AFC East Roundup: What to know about the New York Jets heading into NFL Draft

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 22: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets in against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Steelers 16-10. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 22: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets in against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Steelers 16-10. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

We had a chance to talk with Paul Esden Jr. of The Jets Press about the New York Jets offseason and what to expect heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

The New York Jets made big splashes last offseason with the signing of LeVeon Bell and C.J. Mosley. The hope was that with the addition of Adam Gase as head coach, Sam Darnold could take that next step as a quarterback and the Jets would be more competitive in 2019.

However, the Jets season really struggled right from the start with C.J. Mosley suffering an injury in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills and then Darnold missing time due to mono. This offseason, the Jets were a little quieter but still have the ultimate goal of improving.

We had a chance to talk with Paul Esden Jr. over at The Jet Press to find out more about the Bills divisional opponent and what Bills fans might expect from the New York Jets in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.

1. After all the big moves the Jets made last offseason, how did you feel about their approach this offseason in free agency?

I’ll admit on the surface, spending a ton of money is exciting. Hey it’s not my money and the team immediately improves “on paper” by adding superstar talent all over the place winning headlines. This offseason was refreshing because quite frankly I’m sick of winning headlines and paper trophies, it’s time for substance.

General manager Joe Douglas is technically entering year No. 2 on the job but this free agency period was his first chance to make an imprint on the team (he was hired after free agency and the draft last year). Douglas’ careful meticulous approach added a lot of names, but he set himself up for a very important draft, if he hits, the team could change like this. If he misses, he’ll be blamed for not being more aggressive in free agency.

2. How much confidence do Jets fans have in Adam Gase heading into Year 2 as head coach?

Zero, candidly. When he was hired 99% of the fans hated the move (including me). Gase was heralded as an offensive mastermind and a quarterback whisperer and he failed miserably.

Now it’s worth noting he dealt with some unreal circumstances (his quarterback contracted mono in Week 1) and the rest of his roster imploded with injuries so it wasn’t perfect. The fanbase is split into two factions: half expect him to be canned after next season and the other half like what they saw in the second half of the season. The Jets went 6-2 in the final eight games which was the best record in the league only behind Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. So it really depends on who you ask, me personally? I have a quiet confidence.

3. Last season felt a bit like a lost year for Sam Darnold due to having mono. How do you feel he has developed and what do you want to see from him this upcoming season?

Sadly over the first two years of his career, Sam Darnold has missed a total of six games due to injuries and diseases. Last season did feel lost because despite the fact the NY Jets were dominating Week 1 vs Buffalo, Darnold was never right and it robbed him of his season.

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Sure he returned and had some success, but it’s hard to judge him on that. There’s so much to like about Sam Darnold: his ability to improvise, his raw gifts, and the ability to raise the level of the talent around him. Year No. 3 is a big season, the New York Jets owe it to him to surround him with talent. Candidly the team has done a horrible job of putting him in a position to succeed, you have to change that in the draft.

4. What are the Jets’ biggest needs heading into the 2020 NFL Draft?

In no particular order: offensive line (both offensive tackle and guard), edge rusher, cornerback, wide receiver, running back, backup quarterback, to name a few. Joe Douglas, as we discussed earlier, went with a softer approach in free agency and refused to be financially irresponsible.

While on the surface that won a lot of headlines for a careful and thoughtful approach, that only works if you nail the NFL Draft. Historically speaking the New York Jets haven’t done great, but that shouldn’t be thrown at Joe Douglas. He deserves the benefit of the doubt and with eight selections in the upcoming draft (four of those in the Top 79) he should have plenty of ammunition to make some things happen.

5. Are there any prospects that have jumped out to you during this process that you’d love to see join the squad in late April? If so, who are those prospects and why?

Do we have enough time to go over this ha? In the first round, I’d love to see the team draft an offensive tackle for the first time in over 14 years (Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs both fit the bill). If the top four offensive tackles are gone, I’d be open to going wide receiver. My personal favorite is CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma, he fits the NY Jets offense seamlessly and would immediately provide the team with a No. 1 wide receiver that can create after the catch and help in the red-zone. Other possibilities are Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy of Alabama.

In round two the New York Jets will likely address the opposite position: if they go OT at 11, they’ll go WR at 48 or vice versa. I’d prefer to get the OT first because there’s better depth at WR so you can hit that in the second round. Some guys I like: Michael Pittman Jr out of USC (former teammate of Sam Darnold), Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State, and maybe a guy like Tee Higgins out of Clemson. We can argue about whether those guys will be available, but I’ll say this inevitably someone has to drop at the receiver position. The class is simply too deep and there are so many other positions of interest that the NY Jets should benefit from that.

dark. Next. AFC East Roundup: Where do the Patriots go without Tom Brady?

Some other random prospects that really intrigue me: a pair of pass rushers in Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman out of Syracuse, Cole McDonald out of Hawaii at quarterback, Cam Akers at running back from Florida State.