Draft 'Opportunity' Begins Tonight for Joe Douglas, Jets & NFL

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It's time for the 2020 NFL Draft, and like every other draft, this will be one of a kind, for the Jets and the NFL.

There are the new players about to become pros, from LSU quarterback Joe Burrow's possible inauguration as the No. 1 overall pick through Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa to the strong contingents of offensive tackles, wide receivers and other positions that will be available.

Of course there is this year's wild card. We already know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had its effect in propelling all 32 teams away from Las Vegas, where the draft was scheduled to be held, and into their own homes and on their phones and Internet connections to make their selections.

And because it's Joe Douglas' first time conducting a draft for the Jets and for any team in the league, there is the newness of what "Joe D" will bring to the plate. Will he and his draft team grab the best available tackle from their No. 11 perch in the first round tonight? Or will it be wideout, corner or another position? Will the Jets trade up? Will they trade down?

But you can be sure Douglas will not be star-struck when he steps to the plate tonight. After all, this will be the 21st consecutive draft he's participated in since joining Baltimore as a scout in 2000.

"I'm just trying to stay in the moment," Douglas told Eric Allen on The Official Jets Podcast. "I'm not thinking about anything outside of the team and the organization. It's a unique experience, it's pretty cool. Personally, this is what you've worked so hard to do, to get to this point to help an organization reach its ultimate goal. Knowing we've got guys that have been in the trenches since August, it makes you feel good and excited about the opportunity we're going to have to really help this organization."

But Douglas' excitement will be well-modulated because he learned about his craft and the draft for the first 15 years in the league under Ozzie Newsome, the legendary tight end and NFL executive who ended his two-decades-plus run as the Ravens' GM after the 2018 season.

"Ozzie was the calm in the storm," Douglas said. "In his mind, once the hay was in the barn, we went over every scenario, we talked about every player comparison that we could, and we did all that while things were calm and rational. So even when there was perceived pressure or things were heating up, he was always the calm in the middle of the storm. He brought that every day and every year in the draft. That was always unique for me, to see Ozzie operate."

Douglas and his Jets draft team expect to bring that to the table tonight through Saturday's seventh round and on into the undrafted free agency period. The scouts and the coaches have had their meeting, especially over the past week, but the information gathering and fine-tuning on the Jets' value board will continue "up until the 11th hour on these players."

The plan so far, before any trades up or down are discussed and executed, is for the Jets to select 11th, at the top of a six-team group of teams that went 7-9 in the 2019 season. Then on Friday night they drop to the bottom of that cohort to pick 48th overall, followed by their two third-round selections — No. 68 with the pick they received from the Giants in last season's trade for DL Leonard Williams, followed by their own pick at No. 79.

Finally Saturday will arrive, and the Jets, beginning shortly after noon, will spend their final four selections, in Rounds 4 (No. 120), 5 (No. 158) and 6 (No. 191 and No. 211, from Kansas City in the Darron Lee trade).

And at this time something else Douglas learned, perhaps from Newsome or perhaps from his being a student of the NFL personnel game for two decades, will kick in: the value of these last four choices, plus the wooing of those undrafted free agents beginning Saturday night after the crowning of Mr. Irrelevant with the draft's 255th and last pick.

"The great thing about day three," the Jets GM said, "is that everyone around league circles and the fans, they know about the first- and second-round players. Only the scouts know about the day three guys. So you're talking about the late-round, free-agent guys and there's a lot of good players that make your team better in that group.

"So we spend a lot of time going over those guys and making sure we have the right sequence, that we've targeted the right guys. And we have a really good postdraft free agency protocol that we're going to follow. Undrafted free agency is just a great opportunity to really take your draft from good to great."

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