Jets general manager Joe Douglas is preparing for his third, and arguably most important, NFL draft on the job.
Douglas is armed with four top-40 picks after he executed two big trades, shipping Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold out in exchange for draft picks. Now, he needs to turn those picks into players.
There is plenty of time to dissect what Douglas might do in next month’s draft, but we thought it might be instructive to take a look back at Douglas’ first two draft classes to see if there are any detectable trends in what Douglas looks for from college prospects. Douglas has made 19 draft picks in all. Here’s a breakdown:
Douglas has drafted only three players from non-Power Five conferences. The most notable is quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. While BYU is not in an independent and does not play in a major conference, it hardly qualifies as a small program. The other two players from non-Power Fives are quarterback James Morgan from Florida International and offensive lineman Cameron Clark from Charlotte, both drafted in the fourth round in 2020. These are Conference USA schools, so they certainly are not football powers, but they are not FCS or Division II teams. Douglas has not drafted any players from outside the FBS.
So, don’t look for any small-school sleepers when you are figuring out the Jets’ draft plans.
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Captain, my captain
Douglas and coach Robert Saleh (and before him Adam Gase) speak about a player’s character quite often. Saleh and Douglas talk about wanting players who love football. Douglas has followed through on that in his draft execution. Eleven of the 19 players the Jets have drafted in the past two years were team captains in college.
There were some headlines about Wilson before last year’s draft because he initially was not a captain at BYU, but he later was made a captain after he won the starting job for the Cougars. Wilson was elected a Jets team captain as a rookie.
The split between offense and defense is remarkably even. Douglas has taken nine offensive players and nine defensive players with punter Braden Mann as the lone special teams representative.
What stands out, though, is how Douglas has prioritized offense early and defense later in the draft. Douglas has used all five of his first- — and second-round picks on offensive players — Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore. In 2021, he used his first four draft picks on offense. He then went heavy on defense in the later rounds. The earliest he has taken a defensive player is the third round when he drafted defensive end Jabari Zuniga and safety Ashtyn Davis in 2020.
It will be interesting to see if Douglas turns to defense earlier in 2022 after the Jets’ defense finished 32nd in the NFL last year.
While Douglas has concentrated on offense early in the draft, the position group he has drafted the most is on defense. He has taken five defensive backs, but none earlier than the third round (Davis). He drafted three cornerbacks in the fifth and sixth rounds last year. The next position group he has drafted the most is offensive line with three selections, using first-round picks on Becton and Vera-Tucker. He has drafted two wide receivers, two defensive linemen, two running backs, two quarterbacks, two linebackers and a punter.
It is notable that Douglas has not drafted a tight end. It seems unlikely he will again this year after signing C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency.
Douglas has made three draft-day trades in each of his two drafts. The most notable trade came in 2021 when he traded up from No. 23 to 14 to get Vera-Tucker. He parted ways with two third-round picks in addition to the No. 23 pick to move up and get the guard.
Douglas is armed with nine picks. It would not be surprising to see him try to maneuver around the board with those picks and possibly pick up extra picks in 2023.
Speed on the outside
Looking at the 40-yard dash times for the Jets draft picks, it is clear Douglas wants burners at wide receiver and cornerback. Looking at the two receivers, Mims ran a 4.38 40 and Moore ran a 4.35. At cornerback, Michael Carter II (4.36), Jason Pinnock (4.45) and Brandin Echols (4.36) all ran fast times. Bryce Hall did not run because he was injured. Becton turned heads with a 5.10 40 at the 2020 combine, a remarkable time for a 370-pound man.
Douglas has taken some gambles on players who were injured in college, but not earlier than the third round. The best gamble he made was on Hall, who missed most of his last year at Virginia with a bad ankle injury. Hall became a starter in the second half of his rookie season and has shown promise for the Jets.