The New York Jets had a busy start to the NFL Draft on Day 2.
They traded their second round pick (No. 48) to the Seattle Seahawks for their second round pick (No. 59) and a third round pick (No. 101), giving them a total of three third rounds picks. Then they traded No. 101, acquired in that trade with Seattle, to the New England Patriots to get two fourth round selections and a 2021 sixth round pick.
The two selections that the Jets did make in the third round could have a major impact on the defense that had been ignored in the first two rounds. The Jets added California safety Ashtyn Davis with the No. 68 selection and defensive end Jabari Zuniga out of Florida at No. 79.
Both are gambles in a way from general manager Joe Douglas, in his first draft with the organization.
Davis is a former track star who walked on to the football team at Cal. He started as a special teams specialist who eventually moved up to safety. He had groin surgery in December, and therefore he didn't participate in the NFL Combine. He recently sent out videos to teams of him doing position work to show he was recovered.
Davis was primarily a safety but also played cornerback for Cal. He has a physical style that should play well in Gregg Williams' defense. Potentially, he could join starters Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye in three-safety or nickel packages.
Zuniga is a brash defensive end taken in the third round. He’s a 6’4, 255-pound lineman who played in only six games last season because of ankle injuries. He did have 18 1/2 sacks in four years with the Gators including 11.5 sacks as a junior.
He battled back from a high ankle sprain in his senior year. The ankle injury was particularly frustrating because he had the option of heading to the NFL Draft after a dominant 2018 season. Rather than just get ready for a potential pro career, he felt he had something to prove,
If his numbers didn’t impress, his performance at the NFL Combine clearly did. He competed in four events, with a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and 29 reps in the 225-pound bench press
Zuniga played in the same Florida defense as Jets safety Marcus Maye did in college. Cornerback Brian Poole also played on that defense.
So in the first two rounds of the draft, the Jets added two high profile offensive players (No. 11 offensive tackle Mekhi Becton and No. 59 wide receiver Denzel Mims). But defensively, they acquired two question marks. Zuniga has to show that he’s healthy, while Davis will likely impact special teams but doesn’t seem to have a true fit on defense. The third round doesn’t always produce starters immediately, and it will be interesting to see if he evolves into a starting safety in Florham Park.
Zuniga’s connections to Maye and Poole can help him acclimate to Gregg Williams’ style of defense early.
There are a lot of Ifs to the third round for the Jets, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If Zuniga’s ankle holds up and he continues to evolve physically, the Jets may have found an edge rusher. If Davis can excel on special teams and develop into a solid defensive back, then the Jets not only added to their draft stockpile, they upgraded the team as well.
The story of this draft will be on the offensive side with the first two selections of Becton and Mims. The epilogue could come from the next four rounds and what type of value Douglas finds.