Notebook | Jets' Draft Nerve Center: Reunited and It Feels So Good

Mining Draft Capital in Later Rounds of NFL Draft Is Key to Building Competitive Team

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Among the cache of inside data he is protecting as the 2021 NFL Draft rumbles closer, Jets assistant general manager Rex Hogan aggressively guards information about his draft day routines.

"My routine? It'll just be a green tie," Hogan told Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg on The Official Jets Podcast | Draft Edition. "It's the only unique thing I do for draft day. I try to treat it like a typical day. I've seen Jimmy Johnson and Andy Reid do Hawaiian shirts. But you're not going to see this guy in one."

The days of the 2021 NFL Draft -- actually three days spread over Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- will be typical in comparison to other drafts, pre-pandemic. Instead of joining Commissioner Roger Goodell live streaming from his basement, as was the case in last year's virtual draft, the Jets' nerve center will be back up and running at the Jets Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ.

"It's the first time in 14 months that we'll be able to get the scouts and coaches together in the facility," Hogan said. "We'll be able to communicate face to face and see the body language, and be able to speak with conviction about a player. We'll be able to feel it in the room."

For months the chatter has consumed the Jets organization and its fans over the team's abundance of draft capital -- 10 picks this year and 11 picks in 2022. Obviously, much of the focus has been on the No. 2 overall pick and the No. 23 selection, obtained in a trade with Seattle for Jamal Adams. But for football insiders like Hogan, the most intriguing aspect of the draft is the later rounds and the opportunity to pluck developmental and role players whose impact could come down the line.

"It's huge for us in the first two, three rounds, you want starters or sub-starters, players with third-down value," Hogan said. "This year we have five of the first 86, 10 total. Next year, it's 11, it puts us in a good position to add to the youth of the roster and continue to push us forward."

[In the later rounds] "You're building the depth of the team, hope some have starting level traits and can make it," he said. "The bulk will bolster special teams or you find punters like we did last year in Braden Mann. Add depth to the entire roster. Last year we did a good job IDing undrafted free agents in Javelin Guidry and Lamar Jackson."

The Secret Sauce
As the Jets played through a difficult 2020 NFL season, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was always the team's draft capital. The sheer number of potential picks, the limitations on the team's scouts during the coronavirus pandemic and the arrival of a new coaching staff brought new challenges.

"Everyone across the league was able to work through, adapting and adjusting to all the changes last year," said Phil Savage, the Jets' senior personnel adviser. "No doubt there's a bit more of a comfort level when we have people around you to give support. Having your staff in the same room, there are definitely some nuances in communication you can't get through a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call.

"Everyone has to be in alignment, coaching and scouting, give and take. That is the secret sauce of being able to draft successfully and develop players."

As Savage and Hogan repeatedly emphasized, the draft is far from the end of the story -- the key is developing players to fit into and excel in the offensive and defensive schemes preferred by Head Coach Robert Saleh and his staff.

"As a general rule I want to try to ID big, fast, physical, tough and smart players," Savage said. "It's a situation where there are so many different styles of offense and defense out there in college and the NFL. We're trying to ID players that will best fit our systems on offense, defense and special teams. How they will fit in the locker room. We are trying to find the best players, ones that can have a positive influence on what it takes to be a professional football player."

See the Best Prospects According to The Athletic's Dane Brugler Leading Up to the NFL Draft

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