For several reasons, Joe Douglas’ two draft classes as New York Jets general manager have yielded polar opposite results so far.
Has this been due to Douglas’ fragile relationship with former head coach Adam Gase, compared to his solidarity with Robert Saleh? Did the pandemic play a factor in the 2020 misses? Or can the sub-par performance merely be attributed to it being his rookie year as a GM?
Whatever the reason, Jets fans will forgive Douglas so long as the next few drafts are more like 2021 than 2020. Gang Green hit on four day-one starters (G Alijah Vera-Tucker, WR Elijah Moore, RB Michael Carter, NB Michael Carter II) this season and two-to-four more potential long-term starters in QB Zach Wilson, CB Brandin Echols, LB Jamien Sherwood and S Jason Pinnock.
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Jets Analyst Names 3 2020 Prospects as Trade Candidates
On February 17, Tyler Greenawalt of Jets Wire listed six NYJ players that could be traded in 2022. I am going to focus on three of them, all of which were drafted in 2020.
Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle
The first is a huge name but not one we have not heard in trade rumors before. ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler discussed Becton as a “deep sleeper” trade candidate at the beginning of the month and Greenawalt is in agreement here.
He explained: “Becton is just 15 games into his NFL career after suffering a season-ending knee injury to start his second season. But there is a scenario in which the Jets re-sign Morgan Moses and/or draft another tackle to start opposite George Fant on the left side and find a trade partner for Becton. It’s unlikely, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Becton to be on the outside looking in if the offseason shakes out a certain way. Trading Becton this soon would incur a major dead cap hit, however.”
Every part of this analysis is accurate but that last sentence will be key. The monster left tackle out of Louisville was Douglas’ first-ever draft selection as a GM. To give up on him after two seasons — and an encouraging start his rookie year — seems very unlikely and that’s before you take into account the cap penalties.
The Jets would have to be wowed by a suitor to even consider this and I’m not sure anyone is jumping to trade for Becton considering concerns about his weight, work ethic and injury history.
The smarter move would be to try and motivate an off-the-field turnaround that could spark a 2022 rebound for the blocker.
Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver
Not much of a shocker here either, as Mims has been the subject of trade chatter even longer than Becton.
Greenawalt reasoned: “Mims wasn’t quite at the level the Jets need him to be in 2021. He missed a lot of time with various ailments, took a lot of time to learn the playbook and ultimately failed to capitalize on multiple opportunities after injuries hit the Jets’ receiving corps. Teams already called the Jets before the trade deadline this past season, so Douglas could field even more calls for the young wideout this offseason.”
At this point, most fans would probably deal Mims for just about anything but I’ve never been one to endorse trading a player at his lowest possible value.
There have been rumors of a potential link between the Carolina Panthers and Jets on the Baylor product, due to his college ties to Panthers HC Matt Rhule. If he’s willing to pay above market value to secure Mims, sure, a clean break would make a lot of sense.
If you’re ditching the wide receiver for a sixth or seventh-rounder just to cut ties, however, I still can’t get behind that type of decision.
Ashtyn Davis, Safety
The final 2020 underperformer Greenawalt featured was Davis, the athletic safety out of California.
He wrote: “[Davis] flashed at times but needs a lot more refinement if he wants to lock down a starting safety job in 2022. Teams could covet his versatility and physicality, though, if Douglas wants to cut bait on a former third-round pick and reset the position completely.”
After injuries to Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner, Davis was thrust into a sink-or-swim role in 2021 and he did not live up to the billing. In fact, he was routinely outplayed by lesser-known talents like Elijah Riley, Pinnock and Will Parks.
The Athletic’s Connor Hughes recently reported that the Jets are “actively looking to replace” the 25-year old this offseason. Whether that ends up meaning he loses starting consideration or a roster spot altogether is up for debate.
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Anyone Left Out?
If these three are dealt over the offseason, there wouldn’t be many picks left from this 2020 class.
James Morgan is already gone. La’Mical Perine has a spot on the 53 for now but he probably isn’t long for this roster with multiple running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. And Cameron Clark was forced to retire after a tragic neck injury.
That leaves three other prospects from this nine-man group. CB Bryce Hall and P Braden Mann are the only two that truly have jobs locked up heading in 2022.
The final name is Jabari Zuniga, an underwhelming edge rusher that has hardly played his first two seasons. Greenawalt might have put him on the trade list if anybody wanted him.
Technically, the Green & White cut Zuniga after training camp in 2021 and nobody was willing to claim him. He spent most of the campaign on the Jets practice squad, receiving an elevation to the game-day roster from time to time.