TOJ New York Jets Mock Draft 2.0

TOJ rounds up all the recent mock drafts and gives his selection for who the New York Jets will be taking with the 16th pick in the draft

The NFL Draft is now 13 days away. Here is an updated look at what multiple mock drafts have the New York Jets doing with the number 16 pick in the first round, along with our current projection. Why look at the TOJ projection?…Because we were right the past two years –

Kyle Wilson

Muhammad Wilkerson (#2 in the 12 pack)

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Charles Davis, NFL.com – Dont’a Hightower, Inside Linebacker, Alabama

Albert Breer, NFL.com – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois

Todd McShay, ESPN – Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, Syracuse

Rob Rang, CBS – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois

DrafTek – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

TOJ – Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, South Carolina

Analysis – A few general trends since the middle of last week – Courtney Upshaw appears to be falling to the point that he will definitely be available at number sixteen but there is a feeling the New York Jets could pass on him. We have written about our concerns on Upshaw here before. The Jets need an explosive pass rusher and while Upshaw should turn out to be a solid pro, he could be too much in the mold of Calvin Pace. He will stop the run, set the edge but never be a consistent double digit sack guy.

On the other hand, safety Mark Barron is climbing the boards and it is being speculated he won’t get past Dallas at #14. Personally, I’d prefer Barron to Upshaw at #16 if both remain available but that is seemingly less likely every day. Wide receiver Michael Floyd isn’t expected to get out of the top ten and it’d be a big surprise if the Jets had a shot at him if they stay put.

Personally, I am buying into the Jets professed love of Ingram. The reports from his Pro Day were that they were the most smitten with him and that Jacksonville isn’t interested in him at #7, where most people had him projected to go. Assuming Miami takes Ryan Tannehill at #8, it would seem the Jets could trade up to #9 to get their hands on him. According to the draft board, they’d have to give up their second round pick but would likely get a fourth rounder back.

I think Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office have had a quiet, somewhat confusing off-season. From his past history, Tannenbaum loves to trade up and make a splash to get players the team highly desires. He did it for Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and Dustin Keller. Rex Ryan sees Ingram as Adalius Thomas 2.0. An explosive player who can line up at any spot in the front seven. This is a player that the Jets don’t just want, it is a player that they need. I say they swing the deal and then look to target safety Markelle Martin with their third round pick.

At the moment, here are my projections for the Jets first round pick in descending order of likelihood:

5. Stay Put and Take Michael Floyd – I highly, highly doubt he falls to #16 but if he does, the Jets will strongly consider him especially if they miss out on Ingram and Barron.

4. Trade Back For Andre Branch or Chandler Jones – If the Jets trade back into the mid to late 20s, they could target one of these pass rushers. Tannenbaum rarely trades back but if he can’t move up for Ingram and isn’t sold on Upshaw, this could make the most sense.

3. Stay Put and Take Courtney Upshaw – Seemingly less likely by the day, the Jets may actually even be able to trade back 4 or 5 spots and still take him.

2. Stay Put or Trade Up A Few Spots For Mark Barron – If Barron gets to 16, I think the Jets will take him. If they miss out on trading up for Ingram, they could look to leapfrog Dallas to take Barron.

1. Trade Up For Melvin Ingram – This will be a headline grabbing move that actually makes football sense.

When Quarterback Rankings Go Wrong: Jason Smith Of NFL.com

A recent ranking of NFL quarterbacks by Jason Smith of NFL.com has TOJ scratching his head

Jason Smith is a fantasy football writer for NFL.com. However, he recently ranked the top 32 quarterbacks in the league not based on their fantasy projections but just on where each quarterback in the NFL currently ranks heading into 2012 overall as a player. The list was a head scratcher to say the least, particularly with his classification of Mark Sanchez who continues to receive zero respect from any mainstream media analysts.

Sanchez is number 23 on this list. Behind Andrew Luck, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer, Robert Griffin III, and Jake Locker. Let’s ignore the fact that Sanchez has more playoff wins (4) than all of these players combined (0) and then just compare stats.

In 2011, Sanchez threw for 3,747 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions with a 56.7 completion percentage. He also ran for 6 touchdowns, en route to leading his team to 8 wins. One other note, Sanchez has missed 1 start in 3 years of being a NFL starter.

Sam Bradford missed 6 starts last season. When he was on the field, he threw 6 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and had a 53.7 completion percentage. After a strong rookie year, he regressed. Sanchez has improved every single year since coming into the league.

Josh Freeman did have a higher completion percentage than Sanchez last year, at 62.8. He also threw for less yards at 3,592 and threw 22 interceptions to 16 touchdowns on a team that won 4 games. He regressed substantially in his third year, while Sanchez…at least statistically, did not.

Carson Palmer went 4-6 as a starter last year for Oakland, while throwing 13 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He was also outplayed by Sanchez head to head in a playoff game in 2009, when the Jets beat Cincinnati in their building.

As a rookie, Jack Locker played meaningful snaps in three games. All three were losses. He threw a total of 66 passes last year. In Sanchez’s rookie year he won two road playoff games and started 15 regular season games.

Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck haven’t played a NFL snap yet. They could be Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf for all we know.

Other crazy parts of this list include Matt Ryan being listed ahead of Jay Cutler and Tony Romo. Ryan Fitzpatrick being ranked higher than Alex Smith and Tim Tebow not being included while Colt McCoy and Chad Henne are.

New York Knicks: Finding A Way In Big Spots

TOJ on the New York Knicks finding a way to gut out a win in Milwaukee last night

The New York Knicks can be infuriating to watch at times. This season has been a bizarre roller coaster of about five different teams, all of which are deeply flawed but unquestionably talented. The current version is entirely too reliant on Carmelo Anthony on the offensive end and is still prone to mind numbing lapses on defense despite having two candidates for first team All-Defense in Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert.

Prior to this week starting, we knew the Knicks would need to split with Chicago and beat Milwaukee if they wanted a chance to make the playoffs. They pulled it off. Last night was a textbook example of this team finding a way despite their flaws. Milwaukee gave them their best shot in their building. Monta Ellis finally woke up and ripped off 35 points. Brandon Jennings hit a number of ridiculous shots en route to 22 points. Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders were blocking shots like Serge Ibaka and Dwight Howard but the Knicks still prevailed.

The primary reason is that Carmelo Anthony is playing as well as he ever has in his career. He dropped in 32 points on an efficient 13-26 from the field, along with grabbing 10 rebounds. Whenever the Knicks offense begins to sputter, he has found a way to bail them out. His support on the offensive end has been erratic at best. Tyson Chandler added 19 last night but really at this point JR Smith or Iman Shumper is the team’s number two scoring option.

Smith has been wildly inconsistent. He literally has zero conscience and will continue to jack up shots and make head scratching plays mixed in with making unbelievably difficult shots and distributing the ball like a point guard. Last night he was brutal for 3 and a 1/2 quarters but woke up when it mattered most and hit what turned out to be the game winning 3 pointer in the final minute. Simply put, he deserves the minutes over Landry Fields, a shooting guard who can’t shoot. I like Landry’s intangibles but you can’t play him in crunch time.

At point guard, Baron Davis is the starter in name only. He logged a forgetful 19 minutes last night and had more turnovers than assists. For some reason Davis repeatedly drives into the paint and passes up an easy shot to attempt a difficult pass that is usually stolen. The Knicks crunch time point guard is turning into rookie Iman Shumpert who played 42 minutes last night. We know how good Shumpert is on defense but his offense game still has a ways to go. He is inconsistent shooting the ball but similar to Smith, doesn’t lack confidence to attack the basket.

So this is what you have with the Knicks. A team entirely too reliant on an erratic shooting guard and a rookie point guard but a gutsy team that has shown an ability to scrap out wins. When you play defense and with confidence on offense, the wins will come. Will they come consistently enough to win a playoff series? That is the question that still needs to be answered.

New York Jets: A New Rex Ryan On The Way?

What kind of changes will we see from Rex Ryan this year?

Last week New York Jets owner Woody Johnson made headlines by saying he would like to see his team on HBO’s Hard Knocks for a second time in three years. Today, head coach Rex Ryan made headlines by saying he doesn’t want his team featured on the show, apparently wanting to move away from the circus atmosphere surrounding the team last year that he helped perpetuate.

I am not sure how much of an impact Hard Knocks would have either way on the Jets season but this an admirable move by Ryan to stand up to ownership. Without question, Ryan’s pride took a major shot last year. A guy known as a players coach admittedly lost the pulse of his team, watched his locker room turn ugly and his team miss the playoffs for the first time of his career. The defense and running game he built his success on floundered last season.

Look for this to be the first of many moments this year where Rex pulls it back a little bit when it comes to the media. I am not saying he will change his personality entirely but look for a much more focused, slightly angrier approach from Ryan this season.

In the long run, last year could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Ryan’s coaching career. He learned a valuable lesson about needing to be a true head coach not just a glorified defensive coordinator, along with how his comments could paint a target on his team’s back. Ryan should be more hands on when it comes all elements of the team this season and likely won’t be grabbing as many headlines with his press conference statements. I am not saying his attention grabbing statements will disappear entirely, and they shouldn’t, he just needs to pick his spots.

Rex Ryan has a very good defensive mind and had the right idea when he took over the Jets to build an identity around that defense and a power running game. His primary focus this season will be getting back to that.

Santonio Holmes Organizes Team Workouts In Florida

Santonio Holmes has organized workouts for his teammates and notes on the Jets in free agency

It was reported today by Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger that Santonio Holmes reached out to teammates about holding organized workouts in Florida. He has since been joined by quarterback Mark Sanchez, wide receiver Patrick Turner and tight end Dustin Keller with running back Joe McKnight also on the way.

The words coming from the workouts are encouraging, with Sanchez leading his teammates a few other players through offensive sessions, hopefully from incorporating what he learned about Tony Sparano’s offense from Chad Pennington.

Obviously this is what you want to hear after reported disagreements between Sanchez and Holmes last season. To most of the media, Holmes has bought himself the role of villan thanks to his actions in the regular season finale and from his inconsistencies, Sanchez has bought himself the role of hapless quarterback waiting to be benched for a guy who can’t complete an out route.

Yet, we know this: since the season ended Sanchez has tracked down Chad Pennington to take time to learn his new offense, has avoided the media spotlight and now is working out with his top two targets. Santonio Holmes has done charity work in Africa, worked out in Florida and now invited his teammates to join. Not bad for a pair of guys who are frequently discussed only in negative terms.

Other Notes

– Don’t expect the Jets to make any moves in free agency until the dust settles after the draft. They will then assess their depth chart and likely add a couple of low cost players to boost their depth on both sides of the ball.

Something to think about when wondering why the Jets are keeping cap space available.

New York Jets: Considering Trade Up For Melvin Ingram?

Are the New York Jets high enough on linebacker Melvin Ingram to trade up for him?

Throughout the previous few months we have heard the New York Jets were high on South Carolina outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. In recent days, talk of that interest has only intensified. Today, Evan Silva from Rotoworld and NBC Sports had this to say on the Jets and Ingram –

“Word at South Carolina Pro Day last month was Jaguars don’t want Melvin Ingram, just posturing. Jets though are smitten with Ingram. Might move up. Rex Ryan apparently sees Adalius Thomas like qualities in Ingram…versatile pass rusher who can drop and cover.”

It should come as no surprise that Ryan is in love with a player who could line up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end and even defensive tacke. With the realization that Courtney Upshaw may not be the explosive pass rusher the team needs, the Jets should seriously consider making an aggressive move to get Ingram.

The Jets will need to move up into the top ten to take Ingram. If Jacksonville (with pick #7) truly isn’t interested, they could target swapping picks with Carolina who holds the number 9 spot. Miami won’t do business with them at #8 and they are likely taking quarterback Ryan Tannehill anyway. If the Jets want to play it very safe, they could look to swap with St. Louis at #6 who is reportedly looking to move back and acquire more picks.

What will it cost the Jets to move up? It is hard to say because the old draft value board isn’t as reliable anymore with the changes to the rookie wage scale. However, DraftTek has put together this value board for this year which shows to move from #16 to #9, the Jets would either have to trade their second round pick and get a fourth rounder back or trade a third rounder this year and next year, approximately.

Is the price worth it? If Ingram turns out to be a game changer who can play four different positions on Rex Ryan’s defense, I’d say so. Last season he racked up ten sacks, two interceptions, fifteen tackles for a loss and three touchdowns, including one on a 68 yard fake punt.

New York Rangers: NHL Playoffs First Round Preview

Rob Celletti previews the New York Rangers series versus the Ottawa Senators and the rest of the NHL’s opening round

On Thursday, Madison Square Garden’s “other” tenants begin their push for what is often called the most difficult trophy in sports to win: The Stanley Cup.  The New York Rangers, winners of the Atlantic Division crown and the number one seed in the Eastern Conference will face an interesting test from their first round opponents, the Ottawa Senators.

Having watched an overwhelming majority of the Rangers 82-game regular season (it’s true, I have no life), this matchup seems like a blessing when compared to what seemed like the most likely scenario just a week ago: a rematch with the Washington Capitals, who swiftly knocked the Rangers out of the first round last season in just 5 games.  Yes, the roles were reversed – the Caps the #1 seed last year, the Rangers #8 – but the Capitals remain extremely dangerous because of the presence of Alexander Ovechkin, one of the few non-goaltenders in the modern NHL capable of dominating a series like Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky in decades past.

Instead, the Rangers face an Ottawa team that is front-loaded with skill and speed, but one that is neither very deep nor very tough. The Rangers made their mark this season playing playoff-style hockey throughout their 82-game schedule.  They paid extraordinary attention to defense, blocked a ridiculous amount of shots and relied somewhat heavily on their goaltending. When playing their best, the Rangers are also a very physical team that’s capable of scoring enough, despite what some pundits think (2.71 goals per game, good enough for 11th in the league). Their previously woeful power play has shown signs of life during the final few weeks of the season.

While it’s true that an average goaltender (like Ottawa’s Craig Anderson) getting hot can change the tenor of a series and render the seedings meaningless, it’s hard not to pick the Rangers to sweep this series based solely on the goaltending matchup.  Henrik Lundqvist is slowly but surely entering the mainstream of the New York sports lexicon (the New York Times’ 5-page profile on him from over the weekend is evidence enough) and has not hesitated to mention that he already feels like “the clock is ticking” on his chances to win a Stanley Cup.  The motivated Lundqvist put together a season that should net him the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. But he wants to accomplish much more than that.

If Lundqvist plays at a high level and the Rangers avoid major injuries, they’re expected to make a deep playoff run this spring  In terms of this first round series against Ottawa, I expect the Rangers to – pardon the cliche – pound Ottawa into submission. They’re simply a more physical team that has been through one of the most challenging and ultimately rewarding regular seasons in team history. Ottawa’s top line of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson poses a threat, but the Rangers boast arguably the best pair of shutdown defensemen in the NHL in Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who will no doubt spend most of their time opposite the Senators’ stars. In addition to the Rangers usual scoring suspects Marian Gaborik (3rd in the NHL with 41 goals) and Brad Richards (playoff MVP for the Cup-winning Lightning in 2004), look for Brandon Dubinsky to have a big spring as well.

Prediction: Rangers in 5

And now for quick predictions on the other 7 first round series in the NHL:

Eastern Conference

#2 Boston vs. #7 Washington – Capitals in 6

#3 Florida vs. #6 New Jersey – Devils in 5

#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Philadelphia – Penguins in 7

Western Conference

#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Los Angeles – Canucks in 6

#2 St. Louis vs. #7 San Jose – Blues in 7

#3 Phoenix vs. #6 Chicago – Blackhawks in 6

#4 Nashville vs. #5 Detroit – Predators in 7

New York Jets: 2nd and 3rd Round Safety and Linebacker Prospects

A run down of outside linebackers and safeties the New York Jets could target with their 2nd or 3rd round pick

The New York Jets are in need of both an outside linebacker and a safety. Unfortunately, both holes won’t be filled with the 16th pick unless the team trades down and acquires more picks later in the draft, although they will be selecting from a decreased pool of talent if they choose that route. Fortunately, the Jets also have the 47th and 77th pick in the draft to address whatever they don’t address in round one. Here is a look at a few players they could target either at safety or outside linebacker:

Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame – Opinions vary widely of him, with some seeing Smith as a borderline first round pick and others thinking he looks more like a third or fourth round prospect, Smith is versatile enough to play in the box and off the ball in the center field role. As a junior he had 7 interceptions but followed up last year with zero despite having 10 pass break ups. He performed well at the combine which has seemed to stabilize his stock as a second round pick. Smith was a two year captain at Notre Dame.

Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson – The Jets have shown a good amount of interest in Branch, who could sneak into the bottom of the first round which means they may have to trade up from 44 to grab him. Last season he had 10.5 sacks, with 4 coming in a single game against Virginia Tech. Branch had a strong combine and pro day, showing good speed and explosiveness. There is some concern about him transitioning into a full time outside linebacker but in the Jets defense, he will get to put his hand in the dirt in some pass rushing situations.

George Iloka, Safety, Boise State – He has good size (6’4, 225 pounds) but many of the pre-draft concerns are about his pass coverage skills and stiffness in his hips, which would be an issue since the Jets signed their inside the box safety in LaRon Landry. Iloka didn’t record any interceptions last season and had a couple of shouting matches with coaches on the sideline.

Markelle Martin, Safety, Oklahoma State – Considered a pure free safety. In 2010 he won the Alamo Bowl MVP thanks to a 62 yard interception return for a touchdown and breaking up two other passes. Last season, he had 74 tackles, 11 pass break ups but zero interceptions. Martin also recently had a pinched nerve in his knee which made him miss working out at the NFL Combine. He is 6-1, 207 pounds.

Vinny Curry, Outside Linebacker, Marshall – He racked up 11 sacks last season, and was able to run a 4.64 at his Pro Day despite being 266 pounds. There has been some chatter about him sneaking in the first round because of his versatility to play both in a 4-3 and 3-4 system. Obviously, the Jets seek versatile players because of their high number of personnel packages. He could end up producing at the same level of a player like Courtney Upshaw despite going lower in the draft.

Ronnell Lewis, Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma – Starting to receive a good amount of hype as a great value pick in the second round. Lewis is a solid all-around player who was nicknamed “The Hammer” by his teammates…sounds like the type of player Rex Ryan would be interested in. Last season he had 59 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Lewis has had injury issues in the past with his back and knee.

Trumaine Johnson, Safety, Montana – He has good physical skills, running a 4.5 forty at 6-2, 204 pounds and performed well at the combine. The Jets might be a little gun shy about taking a FCS level player after seeing how Vladimir Ducasse has developed but if coached up properly, he was the ability to turn into a very good player in time. Last season he had two interceptions and played well against Tennessee with 7 tackles, a pass break up and a forced fumble.

Bruce Irvin, Outside Linebacker, West Virginia – Irvin could be Aaron Maybin 2.0, at 245 pounds and with a ton of speed to get after the passer. But what else can be bring to the defense along with situational pass rushing? I am not sure you could play him and Maybin at the same time. He record 8.5 sacks last year after having 14 the year before.

New York Jets: Concern About Courtney Upshaw

TOJ looks at the New York Jets options at number 16 in the NFL Draft and if taking Courtney Upshaw is a smart move

The prevailing logic on the New York Jets first round pick has them selecting a pass rusher in the first round. Most draft boards have Courtney Upshaw still being available for them with the 16th overall pick. Yet, is Upshaw good value for the Jets at #16, especially if safety Mark Barron or wide receiver Michael Floyd is still on the board?

Since the off-season has started, I have written that wide receiver is not a priority position for this team. With the way their offense is built it doesn’t make sense to spend a first round pick on a receiver to put opposite of Santonio Holmes, who you have already invested huge money in. That being said, Floyd is pretty much regarded as a clear cut top ten talent right now and arguably being on the same level as Justin Blackmon. The Jets would be getting a needed big play weapon and a player who could take away double teams from Santonio Holmes, making him more productive. It is a selection that takes away from the Ground and Pound identity they are trying to build but ultimately could substantially improve their offense.

A more practical solution could be looking to move the pick if Floyd is available. There should be a line of teams anxious to get their hands on him and the Jets should be able to collect an extra second or third round pick for moving back, which will give them more versatility and options in the top 100 selections of the draft with plenty of mid-round talent.

When it comes to Barron or Upshaw, most people’s initial reaction is to take the pass rusher now and worry about safety later. If you are sold on Upshaw as a game changer rushing the passer, that is the right move but if not, it isn’t so clear cut.

Upshaw isn’t on Melvin Ingram’s level when it comes to explosiveness, speed or versatility. I am all for the Jets making an aggressive move to get Ingram but if they are going to stay put at 16 and miss out on him, Barron could be a better option.

At 279 pounds and looking more like a 4-3 end than a 3-4 outside linebacker, Upshaw could very well translate in Calvin Pace 2.0. He is going to be a productive NFL player but will he give the Jets another outside linebacker who is solid against the run, struggles in coverage and maxes out at 8 sacks in a season because he lacks elite burst off the ball? That type of addition certainly would help the defense but the Jets could survive with Pace and Bryan Thomas playing the bulk of reps for another year if that is the case.

The Jets currently have serious depth issues at safety. Right now the depth chart is LaRon Landry who has major durability concerns. Eric Smith who needs to be a role player, not a starter and Tracy Wilson who has never played a meaningful NFL snap…that’s it. This defense needs a player who can step in and start immediately. Can the Jets risk that with a 2nd or 3rd round pick or should they take the safer route with Barron if he is on the board?

I am not advocating for the Jets to ignore outside linebacker/pass rusher because they need one but maybe that is the position they look to address in round two or three, or even trading up into the back end of round one. Remember the Jets have veterans in place who can play the bulk of the reps at outside linebacker. They don’t have that at safety. If you have Barron or Upshaw to choose from and you grade out Barron higher, take Barron.

Carmelo Anthony Takes Over

TOJ on the show Carmelo Anthony put on at MSG today

The performance Carmelo Anthony put on at Madison Square Garden today was the type that made you laugh at anybody who regretted giving up Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and the immortal Timofey Mozgov. For all the headaches of the past season and a half, the Knicks victory over the Chicago Bulls, the de facto best team in the league, showed why the Anthony was worth it.

There are only a handful of players in this league with an ability to completely take over a game and will an inferior team to victory over a superior team, Anthony is one of those players. He put up a gaudy 43 points on 16-31 shooting from the field but more importantly was on when it mattered the most as he hit the game tying 3 to force overtime and the game winning 3 in overtime.

Both shots were drilled with a defender right in his face and both shots are an example of why nobody wants to play the New York Knicks in the first round. The Knicks were able to overcome a dreadful performance by JR Smith, who missed more shots today than some people miss in a season, a no show from starting point guard Baron Davis and a rare goose egg from sharpshooter Steve Novak.

It was Anthony taking charge on offense, Iman Shumpert playing like a grizzled veteran with his defense of Derrick Rose and Tyson Chandler protecting the paint that carried the now 29-27 Knicks over the Eastern Conference’s number one seed, a team they could very well see again in the first round.

We knew when Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin were lost to injuries, it would be on Anthony to carry this team and so far he has embraced and excelled with the task. His work is far from finished, the Knicks could still go anywhere from out of the playoffs to a number four seed over their last ten games. Yet for today, Anthony gave New York City a performance to remember and to remind us that he was worth the blockbuster trade that acquired him, worth parting ways with Mike D’Antoni and worth dealing with his previous rough patches.

Few players in this league can own crunch time how Anthony did today, the Knicks are lucky to have a player who can and will always be a threat as long as they have him.