By Michael Ferro
Name: Jamal Adams
Weight: 214 lbs.
School: Louisiana State University
Draft Pick: 6th overall in First Round
When you’re the sixth pick in any NFL draft, odds are that you can expect some big money coming your way. But after the New York Jets opened up a bunch of dead money by dropping veteran players, Jamal Adams was able to sign a contract that now makes him the second highest-paid player on the team.
Of course, the million dollar question (or, rather, $14.8 million dollar question) is whether or not Adams will live up to the high expectations now placed upon him. A safety out of Louisiana State, Adams drew plenty of praise heading into the draft and has quickly become a leader in the locker room and on the gridiron. It was no secret that general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles coveted the elite player on draft day, as evidenced by their wide smiles as his name was read for the Jets’ sixth overall pick.
There’s been nearly a dozen team activities and three mini camp practices since the draft and in that time, Adams has managed to make a believer out of many of his teammates, as well as the coaching staff. The safety is at the top of the depth chart and has been called the most talented player on the field.
Perhaps the hype is most justified when you look at Adams’ stats during just a single practice. Recently, the strong safety intercepted a pass, sacked the QB, made a diving pass breakup, and forced a fumble—all in one practice. Proving that Adams could become a jack of all trades on the defense would surely justify his salary which, compared to recent rookie contracts in recent years (before new rookie contract regulations were installed), is actually quite modest.
But being the second highest-paid player on the team is going to ensure that all eyes will be on the young athlete—not only with the fans, but with his fellow teammates. If Adams can live up to the demands put upon him, he can easily expect more money and playing time in the future, but if he stutters or fails, he could have quite a target on his back. Yet all indications are that this likely won’t be the case. The Jets have struggled on defense with a horrible secondary last season, allowing 50 pass plays of 20+ yards (14th most in NFL), 13 of 40+ (3rd most), and 30 passing touchdowns (6th most). As a defense, the Jets only intercepted eight passes throughout the season (2nd fewest). Having a dynamic safety creating chaos for opposing offenses will be key for New York to improve their numbers.
Perhaps one of the most impressive characteristics for 21-year-old Adams is his calm and collected presence on the field. Sure, he has yet to play a single down in the NFL, and things will be different in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans, but teammates and coaches alike are inspired by Adams’ comfortable demeanor.
Also encouraging is the return of 2016 rookie cornerback Juston Burris, who will have a bigger role this season, and the addition of second round safety pick Marcus Maye and the signing of cornerback Morris Claiborne in free agency. If Adams can act as the catalyst for this new defense, big things could be expected in the coming year for New York.