Of all the needs mentioned for the Jets prior to April's NFL Draft, quarterback wasn't often discussed. General manager Joe Douglas had reiterated that he had his franchise passer in place in Sam Darnold and he wanted to do everything he could do to help the 22-year-old signal-caller succeed. So while the picks of T Mekhi Becton and WR Denzel Mims in the first two rounds made perfect sense, many were surprised when the Green & White took Florida International QB James Morgan with the 19th pick in Round 4 (No. 125 overall).
"He obviously has all the physical tools, but it's the off-the-field, the maturity, the intelligence, that elevates him to another level ahead of maybe some of the guys that are similar to him physically," said Miami Herald reporter David Wilson of Morgan. "He's got that acumen that you look for as well."
After transferring from Bowling Green, Morgan established a school record with 28 TD passes in 2018 as he flourished in a pro-style attack. Despite playing just 24 games at FIU, Morgan finished third in school annals with 5,287 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns and set high marks for both pass efficiency (143.4) and total yards per play (7.16).
"He's got kind of exactly the frame you look for and he's pretty athletic too. He's got that mobility," Wilson said of the 6'4", 229-pounder. "That's one you are looking for in the NFL now, guys who can blend that size and that mobility. He's not going to be a run-first type of guy, but he can at least move around in the pocket a little bit. He was always a little inconsistent, but he made big throws (and) his accuracy was pretty good."
A 61 percent passer at FIU, Morgan shined in front of scouts at the East-West Shrine Game. In addition to going 9-of-14 for 116 yards with a scoring toss in the East's 31-27 win in January, Morgan captured the Pat Tillman Award for being the player who best exemplified intelligence, sportsmanship and service. Then in February, the Jets were the only team to officially interview Morgan at the combine.
"He's not a guy who wows you in any regard, but he's consistent across the board, which you like. Then just the blend of the size and the mobility makes you think he has a lot of room to continue to get better," Wilson said.
While it flew under the radar earlier this offseason, the Jets had a need to improve the talent behind Darnold. The Green & White went 0-6 in games Darnold didn't start in 2018-19. But after the drafting of Morgan, there was still a void in experience as David Fales has played six games and Mike White has yet to take an NFL snap. So Douglas dramatically changed the dynamic at the position when he signed Joe Flacco last week.
"I think it's going to be huge to get in there and get to know the guys and develop a relationship with the team and do anything I can to help the team get better," Flacco said. "And in that process, help Sam with whatever he needs help with, take his mind off something and tell him how I see things or how I've dealt with this in the past — whether it's on the football field or stuff that's off the football field."
Flacco could be pivotal in Morgan's development as well. The rookie will have the best of both worlds to learn from in Darnold, a player who's actually younger than him but has two years of starting experience under his belt, and Flacco, a 35-year-old who has thrown for 40,067 yards and 218 TDs in 171 regular-season games and has a Super Bowl MVP on his résumé.
"The Jets aren't expecting him to start right away, which is obvious," Wilson said. "But I would guess he is going to be able to pick up the playbook and at least be a really good practice performer early on."
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