New York Jets Draft Preview
The New York Jets have undergone a complete transformation this offseason, originating with the firings of the jaunty Rex Ryan and the stingy John Idzik. Rex took the cliché "defense wins championships" way too far, neglecting the offensive side of the ball in an effort to replicate the 1985 Chicago Bears or 2000 Baltimore Ravens. In today’s NFL you need a franchise quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Instead of trying to offset Rex’s hold over personnel decisions, Idzik did worse – he did absolutely nothing. Idzik’s inability to address gaping holes within the Jets roster, namely the cornerback position, eventually led to his ouster after a dismal 4-12 season. In only the first couple months of their tenure, Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have already setGang Green up for contention in the AFC, at the very least for a wildcard spot.Bowles knows how to win his players over and maximize their potential, while Maccagnan can identify quality talent…J.J. Watt, anyone?
Here’s a quick summary of what he Jets front office has accomplished since the start of free agency:
-Converted one of the worst secondaries in the league to if not the best in the NFL with the signings of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, and Marcus Gilchrist. Todd Bowles’ defense relies on dominant pass protection, enabling the fearsome defensive line to rush the quarterback every down.
-Upgraded the wide receiver position by trading a late-round pick for Brandon Marshall. Percy Harvin’s best days are behind him, and he is not a true number one wideout. The 6’4, 5-time Pro Bowler gives Geno Smith a top-notch redzone threat (helping his development), along with allowing Eric Decker to move toward his more natural role as the team’s number two receiver.
-Retained their defensive staple in David Harris.
-Signed James Carpenter to bolster their run blocking and Ryan Fitzpatrick to provide a legitimate backup at quarterback, who excelled in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system in Buffalo.
-Nabbed Stevan Ridley from the Patriots to invigorate the ground game. The Jets are hoping that history can repeat itself, with Ridley catapulting his career after the intra-divisional move à la Curtis Martin.
Looking forward to the NFL Draft in just a couple weeks, the Jets still have some work to do to feel comfortable with the roster heading into September. The team’s three biggest weaknesses are pass rusher, offensive line, and quarterback. Sitting at the sixth overall pick certainly gives the Jets plenty of options to address these needs, but unlike in the Rex Ryan era, the Jets should undertake the best player available strategy.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential scenarios and how the Jets should respond:
The Tennessee Titans do not take Marcus Mariota at #2.
Given the various needs of the three teams selecting before the Jets, the only way for Mariota not to land with the Jets is for another team like the Browns or Eagles to move up to #5. Would the Jets sell the farm and make sure that such a scenario cannot happen by swapping with the Titans? Certainly not. While Mike Mayock has recently rated Mariota above Winston, theJets do not have the time to wait on Mariota’s development as he moves from a spread offense to a pro system. Granted, Gailey has shown that he can work with any quarterback, but given the acquisition of Marshall and the other receiving options in the draft, the Jets should look to continue surround Geno Smith with talent and let the third-year quarterback improve off of his perfect Week 17 game against Miami last season. If the Redskins opt for a pass rusher at #5 and the Jets’ phone starts ringing, expect Gang Green to stockpile picks and address their other needs by taking an offensive lineman like LSU’s La’el Collins or Miami’s Ereck Flowers to plug at right tackle or Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree later in the first round.
The Raiders select Kevin White over Amari Cooper at #4.
While injecting youth into an aging pass rush is a top priority for the Jets, how could the Jets resist selecting the best player available when he falls into your lap? The 2014 Biletnikoff winner and Heisman finalist has all of the tools already to be a great NFL receiver. If you thought last year’s wide receiver class was good, 2015’s certainly has the potential to rival it. Cooper has the size, speed, and route-running ability to pick apart opposing defenses as he did in college. Giving Geno Smith another toy in Cooper would make the Jets’ receiving core scary good. Receivers in the NFL today can provide instant contributions, with Cooper having the potential to warrant a Pro Bowl nod in his rookie season.
Only pass rushers are available at #6. I have Florida’s Dante Fowler as the top pass rusher in draft, and it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Gus Bradley will look to beef up his defense with the local product. This leaves Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Missouri’s Shane Ray left on the board when the Jets are on the clock (I’m ruling out Nebraska’s Randy Gregory given his off-the-field issues despite his tremendous potential). While Beasley put up a spectacular Combine with his blazing speed after gaining weight for the event, I give the nod to Shane Ray given his relentless motor and tremendous ability to use his hands to shed blocks. When you come from the same system as fellow Mizzou defensive lineman and emerging star Sheldon Richardson, you can’t resist the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Anticipate the Jets targeting Cooper with the sixth pick, opting for a pass rusher if Mike Maccagnan does receive a phone call from another NFL executive. The Jets can wait to snag a pass rusher in the second round given the incredible depth in the draft, like Eli Harold from Virginia.