Todd Bowles set out to snag a good player on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. But the Jets coach also found one blessed with the speed he had been coveting.
Despite making phone calls to move both up and down in the draft order, the Jets ultimately stayed at No. 20 and selected Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee.
But Bowles and general manager Maccagnan were quick to point out that Lee (6-1, 232) will be an inside linebacker who will play behind Erin Henderson to start but has the ability to be a three-down player.
Lee can play outside too if needed, they pointed out.
“What intrigued us the most about him is, he’s a younger player but he’s very athletic,” Maccagnan said “…He brings the ability to improve our overall team speed.”
At first glance, Lee appears to be undersized for the position. But Bowles made it clear that the organization isn’t looking for the 21-year-old to bulk up.
“He doesn’t have to be a 240, 250 linebacker,” said the coach. “That’s not what we were looking for.”
At pick No. 20, the options were all there for the taking: a fresh-faced quarterback named Paxton Lynch. A dynamic outside linebacker in Myles Jack. And a wide receiver with blazing speed in Will Fuller. But the Jets felt Lee was their best fit.
“You knew on tape that he was a very fast linebacker,” Maccagnan said.
Added Bowles: “He makes us a lot faster.”
Lee, the fifth Ohio State buckeye to be drafted Thursday night, said he didn;t know the Jets would draft him. But he was happy they did.
“I just knew I had a great visit,” he said.
Asked what he brings to the field, Lee replied: “Definitely just playmaking ability and coverage.”