In less than a week, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan will make the most important draft pick of his tenure with the team, the one that surely will define his legacy.
No pressure, right?
Maccagnan may insist he doesn't feel it, but there's no doubt he understands the magnitude of what he does when the Jets are on the clock with the third overall pick in the NFL draft next Thursday night. And here's everything you need to know -- and everything I know at the moment, with the help of an array of team and league sources over the last few months -- about who that pick is going to be:
They are 100 percent taking a quarterback. Don't waste your time thinking of other possibilities. As one team source put it after they traded up from 6 to 3, "You'd have to be brain dead to think we're not drafting a quarterback." The price of moving up was too high for anything else.
The most likely choice seems to be either Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and UCLA's Josh Rosen. For a long time the Jets seemed sure that Wyoming's Josh Allen and USC's Sam Darnold were likely going 1-2 in some order, or that Darnold would go 1 and the Giants would pass on Allen. In the case of the latter, Allen would still get some consideration, but the Mayfield-Rosen debate would likely be the rage.
Suddenly, Darnold might be in play, too. Before the Jets made their trade with the Colts, they called the Cleveland Browns about the No. 1 pick and were turned down. That appeared to be their last-ditch effort to get in position for Darnold, who they assumed would be snatched up by the Browns or Giants or someone else who traded up to 2. Now? They're not so sure, according to a source, which is why they made the late decision to add Darnold to their 30 pre-draft visits this week. There is a lot of talk that the Browns are taking Allen, and the Jets think there's at least a chance the Giants would then pass on Darnold and take Saquon Barkley. If that happens, expect the Jets to run the card with Darnold's name on it up to the podium before the Giants' pick finishes crossing the stage.
Right now, the Rosen-Mayfield choice seems like a tossup. I'd give the slight edge to Mayfield because that's whom most people think they'll pick, but I tend to be a trusting sort, even this time of year when everyone lies. The Jets were absolutely not sold on Mayfield when this process began, with several sources saying they weren't sure he could handle the pressure of New York and the size and ferocity of the media. They have since warmed up to his personality. Supposedly, Maccagnan, said to be an early doubter, has too. Rosen has some personality red flags too, albeit of a different variety, but most believe he's more of a complete and pro-ready quarterback prospect. It's unclear which one Maccagnan actually prefers. Rosen might be the safer pick. Mayfield would be the more electric one.
The Jets also like Allen, but he's probably a bit too much of a project. Like almost every scout around the league, the Jets love his size and his canon arm, but worry about his poor college numbers -- particularly his accuracy. If they were in a different situation, they might consider him, because he could have the highest ceiling of the Big Four. But remember, with journeyman Josh McCown, their current starter, turning 39 in July, the Jets really need to find someone who figures to be ready to take over in 2019. Also, Maccagnan can't take a big risk because he absolutely can't get this selection wrong.
If Darnold gets to 2, the Jets might try to trade up to get him … but don't expect it to happen. It takes two to tango, of course, which makes this scenario a bit far-fetched. But if the Browns really do take Allen then Maccagnan has to at least call Giants GM Dave Gettleman and see what he wants for the pick, right? The Jets didn't call the Giants about the No. 2 pick when they moved up from 6 to 3, but a high-ranking Giants source told me they would have at least listened. And if the Giants really are set on Barkley, taking any Jets offer would be a no-brainer because the Jets aren't moving up for the running back. Two problems, though: One is the Jets already used three second-round picks to move up to 3, without calling about 2, so there is some feeling in their building that they've already made their big move and don't want to give up anything more. And then there are the optics. If Darnold becomes a great quarterback and the Giants end up in "quarterback hell" after Eli Manning is done, this trade would haunt them. Then again, it would haunt them anyway if they pass on Darnold and let the Jets take him, so they may as well pick up an extra pick or two to ease their pain.