It could be ... better: 2017 draft class edition

The Jets didn't lose this weekend, so there's no "It Could Be Worse" article this week. However, it is Draft Week, so what better way to mark the occasion than to look back at last year's rookie class?

The Jets picked up their two starting safeties in the draft and both have done quite well so far. They have also received varying levels of contributions from Elijah McGuire, Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart on offense. However, Dylan Donahue, Jordan Leggett, Derrick Jones and Jeremy Clark have all been injured or inactive.

It's obviously too early to say how this class will turn out, but they definitely could have received more contributions this season.

We figured it would be a fun exercise to use hindsight to demonstrate who could have been an improvement on the picks they made and where the team would stand with those contributions.

A couple of disclaimers are necessary here:

  • We are unashamedly using complete hindsight here, so this isn't an attempt to suggest that the team should be criticized for the moves they made instead;
  • Even if they made these alternative selections, that doesn't mean that they would have turned out to be better picks in the long run;
  • We're obviously assuming the players named as potential alternatives would have been just as productive with the Jets, so we are for the most part ignoring variables like scheme fit; and
  • Remember, we're just trying to maximize year one production, even though in practice you draft players for the long run, not for the immediate return. Therefore the alternative pick might not necessarily represent the best option.

With that said, let's look at each pick and who they could have had instead:

Round 1, Pick 6
Original Pick: Jamal Adams, S
Alternative Pick: Marshon Lattimore, CB (11)

It seems like most Jets fans are happy with Jamal Adams, but if there's another player who was a consideration at the time, at a position of need, who has fared well in his rookie year, Lattimore is the first name that comes to mind. Lattimore has 36 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown but that doesn't do justice to how good he's been in coverage, holding quarterbacks to a rating of below 50 when targeted.

Also considered: Deshaun Watson obviously would have provided a significant upgrade in a key need area too, but if we're going to play the "assume all else is equal" game, then we have to rule him out because he got injured.

Round 2, Pick 39
Original Pick: Marcus Maye, S
Alternative Pick: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR (62)

After a slow start, Smith-Schuster has sparked a Steelers revival that has seen them win five games in a row. He's caught 33 passes for 568 yards, averaging 17.2 yards per catch and adding five touchdowns. He also had one of the performances of the year with his 193-yard effort in the win over Detroit.

Also considered: Alvin Kamara is a player that the Jets were rumored to have been interested in, with reports suggesting they tried to move up for him in the third round. He has over 900 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns even though he's splitting reps, so he definitely could have been an option here.

Round 3, Pick 79
Original Pick: ArDarius Stewart, WR
Alternative Pick: Kareem Hunt, RB (86)

Having passed on Kamara, the Jets could have ended up with an even more productive runner if they'd taken Hunt at this stage. Hunt already has 873 rushing yards, 35 catches and six total touchdowns. Hunt opened the season with four 100-yard games in the first five weeks, but hasn't actually had a 100-yard game since then and hasn't scored since week three, so maybe he's hit a bit of a wall. Nevertheless, he's still averaging five yards per carry and racked up 73 rushing yards on 18 carries on Sunday

Also considered: Jourdan Lewis is a player who many thought had the talent to go in the top two rounds, but he fell off due to off-field concerns. However, he's had some success with the Cowboys, starting three games and recording 33 tackles, six passes defensed and an interception.

Round 4, Pick 141
Original Pick: Chad Hansen, WR
Alternative Pick: Desmond King, CB (151)

King is a player who fell further than expected despite having excellent film at Iowa. Some suggested this was because teams felt he wasn't athletic enough to play cornerback but his offseason workout numbers seemed more than adequate. His role with the Chargers has been growing in recent weeks and he's doing well with three starts, some good coverage numbers, a couple of sacks and some contributions in run support. And, yes, he's playing cornerback ... primarily in the slot.

Also considered: George Kittle is a versatile H-back with good athletic numbers and some experience as a blocker. He's done pretty well in San Francisco with 27 receptions and a touchdown.

Round 5, Pick 150
Original Pick: Jordan Leggett, TE
Alternative Pick: Jamal Agnew, CB/PR (151)

Agnew has only played one defensive snap but would have filled an obvious need for the Jets as a punt returner. He has two touchdowns already for the Lions, boosting his average to almost 17 yards per return.

Also considered: Matt Milano was productive while the Bills were struggling with injuries on their linebacker unit, contributing a pick-six in one game. The Bills have been struggling on defense since the injured players returned and they reduced Milano's role.

Round 5, Pick 181
Original Pick: Dylan Donahue, OLB
Alternative Pick: Xavier Woods, S (191)

He's no Kofi Kingston, but Woods has been playing a regular reserve role on defense with the Cowboys over the course of the season and has held up well. He made his first interception last weekend and his first career start on Sunday. He's also contributed a few tackles on special teams.

Also considered: Aaron Jones has been a productive runner for the Packers this year, averaging over five yards per carry. However, his durability is a concern and it just emerged that he faces charges over an arrest last month.

Round 6, Pick 188
Original Pick: Elijah McGuire, RB
Alternative Pick: Chase Roullier, OL (199)

There really hasn't been much production from the offensive linemen in this draft, as the only players to see significant time and do well were almost exclusively high picks. If you wanted a productive rookie lineman before this slot, you'd have had to go for Dion Dawkins or Dan Feeney with the Maye pick. However, the versatile Roullier has had a chance to start at center for Washington over the last month and has held up quite well - certainly better than Wesley Johnson has with the Jets.

Also considered: Adrian Colbert, who was a cornerback in college, has been seeing action at safety over the last month with the 49ers and, like Woods, just made his first NFL start. He's also made five special teams tackles.

Round 6, Pick 197
Original Pick: Jeremy Clark, CB
Alternative Pick: Harrison Butler, K (233)

Butker's career has got off to a great start, as he's made 22 out of 23 field goal attempts. Chandler Catanzaro has already missed four field goals for the Jets, with two coming in a game they lost by five points, so you can probably say that would have been an upgrade.

Also considered: Matthew Dayes hasn't done much as a running back with the Browns (38 yards on eight touches) but he's shown promise as a kick returner, averaging over 31 yards so far, including a 71-yarder.

Round 6, Pick 204
Original Pick: Derrick Jones, CB
Alternative Pick: Treyvon Hester, DT (244)

Hester has been a good value pick for the Raiders, which would have prevented the Jets from having to bother with temporary fixes like Ed Stinson and Xavier Cooper. He has just nine tackles and a forced fumble but has generated some good interior pressure and had his best game so far on Sunday in Mexico City.

Also considered: We've tried to limit the selections above to players that were drafted later by someone else. However, if we were going to tap into the undrafted pool, then WR Keelan Cole (243 receiving yards), DB Michael Davis (11 special teams tackles) or LB Dylan Cole (19 tackles, two passes defensed, a sack, an interception and a touchdown) would have been the prime candidates.

Over to you guys...

Let us know in the comments whether you like anyone else as the alternative pick at any of these spots - or (if you can remember) who were you calling for them to take at the time? How much better (if at all) do you think the Jets would have fared this year (and looking ahead) if they had made the picks suggested above?