Joe Douglas Under Most Pressure in Draft

On Thursday, the 2021 NFL Draft will get underway. The three-day event will see all 32 NFL teams embark on a journey that can define their organization for the next decade. Each and every player has the chance to make an impact on their new team, and coaches cannot wait to see what they have to offer.

However, nobody is under more pressure during the draft to nail every pick than the general manager. Their job is to evaluate the talent on the team and to piece together the best roster they can. In doing so, the draft can be what makes or breaks a general manager’s efforts. They can either hit on these young, high-upside selections, or fail, and watch the organization and fan base sour.

With that in mind, all eyes will be on New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas next weekend, as he gears up for his second NFL Draft with the team. He will have 10 picks at his disposal, including second overall, and five total within the top 100. He is finally getting the opportunity to truly build this team the way he envisioned. Except with that great power comes great responsibility, as all the pressure will be on Joe Douglas to make sure the Jets have a successful draft.

Pressure on Joe Douglas for New York Jets Having Successful Draft

A Draft Three Years in the Making

From the moment Joe Douglas took the Jets job, he knew fixing the team would not be easy. He replaced Mike Maccagnan weeks after the 2019 NFL Draft, leaving little for Douglas to do in terms of altering the roster. Plus, he had to deal with the post-Maccagnan New York media circus, having plenty of questions surrounding his predecessor’s firing.

Nevertheless, Douglas knew what he had to do. He was inheriting an organization that has not made the playoffs since 2010 and has not had a franchise quarterback in decades. Oh, and how can one forget that he also had to deal with the remainder of the Adam Gase era.

Taking that into consideration, Douglas prepared for a multi-year teardown. He created cap flexibility with short-term deals and avoided the costly, ineffective deals the Jets became accustomed to giving out in free agency. His focus turned to the draft and being able to find value in each and every pick. Something that he will need to do in this year’s draft

State of the Roster

New York is coming off a 2-14 season that by many regards would be considered a miracle in itself. Gang green did not record their first win until week 15, and they were thought to be well on their way to a winless season. Yes, the Jets were still working their way out of the pit Maccagnan left behind thanks to poor drafting and horrendous contracts. Yes, the Jets still employed Gase as their head coach. But Douglas could have done a better job of fielding a more competitive team.

Last off-season, his goal in free agency was creating that flexibility. His biggest signings were right tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern, and receiver Breshad Perriman. Simply put, his decision to prioritize future flexibility in part led to the Jets poor on-field performance this past season.

The offensive line struggled to block, as the Jets quarterbacks only totaled 3,115 yards passing in 2020. They also had a 37-year-old Frank Gore as their leading rusher and a defense that only picked off 10 passes. On average each week the Jets were outscored by 13.4 points and outgained by almost 100 yards.

As one might expect, following his complete tear-down in 2020, Douglas has done the work to finally execute his vision of a competitive team. Signings such as receiver Corey Davis and defensive end Carl Lawson were huge, but this team still has a long way to go. And if Douglas’ rebuild plan is going to work, he needs to capitalize on the 2021 NFL Draft class.

Joe Douglas Rebuild Timeline

Again, Douglas has not been winging this rebuild through band-aid signings and questionable draft picks the way Maccagnan did. He has clearly spent years and his reputation in attempting to make the Jets a competitive team. 2019 was a year to feel out the talent remaining on the roster. In 2020, it quickly became clear Douglas was gearing ready for a complete roster overhaul in 2021.

It began with the smaller moves during free agency, as Douglas brought in younger players rather than overpaying for aging veterans. He also prioritized competition, to the point he has retained many of the players that were thought to be potential cap casualties. Yet the staple of the off-season was when Douglas traded quarterback Sam Darnold.

Darnold was entering the final year of his rookie deal, with the exception of the lingering fifth-year option. For all the talent that Darnold had, he simply did not perform well enough to ignore the fact his contract did not align with Douglas’ timeline. So, given the Jets could take his heir at second overall, Douglas elected to deal Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.

As the Jets are expected to take a quarterback second overall, it resets a massive portion of the team’s cap. Rather than potentially extending Darnold, or even paying his huge fifth-year option, the Jets bring in a young starter on a new rookie deal. It gives Douglas more money to spend elsewhere in order to give his new rookie quarterback the right weapons around him to succeed.

Last Word

At the end of the day, the New York Jets organization as a whole must ace the 2021 NFL Draft. Standing on a gold mine of draft capital, the Jets cannot afford any setbacks in their latest rebuild efforts. That being said, all the pressure is on general manager Joe Douglas for the New York Jets to have a successful draft this weekend.

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