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NY Jets must consider mimicking Titans’ 2023 draft strategy

Joe Douglas
Joe Douglas

The 2023 Tennessee Titans laid a blueprint that Joe Douglas should consider copying

The overwhelming majority of NFL draft classes feature a balanced mix of offensive and defensive reinforcements. The 2023 Tennessee Titans decided to buck the trend. Led by first-year general manager Ran Carthon, the Titans used all six of their draft picks on offensive players:

  • Round 1, Pick 11: OL Peter Skoronski
  • Round 2, Pick 33: QB Will Levis
  • Round 3, Pick 81: RB Tyjae Spears
  • Round 5, Pick 147: TE Josh Whyle
  • Round 6, Pick 186: OL Jaelyn Duncan
  • Round 7, Pick 228: WR Colton Dowell

Carthon stated after the draft that going all-offense was not something the team did intentionally.

“It honestly just dawned on me about 30 minutes ago that it was all offense. We were just playing the board. … But it wasn’t a designed plan or anything.”

While I am sure Tennessee did not plan to choose an offensive player with every draft pick, the roster’s predicament at the time certainly nudged them in that direction.

The 2022 Titans finished 14th in scoring defense but 28th in scoring. The No. 28 ranking doesn’t even fully encapsulate how barren the offensive roster was. Tennessee’s leading receiver was 30-year-old free-agent-to-be Robert Woods with only 527 yards. The Titans’ offensive line had the worst pass-blocking efficiency in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

Overall, it was a team that had a solid amount of defensive talent but an egregious lack of building blocks on offense. Considering the disparity between the two units, it seems reasonable to believe that Tennessee leaned toward offense if they ever had to choose between an offensive prospect and a defensive prospect who were ranked similarly on their board.

So, while it’s doubtful that Tennessee deliberately ignored defensive prospects, their desperation on offense ultimately caused them to go six-for-six on that side of the ball.

Could Joe Douglas and the New York Jets mimic this mentality in 2024?

Like the 2023 Titans, the 2024 Jets are coming off a season in which their defense severely outperformed the offense. In fact, the margin was even more severe than Tennessee’s – and it isn’t even remotely close.

This year’s Jets squad was one of the most unbalanced teams in the history of professional football. This is shown by the historically large gap between their two units in the DVOA metric (defense-adjusted value over average).

The 2023 Jets had a defensive DVOA of -14.2%, which ranked third-best in the NFL (a negative defensive DVOA is better). Offensively, they had a mind-bogglingly terrible DVOA of -29.9% (a negative offensive DVOA is worse). Not only was that the NFL’s worst mark in 2023, but it is the worst in Jets history since the stat was first tracked in 1981 and the 14th-worst single-season mark by any team in the DVOA era.

The disparity in the Jets’ DVOA ratings compared to average (0.0%) was 44.1% (+14.2% compared to average on defense, -29.9% compared to average on offense). That is the third-largest disparity in favor of defense since 1981:

  1. 1991 Philadelphia Eagles: 60.6% (-38.0% defense, -22.6% offense)
  2. 1992 Seattle Seahawks: 50.3% (-12.6% defense, -37.7% offense)
  3. 2023 New York Jets: 44.1% (-14.2% defense, -29.9% offense)
  4. 2018 Buffalo Bills: 41.5% (-15.8% defense, -26.7% offense)
  5. 2012 Arizona Cardinals: 41.5% (-11.7% defense, -29.8% offense)

As lopsided as the 2022 Titans were, they were still nowhere close to as unbalanced as the 2023 Jets. The 2022 Titans are way down at 510th out of 1,309 teams with only a 4.8% DVOA margin in favor of their defense.

So, if that Titans team was desperate enough on offense to have an all-offense draft, why shouldn’t this Jets team do the same?

Of course, there are unique circumstances with this Jets team that did not apply to the 2023 Titans and have rarely applied to any team in football history. Most importantly, they have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback coming back (hopefully for more than four plays). A healthy Aaron Rodgers alone would be enough to massively improve the offense.

And despite how atrocious the offense was in 2023, the talent on paper is better than what the Titans had entering 2023, and it’s better than what a lot of NFL teams have at the moment. With Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall alone, the Jets have more blue-chip talent at the skill positions than many teams.

Still, for all of the praise you can heap upon Wilson and Hall, and for all of the impact Rodgers will have if things go according to plan, it is impossible to dance around precisely how abominable this Jets offense was. When we talk about the state of this offense, we must be clear about the exact degree of its atrocity in 2023.

Lots of Jets teams have faced an onslaught of injuries. Lots of Jets teams have had poor quarterback play. Lots of Jets teams have had poor offensive lines. Lots of Jets teams have had offensive coordinators that make fans want to pull their hair out (however much of it they have left after watching this team for their whole lives).

And yet, none of them were as bad as the 2023 Jets offense. Think about some of the offenses you’ve watched as a Jets fan and let it sink in how unfathomable that is.

While Wilson and Hall provide hope, their presence arguably makes the situation even more dire. Wilson and Hall combined to play 34-of-34 games in 2023 and both players performed extremely well. They took turns making something out of nothing to single-handedly carry the offense to success. Even with the two stars pulling their weight, this was still the worst Jets offense of the past 43 seasons.

That points to just how bad the offense was outside of Wilson and Hall. Considering where the Jets’ DVOA ended up despite how well Wilson and Hall played, the Jets’ offensive performance outside of their two best players was arguably the worst in NFL history. The collective performance of the quarterbacks, offensive line, WRs sans Wilson, RBs sans Hall, tight ends, and coaching staff was downright awful.

A healthy Rodgers would help quite a bit, but he is not going to solve everything for an offense that was this bad last year. Not even close.

Put it this way: Hypothetically, picture that the Jets change absolutely nothing else about their offense and Rodgers is their only addition. Let’s say Rodgers alone boosts their offensive DVOA by 30%. For perspective on how massive that is, it is approximately the same difference between the 49ers’ league-best offense (31.8%) and the Gardner Minshew-led Colts’ 13th-ranked offense (1.9%).

With a boost of 30% to their 2023 offensive DVOA of -29.9%, the Jets would still only be at 0.1%, which would have ranked 16th last year – between the Steelers and Chargers.

Basically, the Jets’ offense is coming from such a low floor that even a meteoric boost from Rodgers would still make them a merely average offense if nothing else changed. And that is with the extremely optimistic projection of a 40-year-old Rodgers staying fully healthy and playing at a high enough level to provide a boost that would mean he had an MVP-caliber season.

If we’re slightly more pragmatic about Rodgers’ potential impact, lowering the boost he provides to 20%, the Jets’ offensive DVOA would rise from -29.9% to -9.9%. That would have essentially matched the 24th-ranked Falcons offense last season (-9.8%), the one that was so disappointing it got Arthur Smith fired.

Bottom line: The Jets need far, far, far more than just Rodgers to build an offense that is Super Bowl-caliber. And after a lot of ranting about historical DVOA data (my sincere apologies), that brings us back to the main premise of this article: Yes, the Jets should seriously consider an all-offense draft class.

As Carthon stated when recapping the Titans’ 2023 draft, this is not something that a team will deliberately plan when going into the draft. It’s unrealistic to expect a team to be that close-minded. If the Jets are on the clock in round six and there is a safety available who they have ranked 50 spots higher on their board than any other available prospect, then by all means, go ahead and take him.

But the Jets should mimic the mentality of last year’s offense-hungry Titans. Tennessee may not have planned to go all-offense, but they undoubtedly kept themselves open to the possibility by going into the draft with a mentality that the offense was their top priority by a longshot.

Carthon can try to claim that Tennessee did not have this mentality, but that is highly unlikely. If they really were just “playing the board,” they just as easily could have ended up with an all-defense class, and I guarantee you the Titans had zero plans of doing that. Clean-sweep draft classes are too rare to be accidental. The Titans were heavily favoring offensive prospects, and that is what the Jets must do in 2024.

Maybe it ends up in a complete sweep of offensive players, maybe it falls one pick short, but New York needs to heavily favor the offense in this year’s draft. Barring a potential defensive steal of monumental proportions, the tie must go to the offense every time the Jets are on the clock.

This is not the year to waste picks on defenders who will be buried on one of the league’s deepest defensive depth charts. Take explosive weapons who will immediately have the opportunity to earn ample snaps and develop into game-changing playmakers. Take toolsy offensive linemen who can provide depth at a position where it’s more vital than any other. Take a nasty, big-bodied tight end whose blocking can help the offense from day one.

While I understand and usually advocate for the “best player available” mentality – one championed by most general managers, but especially Douglas – this is a unique situation that calls for a unique approach. If the Jets are serious about winning a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, they will recognize the severity of their offensive situation and prioritize it accordingly.

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pat brady
pat brady
2 months ago

They desperately need to improve the OL and they need another quality receiver. If I’m Douglass I’m using the 1st pick on a tackle and then I’m taking the best available after that. If I see a bargain at WR or OL I’d move up somehow.