With the NFL draft now less than a month away, the Jets are undoubtedly going over their big board with a fine tooth comb as they prepare to balance best available player or biggest need when they’re on the clock. How much weight is put on game film versus the combine? Character concerns versus pro days? How much will major injuries have an impact?
We could get answers to some of those questions when the draft arrives as it appears there are two players who could fill massive holes for the Jets that are rumored to be tumbling down draft boards due to poor pre-draft performance and injuries in Florida defensive end Jachai Polite and West Virginia offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste.
In his first seven-round mock draft of the pre-season, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had Polite going 21st overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A justifiable draft slot based in his production at Florida where he dominated SEC opponents with a combination of raw ability and a relentless motor.
Jachai Polite 2018:
The 21-year-old Polite was a force off the edge, racking up 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss against some of the top programs in the country. A first-round grade was expected and if you go back to watch just a few of his games, you’ll understand why. However, no player has had a worse pre-draft season than Polite who has been criticized for the way he interviewed at the combine, coupled with a very underwhelming performance on the field.
The 6′ 3” 258 lb Polite ran a 4.84 40 and turned in a 32” vertical before calling it a day as a result of a lower body injury. With a chance to make up for it at his pro day, Polite took a seat after suffering what was reportedly a hamstring injury.
Prior to his pro day, Miller dropped Polite all the way down to 61st with the Kansas City Chiefs after his initial projection to the Jaguars as previously mentioned. In need of an edge rusher, would this create the possibility for Mike Maccagnan and company to snag an elite-level prospect in the middle rounds?
Remember, it was this time last season that the draft world was buzzing about Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, who had a historically bad performance at the combine, and lasted all the way until the 83rd pick despite previously being viewed as a first-rounder. It was in that spot that Brown was taken by the Baltimore Ravens. All Brown did in Baltimore was appear in all 16 games, starting the final 10 as the Ravens went on a late tear to make the playoffs.
In looking at previous draft prospects in recent years who have tumbled due to injuries, it’s hard to ignore Myles Jack of the Jacksonville Jaguar and Dallas Cowboys stud linebacker Jaylon Smith. Both were highly graded prospects who fell due to injuries. It’s at another position of need where a well-regarded player might fall when it comes to West Virginia offensive tackle Yody Cajuste.
Another player who many viewed as a first-round pick (17th overall per Bleacher Report) but now a torn quadriceps has teams reportedly moving him down their draft boards, leading Miller to project an even bigger fall for Cajuste than for Polite as his most recent mock has him going 80th overall. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets plan on hosting Cajuste at some point.
West Virginia OT Yodny Cajuste is an interesting prospect. He will be making a pre-draft visit to the Jets soon, per source. https://t.co/ZWByO737FU
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 29, 2019
The Jets have a need at left tackle for the long-term, but could definitely live with Kelvin Beachum in that spot for one more season. If that means they take a flier on Cajuste for 2020 and beyond, it’s worth the gamble to get an elite prospect at a vital position outside of round one.