Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of New York Jets rusher Jermaine Johnson
Perhaps it’s the selection that finally teaches us to stop creating dummy drafts based on the needs of the position.
When the New York Jets entered Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft, the edge rusher position was far down the team’s list of important holes to fill. Still, they decided to close out their seven-man class by using a fourth-round high pick (117th overall) on Texas A&M rusher Micheal Clemons.
For the Jets to take Clemons — a nearly 25-year-old player in a strong position who has questions off the field — you know for a fact they had to be extremely optimistic about his skill level relative to the slot they’re in. chose. General manager Joe Douglas said the same thing when he called Clemons “the first [or] second-day talent.
Clearly Clemons was probably the best player available on the Jets’ roster by a significant margin, so they went ahead and took him despite his position, age and other red flags.
A quick look at Clemons’ statistical resume makes it clear why New York loved his talent enough to roll the dice on him.
Micheal Clemons was a dominant SEC passer in 2021
Clemons was a force in the passing game for Texas A&M last year. He put in big numbers and did it efficiently. In fact, he posted better stats in this phase than Jets first-round pick Jermaine Johnson (see more on Johnson’s pass-rush numbers here).
Over 10 games in 2021, Clemons has 46 total pressures, ranking fourth among SEC edge rushers and tied for 32nd among all FBS edge rushers. Those 46 pressures included 8 sacks (six full/two halves), 11 QB hits and 27 QB dispatches.
Collecting his 46 pressures from a total of 328 pass-rush snaps, Clemons recorded a pressure rate of 14.0%, which ranks in the 84th percentile among qualified FBS edge rushers.
Comparatively, Johnson had an equivalent total of 46 pressures last season, but he had two more games and another 87 quick passes. His pressure rate was 11.1% (62nd percentile).
Clemons’ win rate was 15.7%, good enough for the 71st percentile. That’s a respectable number, even if it’s well below his pressure rating. Johnson was also well behind Clemons in this category, with his 14.1% win rate ranking at the 60th percentile.
Of course, Clemons was 24 last season, which takes away from the impressiveness of his numbers. Good production should have been expected from him given that he faced players who could have been up to five years younger than him.
Clemons is actually a few months older than Quinnen Williams, who the Jets drafted in 2019.
It’s worrying that Clemons only started dominating last year. In his first three years with the Aggies (2017, 2019, 2020), Clemons had a 7.6% pressure ratio (39 pressures on 512 pass-rush snaps), which is well below the league average. post. It took him a while to stand out from his peers.
While Clemons’ age puts a glaring asterisk on his output, the bottom line is that he put up top numbers as a passing thrower last year. He enters the NFL having shown that he is capable of getting after the quarterback at a solid level of efficiency.
To allay concerns about his age, Clemons will have to rapidly prove he can translate his collegiate output to the NFL. The league is unlikely to have much patience for the development of a fourth-round pick who is the same age as NFL veterans who are already on their second contract.
Run defense is a concern for Clemons
Aside from his age and his off-court issues, Clemons’ run defense is the main weakness that brought him down in the fourth round despite his prowess in the passing game.
Clemons earned a 65.5 run defense rating at Pro Football Focus in 2021, which ranked only in the 46th percentile among qualified rushers. That’s a disappointing ranking for a 24-year-old player with exceptional physical tools (which we’ll talk about in the next section).
As a running defender, Clemons struggled with both finishing and play.
Clemons missed six tackles against the run. His 18.8 percent missed tackle rate against the run ranked in the 18th percentile among top rushers.
Clemons also showed no signs of making key saves in the running game. He made just 10 run saves on 218 snaps against the run, a 4.6% rate that ranks in the 28th percentile among top rushers.
Physical and athletic profile
Boasting remarkable length, Clemons has the perfect build for a 4-3 defensive end.
Here’s a look at some of Clemons’ measurables and their ranking among the top rushers in NFL combine history:
- Height: 6′ 5¼” (86th percentile)
- Weight: 263 pounds (39th percentile)
- Wingspan: 83⅛” (88th percentile)
- Arm length: 34⅞” (89th percentile)
- Hand circumference: 10″ (58th percentile)
Clemons competed in the bench press and wide jump at the combine, then performed other drills on his pro day.
Here are Clemons’ sports test numbers and their respective Relative Athletic Score (RAS) ratings on a scale of 0-10 (0.0 being the worst ever for a peak prospect, 10.0 being the best, and 5 ,0 being the 50th percentile):
- Bench press: 24 repetitions (7.12)
- Vertical jump: 35″ (8.41)
- Long jump: 116″ (6.74)
- 40 yard run: 4.85s (5.93)
- 10-yard split: 1.65s (7.88)
- Shuttle 20 yards: 4.45s (5.81)
- 3 cones: 7.20s (7.20)
Clemons’ 40-yard rush time of 4.85 seconds is only slightly above average for the position (5.93 RAS), but he showed his impressive burst with a much better split time 10-yard 1.65 seconds (7.88 RAS). His vertical leap of 35 inches (8.41 RAS) is further proof of his explosiveness.
Clemons played both sides of the line for the Aggies but leaned slightly to the left side. He played 60.0% of his defensive snaps on the left side of the defensive line in 2021.
Clemons primarily played defensive end with his hand in the dirt, but was often asked to stand up and play outside linebacker on the edge. He got up in an outside linebacker lineup on 37.0% of his snaps.
Micheal Clemons can be a useful situational rusher for the Jets
As a rookie, I’d expect Clemons to compete for snaps as a situational passing thrower at the defensive end in the Jets’ 4-3 scheme, likely jockeying for third and fourth on the depth chart EDGE behind Carl Lawson and Jermaine Johnson. Bryce Huff, Jacob Martin and Vinny Curry will probably be his main competitors.
I’d be surprised if Clemons becomes a star or a much-above-average starter down the line. His run defense is questionable and his age suggests his cap is very limited.
However, Clemons’ long build, explosive flurry, high-level production a year ago, and vast experience/age combine to give him a strong chance of providing better rookie contributions than most fourth-round picks. round. He has a good chance of carving out a role right away even if his long-term potential isn’t supreme.
Clemons is a solid element in the Jets’ defense and should be able to turn that into a decent dose of passing shots this year. He will provide the ability to produce splashy moments as a passing thrower from time to time, allowing the Jets to rest their starters while maintaining off-the-edge explosiveness in passing situations.