The mixed feelings that New York Jets fans have for their team after an utterly surprising upset of the Los Angeles Rams is saddening. On one hand the momentary happiness of a victory on Sunday is great, especially over a playoff team like the Rams, but losing out on arguably the greatest quarterback prospect of the 21st century does hurt and the New York media made sure the fanbase knew.
This may be the most heartbreaking thing Head Coach Adam Gase has done to the franchise over his horrid tenure. But General Manager Joe Douglas works a job that’s very fluid and after the upset he will likely be faced with a number of options with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Take the Best Player Available
The best player available here in my opinion is Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. His athletic profile is as good as it gets and he was the anchor of arguably the best offensive line in the country in the 2019 season. Sewell is a once in a generation offensive line prospect and in a deep class of offensive tackles, Sewell stands head and shoulders above the rest in most evaluators eyes.
Other options can include Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, who is arguably the best prospect at the position since Luke Kuechly entered the league nearly a decade ago. Parsons is the epitome of the modern-day LB, he can rush the passer, has the athleticism to get sideline-to-sideline and can shut down most teams tight ends with the upside to cover slot receivers.
Another option for Douglas lies in the secondary. There is a clear top-three at corner in this draft with it being Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. Which corner the Jets should have on top of their board is dependent on who is the defensive coordinator and the best fit for their scheme, nonetheless drafting a corner is a very viable option.
Any of the options named here would be a great selection for the Jets and give them a franchise cornerstone.
The leverage for the second overall pick in this draft is extremely high, especially considering the makeup of the Jets roster. If a team is in love with any of the QBs who don’t have weirdly long blonde hair and wear number 16, then trading up to the second overall pick makes a lot of sense, especially when you realize at least five teams in the top-12 selections can justify drafting a QB that early. Not to mention the Jets do have a high-upside quarterback in Sam Darnold who has two more years of team control before needing an extension or a franchise tag, so selecting a quarterback, while justifiable, may be more of a luxury than a need for the Jets.
The Jets leverage is only increased when the possibility of selecting Sewell to solidify your offensive line comes into play.
The Bengals sit one slot below the Jets at third overall and are in desperate need of a tackle to protect their injured first-overall pick Joe Burrow. Burrow is an obvious franchise quarterback, but suffered a horrific knee injury in a Week 11 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Keeping Burrow in pristine health is the Bengals first priority. Using that leverage to bait the Bengals into trading up a spot may be worth its while. It arms the Jets with extra draft capital and still gives them the privilege of selecting one of the top players on the board. Either way, Douglas can create an all-out bidding war for this pick.
Take a Quarterback and Trade Darnold
I alluded to this scenario in the previous section and while it may be unnecessary to some, it is still a very real possibility. There are a Big four of quarterbacks in this draft. Barring a miracle it will be down to a big-three by the time the Jets make their selection, with the options being Zach Wilson of BYU, Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance from North Dakota State. Some may have Alabama’s Mac Jones in this discussion, but I severely doubt he would be selected this high.
The previously mentioned quarterbacks are the consensus top-five at the position with the order usually being Lawrence, Fields, Wilson, Lance and Jones. The aforementioned signal callers are my personal top-five QBs in the 2020 NFL Draft, although I do have Wilson and Fields swapped on my board, but Wilson, Fields and Lance are all justifiable selections at the second overall pick.
Grabbing any of these players would garner excitement and all three have a good chance of being successful quarterbacks in the NFL, but this hypothetical would mean the Jets are going to move on from Sam Darnold.
Darnold is a former third-overall pick and has shown flashes of great talent in his almost three years in the league. The Jets can get at least a second-round pick in return for the former USC star, if they are lucky and a playoff team like the Saints or Steelers end up needing a signal caller, the Jets may be able to nab a late first-rounder for Darnold.
In the end this hypothetical has to be looked at as a complete trade. If I’m Joe Douglas I see this as either Wilson, Lance or Fields and at least a second round pick in return for Darnold, a steady presence with a lot of upside at the most important position in the game. If Douglas believes that moving on from Darnold for a younger option and an extra pick gives the Jets the best chance at long-term success then the answer is an obvious yes.