Once again, it’s come to this.
For yet another year, the Jets are in desperate need of a new face for their franchise. And it’s anyone’s guess if drafting a neophyte signal-caller this week will make all the difference in Woody Johnson’s world.
The Jets already have three quarterbacks on their roster: the experienced-but-limited Josh McCown; the strong-armed, but inexperienced Bryce Petty; and Christian Hackenberg, who spent more time standing around last season than he did actually throwing a football.
For all of McCown’s shortcomings on the field, the Jets felt comfortable giving him $6 million for one year largely because of one key character trait: his sterling reputation in the quarterback room. Few veterans possess enough self-confidence and selflessness to ensure that their understudies are developing at the right pace, while learning what it takes to be a professional both on and off the field. And it’s clear Hackenberg has a lot maturing to do as an NFL signal-caller.
The former Penn State quarterback is still an enigma after redshirting his rookie year. “There’s a lot of talent there,” former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said in December. “The sky’s the limit. We don’t know yet.”
But despite so much uncertainty, indications are that third-year general manager Mike Maccagnan is still very high on Hackenberg and the organization is hopeful that, with some tutelage from McCown, 37, the youngster eventually will take the reins of the offense.
But those exceptions won’t preclude the Jets from drafting a new guy in a few days — if they think he’s worth it. And Mitch Trubisky has the NFL all abuzz.
Despite being a starter for only one season, the former North Carolina quarterback solidified himself as the top prospect in recent months. Most mock drafts now have him going in the Top 10 to a team like the Jets, Bills, 49ers or Browns.
Though this year’s quarterback draft class doesn’t feature a sure-thing like Andrew Luck, teams are nonetheless impressed by the talented crop of prospects who have the potential to be something special. That includes Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist who led the Tigers to their first national championship in over 30 years.
NFL Network’s draft expert Mike Mayock said on a Friday conference call with reporters that Trubisky “might be the most ready-to-play quarterback in this class” but he currently has Watson rated as his No. 1 quarterback prospect.
“I think he plays his best football when the lights are brightest,” Mayock said of Watson. “I love the kid’s attitude, his leadership and the way his teammates respond to him.
“What I don’t like is 17 interceptions on a national championship team [in 2016].”
Watson threw 30 picks in his last 30 games.
“Throws way too many interceptions,” Mayock said, “and he’s also going to have to deal with the whole spread quarterback conversion to a pocket NFL quarterback. That’s a big challenge.”
ESPN’s NFL analyst Jon Gruden, however, isn’t as alarmed by that stat. “A number of those interceptions aren’t his fault at all,” he said on a Wednesday conference call. “Some of them are correctable. He’ll fix those.”
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper believes Watson should go to the Jets — early in the second round. “I’m not projecting picks based on what I’m hearing around the league,” he wrote of his latest three-round mock draft. “This is me making 107 picks . . . based on what’s best for each team at that slot.”
As always, the Jets still need a quarterback. But is this the right year, and draft class, for them to take one in the first or second round? With less than a week to go until the NFL Draft, here are some intriguing options for general manager Mike Maccagnan.
The Most-Talked About: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
He looks the part, but can he deliver in the NFL? Some scouts and executives believe Trubisky is the best of the bunch because of his pocket presence, strong arm and competitiveness. But with only one season as a college starter under his belt, teams should proceed with caution.
The Proven Winner: DeShaun Watson, Clemson
His high number of picks (30 over the past two seasons) may raise eyebrows, but consider his escapability, his leadership and ability to thrive under pressure. He’s a National Champion for a reason, but it remains to be seen if Watson can develop into a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.
The Gunslinger: Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
The son of a former MLB pitcher, Mahomes clearly has the athletic pedigree. He has a big arm too. But coaches may find Mahomes a bit maddening because of his inconsistency. He proved himself to be a dynamic talent within the Red Raiders’ spread offense, but he likely will need time to develop into an NFL starter.
The Question Mark: DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
The jury’s still out on the former Fighting Irish quarterback, who possesses a rare blend of size, athleticism and arm strength. But Kizer isn’t short on confidence. “Imagine taking (Tom) Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body,” he told USA Today recently. “Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me.”
The Potential Sleeper: Davis Webb, California
Casual football fans aren’t talking him up much, but those in the know have walked away impressed by the former Cal quarterback. Webb, who was Mahomes’ backup at Texas Tech before transferring, impressed at the Senior Bowl and has garnered first-round grades from some teams.