above 8.6: Mekhi Becton (9.85), Alijah Vera-Tucker (9.80), Elijah Moore (8.68), Denzel Mims (9.77), and Jabari Zuniga (9.74). As we discussed earlier, Davis would probably join that group if he tested, and there’s a good chance that Zach Wilson would join them as well.
Look for Douglas to focus on elite athletes during the first two days of the draft. Once the third day rolls around, expect him to begin targeting players who slipped down the board due to their lesser athletic profiles.
Here is a look at the RAS data for each team from 2020-21:
Great piece. I thought this was gonna’ be about character. Which is something JD seems to be good at picking too. Maybe I just followed the interviews more this year, but despite the bad record, most of the team seems like good, smart people. Not a lot of knuckleheads. I think Saleh is part of that too. It’s part of the reason I’m not super mad that we didn’t land Tyreek. He’s a brilliant player. I’m sure his RAS is off the charts. And he’s not as selfish as the Antonio Browns or even Jamal Adams of the football world. But Hill seems to be a bit self centered. And what Saleh and Douglas are building here is a team of “team” people. Not a team of “me” brands. I think that bodes well in the long run. Good to know that they’re picking physical studs too. We need both!
This is a really cool article. My guess is Joe puts this info together with everything else, including character when slotting players. I see some of this info and look at the guys drafted two years ago and think is it possible any of them break out? We all, at least I tend to write off most of those guys but, it is possible someone like Mims all of a sudden puts it togther? I have not be kind to Ashtyn Davis, and to this point rightfully so, but is there a chance he’s any good at all? Articles like this make me wonder how in this “prove it now” world if we just need more patience. Just a thought.
You can’t judge a draft class until year 3. So, yes, guys like Ash Davis and Jabari Zuniga can still show worth. Davis in particular has struggled with injuries.
Davis’s issue, as well as Mims, seems to be mental more than physical, right? The couple of times Mims got in the game and caught the ball, he was able to get some good YAC, didn’t he? And Davis at least had a couple nice picks the second half of the season. I’m guessing the problems the coaches have with these players is playbook based. Not being in the right place at the right time. That can be taught. While this RAS number seems more like something you’ve got or you don’t. Right?
I feel like Douglas has drafted with a strong level of trust in his coaching staff. He goes after some of the more uncoachable traits and trusts his staff to coach up the stuff that can be taught. This could be why the 2020 class isn’t looking so great (although injuries have played a part) – he was drafting for Gase’s regime – whereas in 2021 he was drafting for the stronger staff of Saleh and co.
Yeah. I feel Perine falls into that category too. But Mims was hanging with Zach & Moore, so maybe he turns the corner? Fingers crossed.
Interesting Michael. Are you doing a follow up piece about who those prospects may be?
Yes definitely going to highlight how these tendencies could come into play with this year’s prospects. Will have that tomorrow