By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
Even if the Jets decide to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the team for a second straight season, and possibly beyond, it is imperative that they keep an eye on the future of the position.
Although Bryce Petty is waiting in the wings, there is no guarantee that he will be the answer when the question comes up of who will take over when Fitzpatrick’s reign as the team’s starting signal caller is over. At the very least, the Jets need to bring in some competition for Petty as the heir apparent at quarterback.
With the Jets quarterback situation being what it is, and the free agent market looking rather weak at the position, it is important that they make a sincere effort to re-sign Fitzpatrick, at least for the next season or two.
Regardless of whether or not the team is happy with the progression of Petty and see him as the eventual answer behind center, he is still rather raw and could use another season working behind a seasoned veteran like Fitzpatrick.
It is also quite obvious that they do not see Geno Smith as the potential long-term solution, so they definitely need to look towards the 2016 NFL Draft to at least fill the depth chart going forward.
Depending on how sold they are on the early round prospects, and how high they are willing to pick a QB, there are a number of interesting options available to them throughout the upcoming draft.
At the current moment, the top two rated quarterbacks in the draft are North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and University of California’s Jared Goff. Both of them are likely to be gone by the time the Jets pick in the first round, but you never know what might happen to either player’s stock prior to the draft or if the Jets are willing to move up in order to grab one of them.
Compared to Aaron Rodgers by Texas Longhorns’ defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, Jared Goff threw for 96 TD’s and 30 INT’s as well as 12,195 yards passing in his three years as the starting quarterback for the Golden Bears.
Improving each year, Goff passed for 4,719 yards with 43 touchdowns and a 64.5 completion percentage during his junior season in 2015. Although his astronomical numbers are at least partially the product of California’s up-tempo spread offense, Goff readily displays the characteristics scouts are seeking with a pro-style quarterback.
Incredibly courageous in the pocket with impressive footwork and enough mobility to elude pass rushers, Goff has the arm strength necessary to complete deep outs to the opposite sideline as well as the touch to deliver accurate passes on all route levels.
He does however have his deficiencies, which include decreased accuracy when he throws on the run and somewhat of a wiry frame at 6’4 210 pounds.
The good news is that he is aware of his shortcomings and has the mindset needed to step up his game on the next level. A year in the weight room with an NFL-level training staff could do him some good as well.
Blessed with the prototypical size of a modern day quarterback, the 6’5 233 pound Carson Wentz was a 2-year starter with a 20-3 record for the Bison. With a much smaller body of work than Goff, Wentz threw for 45 TD’s and 14 INT’s with 5,115 passing yards in his 35 games with North Dakota State, only 23 of which were as the starter. He also ran for 1,028 yards on 216 carries for a 4.8 ypc average and 13 TD’s.
Despite the fact that the Bison employ a wide-open offense, Wentz operated under center and in the shotgun with numerous pro-style reads.
Even though Wentz missed eight games in 2015 due to a broken wrist he suffered in October, Carson returned in time to win the Most Outstanding Player award in the FCS National Championship game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on January 9th.
Carson displays the athleticism and coordination necessary to perform well both in the pocket and while scrambling. Wentz also displays the arm strength required to deliver the ball downfield with above average velocity.
He does however have a habit of staring down receivers and needs to improve on his anticipation of timing routes. Like Goff, Wentz has the mental wherewithal and willingness to improve on his weak points.
Another tremendous physical specimen who is expected to go in the first two rounds of the draft, the 6’6 230 pound Paxton Lynch of the University of Memphis has above average arm strength along with the poise, mobility and touch needed to be successful on the next level.
Lynch started 39 consecutive games to end his college career, throwing for 8,865 yards with 59 TD’s and 23 INT’s in his three years as a starter, including 28 TD’s and 4 INT’s as a senior.
Paxton will need to put in the effort to improve on his footwork and field vision in order to succeed in the NFL. He will most likely need at least a year to learn an NFL system before being thrown into the fire.
Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who was projected to be a Top 20 pick following his junior year in 2015, is also expected to be off the board by the end of the second round. The 6’4, 220 pound Spartans signal caller passed for 9,194 yards with 71 TD’s and 22 INT’s in his three seasons as the starter.
Connor has considerable arm strength and possesses the precision, awareness and intestinal fortitude needed to play in the NFL. The question marks experts have about Cook include his overall accuracy and his leadership ability. The fact that he was not named as a team captain and that he turned down an opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl do not work in his favor. However, Connor’s remarkable skillset will surely lead to some team taking a chance on him in the top two rounds.
Other notable names who are expected to be selected in the first three or four rounds of the draft are Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.
Hackenberg, a 6’4, 236 pound three-year starter for the Nittany Lions, has above average arm strength, but his shaky mechanics have led to substandard decision-making, poor pocket awareness and inconsistent accuracy. He also failed to show much improvement in his game after an exceptional Freshman season. He finished his career at Penn State with 8,457 yards passing as well as 48 TD’s and 31 INT’s.
The 6’2, 226 pound Prescott, who served as a running complement to starting quarterback Tyler Russell for his first two seasons, proved to be a bona fide dual-threat quarterback with the maneuverability and bulk to burst through tackles.
During his career with the Bulldogs, Prescott passed for 9,376 yards with 70 TD’s and 23 INT’s. He also rushed for 2,521 yards with 41 TD’s on the ground.
Although he has a lot of work to do on his footwork and field vision, and will take some time to develop on the NFL level, he is an intriguing athlete with a lot of upside.
If the Jets are looking for a developmental prospect in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, who stands at a whopping 6’5 250 pounds, has a cannon for an arm and can hit his targets anywhere on the field.
An incredibly skilled athlete with exceptional escapability, Jones is quite proficient at avoiding pass rushers and picking up solid yardage in the run game.
One of the biggest problems with Cardale is the fact that he only started eleven games during his career with the Buckeyes, which is far from adequate when it comes to accurately evaluating NFL talent.
In his limited action, Jones threw for 2,322 yards with 15 TD’s and 7 INT’s to go along with 153 rushes for 617 yards and 4 TD’s. He needs a ton of work with the mental aspects of the game and will definitely require some serious development on the NFL level before he sees the field.
This year’s quarterback class definitely leaves a lot to be desired as a whole, but there are certainly some appealing options available in the 2016 NFL Draft. Considering that the Jets are leaning towards keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick in the starting role next season, as long as the two sides can agree on a new contract, it would not be the end of the world if they select a quarterback that requires some time to develop.
With pressing needs at running back, outside linebacker, offensive line, inside linebacker and tight end, and only six picks at hand, it might make more sense for the Jets to take a developmental quarterback later on in the draft.
However, if they fall in love with one of the early round signal callers, and he is there when they pick, I would not be shocked to see Maccagnan pull the trigger on what he perceives to be the next franchise quarterback.
You can read my article from 3/2/16 about Paxton Lynch by clicking below:
You can read my article from 1/29/16 about the importance of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jets QB situation going forward by clicking the following link:
You can read my Jets Pre-Combine Mock Draft article from 2/24/16 by clicking below:
You can read my article from 2/19/16 on NYJetsNews.Com about a few options for the Jets in the 1st Round of NFL Draft by clicking the following link: