Jets’ raging first-round NFL Draft debate is all about Sam Darnold

Jets’ raging first-round NFL Draft debate is all about Sam Darnold


What would Sam Darnold do?

When the Jets’ No. 11-overall pick in the first round arrives in the NFL draft Thursday night, what will be the preference of their franchise quarterback, if the choice were up to him: left tackle or No. 1 receiver?

That, of course, is a loaded — if unfair — question to ask of Darnold. So, I’ll answer it for him: Plead with general manager Joe Douglas, a lifer offensive lineman, to take the best receiver in the draft if he has the pick of the big-play litter at No. 11.

Darnold has played his first two seasons without a true No. 1 receiver, and his best target, Robby Anderson, has departed as a free agent. The Jets ranked second-to-last in the NFL in points scored last season, in large part because of their weak receiving corps.

So, if the draft breaks the way many of the mocks predict and the top tackles have been selected, leaving the Jets staring Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb or Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III in the face at No. 11, pounce. Make Darnold better immediately and spark an offense that has been dormant for too long.

In the past 11 drafts, the Jets have used their first-round pick on a defensive player 10 times. The last receiver they chose in the first round was Santana Moss in 2001.

Enough already. Give Darnold a chance to be great by giving him a legitimate weapon in the passing game for the first time in his career.

The Post this week reached out to five former NFL quarterbacks, four of whom played in New York, to pose that WWSDD question. We got mixed reactions.

“I want the tackle, because the tackle helps me in a lot more ways than the receiver does,’’ former Jets quarterback and current WFAN radio host Boomer Esiason said.

“Every team needs three or four things really bad, but the Jets need a wide receiver really bad,’’ former Giants quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms said. “If the Jets take CeeDee Lamb, that would be a big victory them and for Sam Darnold. It will make it easier on him and clarify things for him. There’s nothing like having a go-to guy.’’

Josh McCown, who played for the Jets in 2017 and ’18 and became an invaluable mentor and confidant to Darnold his rookie season, buys exactly what Simms was selling.

“As my 23-year-old self who got to play with [star receivers] Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin [in Arizona] … and if I’m Sam seeing one of my weapons just leave town (Anderson), it’s hard not to say receiver,’’ McCown said. “You can do things to help a left tackle. But it’s hard to help a receiver. You can’t make him a deep threat. He’s either born with that or not.

“There’s certain guys that you can scheme and help them get open, but when you’re picking at 11, you have a chance to get someone that you don’t have to do that for, someone that can dictate coverage. And if that guy can win and he can win quick, then your left tackle is rendered moot anyway.’’

One person who doesn’t care if every one of the top receivers is available at No. 11 is ESPN draft analyst Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback. He’s adamant about Douglas picking a tackle.

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“If I’m Sam Darnold, that means I’m 23 years old and the 23-year-old in me is calling [Douglas] and saying, ‘I want the receiver,’ ’’ Orlovsky said. “The reality is that’s not the best thing for Sam. The best thing for Sam is for him to not be getting his face split in half on every play.’’

Esiason and former Jets backup quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy both agree with Orlovsky’s philosophy.

McElroy said it’s all about the “value of the positions and knowing the wide receiver is not necessarily a premier position’’ compared to tackle.

“If you’re going to say, ‘Can I have Anthony Munoz or Eddie Brown,’ I’d say, ‘Give me Anthony Munoz, because Anthony Munoz is going to affect the other four players on the line of scrimmage with him,’ ’’ Esiason said, referring to his Hall of Fame left tackle and top receiver with the Bengals. “The wide receiver is the playmaker and he stretches the field and all those things that we all like to talk about, but the tackle helps in the run game, the tackle helps in the pass game.’’

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