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Checking in on the New York Jets 2019 Draft Class

Now over a year and a half into their NFL careers, let's evaluate where the New York Jets 2019 Draft class stands in 2020 and beyond...
New York Jets 2019 Draft

In the 2019 NFL Draft, former New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan aimed to field a team that could be a playoff contender. Spending big in free agency on running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley, the team looked to take the next step in year two with quarterback Sam Darnold.

Except that is not what happened. Maccagnan was let go less than three weeks after the draft. Injuries, poor coaching, and more led to the team plummeting towards the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the Jets 2019 draft class, being stuck in the middle of the transition from Maccagnan to Joe Douglas, remains on the field. So how exactly have they faired over the past year and a half? Let’s take a look…

Checking in on the New York Jets 2019 Draft Class

First Round (Third Overall): Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams

At the time, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was considered arguably the best player in the draft class. The hyper-athletic lineman could play anywhere along a front and was one of the best players in all of college football in his junior year. At 6’3″ and 303 pounds, “Q” was ready to be an instant impact player in the NFL.

But that would not be the case his rookie season. At only 21 years old, it was known that for as productive and talented Williams was, he was still raw. In his rookie season, he only played in 13 games (nine starts) and was primarily used by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in a run-stuffing role. While he did excel against the run, it was disappointing to not see him used as much as a pass rusher. In his rookie year, Williams only had 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and six quarterback hits. Just like that, Jets fans were already considering Williams a bust.

Everything changed through the first half of 2020 though. In a big way, too. In the off-season, Williams matured, becoming stronger and more adjusted to the pro game. With Leonard Williams gone, he becomes the primary pass rusher along the Jets’ defensive line. And it shows. Through eight games, Williams has 31 tackles, seven for loss, and three sacks. Moreover, he entered Week 9 tied for first in defensive run stops (23) and second in run-stuffs (9). While there is still work to be done for Williams to justify his selection, he at least has proven to be a great building block going forward.

Third Round (68th Overall): Edge Rusher Jachai Polite

Florida pass rusher Jachai Polite entered draft night expecting to be a first, potentially second-round pick. Instead, Polite mysteriously slid to the Jets in the third round. At the time, it was considered an absolute steal. Gang Green has desperately needed an impact edge rusher for over a decade, and Polite was thought to potentially be that player.

Instead, he did not even make it to the regular season. Polite was out of Florham Park as quick as Maccagnan was following the draft. From fines to various other off-the-field issues, Polite was cut before even playing a snap in a Jets uniform.

Third Round (93rd Overall): Offensive Tackle Chuma Edoga

Unlike his fellow third-round pick, Chuma Edoga made the team and still is with the Jets today. Though, his future is uncertain. The Jets selected the 6’3″ and 308-pound tackle to play on the right side. Edoga was thought of as a developmental prospect, something that became clear very quickly when the team threw him into the starting lineup his rookie season.

Having made eight starts as a rookie, Edoga’s rawness quickly became an issue. He finished the season on injured reserve in addition to being graded the 79th offensive tackle… out of 81, according to PFF. He struggled in every aspect of the game, leaving fans ready to move on.

Then came year two, as his play has drastically improved, at least in the run game. Currently, Edoga boasts an 87.0 grade in the run, which is the fourth-best in the league. Where Edoga still struggles is in the passing game, where he has a 55.9 grade. With George Fant not being the long-term solution at the position, Edoga will be receiving extended looks for the remainder of the season. Then, and only then, will he be able to prove he was worth the pick and not just be a backup until his deal is up.

Fourth Round (121st Overall): Tight End Trevon Wesco

At the time of this pick, fans were confused. The Jets picked Chris Herndon in the fourth round the year before, and he seemed like a solution at the position. Trevon Wesco, who rarely was used in the passing game at West Virginia, made for a puzzling selection. It was one solely based around the potential if used correctly as a utility player. Something that head coach Adam Gase has not been able to capitalize on.

After being said to be impressing in training camp, Wesco, who only saw 21 percent of offensive snaps his rookie year, has taken a step back in 2020. Seeing only 17 percent of offensive snaps this season, Wesco has a 42.5 grade from PFF. He only has one reception on the year, making his career totals three for 52 yards and without a touchdown. Simply put, barring any drastic upticks in usage, Maccagnan missed on this selection.

Fifth Round (157th Overall): Linebacker Blake Cashman

The Jets drafted Minnesota linebacker Blake Cashman with the vision of him taking Avery Williamson‘s spot alongside C.J. Mosley when his deal was up. Similarly to Edoga, injuries threw Cashman into the starting lineup, where spotty play and injuries derailed his rookie campaign. Cashman made five starts in seven games, making 40 tackles, but struggling to hold his own, especially in coverage.

Then in 2020, with Mosley now having opted out, he was expected to take on a starting role, only to have injuries plague him yet again. Now with Williamson traded, Cashman will be fighting for more playing time alongside veteran Neville Hewitt. He must make significant strides down the stretch to become more than a special teams player.

Sixth Round (196th Overall): Cornerback Blessuan Austin

One of the bright spots of the Jets secondary in 2019, Blessuan Austin was a late-round flier selection for Maccagnan. The Rutgers product was once a top corner in the Big Ten before back-to-back knee injuries hurt his stock. After missing the first half of the season, Austin finished strong, setting himself up for a starting job in 2020.

This season has been a different story. While he continues to be fantastic against the run, Austin has been a liability in coverage with a 51.0 grade. When targeted, he has given up a 99.3 rating to opposing quarterbacks, a mark he must improve on in the second half. Additionally, giving up 148 yards after the catch is not good, as he must wrap up on tackles better.

Last Word on Revisiting the New York Jets 2019 Draft Class

At the end of the day, it appears more and more likely this draft class will solely be remembered for how Quinnen Williams does. Being the team’s highest draft pick puts the spotlight on him to begin with. But given the trajectory of the remainder of the draft class. Williams could very well be the only lock for a roster spot in 2021.

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