NFL-Leading Draft Rating Propels Jets in ESPN Power Ranking

Zach Wilson

Getty Quaterback Zach Wilson headlines a top-ranked 2021 draft class for the New York Jets franchise.

Hey honey, look! I think that pig is flying!

When it comes to NFL rankings, the New York Jets usually don’t fair very well and sometimes the honest truth is that they don’t deserve to. The franchise has not had a winning season since 2015 and that was actually the only one above .500 going back to the 11-5 AFC championship defeat of 2010.

Over the last five years, Gang Green is a combined 23-57. That amounts to a pitiful .288 winning percentage. The Jets have earned this sort of reputation, no doubt about it, but things seem to be changing for the better.

ESPN experts Jeremy Fowler, Louis Riddick, Seth Walder and Field Yates came together to project an NFL power ranking, but with a twist. This 32-team rank wouldn’t just focus on the present, it would hone in on each organization’s three-year trajectory from 2021-23.

The analysts even used a specific system to do this, grading out five categories for each team based on the following scale: 100- A+, 90- A, 80- B, 70- C, 60- D, 50 or below- F.

Below are the five major categories that ESPN used to determine their overall rating.

  • Quarterback situation.
  • Remaining (non-QB) roster.
  • Drafting ability.
  • Coaching.
  • Front office.

We’ve recently heard writers like Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus totally rip on the Jets in similar pieces. That wasn’t the case in this ranking.

For once, ESPN acknowledged the clear differences seen throughout this organization under Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh. For once, the Jets found their way out of the cellar that is the bottom third of the NFL, and it was really due to one dominant category.

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Vindication From ESPN

I’ll be the first to admit that Jets fans should not care where ESPN or whichever talking head ranks us. Unfortunately, most of us still do.

It’s human nature to want to be the best and while the product on the field is really all that matters, nobody wants to be seen as the laughing stock of the league either. Even in the midst of a bad season, you want to be seen as a competent franchise.

Douglas and Saleh appear to have the Green and White on the right track in this regard and ESPN just became the first top-tier publication to provide some well-deserved vindication.

For those that don’t own a subscription to ESPN+, Will Parkinson of the TOJ Podcast was nice enough to tweet out the Jets breakdown.

There’s definitely room for improvement here, but 20th overall is a lot better than the 28 to 30 range that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

The Jets aggregated score based on “drafting ability” was the real MVP here, as the ESPN experts rated Gang Green first in the entire NFL in this area with an 83.8 grade.

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ESPN Awards Jets With Monster Draft Grade

Although number 20 might be right on the cusp of it, the Jets are officially out of the bottom-third NFL tier (we’ll call 1-11 tier one, 12-21 tier two, and 22-32 tier three).

Below is the official breakdown that got us there.

  • Quarterback situation: 72.8, 18th ranked.
  • Remaining (non-QB) roster: 71.524th ranked.
  • Coaching: 70.524th ranked.
  • Drafting ability: 83.81st in NFL.
  • Front office: 78.812th ranked.

Obviously, the aforementioned drafting category was the anchor for NYJ. Douglas and his scouting team had an excellent showing in 2021 by most estimations and the general manager has also stockpiled picks for the upcoming offseasons.

Douglas had a solid group of selections in 2020 too, even if a few picks look like misses early in the process. The long-term progress of headliners Mekhi Becton, Bryce Hall, Denzel Mims and Ashtyn Davis will probably make or break this class when we reevaluate in five years.

Walder gave two positive nuggets on the Jets 2021 draft: “[Zach Wilson] recorded the highest completion percentage over expectation last season among all FBS QBs, beating out Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence. And Sports Info Solutions credited the Jets’ other first-rounder, Alijah Vera-Tucker, with just a single pressure allowed in 2019.”

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Weaknesses Make Sense & Are Fixable

The Jets also ranked pretty high in the “front office” section, but lower in coaching and overall roster talent. These are actually the two best areas that the Jets could have graded out poorly at in a three-year trajectory ranking and I’ll explain why.

When you’re coming off a two-win season and you’re building it all up from scratch, you absolutely need to have three things in place. First is an intelligent front office that knows how to draft (double-check), then a franchise quarterback (check, we think), and finally, coaches who know how to develop talent (check, despite the grade).

Saleh is a first-year head coach and that 100% impacted this 24th ranked coaching grade. Riddick wrote that the Jets HC “has no track record,” but noted that he’s “optimistic.” I’m not worried about Saleh and this staff that brings a blend of experience and creativity.

OC Mike LaFleur is a bright offensive mind that’s ready for the next step. DC Jeff Ulbrich is a former NFL linebacker that has excelled at relating with his players. Greg Knapp is a wise quarterback mentor that has taught and learned from some of the best. John Benton’s offensive lines have track records that speak for themselves. The list goes on and on, from Tony Oden and Marquand Manuel to Brant Boyer, Miles Austin and more.

The least important area when talking about the future is non-QB roster talent in my opinion, especially when you’re in the situation the Jets are in. The franchise is currently projected to have the third-most cap space in 2022, and we already mentioned the draft capital. Frequent roster turnover is common in the NFL and this 53-man group is still in flux.

Yates summed up the Green and White’s future best, saying it will hinge on Wilson: “If he’s as good as believed, the Jets will soar.”

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