New York Jets Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State – Round 1
The Jets needed an inside linebacker to pair with David Harris and given Harris’ age, one who could eventually be the leader in the middle of their defense was necessary. Most projections had Lee going off the board before the Jets were slated to pick, but Lee fell to their selection at No. 20. With his skill set, he could quickly transition to being a starter in the NFL.

Lee was Ohio State’s replacement for Ryan Shazier in 2014, and while Lee wasn’t as good as Shazier, Lee had a superb debut for the Buckeyes with plenty of upside to make strides in the future. The first-year starter recorded 81 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up, two interceptions and 7.5 sacks. In 2015, Lee recorded 66 tackles with 11 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two passes broken up, two forced fumbles and one interception – returned 41 yards for a touchdown.

The 6-foot-1, 232 pound Lee can flat out fly around the football field. His rare speed was illustrated at the combine with a 4.47-second time in the 40-yard dash. Lee could be an excellent sideline-to-sideline Will linebacker as a pro. He also has the athleticism to cover in the passing game and defend a lot of ground in the middle of the field. Lee is well-suited for the current NFL and should be a nice weapon for Todd Bowles to move around the field. I would be surprised if Lee doesn’t become a solid starter for the Jets.

Most Likely To Bust

Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia – Round 3
The Jets surprisingly doubled up at linebacker in the early rounds, and Jenkins was one of the few picks in New York’s draft class who I disliked. Jenkins was expected to be a star at Georgia, and a lot of draft media hyped him up as the heir apparent to Jarvis Jones, but in the end, Jenkins was little more than an average player. He was decent against the run, but not an asset against the pass. Given the passing-driven nature of the NFL, I don’t think Jenkins will translate well.

Jenkins recorded 59 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015. He’s a gritty defender at the point of attack. Jenkins is a solid player who is a jack of all trades and master of none. He played in the Senior Bowl, but didn’t impress. That was the same outcome at the combine as Jenkins doesn’t look special athletically. At 6-foot-3, 259 pounds, he looks a bit slow for the NFL, and his 40 time (4.80) gave further proof of that.

The Jets have a number of veterans in their linebacking room ahead of Jenkins and their first-round pick in Darron Lee. I think Jenkins is going to have a hard time carving out a role for playing time and there is a real possibility that he won’t turn into a quality pro for New York.

Potential Boom Pick

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State – Round 2
Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, I had the Jets taking Hackenberg based on some information I had from sources. I stuck with that pick and on Friday night during the draft, the Jets took the embattled Penn State signal-caller. Just two years ago, many were projecting Hackenberg to be an Andrew Luck-level quarterback prospect. A disastrous two years with a terrible offensive line and some inconsistent play from Hackenberg led to him falling down draft boards, but there is no doubt that he has a lot of passing talent and a starting NFL skill set.

The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Hackenberg is an enigma as a player. He has a good arm with size and field vision to work though his progressions. In every game, Hackenberg made beautiful throws deep downfield in to tight windows who beat good coverage. As a pro, Hackenberg has the arm talent to be a dangerous quarterback who can make money throws.

There also are a lot of flaws to Hackenberg. His accuracy is inconsistent, and he missed badly on far too many routine completions. Hackenberg has a habit of overthrows on check downs to the flat. In the pocket, he is a statue who can get rattled by the rush. The steady pass-rushing bearing down on Hackenberg caused him to make some bad decisions. That was an issue as a sophomore especially, and he did show improvement at avoiding interceptions as a junior.

Hackenberg also showed improvements in his accuracy during pre-draft workouts, according to sources. I think that he landed in a good environment to grow. He has excellent coaching in Chan Gailey and Todd Bowles. Plus, a strong front office led by general manager Mike Maccagnan that will provide talent around him through Maccagnan’s keen eye and a stable organization to grow. I think that Hackenberg could be the Jets’ future franchise quarterback and turn into a good pro signal-caller.

Future Depth Player

Charone Peake, WR, Clemson – Round 4
This was a tough call between Peake and Brandon Shell, but I think Shell could turn into a starter at right tackle or guard, so I went with Peake. The Jets have their starting wide receivers set with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The team also has Devin Smith to be the third receiver and deep threat. Thus, Peake will be competing for a backup job. However, I think the 6-foot-2, 209-pounder has the skill set to make a roster. Peake ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and has plenty of upside to develop. I think that he could easily earn a roster spot as a backup to Marshall and Decker with the potential to develop into at least a contributor.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

20. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State A Grade
The Jets picked Leonard Williams last year, proving that they’ll draft the best player available, even if they don’t have a need at the position. This year, the Jets have selected perhaps the best player available – and one who actually fills a need. The Jets have had a hole at inside linebacker for a very long time. Darron Lee, who could’ve gone as high as No. 14, figures to change that. Lee is very athletic and has a ton of upside. He projects as a great fit in Todd Bowles’ defense.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

51. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State C Grade
The Jets fan the NFL Network camera caught was shouting, “We got a QB!” Well, we’ll see. I’m a Penn State alumnus, and I’ve called Christian Hackenberg a trap. He has supreme talent, but there are numerous things wrong. He’s inconsistent with his throws; he struggles to process information quickly; and he also had some locker-room issues at Penn State. I would’ve taken him in the third round. This is a bit too early for my blood, and I don’t know how he fits Chan Gailey’s offense.

83. Jordan Jenkins, DE/OLB, Georgia B Grade
Jordan Jenkins tested extremely well at the Combine, and he has started a ridiculous amount of games at Georgia. I imagine the Jets loved those traits because Jenkins didn’t particularly live up to his measureables at Georgia. He was just a solid player, but nothing special. Still, taking a chance on him in the third round is a good decision, and I’m sure Todd Bowles will get the most out of him.

118. Juston Burris, CB, N.C. State B- Grade
With Antonio Cromartie gone and Darrelle Revis declining, a cornerback was needed. Juston Burris could’ve gone a bit later, but I don’t have an issue with this pick. Burris is a tall corner who played extremely well at N.C. State. He didn’t test very well at the Combine, but the Jets apparently didn’t care.

158. Brandon Shell, OT, South Carolina C Grade
This pick came out of nowhere, as the Jets weren’t scheduled to be on the clock for a while. They surrendered a 2017 fourth-rounder to pick here, and they took Brandon Shell to fill their need at tackle, which hasn’t been satisfied yet. The Jets are unhappy with Breno Giacomini, so perhaps Shell can take his place. I’m not sure he’s the solution though, as he projects to have issues in pass protection.

235. Lachlan Edwards, P, Sam Houston State B- Grade
I’m not going to analyze a punter pick all that much, but the Jets did need to address the position. As with all seventh-round punter selections, this earns a B-.

241. Charone Peake, WR, Clemson A Grade
I’m shocked Charone Peake went this late. I’ve constantly mocked him in the fourth round, as he was productive this past season and showed off some decent athleticism for a receiver his size (6-2, 209) at the Combine. I’m not sure why Peake dropped to the seventh frame. Sure, he’s raw, and he still needs to learn how to become a true receiver, but there’s just so much untapped potential. He could end up being a solid player for the Jets down the road with some good coaching.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: B- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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