ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The Jets have been searching for a franchise quarterback for nearly 50 years now. They've found a few candidates along the way, though none of them were great. And they've missed on many, many more.
Now Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has a chance to change all that when he makes the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night. When he made the bold and early move to trade up from 6 to 3, surrendering three second-round picks over the next two years to the Indianapolis Colts in the process, there was no doubt he had a Quarterback of the Future in mind.
But which one? Here's a look at how I expect the Jets' selection to play out:
Inside the War Room
First of all, they all know they're taking a quarterback so none of the other players on their board will matter when they're on the clock at No. 3. They're also not trading down, so don't expect anybody important to answer the phones. If there's any debate, it will be about the two or three quarterbacks still available -- unless it's USC's Sam Darnold, in which case they shouldn't need a full 10 minutes to write his name on their card.
Most have long expected that the decision will come down to Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield or UCLA's Josh Rosen -- of course that was before the late reports that the Browns were considering Mayfield at No. 1. But this is a decision that will have been made by Maccagnan long before the draft starts, regardless of the scenarios. Maybe he'll go around the room and make sure everyone is on board with the one he's selecting, but the debate will already be over. And that's true even if Wyoming's Josh Allen is also available, because it doesn't appear he's in play.
What are the Giants going to do? And to a suddenly surprising extent, what about the Browns? Those are really the biggest mysteries for the Jets. Are the late rumors true and will the Browns will let Darnold slide past them? And would the Giants really let him slide, too? The Jets are clearly hoping the Giants really are zeroed in on Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, because the last thing they want is for the Giants to take a quarterback, and then have a post-draft narrative to emerge that the Giants stole their guy.
Trade Talk - Don't expect any
There is no way they're moving down after all they gave up to move up, and it's hard to see how they'd move up -- even though Maccagnan left that door open. The Browns supposedly aren't dealing. Would the Giants deal with the Jets? It makes some sense from the Giants' perspective if they're set on Barkley -- and if Darnold is there at 2, a call might be made. But if they didn't even talk back in March when the Jets made their trade with the Colts to move from 6 to 3, don't expect it to happen now.
What Maccagnan should do
He should do exactly what he's going to do: Pick a quarterback. The Jets' search for a franchise quarterback has gone on for far too long and he knows it. Plenty of smart people think there are multiple franchise quarterbacks available in this draft. Maccagnan should take the one he likes best. Which one? Darnold if he's available. That's a no-brainer. Definitely not Wyoming's Josh Allen. He's too boom-or-bust and too much of a project for a Jets franchise that desperately needs at least a semi-sure thing.
As for Rosen or Mayfield, it's really a toss-up. They both seem about equally pro-ready and they both have some personality red flags. And it's unclear how either will handle New York. Personally, I like the brashness of Mayfield. The Jets could use a little energy and excitement and he certainly would bring it. There's a risk that his cocky attitude will be a joke if things go wrong, but if the Jets get this pick wrong they'll have bigger problems than a few bad back-page puns. Rosen is the better prospect, though, and might be the better quarterback.
But as long as Maccagna doesn't take the longer-term project in Allen, or pass on Darnold, it's hard to argue with the quarterback he takes.
And with the 3rd overall pick, the Jets select
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen … unless Darnold really is sitting there at 3, in which case I believe the Jets will take him.
Assuming Darnold is gone -- an admittedly risky assumption -- there is strong support for both Rosen and Mayfield in the Jets' organization and questions about both of them. But in the end, I believe Maccagnan will go with the safer bet. Rosen is a bit more of a prototypical quarterback prospect. He's also at least a little more polished and seemingly less of a risk in dealing with the media. That matters because the Jets are often sensitive to the PR side of things. Given a choice of a polished player or one who likely will be fodder for the back pages, they're much more likely to choose the former. Or to put it another way: Do they really want a Rex Ryan type of personality at quarterback? My guess is no.