NFL draft is a time for optimism but pressure too - especially for the New York Jets

The start of the season is four months away but for NFL fans the optimism begins here, the week of the NFL Draft. Jacksonville Jaguars are “on the clock,” a term used to describe the time allowed to make a pick, and will have first choice.

Trevor Lawrence of the Clemson Tigers is widely expected to be the first pick at the NFL draft. Picture: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This is the week where you hope your team chooses the player that turns an ailing franchise around, adds that key player to push them over the edge, or sneaks a player in the sixth round that turns out to be the next Tom Brady.

That enthusiasm carries fans through the offseason, especially one which again seems set to be disjointed as teams respond to the ongoing pandemic.

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Of course, as with all draft classes, these coaches and general managers already know who they are looking at and who they will be tying their futures to.

College quarterback Trevor Lawrence is likely to be snapped up by Jacksonville Jaguars at the draft. Picture: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The first round starts in the early hours of Friday morning and the presumptive first pick will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars will still take the entire allotted time of ten minutes to announce it.

The experts predict that the first four picks off the board will all be quarterbacks, which would be a first in the modern draft era.

The overwhelming number one outside of quarterbacks is Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts. The 6ft 5in pass catcher recorded 12 touchdowns in just eight games in the past season and looks set to fall to Miami, leading fans to speculate about the future he could have as a weapon for last year’s quarterback pick Tua Tagovailoa.

But, there’s change in the air when it comes to the draft as the NFL starts to feel a little more like the NBA, where the value of the top five picks is significantly more than those that follow.

The pressure will be on New York City Jets head coach Robert Saleh. Picture: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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The LA Rams have made the playoffs in three of the past four years but have not selected in the first round since 2016 and won’t until at least 2023. The philosophy in-house has been to look for value in picks and that generally, unless you are at the top of the order, that can come on day two and three of the draft when rounds two to seven take place.

The Texans and Seahawks also traded away first-round picks for known quantities, while Kansas joined them last week. The shift in momentum is based on the concept of keeping the scouting in-house, not attending the public showings such as Pro Days – where a player runs scripted plays - or even the Senior Bowl, all all-star game for the top college players.

The logic is that being around scouts from other teams only muddies their view of a player.

Back at the top, the pressure is on to make the “right choice”, and this year there are a few head coaches who are new to teams and, in fact, new to NFL head coaching jobs.

Experienced college coach Urban Meyer has the momentous task of turning around the Jacksonville Jaguars and will start to do so with the “guaranteed” pick of Lawrence.

Nick Sirianni takes over at Philadelphia and will have the 12th pick while Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith gets to pick fourth. Both these teams don’t “need” a quarterback, although Atlanta could take one to play behind Matt Ryan for a year or two.

But it’s in New York where coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas face the most pressure. The Jets drafted Sam Darnold three seasons ago, and while many believe the previous coaching system failed the passer, the new management team decided to move on and start afresh.

Saleh was asked this week if he felt the pressure in the run-up to the draft and his reply was a concise “no”. But this is New York, and whether he has inherited a poor team or not, it won’t be long before the New York fans and media start with their microscopic inspections of the team.

So to Saleh and Douglas, I say this, enjoy your pressure-free days, but come Friday morning, you will be officially on the clock in New York, a city where time moves quicker than most.

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