Jets Ditch Sam Darnold for $90 Million Game-Wrecker in 2018 Re-Draft

Sam Darnold

Getty The New York Jets selected quarterback Sam Darnold in round one of the 2018 NFL Draft.

June is NFL re-draft season and a new Bleacher Report re-draft took readers back to 2018 on June 25. The New York Jets had one lone first-round selection in 2018 and they used it to trade up for USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Of course, they didn’t exactly know that he’d fall to them heading into April.

The Jets swapped picks with the Indianapolis Colts on March 17 and the somewhat obvious plan was to draft one of five signal-callers — Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson. The latter was a longshot to go top five back in 2018, despite winning an NFL MVP later on, so NYJ really had their eye on one of four candidates.

In the end, Darnold was a dream scenario for former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan but hindsight is always 20/20 in a re-draft. For that reason, NFL writer Gary Davenport sent Allen and Jackson to the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants at No. 1 and 2 overall — leaving the Jets with Mayfield or Darnold.

Given those options, Davenport chose door number three at pick No. 3, game-wrecker defensive tackle Daron Payne out of Alabama.

Jets Pass Up QB Position for Commanders DT Daron Payne in 2018 NFL Re-Draft

The 2018 NFL draft turned out to be a year devoid of star power. Outside of Allen and Jackson, the best players turned out to be Payne, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander and Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. among several other solid tier-two talents.

One could definitely make the argument that Davenport should have gone with Nelson here, but Payne is probably the only other borderline tier-one talent from 2018. Although his career took a little longer to develop than Nelson, the Alabama star was just awarded a $90 million extension with the Washington Commanders this offseason.

“Let’s be honest here. The Jets traded up in 2018 for one reason and one reason only: to select a quarterback,” Davenport acknowledged. “That said quarterback wound up a bust and defensive tackle Daron Payne wound up a Pro Bowler isn’t relevant. Teams don’t mortgage their futures for defensive linemen, even excellent ones.”

He went on: “However, trades that occurred before the draft started count here, so the Jets are on the clock at No. 3. Defensive linemen carry a high premium in the NFL draft. And Payne is an excellent lineman.”

“It took Payne a little while to truly hit his stride, but hit it he has,” Davenport reasoned. “In 2021, the 6’3″, 320-pounder posted 61 total tackles. The following season, Payne exploded for a career-best 11.5 sacks and 64 tackles.” 18 of those 64 tackles produced a loss in yardage in 2022.

“Payne and Quinnen Williams (whom the Jets drafted third overall in 2019) would be a truly terrifying pair of tackles,” the Bleacher Report analyst concluded, adding jokingly: “Now all New York has to do is wait for Aaron Rodgers.”

Jets Come Up With Zero First-Round Talents in 2018 According to NFL Re-Draft

What’s even more pitiful about the 2018 draft class is that the Jets ended up with zero first-round talents according to Davenport.

Darnold was snubbed in round one considering the prior knowledge that he isn’t able to succeed in New York or Carolina, and the rest of the 2018 class was pretty terrible overall. Defensive tackles Nathan Shepherd and Foley Fatukasi had the strongest careers with Gang Green — although both left in free agency over the past couple of years — while tight end Chris Herndon flamed out quickly after a hot start as a rookie.

The two remaining NYJ selections from 2018, cornerback Parry Nickerson and running back/returner Trenton Cannon, have bounced around the league on various practice squads. Both would probably go undrafted if Davenport decided to re-do the final six rounds in the present day.

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