The NFL is a league of constant turnover within each team and that is reflected in the yearly standings. One year your team can go from a playoff-caliber squad to a high pick. Much of this whirlwind is contingent on the health of the players throughout the season; in a sport as violent as football, this means that many teams have to deal with the same problem.
The one position that can truly change the up-and-down fluidity of the sport is quarterback. A healthy, competent quarterback can salvage a franchise and make them relevant year-in and year-out.
This is what the New York Jets have been searching for since Joe Namath left the team in 1976. They have tried to find the right quarterback since, with varying degrees of success. The Chad Pennington’s and the Mark Sanchez‘s of the world show that the Jets have had a checkered history in finding their franchise guy.
That can finally change on April 26th, as the Jets will pick third overall in the upcoming NFL Draft. After trading up three spots from six with the Indianapolis Colts, they cemented themselves as contenders for one of the top quarterbacks from this quarterback-laden draft. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield are all considered legitimate quarterback prospects, each with their own unique talents.
However, unlike many drafts there is no consensus number one talent. While Darnold is considered by many to be the best one of the group, the Cleveland Browns still may not take him with the top pick, considering they still have the fourth pick too. This lack of commitment to taking a quarterback at one shows that there is not a singular generational talent. To make matters more convoluted, the New York Giants have been silent on whether they would take a quarterback with the second pick, a positional player, or trade down with a team that’s also looking for their quarterback. There is a possibility that three quarterbacks will be taken with the first three picks.
Regardless of who picks before and after the Jets, one thing is certain: they will be drafting a quarterback. So let’s run through what are the three most likely draft day scenarios for a team that cannot afford to get this pick wrong again:
Scenario 1: Browns take Darnold, Jets take Rosen
To many NFL GMs, Darnold is considered to be the best quarterback prospect in this draft. He is a tad unrefined in his mechanics, but he is a tremendous athlete and accurate thrower. The Browns, who haven’t had a franchise quarterback since reviving their franchise in 1999, would be hard-pressed not to take Darnold at one. There have been talks of them drafting running back Saquon Barkley with that pick and then drafting whichever quarterback is available at four.
It’s unlikely the Browns will pass up on a talent like Darnold. Therefore, it would be up to the Giants on whether or not they want to draft a quarterback. With Eli Manning, at 37, the Giants should start their succession plan and they could do so by handing the keys to Rosen. Again, it’s unlikely due to Manning’s popularity and clout within the organization. The Giants feel that they could squeeze one more playoff run out of Manning so they would most likely take Barkley or another impact player with the second pick.
This would leave the Jets with three choices: Rosen, Allen and Mayfield. Of these three, Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback and is considered the best pocket passer. A smart, vocal kid, Rosen would be the best possible fit for the Jets. Allen can throw the best long ball, but struggles with accuracy. Mayfield is a solid athlete and thrower of the ball, but his maturity has been questioned–and in a town like New York, those type of athletes get clobbered by the media. Rosen, who’s more media-savvy, is better-suited to handle the pressure of the position. Therefore, the Jets would draft Josh Rosen with the third pick here.
Scenario 2: Browns still take Darnold, Giants trade down, Jets take Allen
While Rosen would be a great fit for the Jets, he may not even be available to draft when they’re on the clock.
After weeks of inquiries from other teams to trade up to two, the Giants have the most leverage entering the draft. Teams like the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals have been rumored to be interested in trading up and the Giants may be interested in trading down so they can accumulate more draft picks to help build around Manning and company.
So let’s say the Giants trade their pick, either before or during the draft. This would mean that Rosen would most likely be taken by the Bills or Cardinals at two. In this scenario, the Jets would be forced to draft either Allen or Mayfield. Again, if one compared the two prospects, Allen has more upside and the less baggage.
Although Mayfield has reminded many Jets fans of a young Namath with his swag and confident demeanor, Allen reminds many scouts of a young Ben Roethlisberger. He’s tall, has huge hands, and throws a monster deep ball. In a cold, windy division like the AFC East, the Jets would be smart to draft Allen over Mayfield due to his stature. Although Allen is less developed as a pocket passer, he is the better fit for the franchise than Mayfield. If Rosen is off the board when the Jets pick, they could take the Wyoming product.
Scenario 3: Browns and Giants both pass on a QB, Jets take Darnold
Finding your franchise quarterback can be a gift to a city, and there is a small chance the Jets could end up with a gift from the Browns. As previously mentioned, the Browns have expressed interest in drafting Barkley at one because they believe they can find their quarterback at four. If they do end up taking Barkley with the first pick, the Giants could wind up taking Bradley Chubb at two. Considered the best defensive prospect in years, the Giants could use a defensive end since they traded Jason Pierre-Paul in the offseason.
With Barkley taken at one and Chubb at two, it would be the best problem in the world for the Jets to have with all four quarterbacks available. In this situation, the Jets would basically be forced to take Darnold at three. Although not all teams are sold on Darnold being the best signal caller in the draft, he has the most potential to be a franchise guy out of the four.
After not getting the quarterback right for over 40 years, the Jets would finally get a break if Darnold fell into their laps.
Out of these three scenarios, the first is the most probable. While Darnold may be the quarterback with the most upside, many analysts think that Rosen is the most pro-ready. Inserting him as the Jets quarterback, either to start the season or relieve Teddy Bridgewater or Josh McCown, would be a great scenario for the Jets.
If the Jets end up drafting Allen at three, then one could say they truly wasted their trade with the Colts, a scenario they certainly don’t want to end up in. Originally slotted to pick at six, the Jets traded up in the hopes that they could finally have a franchise quarterback. While Allen certainly has potential, Darnold and Rosen seem to be the two most likely prospects that can become leaders of their respective teams. The Jets could’ve stayed at six and probably got Allen. If they end up getting him three spots earlier, after giving up picks to do so, expect the typical criticism of the Jets inability to properly draft a quarterback.
The Jets have a chance to rewrite their history with the third pick. Their man could end up being anyone of the four top prospects, depending on what happens during the picks before them. Mayfield does have a lot of appeal to the team if the second scenario comes into fruition, making him a viable fourth option. Nonetheless, one of these young men will have to step into a quarterback-starved franchise with a team that is looking to improve off of their unlikely 5-11 campaign last year.
It is uncertain who the Jets will end up taking at three, but there is one certainty: they will be taking a quarterback with that pick. Whether that guy ends up being a franchise-caliber player is unknown, but the Jets are willing to take that chance.