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Is it time to call curtains on the New York Jets’ 2020 draft class?

Denzel Mims, NY Jets, Joe Douglas, Draft Class, 2020
Denzel Mims, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ 2020 draft class is shaping up to be a ‘big bust’ from Joe Douglas

One of the biggest reasons the New York Jets have struggled for the past decade is their drafting woes. From John Idzik to Mike Maccagnan, the team’s biggest flaw has been its inability to find talented players to help maintain success.

When Maccagnan was finally put out of his misery, many expected Joe Douglas to fix the mistakes his predecessors couldn’t.

Now that Douglas’s first draft class has two years in the books, it seems there may still be more work to do.

To be fair to Douglas, he was, for some reason, still chained to Adam Gase; though this was likely due to their longtime connection from their days with the Chicago Bears. To draft for scheme is one thing, but the 2020 draft class wasn’t that.

That year, Joe Douglas and the New York Jets had nine selections. At this point, it’s impossible to call this class by Douglas anything other than a bust.

The Never-Weres

Two players from the 2020 class never made it to the following season. Fourth-round offensive lineman Cameron Clark would retire after suffering a severe injury in practice during the 2021 offseason. Twenty-eight days later the team would release quarterback James Morgan, who was also selected in the 4th round of that 2020 NFL draft.

Injuries like Clark’s are out of everybody’s control. But James Morgan was a waste of a pick. There’s no question about that – many believed it to be the case at the time of the selection.

Clark and Morgan weren’t on the team the following year, and yet, the rest of the class doesn’t get much better.

The ‘what was he thinking’?

The New York Jets had three fourth-round picks in the 2020 draft. Joining Clark and Morgan is La’Mical Perine (who was drafted ahead of them).

Perine never profiled as a running back that could dominate at the next level. Whether it be his speed score, dominator rating, or BMI, Perine did not shine in any areas. His breakout year and lone standout season at Florida was his senior season, which is a red flag.

The New York Jets still took a shot on him. As was expected, Perine has never panned out at the next level. He averaged 3.6 YPC on 64 carries in his rookie year. This past season he was only given eight carries; being mostly a healthy scratch throughout the year.

Don’t be shocked to see Perine cut before the start of the 2022 season.

But Perine isn’t the only Florida Gator to bite the Jets and Joe Douglas.

With one of their two third-round picks, the New York Jets selected defensive end Jabari Zuniga. At this point, I wouldn’t have blamed anyone if they thought Maccagnan made these selections.

Zuniga spent five years at Florida and didn’t start to “dominate” until he was 21 years old; where he posted 6.5 sacks and 45 tackles in 12 games. His final college season was cut short due to injury, and Douglas should have avoided him after that.

In 11 career games, Zuniga has 8 tackles and 1 sack in what has been an injury-riddled career. With the depth the team has at the position, expect Zuniga to be a camp cut as well.

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The Heartbreaker

Potentially joining Zuniga as a camp cut is a player I and many Jets fans were incredibly excited for. That player is wide receiver Denzel Mims. After putting up excellent seasons at Baylor, Mims seemed like he would be the player to break the Jets’ second-round WR curse.

How wrong we were.

In nine games during his rookie season, Mims had 357 yards on 23 receptions. The following year he was put in Robert Saleh’s doghouse and was a non-factor when he did see the field, catching 8 passes in 11 games.

No matter how much we like a player, we must admit when they aren’t playing to their potential. With Mims, that happened sooner than any one of us wanted.

This offseason the Jets drafted Garrett Wilson and retained Braxton Berrios, putting Mims on the bubble, and fast.

All in all, the second-round pick has yet to produce 500 total yards in his career up to this point; and I wouldn’t expect him to pass that mark while waring green and white.

The Cling-On

Between the Mims and Zuniga picks was Ashtyn Davis, a safety out of Cal. Like Zuniga, Davis spent five years in college. Davis converted from cornerback to safety.

While Davis has shown flashes of decent coverage and pass rushing skills in college and in the NFL, he’s been a constant liability in every other facet of the game. Davis graded as Pro Football Focus’s third-worst safety in run defense out of 65 qualifying players in 2021. He also placed 44th of 65 in PFF’s tackling grade.

Already 25 years old, Davis is unlikely to be anything more than a depth piece going forward. His raw athleticism and work ethic will keep him on the roster; but the draftee chosen to be a developmental pick still has plenty developing left to do.

The Bright Spots

For some time, there were jokes that the best player of this draft class may be the punter chosen in the sixth round. After a good rookie season, Braden Mann faltered a bit in 2021 due to injury and the fact that he was placed in bad situations by the Jets offense.

Due to a lack of field position, Mann was unable to pinpoint many punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. This allowed more returns and in turn, better field position for the opposing team.

A sixth-round punter being one of the best players from a draft class is a terrible sign. It’s worse when the punter isn’t Pro Bowl caliber. Regardless, Mann has shown enough to warrant his stay on the roster.

Like Mann, cornerback Bryce Hall should find himself firmly on the team going into 2022. Unlike Mann, Hall lost his starting job this past offseason when the Jets signed D.J. Reed and drafted Sauce Gardner 4th overall.

After being talked about as a potential first-round selection in his own right, a severe ankle injury saw Hall fall down draft boards until he was selected in the fifth round by the Jets. Hall struggled in his rookie season, but there were bursts of that potential on display throughout the year.

Hall played much better in his second year despite the Jets having one of the worst passing defenses in the league. He was easily their best coverage corner and compiled 14 pass deflections – good for third in the NFL. He also finished 28th out of 72 players in snaps per allowed reception, according to PFF.

Despite the jump in performance, Hall finds himself buried on the depth chart. He’s already being speculated as a trade candidate. Given that he wasn’t selected by Robert Saleh’s staff, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see this happen.

To me, Hall is the best player so far from this draft class. But there’s still one more to highlight.

The “Big Bust”

Mekhi Becton was the first pick of the New York Jets’ 2020 draft class. He unquestionably has the most talent, but also carries the most questions surrounding his future.

After an impressive rookie season, Becton would only play one game in 2021 due to an opening-week knee injury. In fact, Becton has only played 15 games total in two seasons. The hope going into the 2022 offseason was that Becton would be ready and return to form.

Becton has made waves so far this offseason, but it’s not because he looks like the player the Jets drafted 11th overall. While giving himself the “Big Bust” moniker, Becton reportedly came into camp pushing 400 pounds.

If you’re wondering, that’s more than 30 pounds over his listed playing weight. With the new Jets staff reportedly being underwhelmed by Becton’s performance thus far, it’s hard to say what the future holds for the former first-round pick.

The Final Verdict

While it’s too early to grade Joe Douglas’ 2021 draft class, it’s impossible to deny how bad his first draft was. Maybe it was the last remaining stain of Adam Gase on the New York Jets. Maybe it was just the mistakes of a first-time GM. Regardless of what excuse is used, better results need to be obtained. Otherwise, the leash will only continue to get shorter.

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1 year ago

It is just wrong to judge Douglas on the 2020 class. He did dot yet have his scouting team in place yet and everything was off the board in the “pandemic year! He’s working with a coach not of his choosing, totally different philosophies, different pages. He is a man who builds a team and counts on input from all. This is extremely apparent with the meetings and all the input that went into the last two drafts. Everyone on the same page working together. The team and plan is now in place. It was not in 2020! The clock truly starts ticking in 2021! Even with this, Beckton, Mann, and Hall are keepers.

Barney Miller
1 year ago

Good piece. This may be a generalization, but I think the difference between JD/Gase picks and JD/Saleh picks isn’t talent level. Mims & Becton are clearly super talented athletes. The difference is, in a word, character. I’m not saying their bad people, (I don’t know them personally), but from what I see in interviews and articles is that they don’t have that positivity & swagger that we see in Michael Carter & Elijah Moore. Same with this year’s rookies. Even the free agents bought in recently (Uzomah, Reed, Conklin etc) all just seem to ooze a work ethic and a love of football that the 2020 class doesn’t. At least not so far. I still hope the 2020 kids prove me wrong.

The good news is that if Mims & Becton wash out but the ’21 & ’22 class excel then it’s all good news long term. JD finds the talent. Saleh finds the character. That’s a good combo for building a winning organization. Talent + Character = Wins.

1 year ago
Reply to  Barney Miller

You are spot on! They clearly have a “type’ now and anybody how watched the player interviews can tell what type. It’s very different. I go back to when Gase said something along the lines of Sam is finally growing because he came to my offense to talk about what he liked and didn’t like in the offense. That’s a terrible culture, that a second year player has to do the heavy lifting for that kind of help. Clearly, now they all know the goal is to help everybody succeed, and help one another, not leave someone out there to “find out for himself.”

Barney Miller
1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

Thanks! Yeah, it’s just a different vibe this year, even though they only had 4 wins. Maybe it’s just preseason optimism, but I have a feeling they’re gonna’ be a way more competitive team this year. And more fun to watch, playoffs or not.

1 year ago

Terrrible article. I don’t know which is worse, the media or some Jets fans. It’s like you can’t be happy, and can’t focus on the positives. It truly seems that some of you can’t be happy unless you’re miserable and wanting there to be failures and problems. This article was totally unnecessary. If, at the end of the season, Becton hasn’t played most/all of the games and played at a high level and Mims hasn’t developed into an NFL-caliber WR, there will be plenty of time to write about JD’s failure. All articles like this accomplish is stirring the pot, fanning the flames of dumb Jets fans to get an emotional response.

Hall is only being talked about as trade bait by stupid fans and stupid media. The glee in this article is palpable.

There are many things wrong with this article, but I’m not going to waste my time enumerating them.

If you truly care about the Jets, you’ll stop writing negative, stupid articles like this.

Sean Cunningham
1 year ago

A coment made by Douglas is the fact when he took the job that year, he did not have the time to fully scout the 2020 draft class. Any new GM will be months behind in the scouting process compared to his peers who’ve held ther respective jobs. In the next two draft classes Douglas had his scouts in place for the duration of the college season. He also had a clear plan entering these past two drafts, he was very methodical in the way he drafted up to get “his guy;” one could see this by the way he and his war room celebrated when they got Elijah Moore, Jermaine Johnson, Breece Hall. As a long suffering Jets fan, it’s been awesome to see how in sync Douglas and Saleh are in regards to building the roster. This is a reflection of the coach having a clear vision for how to build a winner, in contrast to Adam Gase and his tenure with the Jets.

Very fair article, the hopes of the 2022 season rely highly on a healthy Becton. I love Zach Wilson but he hasn’t yet evolved to the level of a quarterback who can make do with an offensive line with holes in it. With a good to dominant Becton, this offensive line can be very good. It looks like Mims is working hard and he could evolve into a deep threat for the Jets, or perhaps a contributor elsewhere. Bryce Hall is a legit starting conerback in the NFL, he will give the Jets excellent depth at that position. I’ve read one article about the idea of converting Bryce Hall to safety, why not? I understand there’s a learning curve involved, and he does provide excellent depth at corner, but he does have the skills to be a good cover safety. I have him at starting safety in my Madden season, lol. He has a few interceptions already.

1 year ago

I agree with this post except for the comment about the article being fair. I think it’s terrible, and it’s obvious the writer wants JD and the Jets to fail.

Jonathan Richter
1 year ago

Not factually accurate. JD was hired prior to the 2019 season, so he had almost a full year to scout for the 2020 draft. I’m willing to believe that Gase influenced the picks, but it seems clear Saleh and his team are in charge of the drafts now.

1 year ago

While still thinking it is too soon to label that draft as a failure, the clock is ticking. Would like to see them find an experienced offensive lineman as an insurance policy. This team can not afford to proceed without plan B. Looks like they have addressed the other positions. Can’t wait! Who says we can’t? Just extend This season!

1 year ago

While it’s not looking good the class is mainly dependent on Becton. If he becomes a long term good starter the class becomes a good draft class if he busts then it becomes a bad draft class. I would also include Guidry and Huff in the class. Both are quality contributors. Hall is a very good 3rd CB and Mann was making progress before injury.

But, it all depends on Becton. He has now been injured almost continuously since the middle of his rookie year. It started with the shoulder injury which carried through the end of the season and the off-season. Then he hurt his foot which likely did not help his conditioning. He then got injured and missed a good deal of camp while trying to learn a new system and finally the knee injury which he still seems to be recovering from. That is over 1.5 years of being continuously injured which not only slows his development but his conditioning. I am not confident he will acclimate quickly. But, if he can remain healthy he should improve as the season goes on. That’s a big if and will require a lot of luck and good fortune.

While the draft class is not looking great I do think it is premature to right it off. A recovery, good health and a rebound by Becton and suddenly the draft class is looking very good with Becton, Hall, Guidry, Huff, Mann and who knows maybe Davis can develop into a decent free safety depth piece if he gets a healthy off-season for the first time.

1 year ago

I think you’re right, it’s done. The class was trash although I still think Mims will be a good NFL player even if it’s not for the Jets. You are right he was tied to Gase (another discussion) and I also think he felt he “owed” Gase something because it seems he was the guy pulling for Joe to get the job. This doesn’t absolve Douglas from the disaster of a class but he has done enough since to show there was something “not quite right” about the situation. I really look at Douglas’ tenure starting with the Jets when they changed the team organizational structure, put Joe in charge and let him run the “football show.” Gase out, Saleh in, some good trades, the salary cap fixed, some good looking drafts, and most importantly the culture changed. That first daft was a disaster and that is on Joe but I’m ok looking past that at this point. The “other circumstances” clearly muddied the waters.