As far as needs are concerned, defensive line is at the very top of the Jets list this year. Depth and youthare both concerns on the inside and outside of the line, and after skipping over the position the last two drafts, it is time Mike Tannenbaum pulls the draft day trigger on a defensive end.
The first Big Ugly we are going to take a look at is Cameron Heyward, a strong defensive end who has had a ton of hype throughout his college career but did not have as strong of a senior season as he might have hoped for. Not lacking in experience, Heyward has started on the defensive line since his Freshman year. Additionally, he is the son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Lauded for his off the field leadership, Heyward has become a perennial run stopper, yet has never fully developed into a dominant pass rusher. While he shows flashes of dominance, Heyward gets beat by seemingly inferior talent at times, especially when he cant get initial contact.
Heywards biggest strength is his size and….strength. At 6 foot 6, 287 pounds he is pretty much already ideal size for a 3-4 end. He has very powerful hands and is able to extend his long arms and create space when he makes initial contact. Heyward has above average instincts, which comes from him playing all four defensive line positions at one point while in college. He is able to stay low at the line and drive, which helps him on double teams, something he will see a lot of while at the 3-4 end spot. All of these traits make Heyward a force to be reckoned with stopping the run, however his pass rush has never fully developed and will need some work, especially at the next level.
Perhaps the biggest concern with Heyward is his lack of athleticism. He is pretty much a one trick pony, he engages and reads the play, a process that is far to slow to translate to the NFL. Aside from his lack of pass rush moves, he doesn’t seem to move fast enough to get to the QB. The combine should be huge for Cameron as he has the chance to show he is quick enough to pick in Round 1, or slow enough to wait for the second day. Aside from that, Walter Football’s evaluation states he takes entire games off, which is never a good sign.
I don’t think taking Heyward with the 30th pick would be a good move for the Jets. His name has been linked to the Jets because of their need for DE, but as we have seen, Rex does not put a premium on 3-4 ends, especially ones who can’t get to the QB. If the Jets had a 2ndround pick I would use it on this guy, but the front office has pressure on them to get 2 rounds worth of value with their first pick, and getting a run stopper akin to Mike Devito would not be great value. The Jets first pick must be able to make an immediate impact, Heyward needs to be coached up, and his immediate impact would be just as much as a Rent-A-Veteran while costing the team a lot more.