By Brad Carroll
There’s two ways Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft can go for the New York Jets and their long-suffering, franchise quarterback deprived fan base, each with their own level of excitement, if the team makes the right choice.
On one side is the dream scenario, which means USC quarterback Sam Darnold falls to them at No. 3. Impossible? Well, it’s not at all likely, but it’s surely not impossible.
One the other side is the realistic scenario, which has the Jets taking Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 3. Even though Jets fans should be doing backflips if Darnold falls in their laps at three, the addition of Mayfield will bring just as much excitement to a franchise that can use a swagger-rich franchise quarterback.
Since the Jets pick third overall, they are guaranteed to get one of the “big four” quarterbacks in the draft, Darnold, Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. Rosen and Allen have their question marks, as do Darnold and Mayfield, but less so, and while either could be the pick for the Jets at three, and it would be no real surprise if any of the four were the choice when the pick is finally made, it appears the Jets are leaning away from those two. (That, of course, could change).
So, how can the Jets end up drafting Darnold, who many believe is the best quarterback in the draft? The Cleveland Browns hold all of the answers.
If Cleveland decides to play it safe and take the best quarterback on the board, Darnold, then the Jets obviously have no shot to draft him. But if the Browns like Allen the most, and his potential could swing the momentum in his favor, especially with the prospect of sitting for a year or two and learning from Tyrod Taylor, they could make the Wyoming quarterback the pick and send most Jets fans into a state of euphoria.
Of course, the Jets would have to still sweat out the New York Giants’ selection at No. 2. All signs have pointed to the Giants taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, but if Darnold is still on the board, does Big Blue take a shot with Darnold to be Eli Manning’s successor? It would be a hard decision for general manager Dave Gettleman and a potential mood killer for the Jets and their fans.
If the Browns go Allen and the Giants go Barkley, or Bradley Chubb, the Jets absolutely should waste no time in even thinking the pick over. Take Darnold and thank your lucky stars the top quarterback fell to you and No. 3. If the Jets take either Mayfield or Rosen in this scenario instead, passing Darnold over, be prepared for one long, angry post right here on this website. It would be ugly.
Darnold falling to three is the dream scenario, and if it happens, the Jets can’t get cute. Take the Southern Cal passer and get to work.
The more realistic option, however, has Darnold going No. 1 overall to the Browns, taking him out of the equation. If the Giants stick with Barkley at No. 2, or Chubb, both great options that would benefit the Jets, that would leave Mayfield, Rosen and Allen.
As difficult as it is to trust the Jets franchise in making a correct decision on a quarterback, whomever is the pick between those three will have the full backing of the fanbase. So, really, if it’s Mayfield, Rosen or Allen, there should be a sense of excitement and accomplishment for the fans and the franchise. A franchise quarterback could have finally been delivered.
But if you listen to all the draft buzz, and there’s too much to even fully comprehend, it appears Mayfield is the guy the Jets like the most. And he has everything you could want in a quarterback, especially in the New York market. He will say all the things Jets fans want to hear, ala Rex Ryan during his introduction as head coach. Ryan didn’t come through on his big promises, but he changed the culture of this franchise for the better, before being undermined by an incompetent general manager in John Idzik. Mayfield can do the same thing off the bat, with hopefully a much better end result.
Mayfield is pure excitement and the Jets need that desperately, perhaps making the realistic option the best one in the end. Luckily, our wait is nearly over, as the draft is finally in our sight.
The Jets’ decision at No. 3 will change the franchise forever, but we’ll have to wait and see if a dream comes true or if the realistic option turns out to be better than anyone can imagine.