New York Jets: Will No. 6 Pick Be Another Defensive Lineman?

The New York Jets once again have the sixth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Will they go best available and draft another defensive lineman? Can need trump talent?

The New York Jets have the sixth pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Like much of the top five, the Jets have a dire need at the quarterback position. But as with those other squads atop the draft, picking a quarterback this year will feel like a reach. What do the Jets do?

Can New York ignore its need for the best player available? Does that mean the Jets are about to take another defensive lineman? Reaching is risky, but that position is already filled.

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, discuss the New York Jets in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem:

In our mock draft top five earlier this week, we both separately selected the players we thought would be taken with the first five picks. Perhaps ironically or coincidentally, we both had defensive end Solomon Thomas dropping outside the top five for various reasons. Many publications feel as though Thomas is the second-best prospect in this year’s class. Could we find ourselves in a similar situation with New York as what happened in 2015?

In 2015, the Jets had the sixth overall pick. They had many roster holes and needs. Defensive line was not one of them. Instead of forcing a selection, the team simply took the best player on the board. It was defensive end Leonard Williams, who has already turned into a stellar player after two years in the league. It was another example of how the draft should work: teams should take the best player and work the rest out afterwards. Roster construction is too fleeting to draft based on need alone.

This brings us back to the Jets’ 2017 first-round pick. Once again, New York does not have a clear need along the defensive line. There are much greater holes elsewhere on the depth chart. And yet, what if Thomas or perhaps Jonathan Allen is there at six, and the franchise feels he is the best player available? Does it pull a Leonard Williams move once again?

This is tricky to me. It feels careless to use such a high pick on a position that is already a strength, but we saw it work perfectly just two years ago. Of course, it worked perfectly and the Jets are still a mess with another top-six selection. It is hard to balance such facts. One doesn’t necessarily lead to another, but maybe New York could have maneuvered into a better spot years later if it had gone in a different direction in 2015.

Would the team be better off now with Todd Gurley or Marcus Peters or someone else who was selected after Williams since the defensive line was still strong regardless? It’s impossible to know. I would take the lineman, but I wouldn’t feel good about it in the immediate aftermath.

Dan Salem:

There are two main factors at work for the New York Jets, the same two as in 2015. New York has some pressing needs. That is factor No. 1. Their general manager Mike Maccagnan loves to draft the best player available. That is factor No. 2. In the 2017 NFL Draft, I don’t expect Maccagnan to break from his beliefs. Selecting the most talented player on the board makes too much sense, especially if you believe that player is far and away better than everyone else.

Back in 2015, the Jets felt Williams was an incredible steal with the sixth pick. They couldn’t believe he fell to them and were thrilled to pick him as the best available player when they went on the clock. I expect New York to act in a similar manner this year. If Thomas is still on the board with the sixth pick, as we both predicted would happen, then its likely the Jets snatch him up or trade back with a more needy team.

New York needs pass rushers, but not on the defensive line. They need to rebuild their secondary as well. Personally I view the top safety and cornerback prospects on equal ground as Thomas. Yet we both thought they would be selected by the time the Jets are up. It may not go over well with the fans, but I believe New York trades back instead of picking Thomas or Allen. They will not over reach for a player at pick No. 6, but trading back into the teens opens the door for the Jets to take a quarterback without feeling like its a reach.

As a fan of the team, I’d like the Jets to pick the best player available. I’m thrilled they have Leonard Williams. Last year’s selections haven’t made quite the same immediate impact. But I’m also a big fan of Deshaun Watson. I don’t think he’ll be around by pick No. 6, therefore adding another stud to the defensive line is a fine move. You can win a lot of games with the best line in football. At least I hope you can.

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