With the 20th pick of the 2016 NFL draft, the New York Jets select Darron Lee, Linebacker, Ohio State. Lee is an extremely dynamic player, with speed and the ability to rush the passer. The NFL is getting quicker and Lee fits the mould. He isn’t the best at handling the big runners or blockers, but he is an athlete and flashes a little bit of everything in his game. This pick is a bit of a shock, with people possibly expecting a Quarterback here, however the Jets manage to get a very uniquely talented player. They upgrade their pass rush with this pick and they get a well-coached and quick player ready to play a role for the 2016 Jets. They picked who they thought was the best available and you can’t argue with that strategy.
In addition to the continuing trend for high numbers of underclassmen to enter each draft, it seems that the presence of redshirt sophomores on that list is on the up, with quite a number choosing to make themselves a part of the 2016 draft, and three from the Ohio State Buckeyes alone. Lee can back it up though, with two years of strong play and a prominent role on one of the best teams in the country over that period. His play in 2015 wasn’t quite as impressive as his spectacular redshirt freshman season for the 2014 national title winners, but that was a hard act to live up to. Lee isn’t ideally sized, but is another who fits the skill set looked for by NFL teams to make plays in space, drop in to coverage, cover a large area of the field and impact the pass game as much as the run game. Lee is smaller than the former Buckeye linebacker, but has received plenty comparisons in certain aspects to the man he replaced – the Steeler’s Ryan Shazier, with Lee also a fantastic athlete who can make highlight plays all over the field. Lee’s role is varied, being asked to do a lot of work in coverage where he looks natural and fluid, but also frequently deployed as a blitzer to great effect, particularly in his 2014 season where he totalled 16.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks. However, he does tend to get too enthusiastic, leading to missed tackles that could have been losses. Though he is a superb athlete, and doesn’t shy away from contact, his determination often only gets him so far, getting stuck on blocks and overpowered by bigger stronger players. There’s no questioning his instincts and field awareness though, along with a knack for making critical plays at big moments. Having a less than ideal body type isn’t going to keep him out of the first round.