The Jets love and Eli Manning echoes that make Darnold a steal

Here are some of my thoughts and analysis on the Jets taking Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick:

1. I’m not sure how there are some Jets fans who don’t love this pick. Look, no one knows how any of these players will perform, including the decision-makers on the teams. It is all a crapshoot. That is why the draft is fun.

However, I think you can grade the teams on logic and the Jets get an A from me for this pick. The trade was smart. I know the Jets gave up a lot with three second-round picks, but guess what you do that for? A franchise quarterback. That’s what the Jets believe they got Thursday night in Darnold.

If I had told Jets fans last year that they would get Darnold in this draft, they would have been ecstatic. It is only after the pre-draft dissection process that people are concentrating on his few warts. Many evaluators pegged him as the top quarterback in this draft. He’s on the Jets. Be happy.

No one knows what type of player he will turn out to be, but it is clear Darnold presents no character concerns. He reminds me of Eli Manning in how he carries himself. He is laid back and I don’t think much will faze him in New York. That is huge for a quarterback in this market, as we’ve seen with Manning all these years.

I could not get anyone to tell me definitively that Darnold was the No. 1 quarterback on the Jets’ board because so few people actually see it. Not many people really know, even inside the Jets. But I think he had to be. The only other candidate would be Baker Mayfield, obviously, who went No. 1. But while I heard there was strong support from some members of the organization for Mayfield, the offensive coaches were not sold on the Heisman winner. I can’t imagine Maccagnan would go against his offensive coaches on a quarterback pick.

What I believe is Darnold was the Jets’ top guy throughout the process. They started looking heavily at Mayfield and Josh Rosen (who also had fans inside the organization) when it looked like Darnold would go to the Browns at No. 1. Then, in recent weeks it started looking less likely that would happen. The Jets set up a late workout and visit with him this month and then waited.

Even as of Thursday morning, the Jets were not sure if the Mayfield/Browns rumors were true or a smokescreen. They were ecstatic when Mayfield went first and the Giants took Saquon Barkley, giving Darnold to them.

2. Something that Darnold’s personal quarterback coach Jordan Palmer said at his Pro Day stuck with me. He was making the point that teams might not be wowed by Darnold’s personality in short interviews at the Combine, but given more time with him they would see Darnold was a special guy.

“Sam is not the kid that you speed date. He’s the kid that you marry,” Palmer said. “As he goes through this process and gets to spend a bunch of time with Cleveland and some of these other teams, it’s very predictable for people like myself that are in his circle, that people will fall in love the more they get to know him.”

I think the Jets fell in love with him as they got to know him. Last month, his camp was hoping he would go No. 1 overall and Darnold was not going to workout for other teams. Then, they realized that was a bad idea and wanted the other teams to get to know Darnold. That led to the Jets and Darnold setting up a private workout this month. They also spent time with him on a top-30 visit on the final day for visits in Florham Park. The group dined at Mike Maccagnan’s favorite local restaurant, “Jockey Hollow” in Morristown. They walked away impressed with Darnold.

3. Maccagnan has had some luck in the first round of the NFL draft. In 2015, Leonard Williams fell to No. 6 when no one expected it. In 2017, Jamal Adams was at No. 6 for the Jets when all the experts had predicted he would be a top 3 pick. This year, Darnold gets to No. 3 after most had him going No. 1 or 2.

4. The next question with Darnold is going to be: When is he going to start? Get ready for months of speculation on that topic. Jets coach Todd Bowles said Darnold won’t be rushed, but he won’t be held back either if he is ready.

I spoke with former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington a few weeks ago on the quarterback prospects. Pennington has spent considerable time this offseason working with the quarterbacks. Here were his thoughts on Darnold:

“My thought process is he’s 20 years old. For any organization to think they’re going to dump a professional football team on a 20-year-old and think it’s going to work immediately, they’re fooling themselves,” Pennington said. “From a physical standpoint and potential, you really like what you see. You’re like, ‘Man, in three or four years this guy could be the guy.’”

5. Please spare me the “USC quarterbacks” thing. What Mark Sanchez or Matt Leinart did has nothing to do with Darnold. Did the careers of Michigan quarterbacks Brian Griese and Todd Collins mean anything for Tom Brady?

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