Joe Douglas looks like a grinder. He’s a sleeves-rolled-up type of guy, unafraid to do the little things.
Former Jets coach Herman Edwards used to talk a lot about “doing the corners,’’ a reference to the importance of making sure every little detail has been addressed. Douglas looks like a guy who lives in those corners.
The Jets’ first-time general manager, beginning Thursday and for the ensuing two days, will conduct his first NFL draft with his new team that happens to be starved for talent the way we’re all starved to put this coronavirus crisis behind us and return to our daily routines.
Back in the days of the Giants’ first two Super Bowls, then-coach Bill Parcells used to revel in calling his offensive linemen “lunch-pail guys.’’ Douglas is a quintessential “lunch-pail guy.’’
This, all Jets fans hope with every fiber of their beings, should be a good thing for a team whose needs are so plentiful entering this draft the success of it lies not in the first round, where the Jets pick 11th overall, but in the middle rounds.
The middle rounds of drafts are what build teams’ foundations. And, based on the rampant misses of the previous regimes, this is why the Jets foundation at the moment looks like it’s put together with twigs and balsa wood.
Douglas and his scouts, of course, need to land an immediate starter with the 11th-overall pick — most likely one of the top tackles available.
But more than anything, if he’s not hitting home runs, Douglas needs to at least hit some doubles and triples off the wall with his second-, third- and fourth-round picks.
Because the Jets cannot sustain any more third- and fourth-round failures like Jachai Polite (2019 third-round linebacker who was cut in training camp) … ArDarius Stewart (2017 third-round receiver who caught six passes for 82 yards as a Jet) … Chad Hanson (2017 fourth-round receiver who caught nine passes for 94 yards as a Jet) …
… Juston Burris (2016 fourth-round cornerback who started two games as a Jet) … Lorenzo Mauldin (2015 third-round linebacker who started four games and lasted two seasons) … Dexter McDougle (2014 third-round cornerback who didn’t start a single game in three-plus seasons and failed to intercept a single pass) … Jalen Saunders (2014 fourth-round receiver who caught one pass for 7 yards as a Jet) … Shaquille Evans (2014 fourth-round receiver who never played a game for the Jets).
They, too, cannot survive any more second-round busts like Jace Amaro (tight end picked in 2014 and totaled 41 catches for 404 yards as a Jet) … Devin Smith (receiver picked in 2015 and caught 15 passes as a Jet) … and Christian Hackenberg (quarterback picked in 2015 who never played a game as a Jet).
I’ll stop now. You get the picture.
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If Douglas, a former high school and college offensive lineman, takes a tackle in the first round as most of the league believes he will, he then needs to turn his attention immediately to the receiver position, where the Jets are thin and this draft is fat.
As much as Sam Darnold needs a left tackle to protect his blind side, he needs a big-play receiver to threaten opposing defenses.
Unless he surprises and goes receiver in the first round, Douglas must pick one in the second round, the 48th overall spot, and perhaps again with one of his two third-round picks.
Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool (a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds), LSU’s Justin Jefferson (111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDS last season), Clemson’s Tee Higgins (6-4, 216 with big-time red-zone skills), Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk (65 for 1,192 yards and eight TDs last year) and/or TCU’s Jalen Reagor (4.47 in the 30) may be available in the second round.
If Douglas goes for a receiver again in the third or fourth rounds, Baylor’s Denzel Mims, Central Florida’s Gabriel Davis or Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler are possibilities.
NFL Network analyst and draft specialist Daniel Jeremiah, who worked as a scout with the Ravens alongside Douglas in the mid 2000s, knows Douglas’ strengths and said this past week, “Joe is going to do very well in the middle rounds of this draft; that’s where the sweet spot is.’’
This should be sweet music to the ears of the Jets, who have two third-round picks, with the second one acquired from the Giants in the Leonard Williams trade, along with a fourth-, fifth- and sixth-rounder.
“[The Jets] don’t have a lot of blue-chip players at the important positions,’’ Jeremiah said. “They’ve got to find ways to score points; they just couldn’t do it last year [the Jets scored 276 points in 2019, which ranked 31st in the league]. They’ve got to go about getting that fixed, and that starts with getting much better up-front, and you’ve got to give Sam Darnold some weapons. I would imagine it’s going to be high on the priority list with this draft.’’
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