The quest for building up depth in the Jets roster continues in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. They have not one but two picks here. However, they don’t have a selection in the seventh round, and that is the place to address positions like running back finally. The offensive line also needs depth and has yet to be addressed.
Draft Capital: Pick 191, Pick 211
Joshua Kelley, Running Back, UCLA
The Jets running game certainly needs help. Leaving Le’Veon Bell with what the Jets currently have on offense is wrong and doesn’t indicate good on-field results. Bell himself mostly suffered from the terrible season the Jets’ inability to provide him running room. That’s bound to change with the new additions upfront.
However, the running game as a unit also had a depth problem. Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery, his backups in the rushing stable, recorded just 332 yards from 91 carries, or an average of 3.6 per rush. After Joe Douglas’s staff let Montgomery go after his one-year deal expired, the team needs a fresh face that could form an efficient running duo with the former Pittsburgh Steeler.
Joshua Kelley had more than 2,200 yards in the past two seasons in the Pac-12, yet experts project him as a sixth-rounder. It’s like the situation was created for the Jets to make the most of it! In fact, Kelley is a guy that could contribute right away and even be a surprise rookie standout during the 2020 season.
He was handed the tough task to lead the weak UCLA offense after Josh Rosen left for the NFL. His film shows that, given a little help from blockers, he could be explosive on the inside. Meanwhile, he is capable of delivering through the air. Also, his low center of gravity provides value in the yards-after-contact department. He’s much more capable of being a part of the rotation as a rookie than any other running back at this point in the draft. The Jets shouldn’t overlook this as their ever-growing ambitions to compete in a new-look AFC East that lacks Tom Brady for the first time in 20 years are brighter than ever.
Both years at UCLA, he received a substantial workload on the ground with 220+ carries. In 2018, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry, one of the best marks in the Pac-12. Last year resembled a slight downfall with an average of 4.6. Nevertheless, Kelley could be very useful if the Jets offensive line does it’s part of the deal, and prove to be the steal of the draft.
Zach Shackelford, Interior Offensive Lineman, Texas
Even though he’s a sixth-to-seventh rounder, it’s difficult to see many issues with Shackelford. The Draft Network notes and strength-related problems as his main issues, which are indeed easy to identify. However, when he’s a starter, the results are mostly good.
He maintains good balance and is an X factor in the downfield blocking. Shackelford could need more time to adapt against more experienced and agile defensive linemen. However, his potential, especially as a second-choice guard in the short-term, is very satisfying. His lack of functional strength could be a problem in the run blocking, but he’s still been very efficient in pass protection.
It’s also true that he needs a lot of work to gain power. While size is often subject to an overreaction in prospect analysis, power is a huge factor at the position. Fortunately, it’s something that can be developed. In the meantime, Shackelford could be efficient when the Jets ask him to play. Quickness getting in front of the line of scrimmage and his subsequent blocking are crucial qualities alongside his pass-protection balance.
Lamar Jackson, Cornerback, Nebraska
The early cornerback pick might be critical to the rotation. If depth at the position is ignored in the fifth round, they might as well as do that here.
Lamar Jackson’s efforts are starting to gain more and more momentum. Just wishful thinking might not be enough for him to stay in the sixth round, but there’s still hope. There’s no doubt that, for any team, that would be a pick that would have immediate dividends, no matter the depth of the unit.
You’ve perhaps heard of the dominance of Lamar Jackson, the Ravens wild-running quarterback and current NFL MVP. Well, now get ready to meet his defensive counterpart, out of Nebraska. Jackson is a late-round version of Damon Arnette, who might have an even higher ceiling. Like Arnette, Jackson is a force to be reckoned with in man coverage and the vertical passing game. Jackson recorded career-high 12 passes defended, second to only Indiana corner Tiawan Mullen in the Big Ten.
Furthermore, his reaction to the situation is always swift and adequate. He’s fast coming in the box to stop runs and also is a great open-field tackler. In each of his last three seasons, he had 25-plus total tackles, including 40 in his most recent campaign in 2019.
Jackson is not just a corner with a high ceiling against wideouts but a promising overall contributor to the Jets defensive unit. Depth in the running and pass-protecting units may be more critical at the moment. However, if the Jets draft a corner in the early-to-middle rounds and then get Jackson, the stakes will be even higher for the secondary, especially if Jamal Adams remains on 1 Jets Drive.
Drafting running help and protection depth is the priority for the Jets coming into the last two rounds of the draft. Their two selections in the sixth round, given they have no seventh-round pick, make no difference. There are alternatives to Shackelford and Jackson, quality alternatives. However, not many in the sixth round even come close to what Joshua Kelley brings with skillset and versatility. Him being gone before Pick 191 would be very disappointing. That would mean that the running game probably hasn’t been addressed yet, and would remain that way.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Running Back, Vanderbilt
Vaughn is often criticized for his failure to contribute to the pass-protection in any way. However, on a deeper level, he’s a very solid running back for the talent that this point in the draft has to offer. In 2018, he had 158 rushes for a mind-blowing average of 7.9 per carry – the sixth-best in NCAA Division I. The next year, Vandy increased his workload and he remained very solid, averaging 5.2 yards. Vaughn promises to be consistent when given the chance to play.
Jake Hanson, Center, Oregon
Hanson came across as a good lineman in terms of protecting his quarterback Justin Herbert. Moreover, he was very dominant in run blocking duties. He projects and a reliable option in zone blocking and could aid a better campaign for Le’Veon Bell and the jets running unit, even if used in a more restricted role.
Jauan Jennings, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
Jenning is a brilliant route runner, which has helped him record a gradual improvement since missing almost the whole 2017 season. Last year, he had 59 receptions for 969 yards – an average of 16.4 per catch. Don’t let that fool you – he’s just as valuable in the intermediate game as he’s in the long-ball passing attack. What experts have praised him about the most is his consistent success blocking for runners, which could bring a surprising downfield running factor.