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.
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.
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.
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.
.@Connor_J_Hughes says OT Mekhi Becton was ‘pushing 400 pounds’ when he showed up for #Jets mandatory minicamp + ‘the frustration from the coaching staff that @DanGrazianoESPN talked about is real, fans just haven’t wanted to believe it’: 🎥 Can’t Wait Pod #TakeFlight #JetsCamp pic.twitter.com/aDf9r8rtMc
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) July 8, 2022
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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