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Mel Kiper Jr. helped build the excitement around the NFL draft we see today. He’s been in the game a long time, which means he’s had his fair share of bold takes over the years. Well, this year is no different.
Kiper released his most recent mock draft on Tuesday, and one of his early picks has created a lot of buzz.
The No. 1 pick will obviously be Trevor Lawrence. Most people assume that Justin Fields or Zach Wilson will go No. 2 overall to the New York Jets. Kiper was not about that action, though. Instead, he’s got the team sticking with Sam Darnold at quarterback.
So, what about that No. 2 pick then? Well, he’s got the Jets taking Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith to act as a true No. 1 receiver for Darnold. Here is the thought process behind the contrarian selection:
This is where the intrigue in the draft begins. Will the Jets stick with quarterback Sam Darnold for another year, or will they take Zach Wilson or Justin Fields? (Or maybe even trade for Deshaun Watson?) The good news for general manager Joe Douglas and new coach Robert Saleh is that they have three months to figure it out. This is a huge decision, and Douglas and Saleh have to be 100% sure that Wilson or Fields is an upgrade over Darnold.
My feeling right now is that yes, Darnold’s stats are ugly, but he’s only 23 and he has had no offensive talent around him for three years. Do the Jets really want to move on from him and watch him thrive elsewhere? That’s why they could give him a one-year audition under Saleh, pick the Heisman Trophy winner at No. 2, and give Darnold one more shot to put all of his talent together. Smith is the true No. 1 target Darnold hasn’t had.
It makes sense, as there are several people out there who still believe there’s hope for Darnold. If New York wants to go that route, they’re going to need to surround him with a lot more talent, including playmakers.
That’s where Smith comes in. Though opposing defenses focused on him intensely this year, Smith was nearly unstoppable. He produced 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in a Heisman-winning season. He also added a punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas.
There are some growing concerns about Smith’s lack of size, however. And him choosing to skip the weigh-in portion of the Senior Bowl on Tuesday could create some pause in the minds of NFL front offices holding top-10 picks.
It shouldn’t, however. He will allow the height/weight measurements at Alabama’s Pro Day in the near future.
Yes, Smith will need to be an outlier with his lack of bulk, but he’s proven capable of that on the major college level. Is he worth passing on a potential franchise quarterback, though? That remains to be seen.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.