Darron Lee isn’t short on confidence, nor is he bothered by the criticisms of his size and ability.
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Asked which draft-analyst knock was most inaccurate heading into Round 1 Thursday night, the former Ohio State Buckeye said: “[That I] can’t play in the box, can’t play downhill.Big BoardNewsday's Big Board: Top 100 NFL draft prospectsDataJets NFL draft history databaseStorySource: Jets tried to move up for Tunsil
“All I have to say to that is, click on the Wisconsin tape,” the Jets’ first-round pick said, referring to the Buckeyes’ blowout of the Badgers in the 2014 Big Ten title game. “That’s all I have to say. We won, 59-0. [It showed] that I can take on bigger guys and take on a fullback.”
Lee, taken 20th overall by the Jets on Thursday night, was poised and polished Friday during his introductory news conference with the New York media. Fresh off his flight from Chicago, the site of the NFL Draft, the Jets’ newest inside linebacker wasn’t the least bit flustered by the cameras. That’s because his mother, Denise — a weekend news anchor in Columbus, Ohio — taught him well from an early age. Lee said his mother, who stood at the back of the room as he spoke, stressed to him that “having pride in your work is nothing to be ashamed of.”
And he soon expects Jets fans to get a taste of his work ethic.
“I’m going to make some play that’s going to alter the game, that’s going to help us win the game,” Lee said. “I’m very good at that and I can do it consistently. But also passion and energy.
“You’ll see that, but I want you to feel it, you know what I mean? Feel my passion and energy because I genuinely care about this game.”
After playing primarily “in the slot a lot” last season, Lee acknowledged he’ll have to get acclimated to playing in a 3-4 defense. But he isn’t worried.
“I know he has a lot of different looks and he’s an aggressive coach,” Lee said of Todd Bowles. “So I think the versatility will definitely help, for sure. The fact that I’ll be able to cover, come up and play the run and also pass rush.”
Lee said he was scheduled to sit down with Bowles after his news conference to discuss his role in more detail, but he added that he got an idea of how the coaches plan to use him during his predraft visit. “They love my speed, that I would help the defense be a lot faster,” he said. “Coach Bowles wanted a lot more speed on the defensive side of the ball and he said, ‘You have that.’ ”
Listed at 232 pounds during the NFL Combine, Lee said he’s now 237 and ideally would like to stay in the “235-240 range.”
Though so much has been made about his physical size, Lee stressed that the size of his heart and his passion for football have served him well to this point. He has no reason to think he won’t be an impact player for the Jets.
“I know I’m coming into a very hungry defense,” he said. “A defense that wants to put teams away.”