NFL

NFL mailbag: Jets’ mess, Chiefs defense and draft lottery

This week, I answer questions on what the New York Jets are doing, how the Kansas City Chiefs defense looks and trades that could happen this summer.

Sign me up. I don’t think it’s happening because the system isn’t broke, but can you imagine the drama?

It’s 2021. Trevor Lawrence is the best prospect since Andrew Luck. A team just went 2-14 and has the top pick, but the ping pong balls bounce right. The 7-9 team already with a quarterback gets the selection. Now, does said team take Lawrence and trade the veteran, or does it deal the pick for an obscene amount of draft capital? The intrigue would be insane both during lottery night and then throughout the months leading up to the draft.

So why won’t it happen? Because the NFL doesn’t have a tanking problem. Between a much shorter season, the win-now mentality within the sport and drafts that are very deep, teams simply don’t tank very often. Even when they appear to be tanking — think the 2017 Buffalo Bills — things can go unexpectedly.

I’m in the minority with being fine with the lottery system, but I’m also fine with the current model. It gives us the best shot at parity, and until the NFL has a tanking issue the way the NBA does, there’s not a real impetus for drastic change.

I’d be shocked if Adam Gase is still the general manager by June 1. Gase has enough to do with trying to learn a new roster and figuring out how to elevate second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Around the league, the expectations is that Joe Douglas, the current Vice President of Player Personnel with the Philadelphia Eagles, will end up with the job. Once the interviews for the position conclude, the decision should be quick.

Frankly, the whole thing is proving to be a circus for the Jets. I’ll delve deeper into this Monday morning when Stacking The Box drops, but New York was primed for a really nice year. The Jets added some big names, the Giants are a total mess and the AFC East is still dominated by the New England Patriots, but inroads were there to be gained.

While the Jets could still end up having a nice year, the stink of dysfunction is evident.

Kansas City trading a sixth-round pick for Darron Lee is a no-brainer. I’ve been reporting for almost two months that Lee was on the block, and apparently the firing of Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan helped to move him onto another destination.

So how does this shake out come training camp? My understanding is the Chiefs believe the only surefire starter at linebacker is Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is most-likely to play as the middle linebacker, but he could also play on the weak side.

Beyond that, it’s an open competition.

Last year as a rookie, Dorian O’Daniel showed his ability to cover backs and tight ends with his speed. His best fit is as a WILL, but the same can be said for Lee, who also covers well. At 24 years old, Lee still has 4.42 speed. He can also drop into coverage and plays the run a bit better than O’Daniel. Then there’s Reggie Ragland, who is a liability in coverage but can thump in the box.

The thought there is that the Chiefs will utilize Hitchens as a three-down linebacker while mixing and matching the other three based on down and distance. Kansas City believes all of them have specific strengths that can work in concert through different subpackages and personnel groupings.

As for Ragland being traded to Arizona, I’d be surprised. If the Chiefs trade for Patrick Peterson, it’s likely for draft picks and nothing else.

Xavier Rhodes. Xavier Rhodes. Xavier Rhodes.

The Chiefs have done a nice job rebuilding their defense, as outlined above. However, there’s a clear weakness at corner. Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller would be terrific as second and third options, but neither is a shutdown perimeter player. Rhodes is.

Rhodes, 28, was criticized in March by Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer for not playing up to his contract. Speaking of which, Rhodes counts for another $54 million against the cap for the next four seasons. Minnesota is in a nasty financial crunch and will likely need to either move Rhodes or tight end Kyle Rudolph. He wouldn’t be cheap, but Rhodes would give Kansas City perhaps the final piece to its championship puzzle.

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