Jamal Adams unexpectedly slid a few spots down the draft board — and the New York Jets couldn’t believe their fortunes.
So, with the LSU safety still available, there was little doubt as to whom the Jets would take with the No. 6 overall pick.
“In a lot of our projections,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said Thursday night, “we really never had him getting to us.”
He was the best player remaining on the Jets’ board, Maccagnan acknowledged, and the son of former Giants running back George Adams will immediately help a secondary that struggled mightily last season. In three years at LSU, Adams had five interceptions and 127 tackles and established himself as a terrific defender in both man and zone coverage with solid skills in the run defense.
“He checked all the boxes for us,” coach Todd Bowles said.
This was the sixth time in franchise history that the Jets picked sixth, and second in three years after New York took defensive lineman Leonard Williams in 2015. That year, Williams unexpectedly dropped to New York — and the same thing happened with Adams, who was largely projected to go within the top three selections.
“He’s one of the guys we had targeted very high,” Bowles said.
Adams had largely been linked to Chicago at No. 3 in the weeks leading to the draft, but the Bears moved up one spot as the result of a trade with San Francisco and took North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Adams then slipped out of the top five picks, something that caught him off guard.
“I was definitely surprised I slipped, but at the same time, everything happens for a reason,” Adams said during a conference call.
In his predraft meeting with the team, Adams said the Jets told him that if he was still available when they picked, they would “come to get me” — no questions asked.
“They kept their word,” Adams said. “They delivered.”
Adams was widely praised for his leadership abilities, something the Jets coaches and scouts found when they first talked to him.
“We knew he was an Alpha dog coming in,” Bowles said. “The culture we’re trying to create, I think he’s perfect for our building.”
The Jets’ starting safeties last season were Calvin Pryor, a first-rounder in 2014 who has been a bit of a disappointment, and veteran Marcus Gilchrist, who is coming off a serious knee injury. The Jets have still not picked up the fifth-year option on Pryor, and the selection of Adams makes his future with the franchise a bit unclear.
Still, Bowles said he doesn’t limit his safeties to solely playing in the box or in coverage, so Adams’ versatility made him attractive — no matter who is currently on their roster.
“We feel we can play him anywhere,” Bowles said.
Maccagnan acknowledged that there were “a lot of conversations” leading up to the pick as to whether teams might be interested in trading with the Jets, but nothing materialized. So, New York stayed put at No. 6 and opted to not take a quarterback, even with Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes still on the board.
The Jets have veteran Josh McCown and the inexperienced Bryce Petty, a fourth-rounder two years ago, and Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder last year, on the roster. But there’s uncertainty as to whether the youngsters will be cornerstones for the future at the position.
“We’re very happy to get Jamal when we got him,” Maccagnan said. “I think our focus has always been, and I’ve said it very publicly, to get the best player available.”
Adams, who grew up in Texas, is excited to start his NFL career in the New York/New Jersey area, especially since his father played five seasons with the Giants. His mother, Michelle, is also from Yonkers, New York.
“I’m a city guy,” Adams said. “I think I have the right people surrounding me to help me get through my new life in the Big Apple.”