So now the landscape is set for quarterback-needy teams such as the New York Jets. The three highest-rated quarterbacks have declared for the draft — Wyoming’s Josh Allen is the third — and it’s up to Mike Maccagnan to formulate a strategy. This will be the biggest decision in his three-plus years as the general manager.
Option No. 1: If Maccagnan falls in love with one of the big three, he should try to trade up from the sixth spot. He indicated in a radio interview on Wednesday that he’s open to moving up for the right player, but it will be difficult because you have to figure the Cleveland Browns (first pick) and New York Giants (second) — both in the quarterback market — won’t be in the mood to deal.
The Indianapolis Colts (third) were just handed a winning lottery ticket, thanks to the Darnold/Rosen news. Because they don’t need a quarterback and could be looking to deal, the Colts will receive plenty of attractive offers for the pick. Would Maccagnan trade up for the third quarterback off the board? Again, it would take a strong conviction. If you’re a fan, you hope his objectivity isn’t clouded by desperation.
There’s always Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, although I’d be stunned — stunned! — if the Jets picked him at six. If you look at Maccagnan’s drafting history, you’ll see he’s a height-weight-speed guy who looks for prototypical traits at each position. I can’t see him picking a 6-foot quarterback from a video-game offense who, by the way, also has character questions.
Option No. 2: If Maccagnan determines that none of the big three is worth the sixth pick, he must make a significant move in free agency. By that, I mean Kirk Cousins or Alex Smith (trade), for starters. There will be other options, too, but you get the point: They’ll need a proven starter who can win games immediately. Cousins is in a different category because you’re talking about a long-term marriage. If the Jets sign him, they’re basically saying, “The hell with drafting a quarterback for the next few years.”
The calendar could play a factor in this decision. The college pro days don’t wrap up until late March (UCLA and USC were March 21 and 22 last year, respectively), and free agency starts March 12. This means they might have to move on a big-name veteran before getting a complete evaluation on the top college prospects.
By the way, Darnold, Rosen and Allen aren’t can’t-miss players. Each one has intriguing upside, but Darnold has turnover issues, Rosen has a questionable attitude and Allen has an accuracy concern (only a 56-percent completion rate at a lower level of competition). Personally, I’d say Darnold is the safest pick of the three.
If the Jets decide they don’t want a quarterback in the first round, they still should get a very good player. If three quarterbacks get picked in the top five, it’ll push a couple of top prospects down to the Jets. Maybe they could get Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb or LSU edge rusher Arden Key, who declared on Thursday.