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NY Jets’ 2024 draft class sends a clear message to Jets fans

Olu Fashanu
Olu Fashanu, Getty Images

One thing is clear after the New York Jets’ 2024 draft

When the New York Jets’ 2023 season concluded in January, I found it somewhat difficult to be optimistic about the team’s future. Yes, it was easy to pull the card, “They won seven games with league-worst QB play and have Aaron Rodgers coming back!” However, buying into that outlook required ignoring a dark cloud hanging over the organization: the incompetent performance of the Jets’ brass in 2023.

It’s impossible to know what the Jets would have looked like with a healthy Rodgers in 2023. Considering they won seven games without him, it’s easy to say they could have won 9-10 games at the very least. Still, it feels like the 2023 season was bound to end in disappointment after seeing how poorly the Jets handled their preparation for the year. After landing Rodgers, the Jets seemingly called it an offseason. They stopped trying to make serious improvements to the offense despite its plethora of glaring weaknesses.

Joe Douglas and the Jets displayed a remarkable degree of negligence on the offensive side of the ball after landing Rodgers. This was particularly true in the trenches. Despite clearly needing multiple significant additions on the offensive line after the 2022 season, the Jets sat back and did essentially nothing on the veteran market. Their only notable offseason investment on the offensive line was drafting Joe Tippmann in the second round. Unsurprisingly, the Jets finished with a bottom-two offensive line in the NFL.

The Jets already needed a third wide receiver after trading Elijah Moore, and as the summer progressed, they knew Corey Davis was considering retiring. Yet, all the Jets did was add two buddies of Aaron Rodgers’, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Unsurprisingly, both signings bombed.

Finally, the Jets decided it would be cool to not add a backup quarterback despite wanting Zach Wilson to have a redshirt year and Wilson being projected as one of the worst backups in the NFL.

Say whatever you want about how good the Jets might have been with a healthy Rodgers last year, but with all of these horrid offseason mistakes, the Jets did everything in their power to increase the likelihood of the disaster that eventually arrived. They set themselves up for what happened.

Then, once the season arrived and Rodgers went down after four plays, it seemed like the Jets threw the towel in. The organization’s public comments throughout the year gave off the vibe that they truly believed everything would have been great if Rodgers had just stayed healthy, and that anything the team did without Rodgers on the field should not be subject to criticism. “Well, our quarterback went down in Week 1, what are we supposed to do?” was the gist of Robert Saleh’s comments throughout the year.

That is not an actual quote in itself, but it’s how Saleh’s message came across to the fanbase. This is best exemplified by a comment Saleh actually did make prior to the Jets’ Week 10 game against the Raiders. He said that the game would be “a race to 20 points” – this despite the Raiders being a 4-5 team whose defense was far from spectacular (they were 20th in defensive DVOA at the time). He basically admitted their offense was nothing without Rodgers, showing zero confidence that a unit with Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall could score even just 20 points against a mediocre opponent.

One word sums up the Jets organization in 2023 after the Rodgers trade: Complacent. They operated as if they won the Super Bowl at the exact moment Rodgers told Pat McAfee his intention was to play for the New York Jets.

Going into the 2024 offseason, I didn’t know if the Jets could be trusted to do what was necessary to maximize Rodgers’ time with the team. All of their actions in 2023 – from their lazy offseason approach to the lack of accountability during the season – suggested they truly believed that a healthy Rodgers was all they needed to win a Super Bowl. Their beholdenness to the man was astounding.

But then March 2024 arrived. And in a matter of a couple of weeks, the Jets squashed my concerns about their apparent complacency.

They acquired three starting offensive linemen, including the most talented one on the free agent market. They signed one of the most productive wide receivers available on either the free agent or trade markets. They signed one of the best backup quarterback options in free agency. They made an aggressive move for one of the league’s best sack artists to replace Bryce Huff.

It was obvious that the Jets had learned from their mistakes. The nightmare that was the 2023 season was a wake-up slap for the franchise, screaming in their faces that they had to be uber-aggressive in the 2024 offseason if they wanted to give Rodgers his best chance of succeeding in New York.

March was an excellent start, but one more event remained for the Jets to emphatically stamp their all-in mentality: the draft.

And they hit it out of the park.

Coming into this year, everyone knew the 2024 offseason was about improving four things:

  1. Offense
  2. Offense
  3. Offense
  4. More offense

In 2023, the Jets became the third-most lopsided team in favor of defense over the past 43 NFL seasons. Since 1981, only the 1991 Eagles and 1992 Seahawks had a greater disparity between their defensive success and their offensive success based on DVOA.

The Jets’ -14.2% defensive DVOA was third-best in the NFL last season, but their -29.9% offensive DVOA was the worst in the NFL. This gave the Jets their 44.1% disparity in favor of defense, the third-largest in the DVOA era. Not only was the Jets’ offensive DVOA the league’s worst in 2023, but it was the worst single-season offensive DVOA in Jets history as far back as the stat has been tracked (since 1981), and, overall, it was the 14th-worst offensive season out of 1,309 teams.

Sure, the Jets have Rodgers coming back, but that is an absurd disparity. You have a top-three defense paired with perhaps the worst offense Jets fans have ever seen (a difficult bar to clear). While Rodgers will make up a large chunk of that gap, he cannot fix all of it on his own.

Considering no AFC team in the past four decades had a larger gap between their defense and their offense, it was time for the Jets to balance the scales with an extremely offense-heavy draft class. Douglas delivered.

The Jets selected offensive players with each of their first five picks in the 2024 NFL draft. It marks the first time in franchise history that the Jets began a draft class with five consecutive offensive selections.

The overall offense-heavy mentality is exactly what the Jets needed. With this draft class coming on the heels of their tremendous offensive additions in March, a clear message has been sent to the fanbase: The New York Jets understood the assignment in the 2024 offseason.

The Jets looked themselves in the mirror, had honest conversations about what they did wrong in 2023, and learned from those mistakes to map out a plan of what needed to be done to get things right. This was a “show, don’t tell” type of offseason. Last year, the Jets acquired Rodgers and spent the next four-plus months yapping to fans on Hard Knocks and other forms of media about how good they were going to be. They told fans they wanted to win, but they didn’t display tangible evidence that proved they were fully committed to it.

This year, the Jets unequivocally showed fans how serious they are about winning.

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Psi
Psi
23 days ago

Absolutely spot on analysis Michael. That Saleh quote before the Raider game rubbed me the wrong way to a very high degree. It sounded very much like Todd Bowles before him. It was also an insight to his mentality that needs to be completely eliminated. That said, the recognition of the need to change is admirable and with the draft demonstrated the required balance of win-now and build for the future. If they fall on their face, I believe Saleh will and should be the fall guy. Looking over the body of work since they both arrived, JD has bought himself more time imo.

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