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Should the Jets Look Quarterback in Round 1?

Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

NFL Draft

Should the Jets Look Quarterback in Round 1?

The Jet fanbase seems to have the same question every year, who is the Jets quarterback of the future? Jets fans are passionate fanbase desperate to have a team to rally behind.  Even when the Jets made back-to-back AFC title game runs, the long-term success never seemed sustainable.

The franchise has never had a true franchise caliber quarterback. Even Joe Namath, the best quarterback in franchise history, had 220 interceptions to 173 touchdowns in his career.

The Jets single season touchdown record is held by Ryan Fitzpatrick with 31 TDs, the year in which he tied for 10th most touchdowns in the NFL. The team has attempted many times to take quarterbacks and develop them, often failing miserably.

Kellen Clemens, Mark Sanchez, and Geno Smith were all taken in the first or second round and all failed to become the guy in New York. Since 2007, Sanchez is the only offensive player the Jets have drafted in the first round.

The Jets have not only failed to develop a quarterback, but they have failed to develop talent around their quarterbacks to help them succeed.

Two years ago, the Jets selected Bryce Petty out of Baylor with the first pick in the 4th round, 103rd overall. A fan base that was tired of the Geno Smith interceptions and losses rejoiced. Seeing a quarterback with a big arm come out of a flashy system can get fans excited. Petty was deemed a developmental quarterback, a player who needs time to grow.

However, it is not often a team selects a quarterback in the 4th round that they plan to build their future around. He’s typically a guy you think can be a backup and hope for the best in terms of developing him. A look at the chart below shows that 72% of starting quarterbacks in the NFL were taken in the first 40 picks of the draft.

The successful quarterbacks on that list not taken in the top 40 — like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor — were never drafted for teams to build their teams around.

Exceptions to the rule should never lead to not taking a quarterback. All five of those quarterbacks showed high end talent when given the opportunity, with both Wilson and Prescott killing the preseason and earning starting spots, and Brady and Taylor thriving when given the opportunity.

Cousins was drafted the same year as Griffin III with the idea of being the backup and played well when Griffin got hurt. Petty has done none of those things, and he shouldn’t be a reason not to draft a quarterback. Of the remaining teams on that the list below, the Bears just paid $15 million a year for Glennon, the Texans tried (and failed) to solve the problem with Osweiler, and the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the first-round last year.

Last QB to start for a team in 2016 (excluding injuries)

Further supporting the theory that Petty was never drafted to be the guy, the Jets selected Christian Hackenberg in the 2nd round, to the shock of many draft analysts. Hackenberg was once the number one high school quarterback recruit according the ESPN, but never lived up to the hype.

With an above average freshman year but a pedestrian sophomore and junior year, Hackenberg entered the 2017 draft. Some blamed his accuracy issues (51.5% completion percentage) on his offensive line, but most saw major red flags for his future as an NFL QB.

According to NFL.com, one NFC executive said this before the draft about Hackenberg: “The tape is just terrible over the last two years, but he has traits and leadership. His freshman tape is good, but how do you discount everything you’ve seen for two years? That freshman tape is going to lead a team to overdraft him.” — NFC executive.

Pro Football Focus gave him an UDFA grade and had this to say prior to the draft: “Looks the part is the nicest thing that has been said about Hackenberg the last two seasons, and we’re not really sure how much that’s worth.

The on-field play has been subpar by every measure, and most point to 2013 as the glimmer of hope in Hackenberg’s upside. We are in the process of going back to grade every play from that season, but the last two years of evidence that saw him rank among the worst quarterbacks in the country is not encouraging.”

Now just because people didn’t like Hackenberg pre-draft doesn’t mean that he cannot be successful in the NFL. His preseason play was highly inconsistent, showing a few positive plays, but also many worrisome plays.

Hack throws a nice ball down the sideline

Hackenberg throws blindly over the middle of the field

Again, just because his preseason play wasn’t good doesn’t mean he cannot be a successful NFL quarterback. Hackenberg didn’t register a single snap this season, despite the Jets quickly falling out of contention and injuries to all three quarterbacks ahead of him.

The season was lost, Petty was hurt and yet Ryan Fitzpatrick still started the last game since the Jets felt Hackenberg wasn’t ready. Not ready to get playing time in the NFL is always concerning, not ready to play a meaningless game and finally get in work is worrisome.

On top of the fact that he never played, the leaked quotes about Hackenberg also raise concerns. As a “an unnamed coach told ESPN that Hackenberg couldn’t even throw a football into an ocean.” This quote led to the owner Wood Johnson to respond, “I guess it depends which ocean.

Maybe it was a small ocean. EPA describes that as an ocean. Anyway, no, that’s not funny.” Now Woody maybe trying to be funny, but defending the size of the ocean and not the player may mean that he has concerns as well

Menish Mehta of the Daily News seems to always have a grudge against the Jets, and enjoys controversy so his reports should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the players he spoke to didn’t sound confident in Hackenberg’s future. “One Jets starter simply rolled his eyes and shook his head recently when I asked whether Hackenberg was worth a second-round pick. ‘No,’ the player said.” The other quote was even less promising: “‘He will never make it,’ another Jets source told the Daily News. ‘Never.'”

While we have very little tape to go on, the tape from the college season we do have is not promising, the reports of how he practiced are not promising, and he was a guy who many experts felt was over drafted.

Hackenberg may develop into a good quarterback in time. However, it is extremely important to be able to admit your mistakes. If the coaches and management feel as if what they see isn’t enough, the Jets should take advantage of picking a QB highly in the draft.

The move would not be unprecedented either. The Panthers selected Cam Newton the year after taking Jimmy Clausen in the second round; the Rams selected Jared Goff the year after taking Sean Mannion in the third round; and the Buccaneers took Winston just two years after selecting Mike Glennon in the third round.

The Josh McCown signing should have no bearing on the Jets future plans either. His one year, six-million-dollar salary (27th annually) is the contract of a backup quarterback, and at 37 years old he is nothing more than a place holder at best.

This draft class of quarterbacks is knocked as not having any high-end guys, and that next year’s class is better. Every year there isn’t an Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston, the narrative is that the class is weak.

There are 3 high end quarterbacks in this year’s class worthy of a first-round pick: Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, and Patrick Mahomes.

I have higher grades on both Watson and Trubisky than either Wentz or Goff last year. If the Jets are sold on any of these three quarterbacks, they would be 100% right in making the pick to try and move the franchise forward.

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Eliot Crist

Eliot Crist is a National Scout for NDT Scouting Services. He also works for Pro Football Focus as an analyst. He has experience in draft breakdowns, tendency scouting reports, and player evaluations. Eliot is passionate about breaking down film, showing the good and bad of players explaining what he sees in a player. He frequently appears as a guest analyst on football podcasts.

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