Once Trevor Lawrence stepped onto the football field, he was expected to be the No. 1 pick whenever he decided to make the leap to the NFL.
And once the Jets absentmindedly allowed Adam Gase to return as New York’s coach this season, it was expected that Gang Green would be the worst team in the league — and in the pole position to draft the Clemson quarterback.
Through nearly the halfway point of the NFL and college football seasons, nothing has changed — except maybe Lawrence’s attitude about entering the league following his junior year.
The nation’s top recruit in 2018, Lawrence has surely dreamed about being the No. 1 pick and leading a team to a Super Bowl. But landing on the Jets seems like somewhat of a nightmare, right?
While Lawrence can fantasize about the Patriots losing out and playing for Bill Belichick, or Sean Payton trading the farm to move up for Trevor Lawrence in the draft to replace Drew Brees on the Saints, or for the Cowboys to tank to avoid paying Dak Prescott, it’s looking more and more likely the Clemson superstar will be the Jets’ prized possession.
Unless Lawrence, seeing the dumpster fire that is Adam Gase’s Jets, pulls a Peyton Manning and returns for his senior season. Or, perhaps he takes a page out of Peyton’s brother’s playbook and tries to force a trade like Eli Manning did with the San Diego Chargers back in 2004.
In a recent interview, Lawrence didn’t exactly deny that he was contemplating it.
There's been plenty of talk lately about what Trevor Lawrence should do in regards to the @NFLDraft— Marc Whiteman (@MarcWYFFNews4) October 27, 2020
Would he reconsider coming back to school? "My mindset has been that I'm gonna move on, but who knows? There's a lot of things that could happen." pic.twitter.com/Z8xJIMnJV7
But that would be a poor decision for a player who has been described as the best QB prospect since Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
For a franchise that could go winless and join the Browns and Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history, the Jets could actually be an attractive option for the QB prodigy. In fact, the J-E-T-S are the best realistic landing spot for the projected No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
He Won’t Have to Deal with Adam Gase
There aren’t too many Gase truthers in the wild. That’s because the Jets’ main man is clearly the worst coach in the NFL.
Billed as an offensive guru, Gase might be the exact opposite.
But, in a savvy move by general manager Joe Douglas, he’s kept Gase around because he’s the perfect coach for a tanking franchise that needs Trevor Lawrence.
And despite the Jets being a complete embarrassment, Lawrence will never have to interact with Gase, ever. Not with a mask, not on Zoom, nowhere. There is a better chance that I get invited to Kim Kardashian’s 40th birthday bash on a lavish island than Gase has to return as Gang Green’s head coach.
With the No. 1 pick and the chance to take Lawrence, the Jets job becomes exponentially more attractive to potential coaches like, say, the Panthers’ Joe Brady, the Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy, or, heck, even Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
The first thing the Jets franchise should do is make sure Lawrence knows that Gase will be long gone and Lawrence will be able to start his career without having to deal with the man who ruined Sam Darnold.
They Have a Stud Left Tackle to Protect Him
The Jets might have stunned folks by taking the behemoth out of Louisville with the 11th pick in the latest NFL draft, but Becton has more than lived up to the hype.
The 6-foot-7 monster is an absolute freak on the field who has flashed All-Pro upside in his short career.
Is the NFL actually fair competition for Mekhi Becton? pic.twitter.com/i8OCm4iaDZ— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) October 26, 2020
Landing a superstar left tackle is huge for the Jets’ future and for protecting their potential franchise quarterback. As we’ve seen with other young quarterbacks on bad teams, it’s absolutely vital to keep your signal caller shielded from increasingly athletic — and terrifying — pass rushers. Being able to keep Lawrence upright should be priority No. 1 for the Jets, and having Becton anchor the left side of the line for the next decade will make Lawrence a very happy man.
However, Becton wasn’t their only solid selection.
The Rookie Class Looks Legit
The Jets are trash, sure, but their rookie class isn’t.
We’ve already talked about how great Becton looks, but he’s not alone.
Adam Gase said he’s noticed an “excited” Joe Douglas this week, which makes sense.— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) October 29, 2020
Becton (No. 11), Mims (No. 59), Davis (No. 68), Mann (No. 191) all expected to start. Perine (No. 120) will have a serious role. Zuniga (No. 79) could make debut
While the talent-deprived Jets have plenty of holes, therefore making it easier for rookies to start, it’s still a good sign that the Jets have seemingly unearthed multiple pieces from Douglas’ draft class.
Even with rookie receiver Denzel Mims missing time due to injury, his NFL debut Sunday was a solid start on a team lacking playmakers.
For the Jets to blast their way out of the cellar of the NFL, they’ll have to hit on their draft picks, and they’ll have plenty of opportunity to in the near future because…
They Have Five Picks in the First Three Rounds
The Jets rookie class is going to be really good. Good sign for things to come. They have a zillion picks in next 2 drafts.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 25, 2020
As NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah astutely pointed out, the Jets have a plethora of picks in the near future. In the 2021 NFL Draft, New York will have five picks in the top three rounds, including an extra first-rounder — thanks to the Jamal Adams trade.
In what’s looking like a talented draft class, this will be a pivotal moment for the Jets’ future. Of course, one of those firsts will be used on Lawrence, but that still gives the Jets four top-100 picks to play with. Franchises can make quick leaps when they start stacking successful draft classes together. The Jets will have that chance.
And if they want to find some quick fixes, they’ll have plenty of chances in the free-agent market.
They Have the Second-Most Cap Space
The NFL’s future salary cap is a deeply murky situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, but, according to OverTheCap, the Jets will have more than $72 million in cap space next year, second to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the cap potentially dropping down to $176 million, that’ll put multiple teams in peril and the Jets, with all that sweet, sweet space, will be able to splurge on the free-agent market. And with teams strapped for cash, they might even be able to get players on a discount.
That could be huge for a team that will have Lawrence on a cost-controlled rookie contract for at least four years.
With some solid draft picks and savvy signings, the Jets could be somewhat dangerous in the near future in what could be a pretty mediocre division.
The AFC East could be winnable in the near future
What was once a division owned by the Patriots, the AFC East is a lot more wide open now that Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay.
With the Patriots looking mortal, the Dolphins still in rebuild mode now that it’s Tua Time and the Bills struggling to become an AFC power, the Jets could see themselves as possible contenders as early as next season… if everything goes right.
While it’s unlikely that the Jets would go from worst to first in a year, it’s still a much easier proposition than being in a highly talented division such as the NFC West, AFC West or NFC South.
Plus, playing for the Jets has its perks. Seriously.
It’s New York!
OK, technically it’s New Jersey. But still! That’s better than living in Jacksonville, right?
The Jets -- and New York -- have been starving for a franchise quarterback for too long. If Lawrence realizes his massive potential, he could easily become one of the biggest stars in not only the NFL but in all of the major sports. And being in — or close to — New York would only help his marketability.
While there are other realistic landing spots that might sound rather nice — like the Giants, Jaguars and Vikings — the Jets offer the best combination of young talent, cap space, draft assets and the ability to grow with a new coach.
Hopefully, Lawrence realizes that before making a drastic decision.
Photo: Getty Images