Moving up in the draft came with a cost, but former Jets QB Chad Pennington believes the Green & White did so to lessen the risk of being left out of the signal-caller sweepstakes.
"First of all, it's really interesting because I think the organization is looking into the quarterbacks," he said this week in Orlando, FL. "They've narrowed their search down and have a feel for who fits the organization. I think that's obvious. Sitting at No. 6, so many things can happen that would be out of your control. You don't know where you'll be on the draft board, but at No. 3, you have a much better idea. If anything, I think the Jets control their situation a little bit better."
That increased control meant surrendering a pair of second-round picks this April in addition to a second-rounder in 2019 in order to move up three slots in Round 1. Pennington finds criticism of the steep compensation ironic considering many of the same people have clamored that the Jets have to target a franchise-changing talent behind center.
"It's going to be about the production of that pick. Whatever the production of that pick is, that'll determine if they gave up too much," Pennington said of the trio of second-rounders. "So that's going to be a hindsight answer. Right now, you have to go forward and make a decision what's best for you and put your organization in a position where it's successful. People have been talking about for years now the Jets needing a quarterback. Now, once they make a move to possibly put themselves in a better position to get a quarterback, you can't fault them now and say they gave up too much."
After initially targeting Kirk Cousins in free agency, the Green & White quickly pivoted and re-signed Josh McCown before adding Teddy Bridgewater. Pennington believes the organization will need multiple plans once again as they continue to prepare for the draft.
"To me, it's a very dynamic group. It's diverse," he said of the 2018 QB Class. "You could look at each one of these quarterbacks and say, 'Okay, this guy does this very well' and the next guy does something a little bit different well. It's really going to come down to personal feel and how you think the quarterback fits into your organization and what you're going to ask that quarterback to do. At the same time, you might not get the guy you thought you were going to get. You're really going to have different options and different plans, and as a staff, be very versatile to be able to coach whomever comes into the building."
The Jets had a contingent at USC's pro day to watch Sam Darnold and they've had private workouts with UCLA's Josh Rosen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. General manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters the Green & White will work out Wyoming's Josh Allen next week.
PLAN FOR THE YOUNGSTERIn 24 starts at USC, Darnold led the Trojans to a 20-4 record while completing 64.9% of his passes for 7,229 yards and 57 touchdowns. Despite being victimized by 22 turnovers last season, the 6'4", 220-pound Darnold is considered an excellent improvisor who is comfortable throwing on the move.
"You have to really take a page of history and look at the Alex Smith situation and see you do not want to place him in a situation where he has to handle the organization that young," Pennington said of Darnold. "You can't put the organization on him at 20. It's just not going to work. If you draft a Sam Darnold, you have to have a plan where you want to develop him, take your time and be patient with him."
SOLID FOOTINGAcross town from Darnold, the 6'4", 218-pound Rosen made his home in the pocket for the Bruins. He set the school mark for most games passing 350 yards or more (10) and led the Pac-12 in passing yards per game last season (341.5). Not the athlete Darnold is, Rosen has a textbook delivery and scouts like his mechanics.
"I think when you look at his footwork, he's polished. I think on film he's shown he'll stand in the pocket and make throws under duress," Pennington said of Rosen, who missed time in college due to a shoulder injury and concussions his junior and senior campaigns respectively. "What you look at is can he handle the volume of information you want him to handle, how fast can he do that and does he fit in your long-term plan."
COWBOY WITH UPSIDEWhile Rosen completed 62.6% of his throws in 2017, Allen started 25 games the past two seasons and was just a 56% passer. The 6'5", 233-pounder has elite arm strength and the Cowboys emphasized getting the ball down the field. There are some draft pundits who would argue Allen has the most potential of any player in the draft.
"Josh Allen is a guy who has tremendous upside. You look at his athleticism and arm talent. This is a guy who'll also need time to develop, but if you handle him correctly, he could certainly be a very productive professional in the future," Pennington said. "I don't think you need to really focus on the accuracy issue as far as completion percentage. You need to really study those throws and see what's happening. You're also going to say he can play in cold weather, he can play in bad weather. Playing in Wyoming, it's going to be similar conditions to playing in New York. That's something that's going to be a positive that he can handle."
The supercompetitive Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy after completing 70.5% of his passes for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns at Oklahoma this past season. He believes he is the most accurate passer in the class and Pennington agrees. The 6'1" Mayfield, who was arrested after attempting to run away following a fight in Arkansas, planted the OU flag on the midfield logo after a win at Ohio State and also taunted the Kansas sideline by grabbing his crotch, has been under the microscope for months.
"I think some of his personality issues or ideas off the field are overblown. I don't think we should go down that rabbit hole with him. First of all, in my opinion, he's the purest passer in this draft," Pennington said. "At the Combine, the ball came out very clean and he understood touch, timing and zip. He has really good mechanics and fundamentals.
"I think from a football perspective, you want to make sure if you draft Baker, you put him in the right position to be successful," he added. "Within your system, there are going to be certain things you're going to ask him to do and certain things you're not. You have to look at some of the ways other teams have done that with smaller stature quarterbacks. Finally, you have to make sure the structure is around him where as long as he keeps it about football, he'll be fine. If he lets other things in — the entertainment value of this league gets to him — that's what'll make it difficult."