The Jets took defensive players in the first round of the draft every year from 2010 to 2017 and the results have been a mixed bag.
Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson starred for a time, but are no longer with the team. Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor never lived up to expectations and the final verdict is still out on recent picks Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams. Linebacker Darron Lee, the top pick in 2016, falls into that final group as well, although his first impressions haven’t been quite as positive.
He had a rough rookie season as he transitioned to inside linebacker, but looked more comfortable as the 2017 season progressed. There’s still more work to be done in pass coverage, but the 23-year-old will be calling the defensive signals for the Jets this season and linebackers coach Mike Caldwell believes things are falling into place.
“He can be as good as he wants to be,” Caldwell said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “He has all the tools. He’s getting better by being able to see things faster. His eyes are better. He’s just learning the game. Coming from college, it took him a while to understand the professional game. He’s done a good job of finding his niche.”
The Jets spent big on cornerback Trumaine Johnson and linebacker Avery Williamson in free agency. If Lee can take the strides that Caldwell thinks are possible while Williams and Adams continue to grow as players, unlocking the Jets defense should be a thornier task for opponents this time around.