Mike Maccagnan’s first three drafts: A look at the Jets’ 21 Club

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Updated: May 18, 2017

7:27 PM ET

If it takes three years to evaluate a draft class, as most experts believe, it seems fair that three drafts should be enough to judge the guy making the picks.

New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has three in the books — a total of 22 selections, with 10 on offense, 11 on defense and one punter. Impressively, 21 of the 22 remain on the roster. Let’s dive into his three drafts, examining trends, along with hits and misses:

1. He really does subscribe to the best-player-available philosophy: He talks about it ad nauseam, but give him credit for backing up his words. The first example occurred in 2015, when he picked Leonard Williams (No. 6 overall) even though defensive line wasn’t a need. It was a brilliant decision.

Maccagnan’s approach really jumped out in the most recent draft, when he used his first four picks on two safeties and two wide receivers. While the Jets absolutely needed safety help, it could be argued they overdid it by taking Marcus Maye in the second round after picking Jamal Adams in the first.

Wide receiver wasn’t seen as a pressing need, yet Maccagnan chose ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Maccagnan said they were too good to pass up, as was the case with Maye. In the process, the GM passed up bigger needs.

A BPA strategy will produce some head-scratching choices along the way, but it’s the right approach from a macro perspective. If you keep taking the “best” player, it’s bound to increase the talent base over time.

2. He isn’t a fan of drafting offensive linemen: Maccagnan has relied on free agency, not the draft, to rebuild the line. He has drafted only two linemen, both in the fifth round — Jarvis Harrison (a bust) and Brandon Shell. In fact, the Jets are the only team in the past three drafts that hasn’t picked a lineman in the first four rounds.

Maccagnan is climbing a slippery slope. While he understandably ignored the line in the most recent draft — the overall talent was regarded as below average — the neglect over a three-year span could hurt the Jets in the long term. You never want to be beholden to free agency, especially on the line, the position group that requires the most continuity. It’s also more expensive than drafting and developing your own players.

3. He hedges his quarterback bets: The Jets are one of six teams that have drafted two quarterbacks since 2015 — Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg — but they haven’t taken the first-round plunge since 2009 (Mark Sanchez). That was two regimes ago. Maccagnan resisted the urge this year, passing on eventual first-rounders Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, but that could change in 2018, depending on the development of Petty and Hackenberg.

4. He’s not into workout warriors: Some teams fall in love with the stopwatch and wind up overdrafting players because of their 40 times. Maccagnan’s track record suggests he pays more attention to game tape than how a prospect performs at the scouting combine. The one exception was first-round linebacker Darron Lee, who blew up the 2016 combine with a 4.47 in the 40.

5. He likes big corners, but not big investments at the position: Maccagnan knows what his coach wants. Todd Bowles plays a press-man scheme, predicated on cornerbacks being able to control wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the three corners drafted by Maccagnan — Juston Burris, Derrick Jones and Jeremy Clark — are 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, respectively.

What is surprising is that Maccagnan has yet to draft a corner in the first three rounds. It’s odd because of the importance of the position in Bowles’ system. This is another area dominated by free agency: Darrelle Revis (released), Antonio Cromartie (released in 2016), Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne. The cost of signing starting-caliber corners is enormous; it behooves the Jets to create an in-house pipeline.

6. He’s buying into the wide-receiver craze: The colleges are throwing the ball more than ever, churning out talented receivers with gaudy stats. Maccagnan is riding the wave. The Jets have drafted four receivers in the past three years, including a second-round pick — Devin Smith (2015), whose career has been derailed by injuries. They’re among 12 teams that have picked at least four receivers in that span. Interestingly, Maccagnan’s most productive addition was undrafted: Robby Anderson.

7. He prefers big-school players: Only four of his 22 selections come from outside the Power 5 conferences, all of whom were drafted in the fifth round or later. His favorite conferences: SEC (six picks), ACC (five) and Big 10 (four).

What does it all mean? It shows that level of competition carries a lot of weight in his evaluation process. Truth be told, the franchise hasn’t been very good at identifying small-school gems. The best example in recent years is nose tackle Damon Harrison, who went undrafted out of William Penn (Iowa), an NAIA school, but was signed by the Jets. After three seasons with the Jets, Harrison played for the Giants in 2016.

Final report card: The only pick not on the roster anymore is Jarvis Harrison. That says a lot about Maccagnan and his team of scouts. The negative: Only three players have emerged as starters — Williams, Lee and Jordan Jenkins — just one of whom is an impact player (Williams). Clearly, the results have to get better if this team hopes to successfully navigate a rebuilding cycle. As stated earlier, free agency and trades were the lifeblood of the team in 2015 and 2016. Not anymore. Now is the time for Maccagnan’s drafts to shine.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/new-york/jets/post/_/id/68801/mike-maccagnans-first-three-drafts-an-inside-look-at-the-jets-21-club