They might not all be familiar names, but the players selected with the 11th-overall pick in recent years have been productive players who have offered quality service to their teams, a trend the Jets must continue with their choice Thursday night in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Given the talent pool available and the recent history of players taken in the 11th slot, it will be tough for Jets general manager Joe Douglas to miss with the pick and embarrassing if he does.
For nearly a decade — year after year — the 11th pick has produced a player still in the midst of a career worthy of his selection. It includes one of the league’s most dominant players ever in Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, taken in 2011, and continued to at least 2018 with Steelers Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, originally drafted by the Dolphins. Put an incomplete on 2019 choice Jonah Williams, taken 11th by the Bengals. The All-America offensive tackle from Alabama missed the entire 2019 with shoulder surgery, but is expected to be healthy and ready for 2020.
History says Douglas gets it right. He has to get it right. Douglas might be tempted to move out of the 11th spot, especially if there is an early move on wide receivers and a couple of offensive tackles start to slide. If he stays at 11, history suggests he will get the kind of player the Jets desperately need.
Here’s how those taken in the 11th spot of the NFL draft since 2011 have performed:
- Watt (2011) is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Defensive Player of the Year with 96 career sacks.
- DT Dontari Poe (2012) has started 118 of 121 games for the Chiefs and Panthers.
- OT D.J. Fluker (2013) has started 88 of 92 games for the Chargers, Giants and Seahawks.
- OT Taylor Lewan (2014) is a three-time Pro Bowler, who has started 80 of 85 games for the Titans.
- CB Trae Waynes (2015) has started every game he has played for the past three years.
- CB Vernon Hargreaves (2016) has been slowed by injuries but has started 35 of 41 games played.
- CB Marshon Lattimore (2017) is a two-time Pro Bowl player, having started all 43 games played for the Saints.
- Fitzpatrick (2018), drafted by Miami, is now with Pittsburgh, where he started 14 games last year.
- Williams (2019) will prove his worth this season.
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The Jets are on the clock now and the 11th pick must be used to help quarterback Sam Darnold. At some point, the Jets will need to decide if they want to make a long-term commitment to him or let his current deal continue. To get a better read on Darnold, the Jets need to improve their offensive line, which is why targeting one of the top offensive tackles in the draft makes the most sense.
Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas could be there, or Tristan Wirfs of Iowa or Mekhi Becton of Louisville. Whoever the choice, the Jets need him to be the kind of offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson became for the Jets: durable, dependable and a team leader starting 160 of 160 games over 10 seasons.
Part of the reason the Jets are in the position they are now is because they have not landed franchise players in the first round. Safety Jamal Adams, taken with the sixth-overall choice in 2017, and Darnold, third-overall in 2018, might be that. Who knows about DT Quinnen Williams, who limped through a nondescript rookie year after being the third-overall choice in 2019. What hurts the Jets now is Dee Millner, their first first-round choice in 2013, and Calvin Pryor, another first-round choice in 2014, are out of the league, and two other first-rounders, DT Leonard Williams and LB Darron Lee, are no longer on the team.
Sure, it’s important to find gold in the middle rounds, but it’s in the first round where the future franchise players and Pro Bowl talents are supposed to come from. The Jets need to have the 11th pick work out for them like it has worked out for everyone else.
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