We’ll have in-depth scouting reports for each of the Jets picks once the draft is completed - and eventually all the undrafted free agents too - but, for now, let’s take a quick look at yesterday’s pick.
With Baker Mayfield gone, but the likes of Josh Rosen and Josh Allen still available, the Jets opted to select USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the third pick.
For much of the season, Darnold was considered by many experts to be the likely top pick, but he didn’t separate himself as anticipated in an up-and-down redshirt sophomore season.
USC still won most of their games and Darnold put up good numbers and had a few clutch moments, but the team fell short of their playoff aspirations and Darnold experienced a mid-season slump.
We featured Darnold in the middle of that slump here (with gifs). For about a month, Darnold had issues with his delivery, ball security, decision making and accuracy and USC had to rely heavily on running back Ronald Jones to keep the offense afloat.
The good news is that Darnold settled down and played a lot better down the stretch. Seeing him correct those flaws is perhaps a sign they were a symptom of him trying to be too perfect as he dealt with the weight of expectations.
With those expectations reset, the scouting community slowly began to acknowledge that maybe he wasn’t the Andrew Luck type of can’t-miss prospect, but was more of a high-upside project, still developing aspects of his game.
When USC out-duelled Rosen’s UCLA late in the year, Rosen out-played Darnold with ESPN analysis Kirk Herbstreit suggesting Rosen was more NFL-ready and that it “isn’t close.”
So, why is Darnold the pick over Rosen - a prospect Mike Maccagnan reportedly loves?
It perhaps comes down to the fact that Darnold has the fewest negatives, even though there is no one area where he outshines the rest of the prospects.
He might not have the size, arm strength and mobility of Allen, the accuracy of Mayfield and the polished mechanics of Rosen, but Darnold is still big and mobile with a strong, accurate arm and sound mechanics.
In addition, he doesn’t have off-field or injury concerns and seems to have a good temperament to handle the pressure of playing in New York.
When we compared all the top prospects, it was telling that Darnold didn’t finish in first place or last place in any of the categories. Jack of all trades and master of none? Hopefully not, because let’s remember that these are five good prospects. Taking arm strength as an example, there’s no shame in being in the middle of the pack from this sample because all five have plus-arms.
So Darnold, who opted not to throw at the combine and didn’t conduct a private workout with the Jets until the last moment, ends up being their choice. All indications are that they were operating on the assumption that Darnold wouldn’t be available and pivoted late and that reports that Rosen or Mayfield would be their guy seem to have been based on their belief he’d go first or second. However, they’d scouted Darnold extensively during the year and worked him out privately before his official visit so they know what they’re getting.
As fans we will discover that over the next year or so. It will be interesting to see how quickly he develops to the point where he can push for a starting role.
Until then, this is the kind of throw we have to look forward to in a Jets jersey: