The New York Jets select Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee with the No. 20 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
The Jets need more players with real movement skills, and with Myles Jack’s medical problems pulling him down the draft board, Lee may very well be the next-best option. He won’t impress anyone with his size (6' 1", 232 pounds), but remember that Jets coach Todd Bowles was in Arizona when Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington were redefining what linebackers could do. Now, Bowles has his own cover linebacker, who can tackle pretty well, rush a bit and cover everything from curl-flat to seam. From that perspective, it’s a good pick. Those who are unimpressed are just going to have to realize that the 230-pound linebacker is the wave of the future.
Strengths: Fits the prototype of the modern three-down linebacker with his ability to play at a high level at everywhere from strongside linebacker to slot defender. Covers a whole lot of ground in a very short time; a sudden player who makes his presence felt. Has the 360-degree speed, hip-turn and agility to flare out into coverages ranging from screen and curl/flat to deep seam. Tremendous quickness and persistence as an edge blitzer; he’ll move to find openings and has a special level of quickness to the pocket with an unreal second gear to bend the edge. In coverage, he reads mobile quarterbacks especially well and can either close to the quarterback or a receiver with unusual speed. Pesky open-field shoulder tackler. Hyper-smart player on the field with a dynamic competitive mindset.
Weaknesses: Lee isn’t a line-of-scrimmage banger; he gets too easily erased by blockers and he’ll usually only shoot gaps when unopposed. Looks and plays like a safety, which may leave him in a specialized role. Teams looking for an inside linebacker in the traditional sense may look elsewhere. Doesn’t really sift through the trash at the second level—in place of that skill he’s developed the ability to read and react to openings, but that’s a big shortcoming for a linebacker prospect to have in some systems. Not a wrap tackler per se; needs to work on the form of open-field tackling, especially at his size. Weight may be limited—bulking up could take away too much of his speed and make him ordinary. Overaggressive play can lead to balance issues at times where he’ll take himself out of the play. Still learning the nuances of the linebacker position.