Best and Worst-Case Scenarios: New York Jets

The Jets have not had a consistent starting quarterback for multiple years since Mark Sanchez from 2009-2012. That inconsistency has certainly costed New York, as they have had no playoff appearances since the 2010 postseason. But, in order to change that narrative, they traded up in the 2018 Draft to third and selected Sam Darnold from USC. The Jets have bolstered their roster in other areas as well. They added shutdown corner Trumaine Johnson from the Los Angeles Rams, and improved their backfield and receiving core.

Best case:

Sam Darnold is the real deal and he is ready by the start of the year. His arm strength results in many big plays down the field to receivers Robby Anderson, who doesn’t get suspended despite legal troubles, Quincy Enunwa, who stays healthy after missing last year with a neck injury, and the newly signed Terrelle Pryor from Washington. In a professional system, Darnold cuts down on his turnovers, his biggest weakness last season, and he contends for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Running back Bilal Powell ran effectively last year, averaging 4.3 yards per-carry with five touchdowns. He continues that success in 2018 behind a very similar offensive line. The additions of past starting backs Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland) and Thomas Rawls (Seattle) give offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates good options for different running back combinations.

With the addition of Trumaine Johnson, the Jets have their best cornerback since Darrelle Revis. The Jets have not had a player intercept more than two passes in each of the past two years. Through six seasons, Johnson has two or more picks in five campaigns. Second-year talents Jamal Adams (2017 All-Rookie) and Marcus Maye develop into formidable safeties and the secondary proves to be the best in the division.

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On the schedule, there are just two 2017 playoff teams for the Jets to play through their first seven games. With that, they take advantage and get off to a hot start, which helps them gain momentum and confidence. They finish over .500 for the first time since 2015, and they sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

Worst case:

Darnold’s control is a major issue during the preseason, and Head Coach Todd Bowles goes with the veteran Josh McCown for most of the year. McCown set career highs in touchdowns and completion percentage in 2017, but at 39, he fails to repeat that success.

The offensive line struggles as they did last year when they gave up the fifth-most sacks in the AFC. Crowell and Rawls both had down seasons in 2017, and behind a suspect line, they struggle again. Wide out Terrelle Pryor fails to repeat the success he had in Cleveland in 2016, and he has another poor campaign as he had in Washington last year.

With the losses of longtime Jets Muhammad Wilkerson and Demario Davis (team leading tackler in 2017) the Jets run defense gets even worse. They gave up the ninth-most yards on the ground in 2017 and the most 40+ yard rushes. This causes the secondary to step up and stop runs before they turn into huge gains, which could leave them exposed on play-action plays.

New kicker Cairo Santos doesn’t return to his 2016 (fifth-best field goal percentage in the NFL) self after a groin injury held him out of much of last year.

Against division foes, the Jets get outmatched. The Patriots are 12-2 against New York since 2011. They continue their dominance with two wins against the Jets in 2018. The Bills and Dolphins take three of four against New York. Going 1-5 in division games puts the Jets in too deep of a hole to get out of. They go 5-11 for the second straight season, failing to contend for the playoffs or for the top pick.

Final prediction: 7-9

When will the Five 2018 First Round quarterbacks Play?

The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens all drafted a quarterback in the first round. They all have also signed or traded for at least one other new quarterback this offseason.

With each of these teams having other options at quarterback, when will the new draftees be given their time on the field in 2018? Will they at all?

Cleveland Browns

In recent years, it has been expected that quarterbacks chosen with the number one overall pick start opening week. Five of the last six have since 2009, the only hold out being Jared Goff in 2016 for the Los Angeles Rams.

With the 2018 first overall pick, Cleveland chose former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Prior to the draft though, the Browns made a deal to bring in Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo, a quarterback who started 15 games including one during the playoffs in 2017.

Generally, with Taylor the Browns know what they will get.

Taylor is a disciplined and athletic player without a particularly strong arm. Last year, he threw the ball 420 times, only four of which were interceptions. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes. But, Taylor ranked at just 25 in the NFL in touchdowns, and has hovered around .500 as a starter in his career at 23-20.Close

Mayfield, fresh off of winning the Heisman, has a much stronger arm and similar athleticism. His bigger personality could also spark some swagger in a team that has seemed depleted in recent years. He has the potential of being a star for the Browns, something they have not had at quarterback since returning to the league in 1999.

With that, he also has bust potential as all young quarterbacks do. His lack of size and his attitude could send him down a path similar to other Browns busts like their last first round quarterback Johnny Manziel.

But the possible reward is worth the risk for an organization looking for someone to lean on. If Mayfield does not appear ready, then they have a guy in Tyrod Taylor to throw out there to hold down the fort until the reigning Heisman gets more instruction.

Week one starter: Baker Mayfield

New York Jets

Within a week of signing former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the New York Jets traded up in the draft to select at number three. With that pick, they selected Sam Darnold out of USC, a player with a rocket arm who was fifth in the NCAA in passing yards in 2017.

The Jets’ moves give Head Coach Todd Bowles three options to start week one. Bridgewater and Darnold will also battle Josh McCown, who started 13 games for New York in 2017 and

threw 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

Due to McCown’s familiarity with the system and the fact that in 2017 he was effective, we should see him come out of the preseason with the starting job. The Jets will certainly transition to Darnold, but when might be up to McCown’s play.

The former USC quarterback displayed lots of skills in college, but his glaring weakness was turning the ball over. Spending the offseason with professional coaches and sitting behind a quarterback who has over a decade of experience could help shape him into a more disciplined quarterback.

Darnold will debut once McCown fails to lead the Jets to wins. The former USC quarterback would also come in once Bowles feels like the rookie has shown that he is ready in practice and wants to put him out for early experience.

It shouldn’t take Darnold a whole season to get ready, perhaps around weeks five or six he will have enough instruction to get into the game.

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Photo via @nyjets

Teddy Bridgewater, 25, is a wild card. The Jets have their veteran place holder and hopeful future face of the franchise, but where does that leave Bridgewater, who, prior to a knee injury in 2016, was a playoff quarterback in Minnesota?

With the direction the Jets are going, Bridgewater is an odd fit for this roster. If he comes into camp looking like his 2015 self, then perhaps he could challenge McCown for the week one starter spot.

This team will be led by Darnold soon, so whoever he replaces is irrelevant for the future of the franchise. McCown is the safer bet at backup due to his healthy history and experience with many types of offenses.

Week one starter: Josh McCown

Buffalo Bills

The Bills ended the longest active NFL playoff drought last season by squeaking their way into the Wild Card round.

Their quarterback was Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills were not high on. Buffalo benched him midway through the season for one half before Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions against the Chargers, forcing Coach Sean McDermott to put Taylor back in.

Taylor has since been traded, and the Bills in another deal acquired former Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

McCarron has been rumored to get traded to a team needing a quarterback since he received starts in 2015 after Andy Dalton suffered an injury. He performed well in four starts and almost won a playoff game before a defensive collapse buried the Bengals against Pittsburgh.

With just Peterman on the roster, it appeared McCarron would be handed the starter’s job. That was until Buffalo traded up in the draft to seven, where they selected Wyoming QB Josh Allen.

Allen has a great arm, one that allows him to make throws that other quarterbacks cannot.

But, he has had accuracy issues throughout college, and his offense looked flat against their two toughest opponents last year (Wyoming only put up 26 total points in their two losses to Iowa and Oregon).

Regardless, Allen has the build and arm to make big plays in the NFL. But for a team that just made it to the playoffs, perhaps turning things over to the raw talented rookie isn’t in their best interest if they want to get back to the postseason.

McCarron should start week one, and if he plays like he did in 2015, he should stay the starter this season. Allen’s talent could use some molding, so having him backup in 2018 seems like a logical decision. If McCarron fails to keep Buffalo in the playoff race though, then Allen’s time should come sooner rather than later.

Week one starter: A.J. McCarron

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Arizona Cardinals

There are three new quarterbacks in the desert.

After Carson Palmer’s retirement, The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford, despite injury holding him out in 2017. Mike Glennon was brought in after the Bears released their 16-million-dollar backup. And like the Jets and Bills, the Cards traded up to get their quarterback of the future, Josh Rosen out of UCLA.

Arizona will treat Bradford with caution in camp considering his latest injury. With the reps off Bradford will be getting, Rosen will have a chance to gain more with the first team. That extra work and exposure, if Rosen performs well, could show Head Coach Steve Wilkes that the rookie is ready to go week one.

Rosen’s biggest question has never been skill. His passer efficiency rating over three college seasons was over 140 and he threw for over nine thousand yards.

His issue has been maturity and ability to lead. He was difficult to coach at UCLA according to NFL.com scouting reports, and on the field, he took unnecessary risks leading to 10 interceptions in 11 games last year. The Bruins were just 18-20 with him as quarterback.

But, Bradford has yet to lead a team to the playoffs since he entered the league in 2008, as the first pick for St. Louis. Bradford is a consistently accurate quarterback, but he doesn’t throw down the field well and has never been able to elevate a team in the pros.

Week one starter: Josh Rosen

Baltimore Ravens

2008 was the last time Baltimore drafted a quarterback in round one of the NFL draft. Their draftee, Joe Flacco, has been the starting quarterback ever since. The Ravens made it to the playoffs from 2008 through the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl.

Then, Flacco was made the richest quarterback in history at the time, and the Ravens have made it to the postseason once in the past five years.

Over the past two seasons, the Ravens were one play away from the playoffs.

On Christmas day in 2016, during week 16, Antonio Brown of the Steelers reached the ball over the goal line for the game winning touchdown with nine seconds left. That game ended Baltimore’s season.

In week 17 of 2017, a 53-yards touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-13 in the final minute knocked the Ravens out of the wild card spot.

Flacco’s performance in those two seasons have gone similarly. Average to poor play prior to the bye week. Following their bye weeks, he has looked like a quarterback worthy of his pay check.

Last season, before the bye, Flacco had a quarterback rating of 73.6 while throwing eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions. After their bye, his rating shot up to 89.5, and he threw 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

But, with his early season struggles, the Ravens over the last couple of seasons have lost games in the opening weeks to teams that received a top ten draft pick. If the Ravens had won those games, they would have almost certainly made it to the playoffs in 2016 and 2017.

With the disappointments of the last few seasons, Ozzie Newsome’s last first round pick before retirement was selecting Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner from Louisville.

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Photo via @Lj_era8

Jackson led the Cardinals to three straight winning seasons. He threw for 9,043 yards and ran for another 4,132. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick with his ability to make plays with his legs.

With his speed, Jackson will need to learn to throw more accurately on rollouts and on the run. That could take some time to work on, therefore sitting behind a quarterback who had the sixth most completions last year could help Jackson’s accuracy development.

Flacco has been the guy in Baltimore for a decade. They have gotten him new weapons for 2018 in hopes of improving the production of the passing attack. Flacco will more than likely be the Ravens’ starter for this season, but another disappointing finish outside of the playoffs and Lamar Jackson will be the starter come 2019.

Week one starter: Joe Flacco

Draft Grades: AFC East

Buffalo Bills: C+

Round 1, Pick 7: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Round 1, Pick 16: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech download

Round 3: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

Round 4: Taron Johnson, CB, Weber St

Round 5: Siran Neal, CB, Jacksonville State

Round 5: Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech

Round 6: Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson

Round 7: Austin Proehl, WR, North Carolina

Tyrod Taylor took the Bills to the Playoffs for the first time in 17 years, but nah, they threw him out and took a gigantic risk on Allen; the third best QB in the Mountain West. Edmunds was a steal at 16, and Buffalo’s best pick. It will be interesting to see how Ray-Ray McCloud plays out.

New England Patriots: B-

Round 1, Pick 23: Isaiah Wynn, T, Georgia DbwrzbGWsAARPRQ.jpg

Round 1, Pick 31: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

Round 2: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida

Round 5: Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue

Round 6: Christian Sam, LB, Arizona St.

Round 6: Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami

Round 7: Danny Etling, QB, LSU

The Patriots own the greatest draft pick of all time, and will still be good in 2018, so none of this really matters. I love Michel at No. 31. He’s an upgrade from Dion Lewis and it might be beneficial for him to run behind his college teammate. Berrios provides a potential Danny Amendola replacement. Trading back a few times prevented New England from taking a more reliable linebacker.

New York Jets: B+

Round 1, Pick 3: Sam Darnold, QB, USC DSqAJwHVQAE3bLb

Round 3: Nathan Shepherd, DE, Fort Hayes State

Round 4: Chris Herndon, WR, Miami

Round 6: Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane

Round 6: Foley Fatukasi, DT, UCONN

Round 6: Trenton Cannon, RB/KR, Virginia St.

New York’s B+ grade is propelled by Sam Darnold. It was the right pick to make after he ended up being available. The Jets also made the necessary moves to begin replenishing their defensive line, which took a hit with the departure of Muhammad Wilkerson.

Miami Dolphins: A-

Round 1, Pick 11: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama COxAQDAa_400x400.jpg

Round 2: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn St.

Round 3: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio St.

Round 4: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame

Round 4: Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona St.

Round 6: Cornell Armstrong, CB, Southern Miss

Round 7: Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio

Round 7: Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico

Yeah, it’s kinda suspect that I gave my favorite team the best grade in their division. Get over it.

The Dolphins had one of the best drafts when it came to addressing their needs. They added two linebackers (by far their weakest position) and two tight ends — one who can catch and one who can block. The combination of Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones at safety is good one.