The New York Jets’ quarterback situation has become the team’s biggest problem, as Geno Smith has been an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of the season. The Jets chose him in the second round last year, but with the exception of Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons’ very poor defense, Smith has not shown any indication that he is capable of being the quarterback of the future for the Jets.
With that in mind, the Jets must seek to upgrade the position. They could look to go after a quarterback in free agency, and if Jay Cutler is available they certainly will. However, top quarterbacks rarely hit the free agent market, and the safe money is on the Chicago Bears franchising Cutler. The Jets could try to trade for a promising backup like Kirk Cousins, but the last thing they want is to give up draft picks and get stuck in a Matt Flynn situation. That leaves the draft as the best option for the Jets to add a quarterback.
As things currently stand, the Jets would have the 11th pick in the draft. Even if they lose out and finish 5-11, they probably won’t pick any higher than No. 7 or No. 8 overall. The other issue the Jets face is how many teams could be looking for a quarterback in April. The Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns are all likely to target quarterbacks, and the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could join that list.
Yesterday’s news complicated things further, as Marcus Mariota announced that he will be returning to school, removing the consensus No. 2 QB prospect from the draft, and greatly thinning the 2014 QB class. Teddy Bridgewater is the clear top QB prospect in the draft, and he will be long gone by the time the Jets pick. That leaves Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles as the potential 1st round quarterback prospects. There is no sure thing among this group, which could leave the Jets in the same situation they are currently in.
Hundley has great potential, but he is young and inexperienced, and whoever drafts him will need to be patient. Bortles has been a star this season and he has great size and arm strength, but there are some concerns about how he will transfer from Central Florida to the NFL. Manziel still needs a lot of polishing on the field, and I don’t think the Jets would want to put his lightning rod personality in the biggest media market in the country.
Of course, there is no guarantee any of these players will even be available when the Jets pick. In the later rounds, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger both have torn ACLs, which could really lower their stock. A.J. McCarron is a name that could be considered in the second round, and Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd, Stephen Morris and Logan Thomas will probably all be discussed in the middle rounds. However, there is nothing even close to a sure thing in this group.
Given the fact that the Jets just drafted Smith and the likelihood that the top players will be gone when they draft, it is unlikely that they will draft a quarterback this year. Unless a player they really like takes an unexpected fall, the Jets will probably give Smith another year, albeit with training camp competition.
Things could certainly change between now and April, but there doesn’t appear to be an immediate solution at quarterback for the Jets in this draft. That means that the team will have to hope that Smith can start develop, or they will be left searching for a franchise quarterback yet again.