Where’s the Pilot?: New York Jets Quarterback Options

Who is the quarterback for the New York Jets?  We talked last time about the Jets off season in general, but have they done enough to solidify the quarterback position?

With Ryan Fitzpatrick still recovering from a broken leg he sustained from the December 14, 2014 game against the Indianapolis Colts, he will be limited during the Jets off-season organized team activities (OTA’s) starting April 28th, but will hopefully be ready for training camp.

That might be good news for Geno Smith.

The quarterback position is expected to be a tight competition between Fitzpatrick and Smith.  Neither GM Mike Maccagnan, nor new coach Bowles, has publicly endorsed either quarterback for the starting position.  And with Fitzpatrick rehabilitating his leg, it gives Geno Smith an opportunity to learn Chan Gailey’s new offensive scheme.

Forget about expert mock drafts.  With the Jets $160 million dollar spending spree during free-agency, there’s lots of possibilities but no reliable indicators which direction the Jets will go with their 6th pick in the first round.  According to Maccagnan:

“I would say, simply, that I think when it comes to the draft, to me, you tend to want to take the best player available, in theory.  In my mind, if the best player available were at that pick, I’m not going to say we’re going to lock into a certain player or a certain position, but that’s the approach you want to take. We have a long evaluation process to go through, to get to that point. I would say, simply, I don’t think any player is either on or off our board, in terms of what we would do, based on our current roster.”

Well, thanks for nothing, Mike. That tells us absolutely nothing.

USA Today Photo

USA Today Photo

Marcus Mariota is scheduled for a private workout session with the Jets on March 28th in Oregon and both Maccagnan and Bowles are scheduled to attend.  Don’t get too excited Jets fans. Mariota had a private workout session for the Tennessee Titans after his pro-day, who have the number 2 pick, and is reported to be scheduled for a private workout session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1st pick in the first round) and the San Diego Chargers (17th pick in the first round).  And of course, its no secret the Philadelphia Eagles are also interested.

But Mariota or Winston aren’t necessarily the “best” options at quarterback, particularly if the Jets prefer to draft a pass-rusher or wide receiver in the first round.

The Jets haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since 2009, Mark Sanchez.  And we all know how that turned out.

Butt Fumble

The Cleveland Browns know from first hand experience that drafting a quarterback in the first round doesn’t necessarily mean success – exhibits A through C include Johnny Manziel (2014), Brandon Weeden (2012), and Brady Quinn (2007).  All three quarterbacks didn’t meet 1st round expectations.

There is potential value in drafting a late quarterback, some historical examples include:

  • Matt Hasselbeck was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1998 in the 6th round.  In 2001, Hasselbeck was traded to the Seattle Seahawks where he was the starting quarterback for 10 years.  Hasselbeck accumulated 11 playoff appearances, 3 Pro Bowls and set several team records.  Hasselbeck brought the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10.
  • Russell Wilson was drafted in the 3rd round in 2012 by the Seattle Seahawks.  At the age of 26, Wilson has a Super Bowl win in 2013 against the Denver Broncos and a Super Bowl appearance in 2014, but, as we all know, threw an interception from the one yard line to lose to the New England Patriots.
  • The most notorious example is Tom Brady.  Drafted in the 6th round in 2000 by the New England Patriots, Tom Brady has been with the Patriots for 15 years, has been in 6 Super Bowls – winning 4 and losing 2 while being named Super Bowl MVP 3 times.

There’s no guarantee that a late round quarterback pick will turn out to be a Tom Brady, but some players might be worth the crap shoot of a late round pick.

Can Mannion be the Next Roethlisberger?

Sean Mannion (6’6” and 229 lbs.) had a 64.6 completion percentage, 13,600 passing yards, 135.8 passer rating at Oregon State.  Currently, Mannion is projected to be drafted in the 5th or 6th round.

As a four year starter at Oregon State, Mannion is a classic pocket passer that played in a pro-style offense, and has good foot work in three, five, and seven step drops.  When protected, Mannion demonstrates good accuracy, particularly leading receivers downfield.  Unfortunately, Mannion often makes poor decisions maker under pressure, has a relatively low TD/INT ratio (1.54) and lacks efficiency protecting the ball (totaling 30 career fumbles and 54 career interceptions).  According to NFL Media columnist Bucky Brooks:

“In the right environment, right situation surrounded by the right people, I think he can be a winning quarterback. … I think old-school offensive coordinators will like him.”

Mannion will need to work on his speed and mobility and gain confidence to perform out of the pocket, but with the right coaching staff, Mannion might just be a surprising quarterback.

AP Photo

AP Photo

Spend Time Over Money

Shane Carden is an option for the Jets if they feel secure with Ryan Fitzpatrik or Geno smith for a couple more years.  He is expected to be drafted in the 7th round.

Carden (6’2” and 218 lbs.) needs a couple of years to adapt to the NFL and work on some of his weaknesses.  Carden’s biggest issue is consistently setting his feet before releasing the ball, which leads to passes being short or wide forcing receivers to constantly adjust routes.  However, Carden can be extremely accurate when he does set his feet, having a completion percentage as a sophomore and junior of 67.3% with a 147.3 pass efficiency rating. He is the first quarterback in school history to pass for over 4,000 yards in multiple seasons and is also the first in school history to pass for over 10,000 yards in a career (11,557).

Carden has some unteachable traits, including pocket poise, guts to take a big hit and an accurate arm able to thread the needle down the middle of the field.  Carden has good arm strength with a quick release.  Although he’s not considered a running threat, Carden has scored 23 times on the ground during his career.

Carden will need to shorten his throwing motion and has had issues protecting the ball when pressured (90 sacks and 14 fumbles within the last three years, with five of those turnovers turning into opposing scores).

It’s Hard to Overlook the Bonner

Chris Bonner wasn’t at the Combine and is not expected to be drafted.  Bonner, quarterback at Colorado State – Pueblo, lead his team, the Thunderwolves, to the national championship in 2014, dominating his division II competition.  Yeah, I said division II.  He’s 6’7” and 235, moves well and has good speed for his height.  Bonner has a good arm, played under center in a pro-style offense, calling plays in the huddle and making adjustments at the line.  He has the ability to lead the receiver, placing the ball away from the defense.

Bonner does need practice reading defenses, in particular identifying safety coverage, so as to decrease turnovers.

He has a career 57.8 completion percentage for 6,704 yards, 63 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

AP Photo

AP Photo

However the Jets decide to proceed, there are a number of potential targets to consider in the draft.  And with the current lineup headlined by Smith and Fitzpatrick, they’d be wise to do so.

By Joanne Kong

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