3 NY Jets draft targets whose production doesn’t match the hype

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By: Michael Nania

Some of the New York Jets’ top draft targets have concerning statistics relative to their hype

Analyzing college production cannot tell us everything about an NFL draft prospect’s professional future, but it’s still a valuable piece of the puzzle to take into account.

I don’t think college production can tell us much about a prospect’s future if the prospect was a dominant college player, simply because the majority of NFL draft prospects were stars in college. Boasting otherworldly college stats doesn’t make a prospect unique.

What does make a prospect unique is when he wasn’t dominant in college. This is where I think college stats can be an interesting factor. If a prospect wasn’t able to dominate his college-level opponents, it’s certainly a concern worth noting as we project how he will perform against the substantially stronger competition offered by the NFL. It could be a sign the player will take longer to develop than prospects who have already shown they can translate their traits into star-level production.

With this in mind, here are a few oft-discussed NFL draft targets for the New York Jets whose college production does not match up with their hype.

John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz is the consensus No. 1 center prospect on draft boards across the internet. He is widely considered a high-second-round prospect (right in the Jets’ wheelhouse at Nos. 42 and 43) and some mock drafts even have him creeping into the first round.

Schmitz’s hype is not backed up by his college production. He was not one of the most dominant centers in college football last season, at least based on his numbers.

In 2022, Schmitz allowed eight pressures on 305 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. That might seem good at first glance, but relative to other college centers, it actually wasn’t. Schmitz’s allowed pressure rate of 2.65% only ranked 61st-lowest out of 136 qualified FBS centers (56th percentile). That’s hardly better than the national average of 3.17% for centers.

Some of the other top center prospects in the 2023 draft were much more efficient pass-blockers than Schmitz this past season:

  • Joe Tippman, Wisconsin: 1.39% allowed pressure rate, 11th of 136
  • Luke Wypler, Ohio State: 1.78% allowed pressure rate, 19th
  • Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan: 2.20% allowed pressure rate, 38th

Schmitz offers a much stronger track record in the run game, as he was PFF’s top-ranked run-blocking center among all college centers in 2022. However, his less-than-stellar pass-blocking efficiency is worth keeping in mind.

It also should be noted that Schmitz’s athletic profile isn’t special. His Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is 7.89 out of 10, which only ranked seventh-best among centers in this year’s class.

While RAS is a 0-to-10 system, many people don’t realize that the average RAS for draft-worthy prospects is typically around 8.00. The RAS database includes pro-day data from thousands of no-name prospects who never touch an NFL field, and these players severely decrease the positional averages to the point where a 5.00 RAS is far below the true average for real NFL players. The majority of the players who actually get drafted are in the upper echelon of the system.

For instance, in 2022, the top 200 prospects going into the draft (based on Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board) had an average RAS of 7.90. The top 50 prospects averaged an 8.91. Considering those numbers, Schmitz’s 7.89 RAS is quite mediocre for a projected top-50 pick.

Schmitz’s pedestrian score mostly stems from his 5.35-second time in the forty (25th percentile all-time among centers at the combine) and his 26 reps in the bench press (51st percentile). Schmitz performed respectably in the 20-yard shuttle (68th percentile), vertical jump (68th percentile), and broad jump (62nd percentile) but did not surpass the 68th percentile in any drill, which is underwhelming since he is an undersized center (301-pound frame ranked at the 38th percentile) and should be expected to balance out his smaller frame with top-tier athleticism.

Related Article: Which NFL draft center prospect is the best fit for NY Jets’ scheme?

Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Similar to Schmitz, Paris Johnson Jr.’s consistency in pass protection was not quite as pristine as some of his peers in the 2023 draft class.

Johnson allowed 14 pressures on 449 pass-blocking snaps in 2022, giving him an allowed pressure rate of 3.12%. That ranked 43rd-lowest out of 228 qualified FBS tackles, which is strong (81st percentile), but it pales in comparison to some of the other top tackle prospects. Take a look at how Johnson compares to the other five prospects who are most commonly included among the top-six tackles:

  • Dawand Jones, Ohio State: 1.19% allowed pressure rate, 1st of 228
  • Peter Skoronski, Northwestern: 1.27% allowed pressure rate, 2nd
  • Darnell Wright, Tennessee: 1.58% allowed pressure rate, 5th
  • Broderick Jones, Georgia: 1.91% allowed pressure rate, 8th
  • Anton Harrison, Oklahoma: 2.01% allowed pressure rate, 10th
  • Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State: 3.12% allowed pressure rate, 43rd

Johnson offered great production in other areas. He was PFF’s 10th-ranked run-blocking tackle and showed great discipline as he was called for only one penalty.

Still, it’s at least mildly concerning that Johnson’s pass-blocking production was not quite as dominant as the other tackles who will likely be drafted within the first two rounds next week. By no means does this preclude him from being a potentially excellent pick for the Jets at No. 13, but it’s interesting to note.

Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders is commonly mocked to the Jets in the second round. He is the 39th-ranked overall prospect on Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board.

Sanders has some very concerning red flags on his statistical resume. For starters, he is a missed tackle machine. In 2022, Sanders tied for the ninth-most missed tackles among FBS linebackers with 22, while his missed tackle rate of 19.6% ranked 217th out of 243 qualifiers (11th percentile).

Sanders also has a spotty track record in zone coverage, which is a crucial skill for linebackers in the Jets’ scheme. He allowed a 109.4 passer rating on throws into his coverage when playing zone, which ranked 188th out of 243 qualifiers (23rd percentile). Sanders was targeted 19 times in zone coverage and allowed 16 catches for 195 yards.

The reason Sanders is such a highly regarded prospect is his pass rushing ability. Sanders had 9.5 sacks and ranked fourth in the country among off-ball linebackers with 39 total pressures.

But the Jets don’t need pass rushing skills from the linebacker position. They rarely ask their linebackers to blitz. In 2022, the Jets’ linebackers combined for only 5.1 pass-rush snaps per game, ranking 29th out of 32 linebacker units.

Sanders’ pass rushing skills would be rendered mostly obsolete in New York, while his issues as a tackler and in zone coverage would be magnified.

Next Article: The best-case scenario for NY Jets’ 2023 draft 

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