NFL Wire News

Maccagnan continues bold moves during draft


The Sports Xchange

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan spent the NFL draft reminding everyone that he’s the polar opposite of his predecessor, John Idzik, by acting aggressively to address weak spots and stockpile depth.

After opening the draft by adding to the Jets’ stout defensive line in sixth overall pick Leonard Williams, Maccagnan continued to bolster a once-meager receiving corps by selecting Ohio State deep threat Devin Smith in Friday’s second round. In the third round, Maccagnan picked Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, who should push for playing time within the Jets’ aging pass rush.

The draft’s final day opened with Maccagnan trading a seventh-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to move up one spot in the fourth round to get Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who joins a derby that includes beleaguered incumbent Geno Smith and well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Maccagnan said he traded a pick to move ahead a single spot because he believed someone — reportedly the Cleveland Browns — would have traded up to the Jaguars’ spot and grabbed Petty.

“We also had teams trying to come up for our pick and we went through the needs and put two and two together, basically,” Maccagnan said following the draft. “If we had waited and another team jumped us and took him – I figured every team in the league was looking at us and saying we were going to look for a quarterback. So we (were) just preemptive.”

The trade was the second of three during the draft by the Jets, who sent their third-round pick to the Houston Texans — Maccagnan’s former employer — on Friday in exchange for the Texans’ third-, fifth- and seventh-round picks as well as wide receiver DeVier Posey. On Saturday, the Jets traded another seventh-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for running back Zac Stacy, who rushed for 973 yards as a rookie in 2013.

Stacy joins a crowded backfield that includes returnees Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell as well as free-agent addition Stevan Ridley.

“If you can get what you view as an NFL-caliber running back, who has had production in the league, for what we perceived as a rather low investment — when we looked historically at seventh-round draft picks, there tends to be a 10-15 percent chance that they’ll be on your team in two to three years,” Maccagnan said. “So really, it was just trying to make the position as competitive as possible.”

The Jets concluded the draft by adding depth at two positions with the selections of Texas A&M guard Jarvis Harrison in the fifth round and Northwestern State nose tackle Deon Simon in the seventh round.

The whirlwind of trades executed by Maccagnan, as well as the accumulating of players, stands in marked contrast to the behavior of Idzik. Last May, Idzik had 12 draft picks and kept them all, though he made sure to tell reporters he thought about trading one during the second day of the draft.

Of the 12 players Idzik picked, five never played a down for the Jets. In addition, wide receiver Jalen Saunders was cut after four games and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa was only active for the season finale. Idzik also preached competition yet didn’t allow Smith to be pushed in training camp by veteran Michael Vick.

Now, Maccagnan appears to have used the draft in a variety of ways to improve and deepen the Jets.

“You want to bring the best out of guys,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said Saturday, “We tried, going into (the draft), to bring guys in here to create healthy competition. And that’s what we did.”

–The Jets almost certainly didn’t find their Week 1 quarterback with fourth-round pick Bryce Petty. But reading between the lines, it certainly sounds as if Petty is the quarterback the Jets want behind center come 2016.

Petty played almost exclusively in a spread offense at Baylor, but will be groomed slowly by the Jets, who learned with Geno Smith how dangerous it is to throw a spread quarterback into action as a rookie. Smith thrived in West Virginia’s offense but has completed just 57.5 percent of his passes in two years as a pro to go with 34 interceptions in 30 games.

“Time will tell what kind of player he’ll become,” Maccagnan said. “But we do think he has all the physical attributes and parts to be a good quarterback in this league. There’s going to be a maturation process from where he is in college because he played in a system that isn’t really similar to some of the pro systems. But we thought he held a raw potential and ability.

“If you invest time in a quarterback, he has those attributes that would be very good to work with.”

Bowles listed Petty fourth among the Jets quarterbacks behind Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Simms. But in saying the Jets “are not looking for him to be a starter right now,” Bowles may have provided another glimpse into the Jets’ long-term plans for the 23 year old.

“We are trying to develop him,” Bowles said. “Obviously, when he gets in here, you have to change foot mechanics and different schemes. He is a smart person, so developing him with his brain and his physical ability is something we hope we can put together over the course of time.”

–Of the 256 players drafted this year, none may have been as relieved as Petty.

“I’m so dang excited,” Petty said Saturday. “That was the longest 48 hours I’ve ever had in my life. So to get that call, honestly, it was unbelievable.”

Some mock drafts had Petty going in the late first round, but he went undrafted on both Friday and Saturday before the Jets traded up to grab him with the fourth pick in the fourth round.

Petty said the wait didn’t dent his confidence and that he’s looking forward to proving he should have been selected earlier.

“You have people that question you and that was their decision,” Petty said. “So my job now is to prove to the other 31 teams what they’re missing on.”

–One of the draft’s more poignant moments occurred when the Jets selected Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in the third round on Friday night.

Mauldin, who spent his childhood in 16 foster homes after his parents were imprisoned, wept during a conference call with reporters late Friday night as he pondered the winding path he took to the NFL.

“I’ve been thinking about this ever since I was playing Pop Warner football as a wide receiver,” Mauldin said. “My emotions right now … I’m speechless, I can’t even think right now, man.

“This is my chance to show everybody that I can do what I can do, and I’m going to do it beyond what I do. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work harder than hard.”

Mauldin’s reaction moved his new head coach.

“For the things he’s went through – that all plays into the character of a person and helps build who you are,” Bowles said. “I think he’s grown into a great young man. From where he came from, to where he is now, being drafted, I can see where he would be emotional.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 — The number of quarterback drafted by the Jets in the last 10 years. Kellen Clemens and Brad Smith were selected in 2006, followed by Erik Ainge (2008), Mark Sanchez (2009), Greg McElroy (2011), Geno Smith (2013) and Tajh Boyd (2014). Only Clemens, Sanchez, McElroy and Smith started games at quarterback for the Jets.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I am excited to see how they look when we actually get them in the building. But in terms of what they potentially may be, I am very excited.” — Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan on the six players the team selected in the draft

A closer look at the Jets’ picks:

–Round 1/6 – Leonard Williams, DE, 6-5, 302, USC

The Jets didn’t think they’d get Williams, who has as much upside as any player in the draft. But they’ll find room for him after he surprisingly slid to sixth. Williams earned comparisons to J.J. Watt – whom Maccagnan drafted in Houston – for his huge frame and athleticism. And at only 20 years old, Williams – who racked up 21 sacks in three years at USC – has room to grow into a monster. His arrival may spell the end for dissatisfied contract year defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, or it could result in the next generation of the Sack Exchange.

–Round 2/37 – Devin Smith, WR, 6-0, 196, Ohio State

Remember when the Jets had an awful receiving corps? A unit that was upgraded with the arrival of veteran receiver Brandon Marshall via a March trade got a legit deep threat in Smith, who also offers a track record and upside that 2013 second-round pick Stephen Hill never had. Smith averaged a touchdown catch every four receptions at Ohio State, where he finished fifth all-time with 2,503 yards. His deep speed and agility — he was a champion sprinter in high school and an All-Big 10 performer in the high jump — should play in the NFL and potentially give the Jets a homegrown No. 1 receiver they’ve lacked this entire century.

–Round 3/82 – Lorenzo Mauldin, LB, 6-4, 259, Louisville

With Calvin Pace and Jason Babin both entering their age-35 seasons and fourth-year player Quinton Coples thus far unimpressive, the Jets needed to upgrade their pass rush. Mauldin won’t likely be a superstar, but he racked up 20.5 sacks in three years at Louisville despite playing through shoulder and hamstring injuries. His character is also unquestioned: Mauldin emerged as an NFL player despite living in 16 foster homes as a child.

–Round 4/103 – Bryce Petty, QB, 6-3, 230, Baylor

The next candidate to audition for the role of the next Joe Namath? Or is he the next Geno Smith? Like Smith, Petty put up huge numbers in college (Petty threw for 8,195 yards and 62 touchdowns) and displayed impressive mobility (21 rushing touchdowns), but like Smith, he operated almost entirely out of the spread and has a bad habit of locking in on his top target. Unlike with Smith, who was rushed into starting as a rookie, the Jets are expected to proceed slowly with Petty. With only Smith and journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick ahead of him, Petty is the odds-on favorite to be starting no later than the opening week of 2016.

–Round 5/152 – Jarvis Harrison, G, 6-4, 330, Texas A&M

Started 37 games in college, but comes with questions about his maturity after losing his starting job as a senior and arriving late to his Pro Day. Could be a practice-squad candidate initially for the Jets, who need to groom guards with Willie Colon aging and neither Brian Winters nor Dakota Dozier having been drafted by the current regime.

–Round 7/223 – Deon Simon, NT, 6-3, 321, Northwestern State (La.)

Chronic knee injuries (he blew out a knee as a high-school senior and played just seven games last season due to knee woes) may curtail Simon’s upside, but there’s no questioning his strength after he benched 225 pounds 35 straight times at the Senior Bowl. He is another practice-squad candidate who could emerge as a backup.

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