After initially being "open for business" with the sixth pick of the draft and admitting a desire to trade down, Mike Maccagnan seemed to close up shop on Monday. Now the Jets GM says "We feel pretty good at 6 right now."
And they should, because if the sudden frenzy over the quarterbacks in this draft is more than just a smokescreen, the Jets will end up with a better player at 6 than they previously believed.
For the longest time it didn't look like any quarterback would go in the first five picks of the NFL draft. The scouting world was down on all of the top quarterbacks in the draft and few believed any were worthy of even a Top 10 pick. The idea that any of them could end up as the top pick seemed crazy -- as crazy as the idea that two could go in the Top 10.
Now? Suddenly there are reports that the Cleveland Browns are split on whether to take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett or North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the first overall pick. And if they do take Garrett, there are now reports that the 49ers are thinking about Trubisky -- or perhaps another quarterback -- at No. 2.
There has been at least one report that the Chicago Bears, despite throwing all that money at free agent Mike Glennon, will consider a quarterback at 3. And some think the Buffalo Bills, picking 10th, might want to trade up to grab a quarterback for themselves.
Maybe that's crazy, but that's what happens with quarterbacks in the NFL draft. Because any team that doesn't have a franchise quarterback is desperate to find one. Yes, that includes the Jets, but Maccagnan appeared to downplay his interest in this year's quarterback crop in his pre-draft briefing with reporters on Monday. Of course, maybe that's a ruse too.
But if the Jets aren't going to take a quarterback, they'd love to see one or even two go in the Top 5 because it increases their options at 6. The quarterback frenzy is one reason why it's not clear whom the Jets are targeting or who will even be available. But at this rate they may not have to settle for the sixth-best player in the draft. They might get someone in their Top 2 or 3.
With that in mind, here's some insight into their thinking as they begin their final draft meetings and finalize their draft board this week, from various interviews with sources in the organization and around the league:
- There are a lot of smart people who think the Jets really are one of the teams that could pick a quarterback at No. 6. They have undoubtedly done a lot of research on all the top quarterbacks in the draft, but team sources said that was mostly because they had to consider all their options. It sounds to me like any quarterback talk is more of a smokescreen to entice someone to trade up over them, playing into the scenario outlined above. The Jets have other needs. Maybe not bigger needs, but they seem intent on giving Christian Hackenberg a chance. He was a second-round pick, so that makes sense. And as I've said before, it would be stunning if the Jets were to admit a mistake on him without ever seeing him play. And if they draft a quarterback in the first- or second-round this year, no matter what they say, that would be admitting they believe Hackenberg was a mistake.
- Several NFL sources have said they've heard of the Jets and Browns discussing a swap of first-round picks -- with the Browns moving up to 6, and the Jets moving down to 12. That makes some sense, at least for the Browns if they want to ensure that they'll get one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Word is they want Trubisky, but it's no longer clear he'll make it to 12. From what I understand, the Browns wouldn't trade up until the Jets were on the clock because they'd want to know their options at 6, so any discussions about that have been preliminary. It's certainly something to watch, though, if Trubisky is available at 6. The Browns' second second-round pick (52nd) might be enough to do that. If not, maybe their third and fourth could get it done. The Jets would have to be OK with dropping out of the Top 10, though. With so many players seemingly grouped so tightly in the first round, that might not be a very big deal.
- If LSU RB Leonard Fournette is still there at 6, he would make a lot of sense for the Jets in a variety of ways. Maccagnan has said he won't be afraid to take a running back that high -- which goes against a lot of NFL conventional wisdom -- if the player is special. There are at least some in the Jets organization that believe he is. And while this likely won't matter to Maccagnan, it does to others in the building: Fournette is a star who would instantly be the marquee player on a roster that is really devoid of big names. I can't imagine Maccagnan would base a pick on that, and I don't think owner Woody Johnson would intervene. But that could add to the attraction of a player who some think will be a star in this league for many years. The position isn't the biggest need for the Jets - especially if a top corner or safety is still on the board -- but he might be too good to pass up. … Or, perhaps, his presence at 6 might give the Jets the ammunition they need to trade down, perhaps swapping picks with the Panthers at 8.
- Given the consensus on the players most NFL scouts place in the Top 5, the smart money remains on the Jets taking a safety or a cornerback. LSU's Jamal Adams figures to be the pick if he's there, but he'll likely go either third (to Chicago) or fifth (to Tennessee). It could leave the Jets with a choice between Ohio State teammates -- CB Marshon Lattimore or S Malik Hooker. The Jets have looked at Ohio State CB Gareon Conley, too, but he appears to be more of an option if the Jets trade down.
- Remember the 2015 draft when the Jets had no need for another defensive lineman until Leonard Williams -- a sure-fire, Top 4 pick -- slipped all the way to them at No. 6 and they couldn't pass him up? Don't be shocked if that scenario repeats in this draft. Several scouts have been predicting a slide for Alabama DE Jonathan Allen due primarily to shoulder issues. Now some think Stanford DE Solomon Thomas -- long projected to go No. 2 to San Francisco - could slide as well. Some of the Thomas buzz is because of a sudden thought that the 49ers will take a quarterback. Even if they do, it's hard to see him getting to the Jets at 6. Allen, though, is another story. And if the Jets are comfortable with his health they might find another pass rusher too tough to pass on again - especially if they find a taker for Sheldon Richardson in the draft.