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2020 NFL Draft Grades – New York Jets

NY’s rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton has jumbo-jet potential but it was savvy trades and pickups on Day Two and Three which should have fans of the J-E-T-S singing the praises of first-year general manager Joe Douglas.
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Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.

In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.

In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.

So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.

Therefore, over the next 23 days, will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.

Today’s team: New York Jets

Head Coach: Adam Gase

General Manager: Joe Douglas

Players selected in 2020:

Round 1, Pick 11 overall: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Round 2, Pick 59 overall: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor

Round 3, Pick 68 overall: FS Ashtyn Davis, Cal

Round 3, Pick 79 overall: DE Jabari Zuniga, Florida

Round 4, Pick 121 overall: RB LaMical Perine, Florida

Round 4, Pick 125 overall: QB James Morgan, Florida International

Round 4, Pick 129 overall: OG Cameron Clarke, Charlotte

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Round 5, Pick 158 overall: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

Round 6, Pick 191 overall: P Braden Mann, Texas A&M

Key Undrafted Free Agents:

CB Lamar Jackson, Nebraska

CB Javelin Guidry, Jr., Utah

DB Shyheim Carter, Alabama

OT Jared Hilbers, Washington

DE Bryce Huff, Memphis

Overview of the Jets’ 2020 draft: Under the direction of first-year general manager Joe Douglas, the Jets did an admirable job in the 2020 draft of simultaneously building around the investments made in Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell, while also serving each notice, with somewhat surprising fourth round picks, that improved play is expected in 2020. Massive first round left tackle Mekhi Becton should help in all regards, with his incredible blend of size and athleticism at the blindside tackle role especially important given Darnold’s relatively average mobility and still-developing pocket awareness. Expectations are understandably big for Becton and warranted, but second rounder Denzel Mims (pictured above) is the big play maven who will become the more immediate face of this draft for Jets fans. The 6-3, 207 pounder plays up to the 4.37 second 40-yard dash he ran at the Combine, providing a similar vertical threat as free agent defection Robby Anderson, while providing more physicality and reliability after the catch and as a run blocker. This selection was the better for the Jets because Douglas was able to nab Mims despite trading down 11 spots, setting up another swap (curiously with AFC East rival New England) which ultimately netted New York three more picks, including a 2021 sixth rounder. The two “bonus” fourth round picks in the 2020 draft were used on hard-running Florida back LaMical Perine and trending Florida International quarterback James Morgan. Neither is as gifted as the Jets’ young starters but each earned kudos from area scouts for their grit and competitiveness, pushing Bell and Darnold while also providing the club a lot of flexibility should either struggles with injuries, again. Injury concerns contributed to several of the Jets’ best picks (at least on paper) falling down the board, allowing Douglas and Co. to steal Cal safety Ashtyn Davis, Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga and Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall a full round later than their play warranted. Assuming they return to full health, the first Douglas-Gase draft looks like a winner.

Best Player of the Jets’ 2020 Draft: OT Mekhi Becton

Let me preface this statement by saying that Becton was my fourth-rated offensive tackle in this class and 15 overall-rated prospect, but in terms of upside, there is no player in the 2020 draft class with this young man’s ceiling. If physical talent was all that it took to be a Hall of Famer, the 6-7, 364 pound Becton would already be frustrating tailors with his measurements for the gold jacket. In 20 years of scouting professionally, I have never seen a man as large as Becton move as well as he does. He springs out of his stance, dancing to the second level in the running game or nimbly mirroring edge rushers when in pass protection. Better yet, Becton has ridiculously long arms (35 5/8”) to complement his width and foot quickness, greatly expanding his strike zone. Now, if there is a concern with Becton it is that he has been able to corral opponents with just his physical traits to this point. Becton could use some polish, both on and off the field, which is why a major media market team like New York is an interesting land spot for him. While I believe that the Jets made a savvy signing in a starting caliber left tackle in George Fant, there is no denying Becton is the superior talent and should start immediately. If he commits to his craft, Becton has almost limitless potential.

Best Value of the Jets’ 2020 Draft: FS Ashtyn Davis

The Jets’ duo of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye was one of the top safety tandems in the NFL a season ago and so the selection of Davis in the third round had to confuse some of New York’s passionate fans. I thought Davis deserved late first round consideration, ranking him 30 overall, so needless to say I feel that the Jets got great value with the selection, even if there is limited opportunity for immediate impact. I’m not so sure that Davis was selected as just a hedge against injury or with Maye entering the final year of his rookie contract, though both of those make sense. I am convinced that Davis would have proved his versatility at the Senior Bowl had he been medically cleared to play, showing that he could handle nickel, outside corner and safety duties – just as he did at Cal in Justin Wilcox’s pro scheme. Davis is unusual in that he possesses the athletic traits of a first round pick but has kept his walk-on grit. Whether it is at free safety in 2021 or elsewhere, Davis is going to wind up proving a steal for the Jets.

Best Project of the Jets’ 2020 Draft: DE Jabari Zuniga

If the Jets truly did find their blindside blocker and legitimate No. 1 target in this draft, Jets fans will look back on the 2020 class someday and be thrilled. If the twitchy Zuniga is able to live up to his potential, this draft class could easily leap from good to great. Like Davis and Becton, Zuniga’s raw talent jumps off the tape. He is one of those explosive athletes who truly can convert speed to power as an edge rusher, flashing significantly more disruptive skill than one might think given that his highest single-season sack total at Florida was 6.5… as a junior. Unlike his newest teammate, Davis, Zuniga was able to compete at the Senior Bowl and Combine but that is only because his injury (high ankle sprain) occurred earlier in the year, limiting him to just five games (12 tackles, three sacks) in 2019. Durability and positional fit at 6-3, 264 pounds contributed to Zuniga lasting until the 79 pick but his talent is undeniable, as is the Jets need for more pass rushers.

Overall Grade for the Jets’ 2020 Draft: A-

Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs