New York Jets Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida – Round 3
The Jets were in the market for more edge-rush talent in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they snagged a pass rusher who could end up being a nice value pick with Zuniga. Over his time at Florida, Zuniga showed a real nose for the quarterback with his natural pass-rushing ability. Early in his career, he was a designated pass rusher for the Gators and immediately showed the ability to hunt the passer. While Zuniga might need some developmental time in the NFL, he has the ability to become a solid starter.

It took some time for Zuniga to become an every-down player for Florida as he was underweight when he first arrived in Gainesville. While he was working on getting stronger, he rotated into the game in pass-rushing situations, collecting five sacks as a freshman and four as a sophomore. Those were impressive totals considering his limited playing time. He had 6.5 sacks as a junior and looked poised for a big senior year, but a high ankle sprain caused him to miss half the 2019 season. The Gators played him out of position for the NFL, lining him up inside in the sub package at times, but Zuniga showed versatility with how he can get after the quarterback. At the combine, Zuniga showed his speed with a very good 40 time for a defensive lineman.

The Jets have been needing more edge-rush talent for years, and Zuniga could compete quickly as a designated pass rusher and has upside to develop into a bigger role. While he may not become a three-down player immediately, he could eventually grow into that role and be a solid starter in Gregg Williams’ defense.

2019: Jachai Polite, DE
2018: Nathan Shepard, DT
2017: Jamal Adams, S
2016: Darron Lee, LB
2015: Devin Smith, WR
2014: Calvin Pryor, S
2013: Dee Milliner, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Ashtyn Davis, S, California – Round 3
I didn’t like the Jets’ selections of Denzel Mims or Ashtyn Davis, so I debated between the two which was more likely to become a bust. There were other teams that had Mims and Davis graded on Day 3, and around the scouting community, Mims was a love/hate prospect depending on who you asked. However from a skill-set perspective, I think Mims has a better chance of sticking in the NFL where as Davis could have hard time transitioning to the next level.

Third-round picks are viewed by NFL teams as players who are “backups to starters,” and I think Davis could top out as only a backup safety who contributes on special teams. For pass defense in the NFL, Davis (6-1, 195) needs more work. He has speed and athleticism to cover, and those are the two traits that had some projecting him to the early rounds. However, Davis never made a ton of plays in coverage and doesn’t seem to have the instincts to be the rangy centerfielder who he needs to be given his body type and lack of strength. Davis has the speed and athleticism to contribute in man coverage, but tight ends will push him around, so he shouldn’t be trusted to defend them down the seam. For the pro game, Davis needs development in pass coverage as well as major work in run defense.

Davis is a liability as a run defender for the NFL. He struggles with a ton of missed tackles and seems to avoid contact at times. Davis can cover ground, but in the NFL, he is going to struggle with taking on physical backs downfield and it would not be surprising to see Davis get run over regularly. There is no doubt that Davis has to get stronger for the next level, and that was given further proof at the Senior Bowl, where he weighed in below 200 pounds. Davis does not have the size to function as the eighth man in the box and will have to be a deep defender.

One source shared this with, “I graded [Davis] in the fourth but might move him up to the third. He’s not strong, not physical, and misses a ton of tackles. It looks like he doesn’t have the heart to tackle. On tape, some of the lack of physicality was utterly criminal. He is athletic, but doesn’t make a ton of plays in coverage and is not a rangy instinctive centerfielder. In the NFL, he going to get run over and run off the map.”

Davis is similar to Chris Conte, who was a disappointment in Chicago and Tampa Bay. Both have speed and athleticism, but lack strength and physicality to play safety in the NFL. Of the Jets’ early-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, I think both Mims and Davis have bust potential, but Davis is more likely to disappoint.

2019: Chuma Edoga, OT
2018: Chris Herndon, TE
2017: Chad Hanson, WR
2016: Jordan Jenkins, LB
2015: Bryce Petty, QB
2014: Dexter McDougle, CB
2013: Geno Smith, QB

Potential Boom Pick

Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville – Round 1
The Jets entered the offseason needing to revamp their offensive line to protect Sam Darnold, and they completed their make-over with the selection of Becton in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Becton has a very rare skill set, and across the scouting community, team sources were raving about Becton being an athletic freak. The 6-foot-7, 357-pounder is a massive blocker who has shocking speed and athleticism for such a large-bodied player. While Becton has raw elements to smooth over, the talent is there for him to be one of the top edge blockers in the NFL.

Defenders have a very difficult time generating pass pressure versus Becton. His sheer size makes him very difficult for edge rushers to get around, as he eats up so much space and has such length that they have to take extra steps to get around him. Those extra steps lead to Becton’s quarterback having more time to get the ball out. On top of his overwhelming size and length, Becton is freakishly quick and athletic on the edge. He has excellent lateral quickness and agility for such a massive blocker. With his ability to play the type writer with his feet and get depth in his drop, Becton is very adept at neutralizing speed rushers. Becton’s size and weight also shuts down bull rushes as defenders struggle to move him backward.

Becton is effective as well in the ground game. He has a strong upper body that he consistently uses with his length to push defensive linemen out of their gaps. Becton has phenomenal lateral quickness, which is shocking for a player of his size, so he is very effective at getting away from the line to set up rush lanes on the perimeter. Becton can make blocks in space because of how fast he is in the short area and his quickness to fire off the ball. Becton also keeps fighting and is adept at negating second efforts.

There are some areas of refinement for Becton as a pro. His hand placement needs to improve, as he can get too wide on defenders. At the point of attack, he could stand to improve his leverage, which would make him a more effective drive blocker. Weight is also another important factor to monitor throughout his pro career. If he gets too heavy, that could lead to him having struggles on the field.

The Jets added George Fant in free agency to form a tackle tandem that is large and athletic. They also upgraded the interior of their offensive line with former Panther Greg Van Roten. While those were nice moves, the Becton addition has the most upside to give New York a devastating blocker who could be a shutdown edge protector. Becton has the physical talent to be one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL and a real boom pick for the Jets.

2019: Quinnen Williams, DT
2018: Sam Darnold, QB
2017: Marcus Maye, S
2016: Christian Hackenberg, QB
2015: Leonard Williams, DE
2014: Jace Amaro, TE
2013: Sheldon Richardson, DT

Future Depth Player

La’Mical Perine, RB, Florida – Round 4
Over the past few seasons, Perine (5-11, 216) was a tough runner and underrated player. As a sophomore, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry for 562 yards with eight touchdowns and was just getting started. Perine then was an impressive runner for the Gators in 2018. They used a committee approach to the carries, but Perine made the most of his opportunities. On only 134 carries, Perine totaled 826 yards – 6.2 average – and seven touchdowns. In 2019, Perine averaged 5.1 yards per carry for 676 yards with six touchdowns. He also was a dangerous receiver with 40 receptions for 262 yards and five scores. The Florida offensive line’s youth and inexperience led to some poor rushing lanes for Perine, but he came up with some huge clutch plays for the Gators by making things happen on his own. He is a tough runner, a quality receiver, and can serve as a third-down blocker.

With Le’Veon Bell as their feature back, the Jets don’t need Perine to be a three-down starter. However, he could be a fantastic backup running back who takes some carries between the tackles to keep Bell fresh. Perine also could be a third-down contributor in the passing game as a receiver and blocker. With his body type, toughness and instincts, Perine could play on special teams as well. I think he will be an excellent depth player for New York.

2019: Blessaun Austin, CB
2018: Parry Nickerson, CB
2017: Jordan Leggett, TE
2016: Charone Peak, WR
2015: Jarvis Harrison, G
2014: Tajh Boyd, QB
2013: Brian Winters, G

Walt’s 2020 NFL Draft Grades:

11. Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville – C Grade
Over Tristan Wirfs!? Mekhi Becton has unbelievable upside, but he has a very low floor as well. There could be weight issues, and he’s not exactly the most refined prospect. He could end up being a perennial Pro Bowler, and he could also eat himself out of the league in three years. I think Becton is way too risky for the No. 11 pick with Wirfs and the receivers available. I don’t hate this pick, but the Jets could’ve done better.

59. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor – A+ Grade
I don’t understand why Denzel Mims fell so far. I look forward to Charlie Campbell’s Why the Slide on Mims, which will be posted sometime in May. In the meantime, the Jets get to enjoy an explosive receiver who should’ve been chosen at the end of the opening round. This is a steal for the Jets, and they get to fill a huge need.

68. Ashtyn Davis, S, California – B- Grade
I guess Jamaal Adams is getting traded soon. It’s a shame that Adam Gase hates talent; otherwise, the Jets could’ve pursued a different position. Still, considering the mess Gase has caused, this is a fine selection. Ashtyn Davis could’ve gone in the second round, so he’ll be a viable replacement for Adams.

79. Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida – B+ Grade
I can’t remember the last time I didn’t list “pass rusher” as a need for the Jets in my team needs pages. It may have been close to a decade. Perhaps Jabari Zuniga will change that. Zuniga is an explosive athlete with high upside. He’s raw at the moment, but he could develop into a double-digit sack threat. I like the upside here for the Jets.

120. Lamical Perine, RB, Florida – B Grade
Lamical Perine is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none running back who was consistently mocked in the fourth round. He could end up being a solid backup behind Le’Veon Bell. This is a fine pick, but not one that’s very exciting.

125. James Morgan, QB, Florida International – A+ Grade
This is a steal. James Morgan is the quarterback teams should’ve been targeting in the third round as someone who has loads of potential. Morgan is a smart quarterback with a nice arm and great leadership skills. He could easily end up being a starter in the NFL, and he’s a nice project for the Jets to eventually flip into a second-round pick.

129. Cameron Clark, OT/G, Charlotte – C Grade
This is the first pick of the Jets’ that I don’t love or like. I don’t hate it, as protecting Sam Darnold is a priority, but Cameron Clark was a sixth- or seventh-round prospect for me. I don’t even think Clark can remain at tackle in the NFL, as he may have to move inside to guard.

158. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia – A+ Grade
Bryce Hall would have been chosen in the third or even second round if it wasn’t for some major injury concerns. Hall may not make it because of poor durability, but he’s very much well worth the gamble here in the fifth round. He could end up starting for the Jets if he can stay healthy.

191. Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M – O’BRIEN Grade
Stop drafting punters before Round 7. Please. And no, Rich Eisen, punters are not people, too. They’re horrible abominations.

2020 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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