Let me start off this article by saying I believe the New York Jets will end up with Melvin Ingram in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday and that I support the move, even if it involves trading up a handful of spots. However, stranger things have happened and I do think the Jets will be watching the top six picks very closely with an eye to potentially make a blockbuster move to acquire running back Trent Richardson.
There is increasing chatter that the St. Louis Rams are looking hard at moving up to #3 to take Richardson and that if they don’t Cleveland will take him with the 4th pick. At this point it would be a shock if Richardson slides out of the top five, meaning that if the Jets want him, it is going to cost them.
Basically you are looking at swapping your first round pick, giving up a third rounder this year and your first rounder next year to get into the necessary position to take Richardson, the consensus third best player in this draft and without question the best running back available. Is it worth it?
The initial reaction by nearly everybody I have discussed this with is no. The Jets have glaring needs at safety, linebacker, right tackle and wide receiver that need to be addressed. You are giving up a valuable middle round pick this year and an important building block next year with your first round pick to acquire one player.
Yet, let’s think this through a little further. The Jets attempt to portray themselves as a “Ground and Pound” team. The problem is that they don’t have an elite running back. With Richardson, you are arguably getting the safest bet in this draft. A player who can step in immediately, play on all three downs and give you 20 carries a game. You want a 1,500+ yard back to spearhead your offense and make defenses fear your running game to help protect Mark Sanchez, now you have him. Beyond that, could you imagine attempting to defend Tim Tebow and Trent Richardson in the same backfield in short yardage situations? Good luck.
There is a trickle down effect to drafting Richardson. Shonn Greene now rolls down into the supporting back role he thrived at earlier in his career. He can give you 10-12 carries a game against defenses worn down by Richardson and finally begin popping some of the big runs he did earlier in his career when he was behind Thomas Jones on the depth chart. Joe McKnight can focus on becoming one of the league’s elite return men and be used on a specific package of plays that utilize his speed.
The Jets shortcomings on the offensive line will be minimized to an extent. Richardson is a good enough prospect to compensate for the occasional breakdowns in run blocking because he can make people miss. There will also be fewer pass attempts on offense with Richardson, Greene, McKnight and Tebow all there as rushing options. Beyond that, when you do throw, the play action will hold defenses more with a big time threat at running back in Richardson. Let’s face it, defense aren’t that scared of a potential handoff to Shonn Greene.
What about the rest of the holes? When you take Richardson, you are making that much more of a commitment to the running game, lowering the importance of the #2 wide receiver spot. Sign Braylon Edwards to the veteran’s minimum and spend one of your many compensatory picks on a prospect to develop behind him. Use your second round pick on a safety and sign Yeremiah Bell for depth. Linebacker? That is a tough one but maybe you give up Dustin Keller to acquire a middle round pick to draft one. Or you hope Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, and Aaron Maybin can hold the fort for a year. Your defense will be better as a byproduct of a dominant running game.
There are inevitable issues with trading for Richardson but a minimum you should have one of the league’s best running games, that in turn will make your quarterback, who thrives off play action, that much better. Even if the Jets make zero additions to their current defense, they will be decent on that side of the ball. They could pair that defense with an offense that actually strikes some fear into their opponents by adding a blue chip player like Richardson.