Who Should Draft Myles Jack in the First Round of the 2016 NFL Draft?
Have you ever seen Guardians of the Galaxy? It’s one of those super hero films that has taken over Hollywood over recent years.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a very smart film, one of, if not the smartest of the films of its kind. As is always the case in such films, there is a moment where the ensemble cast of heroes finds themselves trapped with the enemy closing in from all sides. They are exposed, unarmed and outmatched on an unfamiliar planet with no weapons or ships to fight against or escape from their more powerful counterparts. The heroes inevitably find a way out. It was predictable because of the films style but also came with a touch of genius.
The heroes jump into one-man pods that are used for construction. They have no weapons but the pods themselves are indestructible. Being indestructible meant the pods were the perfect weapon against the arriving army. No bullet, laser or weapon of any kind could impact its shell, while that shell could be used to crash through ships, leaving all kinds of devastation in its wake.
Myles Jack is one of those pods.
Jack has been projected to be a top-five pick in the draft for a long time. As soon as he stepped on the field for UCLA he was carving out a path of destruction. Jack played both running back and linebacker in college but where he lined up on the field was inconsequential for the most part. Whether Jack had the ball or was chasing the ball carrier, he played the game in the same way. He overwhelmed, obliterated and exploded through opponents to force his way to where he needed to be.
Nothing ever looked difficult for Jack in college. He always looked like the best athlete on the field and constantly played to that athleticism. Jack’s physicality made him herculean in perception.
Creating that perception came at a price though. The cruel workings of fate doused Jack before handing him a significant knee injury just in time for the beginning of his career. Jack was once a lock to go in the top six of the draft, but now it’s unclear if he will even go in the top 10. He could fall into the teens or as far as the playoff teams in the first round. Jack’s damaged cartilage will be considered differently by different teams but consensus opinion suggests that his career will be significantly curtailed one way or another.
The team that takes Jack needs to be prioritizing the short term over the long term. Although teams in the teens are doing their due diligence on Jack, the first team that fits that billing is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gus Bradley and David Caldwell can’t expect to still be employed if they endure another season like the three have watched over so far. Jack would immediately walk into the starting spot at middle linebacker, giving the Jaguars a middle of the field defender with range, discipline and physicality to drastically improve both the run and pass defense. Jack could also move around the field in nickel packages to alleviate the pressure on the Jaguars’ limited strong safety options.
Even if the Jaguars only get three or four years from Jack, those would be worth it if they helped to push the defense closer to where it needs to be.
After the Jaguars, the New York Giants would be next in line for Jack. Even though the Giants moved on from Tom Coughlin, they are still tied to 35-year old starting quarterback Eli Manning. Manning is ready to win now and Jerry Reese shouldn’t feel so comfortable in his feet that he can wait for another year or two to try and win one final ring with his quarterback. Reese typically doesn’t invest so much in off-ball linebackers but if he did, Jack would be able to start at any of the linebacker spots. He would immediately be the best player the Giants had in their back seven.
The New Orleans Saints are in a similar position to the Giants. They are married to Drew Brees and Sean Payton so the window to win is right now. Passing on Jack is feasible for the Saints because they have signed James Laurinaitis. If the Saints pass on Jack because of Laurinaitis that will be a huge mistake. Laurinaitis is the polar opposite of Jack, a tentative linebacker who lacks physicality at the point of contact and range in space. Jack and Stephone Anthony would offer the Saints versatility in the style of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
Immediately after the Saints, the Miami Dolphins should be waiting to pick up Jack. This seems like the most likely floor for Jack. Mike Tannenbaum likes big names and Jack is a big name. Having retained Cameron Wake and signed Mario Williams, the Dolphins are clearly trying to win right now even though they have a new head coach. Jack would immediately be their best linebacker and their second-best back-seven defender behind Reshad Jones.
Just consider the damage Jack could do behind Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jordan Philips.
The Atlanta Falcons will be interested in Jack, but it will be a tough decision for them to make as they weigh the long term against the short term. It could be a matter of who else is available at this point of the draft, 17th overall. There should be no such quandries for the Indianapolis Colts with the 18th overall pick. The Colts have no middle-of-the-field speed. Jack could start at inside linebacker or strong safety while playing in the slot in nickel packages. He is exactly what the defense has been lacking under Chuck Pagano.
Even though the New York Jets need to figure out their quarterback situation, Jack would be an extremely attractive option with the 20th overall pick. Todd Bowles would use his versatility more than any other coach and Jack would be light years better than any of the quarterbacks who will be available at that point of the draft. The Jets roster is built to win right now, it’s not a young, rebuilding unit, so they should prioritize the short-term impact that Jack could offer.
Once you reach the 20s, there are few teams who should pass on Jack. Each of these teams are theoretically competing for their conferences because they were playoff teams last year. At that point it becomes a matter of need and figuring out how much Jack would play. On a team such as the Carolina Panthers or Pittsburgh Steelers, his addition would have limited impact in year one because of the established players ahead of him on their respective depth charts.
Jack’s story is a sad one. This chapter isn’t going to have a happy ending, but if his knee holds up long enough then he should be able to thrive regardless. Falling as far as the second round could be a blessing-in-disguise for Jack. First-round picks are subject to options at the end of their contracts, meaning first-round contracts are essentially five year deals whereas second round contracts are only four-year deals.
The appeal for Jack is getting to free agency faster but the trade-off is losing money on the initial deal. Losing that money could be huge if his knee gives up before he can hit the open market.