The New York Jets weighed all their options, they considered trading up, and in the end they decided to stay put and draft Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee. Lee is an exceptional athlete with versatility and he brings the speed and coverage ability the Jets defense has been missing from their linebacker core.
Lee had the best 40 time (4.47) for linebackers in this draft, the best broad jump (11'1"), the third best 20 yard shuttle (4.20) and the fifth best vertical jump (35.5"). Lee is 6'1" 232 pounds and can be used in multiple ways and can do everything.
"I think what intrigued us the most about him, from a scouting standpoint, was a younger player obviously, but he's very athletic. We have sort of a good core of players, I think he brings the ability to potentially improve our overall team speed," Mike Maccagnan said. "Todd (Bowles) talked about him in terms of how he'd fit in our defense but we felt his ability to be a three-down player for us, both run and passing downs, again he's very athletic, he's a very young player so I think from a scouting standpoint when you find players that are from the age standpoint, kind of like with Leo (Leonard Williams) from last year. These guys are not only good players potentially now but again being younger as they continue to mature and develop we do feel they have quite a bit of upside and can develop into a much better player, even going forward."
Maccagnan kept referencing Lee's age because he's only 21-years-old and with the Jets controlling him for the next five years Lee will only be 26 and theoretically just hitting his prime when it's time for his second contract.
Lee played mostly as an outside linebacker at Ohio State but Maccagnan referred to him as an inside linebacker twice in his opening statement, but Bowles confirmed that he will be used in multiple ways saying, "he can play on the outside."
"Like I said, he's an inside linebacker," Bowles said. "He can play the nickel right now, he's going to grow into a three-down backer as he goes forward. He makes us a lot faster and we can do with him, he's a very good pressure guy, he's a very good cover guy and he runs sideline-to-sideline."
Lee will start as a Will linebacker in the Jets nickel package but the Jets base defense is essentially nickel so he will be seeing plenty of playing time and Bowles and Maccagnan said they expect him to develop into a full-time three-down linebacker.
"We're going to use him a lot of different ways too, but position-wise he's a 'Mo' (Will) linebacker," Bowles said. "But schematically he can be used quite a few ways."
One knock on Lee is he's a little smaller than what we've come to expect from traditional linebackers but as Bowles explained the game has changed, with NFL offenses' passing so much out of spread offenses (think Patriots) the ideal size for linebackers has changed. And linebackers who can cover have never been more valued than they are now, with Myles Jack and Jaylon Smith dealing with injuries Lee is the best coverage linebacker without injury issues in the draft.
"Not really (he's not too small), the game's more spread out now," Bowles said. "It's not a power game like it used to be, so we needed a bunch of faster guys. We got enough bigger guys down to where we need a guy who can run around."
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (email@example.com)