New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Offensive Line

The TOJ Draft Staff looks at what offensive lineman the New York Jets can target in the NFL Draft

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that will certainly be needed to added to via the draft. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential offensive linemen that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York to add up front. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets  and potential running back targets, for the Jets. 

Chris Gross

Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama – 6’2″ 325 lbs – Warmack is arguably the best player at his position in the entire draft class. With New York likely losing at least one of last year’s starting guards to free agency, this position is among their greatest needs. Warmack would be an incredibly safe pick at 9th overall, but could possibly be attained if the Jets decide to trade down a few spots, considering the guard position isn’t normally valued as a top 10 pick. However, Warmack could be an exception to that notion considering his immense strength, footwork, hand placement, and ability to both drive defenders off of the ball and get to linebackers at the second level. Warmack is the total package. He is big, strong, quick, and incredibly tenacious. Selecting him in the first round would give New York stability at guard for the next decade.

UNC FOOTBALL V GEORGIA TECHJonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs – Cooper, although not quite the player Warmack is just yet, is undoubtedly the second best guard in the draft this year. Although Cooper does not possess the overall strength that Warmack does, he is incredibly quick for the position, slides his feet very well in pass protection, and uses his hands like a polished NFL veteran. Cooper will likely be a late 1st, early 2nd round pick, and if the Jets decide to pass on Warmack in the 1st, look for Cooper to be the guy with the 39th overall selection. His agility and strength in zone blocking will make him an ideal fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s system.

Barrett Jones, Guard/Tackle/Center, Alabama – 6’5″ 302 lbs – Jones is the only player in the history of the NCAA to win a National Championship while starting at each position on the offensive line. His versatility up front is unparalleled, which would give a team like the Jets some much needed flexibility in terms of depth on the offensive line. He is extremely intelligent, but has all the physical tools, as well with great strength, leverage, footwork, and overall quickness. His leadership is above and beyond any other lineman in the draft, and his toughness is unheard of, as was displayed by his admission to having played in the National Championship game while suffering from a Lisfranc injury. Jones could end up being a 3rd-4th rounder, with a chance of going in the late second. If the Jets decide to focus on positions outside of the offensive line with their first two picks, Jones is a player that must be on the radar in round 3.

Brian SchwenkeBrian Schwenke, Guard/Center, California – 6’3″ 311 lbs – Although not quite as versatile as Jones, Schwenke proved to be effective at both guard and center last week at the Senior Bowl. His quickness is among the best at the position this year, and although he isn’t necessarily the most physically strong player, he makes up for it with his excellent technique and tremendous use of leverage. He shows very good feet in pass protection, and a very good ability to chip off of double teams onto linebackers at the second level. Like Jones, his versatility will be a plus moving forward. Schwenke is likely more of a 4-6 round player.

WarfordLarry Warford, Guard, Kentucky – 6’3″ 325 lbs – One of the heavier guards of the class, Warford certainly is not the typical immobile big man. As put on display in the Senior Bowl, Warford is deceptively quick, with a much better ability to get to the second level than the eye would tell upon initial impression. He has shown to be effective as a puller, as well, as he has an uncanny ability to maintain his feet and balance when blocking defenders in space. The combine will be big for Warford in terms of where he ends up being selected, but as of now he would hold solid value in rounds 3-4.

Zev Sibony

The Jets have an issue on the interior of their Offensive Line. No starting caliber Guards are on the roster. Slauson and Moore and Unrestricted Free Agents, and Vlad Ducasse isn’t starting caliber. Austin Howard was better than some people thought. His run blocking is really good. His pass protection is about average and there is room for improvement. Another thing is that he became a victim of Mark Sanchez holding onto the ball too long. With the switch to the West Coast offense, it should simplify things for Sanchez, thus making the O-Line not have to block for a full 8 seconds. You can’t expect linemen to block for that long without holding or giving up a sack. Just like you can’t expect much from a CB when plays break down and the WR improvises to meet the QB.

Based on need, the Jets need to leave this draft with 2 Guards, a Tackle and a Center for depth. Let’s look at the top 5 Offensive linemen the Jets should look at and where they should draft them:

Chance Warmack- Guard- Alabama- 6’3” 320 lbs- Quite simply, Warmack is the best. He is the best Guard in the draft and the Jets would be wise to use the 9th overall pick on him. Putting him between Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson would be incredible. The left side of the offensive line would be excellent and the running backs would have absolutely gaping holes to run through. Warmack will be a Pro Bowler sooner rather than later in his career. Not to mention, having a really, really good Offensive Line is at the foundation of every team that is a contender. 1st round. 9th pick.

Johnathan Cooper- Guard/Center- University of North Carolina- 6’3” 310 lbs- Cooper is the second best guard in the draft. He gets set quickly, has active feet and great hands. He is a really good run blocker and an even better pass blocker. He will be a starter in the league next year barring anything unforeseen. Since he is the second best guard in the draft, he will be taken in the 1st round, it is just a matter of when. If the Jets manage to trade down or get another 1st round pick, they can take Cooper in the middle to end of the 1st round and that would be a good get. You can still smack him between Feguson and Mangold and have an incredibly dominant left side. The drop off between Cooper and Warmack isn’t big enough where getting Cooper is “settling.”

Larry Warford- Kentucky- Guard- 6’3” 336- Warford was really good the whole week of the Senior Bowl and in the game itself. He was moving linemen all over the field, showing glimpses of Brandon Moore in his prime. Above average at run and pass protection and best suited as a Right Guard. He has a good lower body to drive defenders off the ball and can get out quickly when pulling. For his size, he has good straight-line speed, as well. Some cons are that he falls off blocks because of lunging occasionally, but that is a tendency that can be broken. He also dips his head in open space at times. He has a lot of experience with 25 starts and 35 appearances. After the Senior Bowl, his stock shot up a bit. He can likely be had in the late 1st round to the middle of the 2nd round. Once again, taking him with the Jets current 2nd round pick would only happen if they addressed a different need in the 1st round.

Barrett Jones- Alabama- Guard/Center/Tackle- 6’5” 311- Barrett Jones was probably the most experienced and versatile person on the best O-Line in the country at Alabama. I say more versatile because he has played at every spot on the line. On the three championship teams in ’09, ’11, ’12 he played Right Guard, Left Tackle, and Center, respectively. He is the ultimate depth-machine and would hold great value with the Jets. I saw a lot of grit and toughness from him while I watched him this last year. He played really well, and apparently, he was playing with a Lisfranc injury that he just recently got surgery on. Drafting Jones is a tough question to answer because we haven’t seen him since the Championship game because of his foot surgery. I think at latest he will get drafted by the second round.

Joe Madsen- West Virginia- Center- 6’4” 310 lbs- Throughout the week at the Senior Bowl, Madsen looked real good. He was moving D-Linemen all over the place and looked technically sound. For the Jets, he could be drafted to acquire depth. Madsen can sit behind one of the best Centers in the league and learn. Not only that, he can also learn other positions so he can be more helpful to the Jets as a team. I can see him getting drafted in the 4th or 5th round. He still has some work to do to be a starting caliber lineman in the NFL, but I can assure you he is already better than Vlad Ducasse.

Frank Giasone

Free agency is forcing the Jets to make a decision on the interior of the offensive line heading into the offseason. Brandon Moore isn’t getting any younger, and Matt Slauson was so bad in run blocking situations that Vlad Duccasse was actually seen as an improvement. With those questions looming, finding at least one guard in April’s NFL Draft has got to be a focus for the Jets.

While there’s the perceived notion that the Jets offensive line stinks, the truth is that it’s easily the most noticeable strength of a pathetic Jets offense. Austin Howard improved at right tackle throughout the season, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold both continued playing at a high level. The real issues on the line include a lack of depth, Slauson’s limitations as a blocker, and Moore’s age and contract concerns.

Personally, I can’t justify using the ninth overall pick on a guard—but anything goes on day two and beyond. Here’s a few offensive lineman that should be on the Jets radar moving forward:

PughJustin Pugh, Guard, Syracuse – 6’5″ 301 lbs: Pugh spent three years playing the left tackle position for Syracuse, but after a very impressive showing at guard during the Senior Bowl, he’s now ranked among the top interior lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Coming into the Senior Bowl the biggest knocks on Pugh were tied to his physical drawbacks and his struggles protecting the edge against some of the more ferocious pass rushers. But with the move inside, those deficiencies become less significant, allowing his more impressive attributes to boost him up draft boards.

As a guard, Pugh’s speed and movement help him reach the second level in a hurry, and while he still needs to add some size and refine the use of his hands, he is certainly an intriguing option to replace Matt Slauson at left guard.

Barrett Jones, Guard, Alabama- 6’5″ 302 lbs: –  As Jets fans have seen in recent years, when Nick Mangold goes down, things get ugly…and fast. Although Jones would be best suited as a guard in New York, his résumé at Alabama illustrates extreme versatility on the offensive line; including two years at guard, one year at tackle, and another at center.

Versatility like that is tough to ignore, and it would certainly be convenient to have a viable option to move around the offensive line if need be.

WintersBrian Winters, Offensive Tackle, Kent St– 6’4″ 310 lbs:  Winters is another college tackle that appears better suited to play guard at the next level, mostly due to his wide base and good body control.

A blocker that on relies more on brute strength and toughness than anything else, Winters is quick off the snap and does a good job of using his hands to engage the defender. Although Winters likely has the size to play right tackle in the NFL –and while he lacks experience playing on the interior- developing as a guard may be his best bet moving forward. Projected to go sometime in the third or fourth round, Winters could be an interesting project for the Jets.

Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs: He’s the highest-rated lineman on my list, but in no way do I condone this selection with the ninth pick in the draft. Realistically, there’s no way Cooper falls into the second round, but he could be an option for the Jets if a “trade down scenario” plays out in April.

Cooper is so highly touted mostly due to his impressive speed, lateral movement, and footwork, along with his enormous frame. Cooper’s explosiveness and balance also are very apparent when watching tape, as he’s able to get to the second level with ease. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him climb into the top 20.

New York Jets – Living With Frustrating Realities

The New York Jets and their fans need to accept a few frustrating realities about next year

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New York Jets fans, like fans of any team, gain attachments to certain players and ideas about their team. Unfortunately that could lead to irrational thoughts and hopes for the off-season, particularly an off-season that is going to be step one in a rebuilding process. The Jets have no shortage of these. Before Twitter is flooded with “FIRE IDZIK” “IDIOT IDZIK” type commentary, prepare yourself for the following –

Mark Sanchez is most likely going to be the starting quarterback next year

Yes – He is going to come back because no team in the NFL will be interested in trading for him and because he isn’t going to re-negotiate his contract to take less guaranteed money. Sanchez will be on this roster and be a prime competitor for the starting job, along with a veteran and probably a mid-level draft pick. Considering he will be the opening day starter in training camp and has experience with the roster, he is the prohibitive favorite to win the job.

If Sanchez is comparable to the other options throughout the summer, he is going to get the starting nod. Why? The Jets have way more invested in him. If he puts together a competent 2013, there will be some type of trade market established for him and he remains a veteran option to compete with a rookie added in the 2014 Draft. Don’t think for a second if somebody like Tavaris Jackson or Matt Moore is signed and they play about the same as Sanchez in August, they are going to get the go-ahead to start. Will Sanchez have a much quicker hook this year? Absolutely. But if you were betting today on who will start the most games for the Jets at quarterback next year, the safest bet is Sanchez.

What is frustrating (outside of Sanchez’s horrific regression in 2012) is the personal hatred of Sanchez has reached such a high level among some fans that it seems they will openly root against him having any success next year, which of course makes no sense. It is only better for the Jets if he plays competently. For people who say that is abjectly hopeless, Sanchez’s career shows he is just as likely to have a 17 touchdown, 13 interception or 26 touchdown, 18 interception season as he is to bomb out the way he did last year. Sanchez isn’t a good quarterback but take away the Tim Tebow Wildcat Shuffle Circus, give him a somewhat threatening running game and upgrade above Mardy Gilyard, Clyde Gates and Chaz Schilens at wide receiver and the possibility exists for a 56 completion percentage, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions…AKA competent game-managing at quarterback.

When people say there are higher odds of Greg McElroy being an effective quarterback in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, what are they substantiating that claim with? We’ve seen Mark Sanchez have a QB Rating above 100 in 15 NFL games that he started, including three playoff games. We’ve never seen Greg McElroy do that, we’ve just seen him be completely overwhelmed in his only NFL start. At least Sanchez has the skill set and knowledge he has done it before.

Only one of the following will be back next year: LaRon Landry, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis

The odds of every single one of these three players being on the Jets roster next year is just about zero. The odds of two of the three of them being on the roster is fairly low as well. Successful teams are not built by dumping a third of the salary cap into your secondary while the rest of the roster crumbles around it. If Landry is requesting 7 million per year, the Jets are going to let him walk. You can’t pay that type of money for a safety who is average in pass coverage. When it comes to Revis and Cromartie, you can’t pay both long term. Trade one, get draft picks back and reallocate the money to the offense and the painfully awful group of linebackers.

The Jets have the most overpaid wide receiver, linebacker and quarterback in football

Santonio Holmes is going to be a 12.5 million dollar cap hit next year, second highest among wide receivers. David Harris is going to be a 13 million dollar cap hit next year, second highest among linebackers. Mark Sanchez is a 12.8 million dollar cap hit next year. None of these players are even top 25 in the league at their respective positions. That is what we call a financial disaster, my fellow Jets fans.

When you say things like, how can you pay Mark Sanchez but let LaRon Landry go?!? It all sounds well and good but that ship has sailed. The Jets made their bed with Sanchez and now they have to lay in it. Get ready for the reality of unpopular players like Sanchez and Dustin Keller (with a franchise tag) being back while guys like Landry and Cromartie OR Revis leave town. These are financial decisions. This team needs to be rebuilt with a more equitable distribution of the wealth so talent can be replenished on offense and linebacker. This team needs draft picks so they can establish depth and don’t have people like Jeff Cumberland, Garret McIntyre, and Chaz Schilens starting games.

New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Wide Receiver

The TOJ Draft staff looks at what wide receivers the New York Jets could target in April’s draft

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that, although is not a top need, wouldn’t hurt from the addition of a playmaker. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential wide receivers that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York at wide receiver. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets  and potential running back targets, for the Jets. 

Chris Gross

keenan-allenKeenan Allen, California, 6’3″ 206 lbs – While it is highly unlikely that Allen will fall to the Jets in the 2nd round, crazier things have happened on draft day. If Allen were to slip down to the 39th overall pick, it would be extremely difficult for New York to pass up on him, despite having taken a wide receiver in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. While Stephen Hill hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet, the new front office in New York is in no way married to him as a piece of the puzzle moving forward. While there is no reason to give up hope on Hill yet, Allen is a tremendous talent that would hold excellent value as an early 2nd rounder.

Allen is a big body at 6’3″ and possesses above average top end speed, with very good ball skills and athletic ability. He has some of the strongest hands out of any player at his position in this year’s class and does a very good job of getting to the ball at its highest point.

Most importantly, however, is Allen’s character. He has been highly praised by coaches and teammates alike for his work ethic and overall coach-ability. He puts in an extensive amount of time studying film, as well as in the weight room. Everyone that has been close to him during his career at California seemingly cannot say enough about his drive and desire to better himself everyday. On an offense that is in dire need of attitude like Allen’s, combined with what can become elite playmaking ability, he would be an excellent selection at the 39th overall pick, despite the improbability that he falls that far. Still, a name to keep an eye on.

Robert Woods2Robert Woods, USC, 6’1″ 190 lbs – Woods has flown a bit under the radar as of late, but his immense production as a Trojan should not be forgotten. Woods has adequate size, but the top end speed that can certainly stretch a defense and give his offense a real home run threat. Woods has sure hands and demonstrates a very quick initial burst off the line of scrimmage. He isn’t the most polished route runner, but he shows an ability to adjust his routes based on coverage and has knack for finding the holes in a zone, something that could allow him to thrive in an offense like Marty Mornhinweg’s. He is an extremely competitive player who will always fight for extra yards after the catch and, like Allen, puts in numerous hours in film study and in his physical training. Depending on how he performs at the combine, Woods could end up being a 2-3 round pick.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 5’8″ 173 lbs – While Austin certainly does not have the size of the previous two players, his speed and quickness are nearly unparalleled. He needs some fine tuning in his overall route running and ability to get off of press coverage, but Austin has the tools to be a weapon in a scheme like Mornhinweg’s. Picture him in a role similar to what DeSean Jackson had in Philadelphia under Mornhinweg, but a bit more versatile, as he has experience running the ball as well.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5’11” 182 lbs – Wheaton, like Austin, doesn’t have tremendous size, but is another receiver with big play ability. He does a good job of finding holes in zone coverage, and his excellent footwork and agility allow him to come in and out of his breaks with great fluidity, making curls, hitches, and comeback routes seemingly painless for him. Wheaton is also a very tough player, reportedly having played through some significant bumps and bruises at Oregon State. A fairly strong week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl will likely help his stock.

Terrance Williams, Baylor, 6’2″ 201 lbs – The size and talent are certainly there for Williams, who can create excellent separation while maintaining an ability to properly adjust his routes when needed. The biggest question marks with Williams are his character. He has been cited for immaturity, and although has the ability to run good routes, can tend to get lazy at times. This will likely cause him to fall into the mid-late rounds, but if New York feels that his talent is good enough to take a chance on getting his mind and work ethic right, he could be worth a flyer in rounds 4-6.

Zev Sibony 

The Jets can likely go into camp next year with a healthy and hopefully motivated Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jeremy Kerley and have a group that can be sufficient, while continuing to develop 2012 2nd round pick Stephen Hill. Behind the receivers aforementioned, Hill can play without pressure to perform and get better naturally instead of being forced into a role beyond his capacity. Other than these 4 receivers, the Jets should build WR depth with 1 or 2 late picks in the draft.

Name School Height Weight Projected 40 Projected rd.
DeAndre Hopkins Clemson 6-1 200 4.40 Late 1st – Early 2nd
Kenny Stills Oklahoma 6-1 189 4.53 4th – 5th
Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech 6-2 195 4.58 4th – 5th
Tavarres King Georgia 6-1 191 4.49 5th – 6th

HopkinsIf DeAndre Hopkins (82 rec, 1405 yds, 18 TDs) is available in the 2nd round, the Jets should snag him and not look back. Hopkins and Sammy Watkins were supposed to lead Clemson’s receiving corps, but Hopkins ended up outshining Watkins for the majority of the season. As far as receiving goes, he runs great routes, has great hands, and is a burner. He has the ability to beat a defense with precise routes or the deep ball. With the Jets going to a West Coast offense, this will be slam dunk if they can snag him. Watching film on Hopkins, he flashes some talent that resembles that of Julio Jones. Watkins will be tough to get, but if he falls to the Jets, there is a good chance New York looks long and hard at him.

StillsKenny Stills (82 rec, 959 yds, 11 TDs) was always a very consistent receiver for Oklahoma and quarterback Landry Jones. He is a decent blocker and needs to work on attacking the ball in mid air. Stills has great hands and can develop into a good NFL receiver. He can get separation from defenders and has deceptive speed. He had a small issue with a DUI but it was an isolated incident so I don’t believe it should be considered a major issue. He has average size but can make a play after the catch and is superbly athletic and flexible, which is important for WRs.

Quinton Patton (104 rec, 1392 yds, 13 TDs) was electric in his senior year at Louisiana Tech. He went against Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks (possible 1st round pick) and after the game; Banks said he was the best WR he played against. Against Texas A&M, a team out of the SEC, he had 21 catches for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is a strong receiver who can get separation and is also good enough attacking coverage to separate and create with the ball in his hands. He is very good at tracking the ball in the air, has quick feet and good coordination. He won’t test extremely well at the combine and coming from a smaller school may hurt his stock, but he can take the next step and play at an NFL level. There is a chance he is taken within the first 4 rounds, but if he slips, he could hold great value in rounds 5-7.

Tavarres King (42 rec, 950 yds, 8 TDs) has consistently jumped off of his college film at Georgia. While his stats aren’t over the top, he has the skill set to be an NFL caliber receiver. From going up to pluck the ball out of the air to getting separation, he can seemingly do it all, he just needs to be more consistent. This would be a developmental pick, but would give the Jets decent depth at the position in 2013. He can beat defenders over the top with straight-line speed and shows good stop, start, go type elusiveness to make defenders miss. He is above average at getting off press coverage, which makes sense because he played in the physical SEC. He would be a good get in the 5th or 6th round to help out the current Jets receiving corp.

Frank Giasone

The Jets wide receiver group has a number of questions that need to be answered as they prepare for the 2013 season, highlighted by a new-look offense and the continued absence of a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

The biggest challenge the group of wide receivers face coming into the season will be transitioning into Marty Mornhigweg’s “West Coast Offense”, which hinges on precise route running, sure handedness, and the ability to gain yards after the catch. Santonio Holmes, who essentially assumed No. 1 receiver duties by default, should thrive in the system—assuming he’s able to return fully from Lisfranc surgery, and stay motivated. The Jets will likely need to make it work with Holmes considering questions surrounding his rehab and his bloated salary will certainly limit trade options.

With Holmes injured, Jeremy Kerley emerged at the position to lead the Jets with 56 receptions and 827 yards in 2012. Kerley will likely continue building on his success in the pass-happy WCO, able to line up both at the flanker and slot position. But fans will have to wait to see what recently hired GM John Idzik decides to do regarding Braylon Edwards, although it makes sense to bring him back on a one-year deal, especially considering Stephen Hill’s infinite number of issues as a rookie.

With little wiggle room in the salary cap, the most likely scenario for the Jets is to select a receiver in April.

NCAA FOOTBALL 2012: SEP 22 Louisiana Tech at IllinoisQuinton Patton, Louisiana Tech, 6’0”, 202 lbs: Currently slotted to go somewhere in rounds two or three, Patton could find his way into the Draft’s top 40 picks by the time April comes around—especially considering the attention that he’s garnered during the first few days of Senior Bowl practice.

While he may lack the ideal strength and top end speed of an elite NFL receiver, the Louisiana Tech senior is still quick off the line of scrimmage, a very good route runner, and has the ability to consistently gain separation from defenders with his shiftiness and head fakes.

Patton will likely need to add strength in the coming months, as he has shown a tendency to have the ball stripped out of his hands before he can secure the catch.

Conner Vernon, Duke, 6’1”, 200 lbs: Vernon is a very interesting Day 2 option that displays reliable hands, crisp route running, and the versatility to play multiple receiver positions in the NFL.

The ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards lacks ideal speed to thrive consistently on the outside in the NFL, but makes up for it with his precise route running and shiftiness in traffic, as well as his ability to find space in the defense.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 6’1”, 183 lbs:  Wheaton is another receiver likely to go early in Day 2. The Oregon State all-time leader in receptions boasts tremendous speed and solid route running, but his overall strength and the reliability of his hands are concerns.

Wheaton’s speed is clearly his biggest selling point and will certainly help him gain attention from NFL teams looking to stretch the field. But it’s his route running and ability to break tackles that help him turn short passes into long gains, making him a very interesting option for a team running a WCO.

HarperChris Harper, Kansas State, 6’1”, 228 lbs: Harper is a big-bodied receiver who possesses deceptive speed and is sure to get comparisons to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (6’1”, 220lbs) as April approaches.

While he lacks some quickness at the line of scrimmage, as well as the quick twitch some like to see in the NFL, it’s his deceptive buildup speed that allows him sneak behind defensive backs downfield.

Never afraid to go up and fight for the ball, the former Oregon quarterback also uses his size as an advantage, regularly punishing tacklers.

Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington, 6’4”, 214 lbs: Projected as a Day 3 selection, Kaufman boasts consistent and precise route running as well as reliable hands. While he lacks elite speed, he is deceptively fast considering his build, and has no problems lowering his shoulder into an oncoming defender.

His consistency on the field is what has most scouts impressed, despite playing against a lower level of competition at Eastern Washington. If still on the board in Round 6, he’s certainly an interesting option.

 

New York Jets: Fool’s Gold Is Nothing To Cro’ About

Steve Bateman on the why the trade value of Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis isn’t comparable

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Written by former TOJ employee Steve Bateman

The issue of whether the Jets should trade Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie this year has been a hot topic amongst fans for some time now. But how realistic is it to even put those two names together in a sentence – much less to suggest that any NFL team might see Cromartie as a reasonable alternative to Revis?

If anything is beyond dispute in this debate, it’s that Cromartie had an outstanding campaign in 2012. When Revis fell foul of a torn ACL in Week 3, the whole organization looked to the former Seminole in the hope that he might be able to step up and fill the gaping hole that was left in the Jets secondary.

But although Cromartie did have considerable success while filling in for Revis this season, there is still good reason to suggest that he remains a long way short of deserving the ‘Shutdown Corner’ status that many fans have been quick to adorn him with, and despite his impressive numbers coupled with a gazelle-like pursuit speed, evidence abounds to indicate that he is the footballing equivalent of Fool’s Gold.

One way of distinguishing whether or not a cornerback is respected around the league is to simply consider how many times opposing quarterbacks have thrown the ball in his direction. Last year, Cromartie was targeted 87 times – which works out at an impressive average of 5.43 targets per game. This statistic even measures up against Revis’s 2011 numbers, when he was targeted 85 times.

In terms of how many times those targets resulted in a completion, things are still looking reasonably good for Cromartie – his 2012 return of 46% was only slightly worse than Revis’s 41.2% in 2011.

In most statistical categories, this pattern continues – the numbers put up by Cromartie last year are either similar to or slightly worse than those posted by Revis a year before – and so both defenders look to be glittering nicely. But then we come to a statistic which suddenly suggests an entirely different picture. Touchdowns. In 2012 Cromartie gave up 5 TDs – a number that had him tied for 91st* in the NFL alongside the likes of Buffalo’s Aaron Williams and Cleveland’s Buster Skrine. In 2011, Revis conceded one.

The numbers also prove to be consistent over the years: In 2010 Cromartie gave up 7 TDs, and in 2011 he was responsible for 6. Yet while the last 3-year spell of Cromartie’s career has resulted in him giving up a whopping 19 TDs, Revis – in his last fully-fit three years – gave up a grand total of 6. This is where Cromartie’s problem lies – when he’s defending with plenty of open field at his back, he’s fine. Yet if you throw at him in a confined space – let’s say inside the red zone, the chances are that you’ll get somewhere near the result that you’re hoping for.

The reason for this is quite simple: Cromartie is not an intelligent football player, and when faced with a split-second decision whilst in coverage he will all-too often make the incorrect choice. Fortunately he does possess outstanding speed and athletic ability, and so on deeper routes he is often able to recover his position whilst the ball is in the air. But pen him inside an area where he can’t use his phenomenal recovery speed and you’ve got a problem. (This, incidentally, was the main reason why San Diego were prepared to trade him in the first place. When they considered switching to a predominantly zone defense it became quickly apparent that Cromartie was inacapable of being effective when assigned to patrol an enclosed area of the field).

By the time the 2013 season begins, Cromartie will be 29-years-old, and while that’s by no means ancient for a cornerback, it’s most certainly getting towards the Golden Years for a player who depends almost entirely upon his speed. Even assuming that he enjoys good health over the next few years, it seems fair to say that it would be a surprise to see him as a starter much beyond 2014. Historically-speaking, the careers of players such as Cromartie don’t tend to tail off, they have a habit of dropping off cliffs.

So for all that he had an excellent campaign in 2012, don’t expect that NFL teams will be falling over themselves to give up first or second-round draft picks in exchange for Cromartie. That’s not to say that teams wouldn’t be interested – undoubtedly they would – but it would be a massive mistake to expect that they’ll cough up anywhere near the kind of booty that would be demanded in order to secure the services of a genuine Shutdown Corner.

(*To qualify, players must have taken 25% of their teams snaps.)

NFL Draft 2013: Senior Bowl Standouts

Chris Gross breaks down the Senior Bowl as he further previews the 2013 NFL Draft

With one of the most important events in the pre-draft process officially in the books, future NFL hopefuls will now return to their respective regions of training with intentions to get themselves in the best physical shape possible for the upcoming NFL Combine. While prospects are sure to see their stocks rise and fall in the coming weeks, mostly for a variety of factors that will be taken into account in the months leading to April, the 2013 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama told us a lot about the names to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. Some players solidified notions that were already established, while others went above and beyond the expectations many had for them entering last week’s practices, and ultimately through the game on Saturday. Others, unfortunately, may have hurt their stock by either not participating or by disappearing on the stage.

Let’s take a look at some names that were undoubtedly the top performers from Saturday’s Senior Bowl, followed by a brief overview of some other names we are likely to discuss in the coming weeks.

Stock Up

Ezekiel Ansah – DE, BYU – There has been a good amount of buzz surrounding Ansah in recent weeks. A very intriguing prospect due to his superior athleticism and physical prowess, Ansah certainly has his question marks as an inexperienced player, having played the sport for the first time just two years ago. However, there is no denying that Ansah was the best player on the field on Saturday.

While he showed some signs of struggle during the week of practice, Ansah put a lot of questions to bed by showing that he may not be as raw as the popular perception seems to be. The presumption that Ansah is a physically gifted, but extremely raw player, has stemmed primarily from his lack of experience. While he is by no means fundamentally and technically perfect, Ansah showed much more football skill, beyond his superior athleticism, than people have given him credit for.

Aside from using his speed and brute strength to win his battles against opposing offensive lineman, Ansah displayed a consistent ability to maintain leverage against his blocker, while showing excellent reaction time and an ability to shed blocks. During the week of practice, it seemed as though Ansah was trying to get by solely on physicality, as he was repeatedly beaten on technique and fundamentals. However, during the game, Ansah showed that, not only is he as physically gifted as many have thought, but he is a much closer to becoming a complete football player than what is perceived.

Ansah repeatedly reacted to blocks as if he had been playing the game to a time-span closer to a decade, rather than two years. When the opposing tackle would block down, Ansah would play it perfectly by striking the outside shoulder and reacting to what was coming next. If it was a pulling offensive lineman coming down hill to kick him out, Ansah did not waste a second to spill the play by attacking the inside shoulder of the blocker. If it was boot or sprint out to his side, Ansah would settle in after striking the offensive lineman, remain patient, rather than getting lured upfield, and pounce on the passer.

Ansah should a tremendous ability to set the edge against outside runs and fantastic strength and leverage against inside runs, often times driving the opposing offensive lineman into the backfield, while rarely giving up any ground. In short, he is much more NFL ready than we thought a week ago.

Being such a physical freak will now only benefit Ansah in the coming weeks. He will likely have a tremendous combine, and after he posts what is expected to be head turning numbers for his position, scouts will take a closer look at the tape and realize he is very close to being the total package. A top ten selection is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities for Ansah.

Eric Fisher – OT, Central Michigan – We knew a lot about Fisher’s ability going into last week, but he did even more to surpass the high expectations. All week in practice, Fisher displayed excellent technique in his footwork, hand placement, and ability to play low and get underneath defenders. He is extremely quick, has excellent balance, possesses a tremendous combination of both upper and lower body strength, and has the tenacity necessary for the position. He showed he can effectively pull with above average speed and ability to locate and block defenders in space. Fisher is undoubtedly going to challenge Texas A & M’s Luke Joeckel for the top offensive tackle in this year’s class. Barring some drastic unforeseen disaster at the combine, he is a sure top ten selection.

Kawann Short – DT, Purdue – A lot of people will talk about North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams as being the player to rise up draft boards and challenge Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson as the top defensive tackle in this year’s class, but Short joined that conversation with a tremendous effort on Saturday. Short has immense size at 6’3″ 315 lbs which contributes to his fantastic strength, but where he really stood out on Saturday was in his quickness and hand speed. Short showed an excellent ability to constantly keep the opposing offensive lineman’s hands off of him, something that can become insanely frustrating to anyone attempting to block him. He can rush the passer from the interior with his brute strength, and just when the guard or center thinks they have his arsenal of moves figured out, he throws in a quick hand strike and club, using their aggressiveness against them, often leaving them falling face first on the ground while Short is wreaking havoc in the backfield. As it stands now, he is on the fringe of the first and second rounds, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him sneak into the bottom half of the first. Still, don’t expect him to fall far if he makes it past the super bowl winner at 32.

Brian Schwenke – C/G, California – Schwenke was one of the most pleasant surprises of the afternoon. Not only was his versatility as both a guard and center on display – he took significant reps at each position – but he displayed some of the best footwork out of every interior lineman in the contest. Schwenke has a very good initial first step, very good short yardage quickness, and a fantastic ability to get off of double teams and get to the second level. When matched up against North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams, a projected first round pick, Schwenke held him in check the majority of the time, particularly against the pass. Schwenke did drop his head a couple of times, once that resulted in a quarterback sack, but he played an overall outstanding game. His ability to play both center and guard will only help his stock moving forward.

Larry Warford – G, Kentucky – Warford was certainly one of the biggest bodies at the Senior Bowl all week (6’3″ 343 lbs), but he is deceptively quick for that immense size. He showed the ability to pull a few times, but also displayed excellent footwork in the five yard box in the trenches. He is more of a power player, but his ability to get to the second level should not be discounted one bit.

Vince WilliamsVince Williams – ILB, Florida State – Williams was a late invitee to the game, but certainly took advantage of the opportunity to showcase himself. He was arguably the toughest player on the field for the majority of the time, something obviously crucial to the position he plays, and brought a level of intensity to his defense that seemed to inspire the play of those around him. Williams lacks the elite top end speed of an inside linebacker, but makes up for it with tremendous instincts, quickness, and ability to shed blocks. His drive and tenacity are among what makes him stand out as well. The combine will tell more about where Williams will likely be drafted, but as a mid-round prospect, he could end up being a steal.

Jonathan Cyprien – S, Florida International – In the absence of Texas S Kenny Vaccaro, Cyprien made his case as one of the top safeties in this year’s class. Cyprien showed very good awareness, ball skills, and an ability to get in and out of his breaks at a level need for success at the next level. Coaches raved about his work ethic and football IQ all week, something that will help his stock as scouts do their research on him. While he may not come from a top NCAA program, Cyprien could surprise many at the next level. Like so many others, the combine will be big for him.

Marquise Goodwin – WR, Texas – While Goodwin does not have the size of a primary receiver in the NFL, he made his case as someone who could become a very good slot receiver/utility man in the NFL. Goodwin was constantly finding ways to make plays with the ball in his hands, something that speaks volumes when considering the abysmal quarterbacking that was on display. With many NFL teams looking for players to put in versatile roles, like Green Bay’s Randall Cobb or Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, Goodwin is sure to peak the interest of many as we head into April.

The Rest

OL – While they did not play to the level of the offensive lineman aforementioned, Alabama’s DJ Fluker, Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, and Kent State’s Brian Winters played very solid games. These guys have the tools and experience that will make them each quality players at the next level.

Players who still have a fair amount of question marks surrounding them moving forward include Justin Pugh of Syracuse, Oday Aboushi of Virginia, and Notre Dame’s Braxston Cave. Pugh is seemingly struggling to find his niche on the line against top level talent, while Aboushi, although tremendously built, seems to lack the overall strength and aggressiveness needed at the position. Cave has continued to struggle when competing against elite level defenders.

Datone-JonesDL – Datone Jones of UCLA made a very strong case to sneak into the top performers. He has a very good combination of short area agility and overall body strength, something that can make him a very effective 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He is versatile enough to play standing up or with his hand on the ground, and has experience in such a scheme from his career as a Bruin. He will almost certainly begin to shoot up draft boards, presumably a late first or early to mid second rounder.

Jordan Hill of Penn State was another very impressive defensive lineman. Although he does not have great height (6’1″), he makes up for it by using very good leverage, hand speed, footwork, and overall technique. He is a gritty player who seems to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, the kind of mindset that can separate good defensive linemen from the average ones.

Other names that did things well include UConn’s Sio Jones, who has a motor that ranks among the best in the draft, Milliciah Goodman of Clemson, and Cornelius Washington from Georgia. LSU’s Lavar Edwards proved to be a very tough player, but lacks the overall quickness and physical strength that would be needed to make up for the amount of flaws in his technique. John Jenkins of Georgia is a massive body that can certainly clog holes and occupy blockers in the NFL, but has a very inconsistent motor. Everett Dawkins of Florida State also did some good things, but nothing significant enough to turn heads.

Possibly the most interesting defensive lineman was North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams. Williams flashed brilliance at times, but completely disappeared at others. He has all the physical tools to be great, but showed a tendency to get locked up with his blockers, rather than shedding and finding the ball. The talent is certainly there, but the consistency needs to be improved.

LBs – Outside of Williams, Zaviar Gooden of Missouri showed some tremendous speed, sideline to sideline ability, and very good range in coverage. He will likely need to go to a 4-3 scheme where his speed can be utilized as a SAM linebacker.

Khaseem Greene from Rutgers certainly was not bad by any means, but its tough to declare that his performance lived up to the production he achieved in college. He is unquestionably talented, but an average performance in this game could be a red flag to teams who may look to him having played the majority of his games against marginal competition.

Kevin Riddick (UNC) and Nico Johnson (Alabama) weren’t bad by any means, but were anything but extraordinary. Riddick made some nice plays, as did Johnson, but both of them struggled to get off of blockers at times, often finding themselves sealed to create run lanes.

RBs – It’s difficult to declare who the best running back in the game on Saturday was. Johnathan Franklin of UCLA was probably the most consistent of the contest, and showed that he can do a little bit of everything. Florida’s Mike Gillislee showed off his great speed and burst, and an overall good performance should have him climbing up some boards.

Stepfan Taylor was also very effective in limited reps. He showed arguably the best patience of all of his counterparts, including solid pass protection, and ability to be useful in the short passing game. Taylor, however, does not seem to have that top end speed to be a game breaker at the next level.

Kenjon Barner of Oregon surely has the speed and elusiveness to be a weapon, but he struggled mightily between the tackles. To his credit, it was a very unfamiliar offense to him. It will be interesting to see how team’s view Barner going forward. Based on the offense he came from at Oregon, and his play from Saturday, he will likely be looked at as a developmental back who can contribute immediately in certain packages. Barner could be very effective if placed in a stable of backs with a bruiser or two ahead of him.

RouseOne name that got some serious attention this week was Robbie Rouse out of Fresno State. While he is rather short for the position (listed at 5’7″), he is put together very well and runs with a low center of gravity. Rouse showed very good vision and patience, as well as a very solid burst through the hole. He has a very good motor and keeps his feet going until the whistle, or when brought to the ground on every play. It will be interesting to see where Rouse ends up.

WR – Somewhat difficult position to gauge based on how mediocre the quarterback play was, but the names that stood out most, other than Goodwin, were Markus Wheaton of Oregon State and Terrance Williams of Baylor.

DB – Overall impressive collective performance, but again, tough to gauge based on the quarterbacking. Overall, Desmond Trufant was the most impressive CB of the game. He put together a very strong week of practice which translated over to Saturday’s game. His has very fluid hips, comes in and out of his breaks well, has very good top end speed (see opening kickoff), and is deceptively physical.

Other defensive backs that did some good things include Duke Williams, Jordan Poyer, Jamar Taylor, Bacarri Rambo, and Robert Alford, who looked very good on Special Teams and in the return game as well. TJ McDonald flashed some quality play and is certainly a name to keep an eye on moving forward. Looks the part of a smaller Taylor Mays, but with much better overall coverage skills.

QB – Not much to say here. All were underwhelming, aside from EJ Manuel who was really the only one to show some type of consistency. Manuel can make plays with his feet as well as his arm, and has excellent size for the position.

Ryan Nassib of Syracuse continued to exhibit an inability to throw on the run, something that may hurt him in the NFL considering his height. North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon made some excellent throws, but more often than not was off target and wildly inconsistent. Like Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, and Zac Dysert were also inconsistent, but none of them made some of the throws that Glennon was able to. If it were any other year, it is highly likely that not one of these players would be selected in the first round, but with such a depleted class, in a quarterback needy league, some of them are sure to be over drafted. The lackluster performances will likely help solidify West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the first quarterback off the board, while USC’s Matt Barkley, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, will begin to sneak back up draft boards as well.

NFL Draft 2013: Frank Giasone’s Mock Draft 1.0

Turn On The Jets NFL Draft writer Frank Giasone with his first mock draft for 2013

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1.) Kansas City Chiefs – Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M: While it’s already nearly impossible to predict the No.1 overall selection this early in the draft process, a new regime in KC only complicates the forecast further. Although the Chiefs used back-to-back picks on the offensive line (second and third round) in the 2012 NFL Draft—and signed right tackle Eric Winston to a four-year, $22M contract last offseason— the Kansas City decision makers will find it hard to pass up a talent like Joeckel on draft day. We all know Andy Reid loves his quarterbacks, but I think the most likely scenarios include Reid finding one through a trade or sometime on the second day of the draft—as he did with both Kevin Kolb and Nick Foles.

2.) Jacksonville Jaguars- Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State: Another tough selection to gauge this early in the process, especially considering the juxtaposition of recently hired head coach Gus Bradley’s defensive background and general manager Dave Caldwell, who comes from the offensive-minded Atlanta Falcons organization. There’s a good chance the Jags stick with Chad Henne at quarterback this season—and assuming the current crop of QBs doesn’t improve drastically by April, I don’t see Jacksonville selecting one to groom for the future in this spot. Werner is arguably the most gifted defensive player in this draft, with tons of upside considering he only started playing the game at 15. He’ll have an immediate impact on the Jaguars defensive line.

3.) Oakland Raiders- Star Lotuleli, Defensive Tackle, Utah: Oakland has issues all over the place, and while Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher is certainly an option here (even with promising LT Jared Veldheer already on the roster), Lotuleli is just too good for Dennis Allen to pass up. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly hasn’t performed well, and both Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant are unrestricted free agents. Lotuleli is the best player left on the board at No. 3 and fills a huge need for Oakland.

4.) Philadelphia Eagles- Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan: While Luke Joeckel is the trendy name for top tackle in the draft, it’s Fisher –whose stock will continue to soar as April approaches- that may end up being the best of the bunch. The Eagles are in a great shape to improve an offensive line that has completely fallen apart the past two seasons with Fisher, who would immediately start at left tackle for Chip Kelly & Co.

5.) Detroit Lions- Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M: With Cliff Avril likely testing free agency, and Kyle Vanden Bosch no guarantee to return to the Motor City in 2013, Moore looks like the most logical pick for a Lions defense that finished last season tied for 20th in sacks. The decisionmakers in Detroit have to figure out a way to maximize Ndamukong Suh’s presence up front and adding a threat like Moore to the line is as good a way as any.

6.) Cleveland Browns- Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia: Jones is the likely option for Cleveland at No. 6 following defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s confirmation that the Browns will switch to an “attack-minded 3-4 scheme” next season. Considered the best 3-4 OLB in the draft by some, Jones will give a boost to a defense already equipped with middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, cornerback Joe Haden and defensive tackle Phil Taylor. It’s too early to know if Jones’ injury concerns are severe enough knock him out of the top 10, but for now he’s the perfect selection for the Browns at No. 6.

7.) Arizona Cardinals- Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama: The Cardinals have issues-on-top-of-issues when it comes to the offensive line. With the two top-rated offensive tackles off the board, it’s Warmack –not Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson—who jumpstarts the Arizona rebuild. The seventh spot may be considered too high to select a guard, but Warmack is a special talent worth reaching for.

8.) Buffalo Bills- Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU: This selection could likely turn into a quarterback on draft day, depending on head coach Doug Marrone’s stance on Ryan Fitzpatrick. But in this, my 1.0 mock draft, the selection goes the way of the defense. While Mingo has, in my opinion, the highest bust potential of any OLB in the draft, it’s his versatility and intangibles that will likely get him drafted early on Day 1.

9.) New York Jets- Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon: The moment you’ve all been waiting for: Dion Jordan is the first pick of the John Idzik regime in New York. Versatile enough to play standing up in 3-4 front or at defensive end in 4-3 schemes, Jordan is the multitalented defender of Rex Ryan’s dreams. While he has a lot of developing yet to do—and is currently dealing with an injury that could certainly alter this selection in the coming months—the addition of a young, athletic outside linebacker like Jordan is something the Jets have been trying to accomplish for years. Combine the pick with the possible addition of OLB’s Conner Barwin or Paul Kruger via free agency, and the Jets once weak LB corps instantly morphs into a strength.

Note: Although some people see the Jets going offensive line here, we’ve seen time and time again the ability to secure a solid interior lineman late in the draft or through free agency. The Jets did it with Brandon Moore (who I believe will be back in ‘13) and they’ll have the opportunity to do it again this year.

10.) Tennessee Titans- Johnathon Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State: Hankins’ versatility makes him an intriguing option at No. 10 for Tennessee. Another team with lots of concerns, Tennessee could go in a number of different directions here. And while the tenth spot may be a little high for the Buckeye standout, it’s Hankins’ versatility, combined with the production from starting defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, that could make the Titans defensive line a real force moving forward.

11.) San Diego Chargers – Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma: Another offensive lineman who will continue trending upward as April approaches, Johnson is one of the most versatile big men in this draft. While he’s settled in a No. 11 today, he very well could find himself a top 10 prospect in the coming months. A former quarterback and tight end, Johnson has shown the ability to play left and right tackle, despite still being a neophyte on the offensive line. His long arms and elite athleticism will certainly garner a warm welcome from quarterback Phillip Rivers, who appears to have developed some happy feet over the past two years.

12.) Miami Dolphins- Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Cal: They’re stocked with picks and cap space in 2013, and while a free agent wide receiver like Gregg Jennings remains a very likely option for Miami, selecting the highest rated receiver certainly won’t hurt the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama: You probably didn’t expect to see the highest rated cornerback fall this far (truthfully, neither did I), but you better believe the Bucs will be more than happy reap the benefits of Milliner at No. 13. The best all around cornerback in this draft, Milliner’s size and physicality will be a welcomed addition in Tampa as a replacement to Aqib Talib.

14.) Carolina Panthers- Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri: The Panthers have a bevy of athletic linebackers, but they lack a big body in the middle of the defensive line to help stop the run and eat up blocks. Richardson will help address those issues, and will also provide another pass rushing option up the middle.

15.) New Orleans Saints- Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas: The Saints defense needs a lot of help, and while they could likely target a linebacker here, not know the scheme they intend to use next season makes Vaccaro the pick for now. Touted as the highest rated safety in the draft, Vaccaro is a rangy prospect with the body-type and athleticism to play both safety positions.

16.) St. Louis Rams- Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee: The Rams need to give Sam Bradford more offensive weapons in 2013. With Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson the top receivers in St. Louis, Patterson would provide offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer more flexibility in his offensive schemes. Patterson, who is one of the most complete receivers in the draft, could also have an impact on special teams.

17.) Pittsburgh Steelers- Johnathan Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia: The Steelers have gotten very old, very quickly on the defensive side of the ball, as its linebackers, defensive line and secondary have all seen better days. That means, with a rare top 20 pick, Pittsburgh is in good position to start retooling. Casey Hampton is older than dirt (sorry Casey), and Jenkins has an enormous frame capable of taking on multiple blockers. While he may lack versatility up front, his strength and frame make him a great fit for the Steelers 3-4 defense.

18.) Dallas Cowboys – Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida: Jay Ratliff isn’t getting any younger, and after his most recent run-in with police (he got popped for DWI a few days back) a defensive tackle to Dallas at No. 18 is looking even more likely. Monte Kiffin is in as defensive coordinator in Dallas now, and Floyd fills a big need in his Tampa 2 scheme.

19.) New York Giants- Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame: His recent “issue” may steer the Giants away from making this selection, but the fact remains that Jerry Reece just can’t ignore his needy linebacker corps any longer. When Chase Blackburn is arguably your best ILB over the past two seasons…it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

20.) Chicago Bears- Jonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina: You only needed to watch a few offensive series to recognize Chicago’s biggest need is on the offensive line. Cooper is my second-rated guard in the draft, and boasts impressive speed, lateral movement, and footwork. I’m sure Jay Cutler will be ecstatic with the addition fo Cooper to the Bears offense.

21.) Cincinnati Bengals –Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama: The Bengals have a solid core and will eventually need to address some issues on defense (notably the overwhelming disappointment of Rey Maualuga at the MLB position). But as the cliché goes, “it’s an offensive league” and the Bengals can’t rely on BenJarvus Green-Ellis to carry the load in 2013. Lacy is a power back with some speed that would fit well with young up-and-coming offensive stars like Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

22.) St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)- Giovani Bernard, Running Back, North Carolina: Confession time: It pains me to write this because of an obsession I’ve developed with Jets grabbing Bernard in the second round. But, with that dream quickly fading, I’ve conceded that the Rams will once again address the offensive side of the ball in an attempt to recreate the days of “The Greatest Show on Turf”. Goodbye, Giovani.

23.) Minnesota Vikings- Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia: The Vikings need help at linebacker in a bad way, and Ogletree boasts the speed and athleticism to make plays all over the field. A converted safety, Ogletree will likely need to add size to his frame, and will certainly deal with questions regarding off the field issues during interviews. But for now, he’s a great pick for Minnesota at No. 23.

24.) Indianapolis Colts- D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama: It’s pretty simple: Andrew Luck is your meal ticket; make sure you protect him accordingly. While Fluker isn’t as highly touted as some of the other offensive lineman in this draft (as part of one of the best OL units in college football last year Fluker was, at times, overlooked), he does possess the physical skills to play both tackle positions in the NFL. Of course defense is an option here, but lowering Luck’s sack number from 40 should take precedence.

25.) Seattle Seahawks- Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky: Similar to the situation in Indy, the Seahawks need to protect their investment at quarterback. Warford turned some heads at the Senior Bowl and will likely continue to do so in the coming months. With defense a strength in Seattle, No. 25 is a great spot to lock up one of the top interior lineman in the draft.

26.) Green Bay Packers- Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU: Ansah is an extremely raw prospect (after only one year starting at BYU) who has garnered obvious comparisons to the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul due mostly to his untapped potential. The Packers’ defense is lacking and Ansah could provide Green Bay with another weapon alongside Clay Matthews.

27.) Houston Texans- DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson: Matt Schaub is Gary Kubiak’s guy at QB so the best chance for success in Houston is to improve the weapons around him. Kevin Walter isn’t a consistent enough weapon as a No. 2 receiver, and Hopkins possesses the skillset that could see him eventually develop into a replacement for Andre Johnson in a few years.

28.) Denver Broncos- Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State: The pick makes sense for a Denver team that really doesn’t lack much on either side of the ball. John Fox could go running back here, but the presence of Peyton Manning at QB automatically improves whatever ‘back the Broncos trot out on the field. With Champ Bailey showing his age in the playoffs this season, Banks fills a big need in for the Broncos.

29.) New England Patriots- Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia: With Julian Edleman likely gone, and Wes Welker possibly right behind him, the Patriots offense may need to be tweaked in the offseason. Austin looks to be a great fit for the Pats offensive scheme and should flourish with Tom Brady and Bill Bellichick.

30.) Atlanta Falcons- Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame: Tony Gonzalez says he won’t be back—despite still being arguably the best receiving TE in the league—and Eifert is the ideal replacement. It won’t be easy to replace one of the best TE’s in NFL history, but Atlanta could certainly do much worse than the top-rated tight end in the draft.

31.) Baltimore Ravens- Kevin Minter, Inside Linebacker, LSU: Just like in Atlanta, Baltimore will have to deal with the absence of an icon in 2013. Ray Lewis is retiring and Ravens defense is getting older. Despite playing well late this season and during this postseason run, Baltimore has a lot of work to do this offesason. Minter is capable to step in as a starter and should provide Baltimore with more versatility in the middle of the field.

32.) San Francisco 49ers- Desmond Trufant, Cornerback, Washington: San Francisco boasts the most impressive roster in this league, but if there’s one issue with its defense it’s the absence of a true cover corner. So with pick No. 32 it’s a case of the rich getting richer, as arguably the best defense in football walks away with a big, physical corner who recently impressed during the Senior Bowl.

New York Jets – Smith Exit Hastened Tannenbaum’s Downfall

TJ Rosenthal on how the exit of Brad Smith helped lead to Mike Tannenbaum’s downfall

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Mike Tannenbaum told both WFAN and ESPN radio on Tuesday, that the idea of acquiring Tim Tebow was his and a move that was borne out of the need to replace Brad Smith. The chain of events that followed Smith’s exit, arguably the Jets most versatile playmaker during the early Rex Ryan years, then ushered in the start of Tannenbaum’s downfall as GM of the Jets.

Smith was lost during the post-lockout mayhem. A mad two week scramble for free agents that the Jets fumbled, due mainly to their over-pursuit of the highly coveted CB Nnamdi Asomugha. A chase that would have never materialized had the knowledge of Antonio Cromartie’s “lock-down” emergence, been available at the time. Nonetheless, the obsession with Asomugha distracted Gang Green from focusing in on key clutch players like Smith, who was poached by the Bills while the Jets went all or nothing with their cap space. In the hopes of landing Asomugha.

The 2011 regular season then began with the Jets asking Mark Sanchez to grow as a passer and field general. Few members of the Jets brass however, realized how low the third year QB’s ceiling would end up being over the next two years. Or rather, how much Smith had covered things up, by grabbing so many key third down conversions for the offense in 2009 and 2010.

With Sanchez’s limitation’s exposed, Tannenbaum then decided upon making the “football decision” of acquiring Tim Tebow. This to compensate for the loss of Smith. Instead the result added stress and drama to the club, mainly to Sanchez and playcaller Tony Sparano. The club’s first year offensive coordinator, who ironically oversaw the Dolphins “Wildcat” when it ruled the NFL back in 2008. The Jets 2.0 version of the run-heavy formation, was much less effective with Tebow than it ever was when Smith received the direct snap in New York.

Smith’s absence in green and white not only hurt Sanchez and forced Tannenbaum to consider adding the polarizing Tebow, it depleted the team in two other places as well. The special teams unit for one, fell apart for the Jets in 2012. Joe McKnight was an All-Pro return man in 2011 but Smith did it all for Mike Westhoff’s crew. He ran back kicks like McKnight did, but had a unique knack for doing so when the Jets needed it the most. Smith returned punts, made tackles on coverage, and was always healthy.

The lack of depth at WR was another area that Tannenbaum admitted yesterday, hurt the club tremendously during their disappointing 6-10 campaign. Perhaps more of the cracks could been filled in on the outside with Smith, who is still waiting for the chance to expand his role as more than a gadget-like weapon in Buffalo.

Big long term contracts of course dried up the Jets financial flexibility and potential heading into 2012, and threaten the club going forward, However, Smith’s exit eliminated a major security blanket for Sanchez and ushered in Tebow, while leaving two units lacking quality depth. All of which affected results on the field. Causing the sudden growth of the bullseye on Tannenbaum’s back.

The lesson that new GM John Idzik should learn from this, is that the core guys, the proven playmakers, have to be tended to. Guys who may not provide “star power” or giant stat lines, but perform consistently when it counts. Tannenbaum just found out the hard way, what can happen if this essential detail gets overlooked.

New York Jets – How To Fill Out The Depth Chart?

How can the New York Jets begin the process of filling in their bare depth chart?

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In one regard, the New York Jets salary cap situation isn’t as awful as it is made out to be. It is true they will be roughly 20 million under the cap when they take care of expected moves like releasing Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Jason Smith and probably Sione Po’uha, along with restructure a handful of deals. Yet, 20 million dollars under the cap isn’t that much money when you consider the following reality when looking at the Jets under contract (reminder Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, and Braylon Edwards are all unrestricted free agents) –

– There is not a single guard on the roster who has started a NFL game.

– There is not a single safety on the roster who has started a NFL game.

– There is not a single running back on the roster who started a NFL game.

– The quarterbacks are still Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy which will inevitably be changed in some way.

– The top tight end on the roster is Jeff Cumberland.

– After the cutting of Pace, Scott and Bryan Thomas likely retires the Jets will only have two linebackers on the roster who have started NFL games (David Harris and Garret McIntyre).

– Their top three receivers are Santonio Holmes coming off serious foot surgery, Stephen Hill coming off leg surgery and Jeremy Kerley.

So when you look at a reasonable checklist for what the Jets need, it goes something like this

– Strong veteran quarterback competition for Mark Sanchez

– A starting caliber running back to compliment Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight.

– A starting tight end.

– Two starting guards (we will give the Jets the benefit of the doubt in bringing RFA Austin Howard back at tackle)

– A little more stability at wide receiver.

– An inside linebacker.

– Two outside linebackers.

– Two starting safeties.

Well then…how does one go about filling so many holes? Recognizing that this will be more than a one year process, let’s look at what options the Jets have –

Keep Your Own

The New York Jets have a few of their own unrestricted free agents who make sense to bring back. Dustin Keller will likely receive the franchise tag because he is a strong fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. Yeremiah Bell should be relatively easy to retain on a low-cost one year deal, same with Braylon Edwards. The team would be wise to make a strong push to bring both Mike DeVito and Brandon Moore back. DeVito is a key, versatile cog on the defensive line and Moore should be able to be brought back on 2-3 year deal. It will be too difficult to replace two starters at guard in one off-season and Matt Slauson is a goner. Shonn Greene is also going to walk because he can’t function in the team’s new offense and shouldn’t get paid like a starter anyway. LaRon Landry is also going to be extremely difficult to keep because of the price tag he will demand after a Pro-Bowl season.

NFL Browsing

Seattle was active in the trade market when John Idzik was there and it stands to reason the Jets will be making a few calls about dumping some of their unfavorable contracts. Yet, good luck to finding any takers for Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Tim Tebow, or David Harris. We have talked endlessly about the pros and cons of trading Darrelle Revis and that will be an option which is considered. If Revis is not moved, Antonio Cromartie likely will be. This is part of the process of rebuilding such a depleted roster.

Don’t look for the Jets to be overly active in free agency. They will likely focus on a few second tier players at positions they are thin,  like guard, running back and linebacker. There are a few intriguing 3-4 outside linebackers in particular, but with the financial situation getting a guy like Paul Kruger or Anthony Spencer could be out of reach. Regardless, the Jets could improve themselves with a few shrewd low-cost signings.

Draft

Obviously the most important element in rebuilding this team is drafting successfully. The Jets have seven picks heading into the 2013 Draft but look for that number to increase. The Jets need to leave with both quality and quantity, as their lack of depth over the past few years has been a result of only drafting 3-6 players in multiple years. There will be mid-round selections this season who will immediately be thrust into starting or major contributing roles. Early round picks need to be impact players, not Kyle Wilson or Vladimir Ducasse. This is a deep draft at many positions the Jets most desperately need help at, namely pass rusher, guard and running back. Don’t be surprised to see the Jets trade back in a few different situations to acquire more picks and hopefully gain some picks before April via trading their own players.

Turn On The Jets Off-Season Roundtable – Offensive Line

The TOJ staff discusses how the New York Jets should handle offensive line this off-season

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Welcome to our off-season review of the New York Jets roster at Turn On The Jets. Each week we are going to attack a different position. We will have a roundtable discussion on it, Steve Bateman will submit a film breakdown examining it and our draft staff will look at potential prospects the Jets could add. So far we have covered quarterbackrunning back, and wide receiver. This week we move to offensive line – 

How should the New York Jets handle offensive line this off-season?

Joe Caporoso – The New York Jets have a few critical decisions to make on the offensive line. In 2012, Pro Football Focus had the unit ranked 3rd overall in the NFL and while I think that is a slight overrating of their performance, they were still one of the better units in the league.

We know D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold will be back next year and for the long term. It is also a near certainty that Austin Howard will return as the starting right tackle, despite being a Restricted Free Agent. He was a very good run blocker last season and despite his limitations in pass protection, will be a nice fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. The real question marks are at Guard, where both of last year’s starters, Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are free agents. Both players have certain limitations (Slauson’s run blocking and Moore’s age) but both are more than capable starters and the Jets have no immediate answers behind them on their roster. Sorry, Vlad.

The old regime was down on Slauson and desperate to make Ducasse work as a draft pick. Despite the changing of GMs, it is hard to see Slauson getting a market value contract from the Jets. It would be prudent to find a way to bring Brandon Moore back on a short term deal. He has played his entire career in New York and is a needed leader in the locker room. Also the task of finding two new starting guards this off-season is daunting. Our draft team has been high on the prospect of taking Alabama’s Chance Warmack in the first round if he falls to the 9th pick. Warmack is arguably the safest pick in the top ten and would solidify at least one of the guard spots for the next decade. However, it remains to be seen if he falls that far or if there isn’t a better option at #9, namely a pass rusher. If the Jets don’t go Guard in the first round, look for them to strongly consider one in the 2nd or 3rd round.

There are a few mid-level options in free agency this year like Geoff Schwartz, Cooper Carlisle and Leroy Harris among others if the Jets are going to take a dual approach to replacing whoever leaves in free agency. Let’s just hope the team is smart enough not to hand a starting job to Ducasse.

Mike Donnelly – To me, the blueprint for how to handle the line going forward is pretty simple. We have Nick Mangold at center and D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle, and they are the rocks of the line for 2013 and beyond. Right tackle Austin Howard stepped into a starting role after the Wayne Hunter/Jeff Otah fiasco last summer and did an admirable job. He was one of our best run blockers, but clearly struggled as a pass blocker at times. He is a restricted free agent heading into the offseason, but I fully expect the team to bring him back on a 1-year, cap-friendly deal as they try to develop him further.

The real concern with the line is the play of the guards. Matt Slauson has done a fine job the past three seasons holding the fort at left guard, while doing so for minimal pay. You can’t have stars at every position, so guys like Slauson are necessary. This year his play took a bit of a tumble as he headed into his contract year, though, and the team thought so little of his prospects going forward that they started rotating series between him and VLAD DUCASSE. Let that sink in for a second. I’d say the chances of him returning next season as the starting left guard are somewhere between zero and zero. At the other guard spot, veteran Brandon Moore is also a free agent, and while he’s a valued leader in the locker room, his play has clearly tailed off. He is far more likely to return in 2013 on a one-year contract that Slauson is, however, and that’s what I expect to happen. Unfortunately, with the Jets cap situation, all positions can’t be fixed in one year.

The good news is that the 2013 draft is very rich on offensive line talent, so I’d expect the Jets to invest at least one high draft pick in this area. Many are clamoring for a stud like Chance Warmack in the 1st round, and while I wouldn’t be upset over a move like that, I think that pick should be used elsewhere (cough, PASS RUSHER, cough). With high picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, however, I think that’s where our new starting LG very likely can come from. It will give us a young, cheap option going forward, and that’s exactly what this team needs.

Chris Gross –   The 2012 New York Jets offensive line certainly had its hiccups, but ultimately put together a solid overall season. D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a very good bounce back year from a 2011 season that was certainly anything but his best. Nick Mangold was back to his usual self after an injury trickled season, while Austin Howard quietly got better as the year went on. Matt Slauson was solid, but is certainly not in the top tier of offensive guards. Brandon Moore turned in another strong
year, despite some signs of aging. All in all, the Jets offensive line was certainly not the problem for an offense that was anything but spectacular in 2012.

The Jets now face an interesting situation moving forward. Slauson, Moore, and Howard are all entering free agency this offseason. Slauson and Moore will be unrestricted, Howard restricted. It will be compelling to see how it plays out moving forward, particularly considering the Jets current salary cap situation. They cannot afford new deals to both Slauson and Moore. Howard should be retained, but it will be interesting to see how his situation plays out due to the rules of restricted free agency and how they relate to his particular case.

To get a better understanding of how restricted free agency works, this is an excerpt from NFL.com:

The (The RFA) has received a “qualifying offer” (a salary tender predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from his old club. He can negotiate with any club through April 20. If the restricted free agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because it has a “right of first refusal.” If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed on or before April 20, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club.

Basically what this all means is that the Jets will have a few options regarding Howard. Restricted free agents can receive one of four different tender amounts. Per Albert Breer of NFL Network, the RFA tender amounts for 2013 are as follows:

1st Round Compensation: $2.879 million

2nd Round: $2.023 million

Original Round: $1.323 million

Right of first refusal: $1.323 million

Since Howard was originally an undrafted free agent, placing an original round tender on him would give him the ability to sign an offer sheet with another team, while giving the Jets the right of first refusal to match that offer sheet. If the Jets were to match the offer sheet, Howard would become a Jet for the duration of the contract terms. If they chose not to match it, he would join the team that signed him to the offer sheet, and being an undrafted free agent, the Jets wouldn’t receive anything in return.

This could get tricky for a few reasons. First, if the Jets place a 2nd round tender on him, it is almost a virtual certainty that he will
not be signed to an offer sheet by any other team, for it is highly unlikely that a team would be willing to surrender a 2nd round pick for him in the event that the Jets wouldn’t match the offer, another near certainty considering a 2nd round pick probably holds higher value than Howard as of right now.

If New York decides to place an original round tender on him, there is a higher likelihood that a team would sign him to a minimum level deal. This would put the Jets in a tough spot. While Howard was decent last season, it would be smarter to see him with another year of experience under his belt before committing multiple years to him. However, would they be willing to part ways with him for nothing in return, considering his status as an undrafted free agent? Probably not.

The question then becomes, is Howard worth over $2 million next season? In short, yes. The top average base salary for an offensive tackle in the NFL is around $11.5 million (Jake Long, Joe Thomas). Considering this, a slight amount over $2 million is peanuts.

In terms of cap hits, the tender salary for a restricted free agent usually counts exactly that amount against the cap. Mike Wallace
received a 1st round tender from Pittsburgh last season for $2.742 million, all of which counted toward the cap, but not a penny more.

So, from a cap standpoint, is it worth committing that much cap space to an average right tackle? D’Brickashaw Ferguson will count for just over $10.7 million against the cap next year, so placing the 2nd round tender on Howard would commit about $13 million of cap space to both starting tackles. To put it into perspective, the Giants were one of the best statistical offensive lines in football last season, surrendering a league low 20 sacks while leading a seasonal rushing average of 4.6 YPC. The Giants two tackles, David Diehl and William Beatty counted for just under $5.5 million against the cap last season, combined.

5069b0737bbb4.imageFor a team with 4 positions secured along the offensive line, this decision would be a no brainer. If it were the Jets, they could place the original round tender on Howard and be perfectly fine by not signing any qualifying offer because they could draft a mid round rookie, pay him significantly less, and probably get a similar level of production out of him. Unfortunately for New York, however, it would be a major risk doing that with the amount of uncertainty facing both guard positions. If Slauson and Moore were both to walk in free agency, they’d be looking at three new starters to join with Mangold and Ferguson. Not an ideal situation for a team looking to build some offensive relevancy.

New York will probably part ways with Slauson. He has developed a decent enough reputation around the league for him to get a respectable sized contract on the open market. Considering how loaded the draft is with guards this year (more coming Thursday), the Jets could actually end up upgrading the position for less money than Slauson will likely receive.

Brandon Moore will probably be allowed to test the market. While he is the longest tenured offensive lineman on the Jets, New York would be wise to gauge his market value before committing 2-3 years to him, considering he will be 33 by the start of next season. If he can be brought back on a very low cost, 1-2 year deal, it makes perfect sense.

If Moore is retained, Howard will likely receive the minimum qualifying offer. This would still give the Jets a good chance to
retain him at the lowest possible cost, but would also allow them to survive if he is signed to an offer sheet with another team. With Moore retained, a rookie could be brought in to play alongside the savvy veteran, and would likely grow at a rate comparable to what Howard would next season.

If Moore is not retained, however, Howard would likely need to receive the 2nd round tender. As mentioned above, it would be ill advised for the Jets to enter the season with three brand new starters along the offensive line. Placing a 2nd round tender on Howard would virtually guarantee his return to the Jets, who would likely then add two guards via the draft. One would be drafted early to start, with another mid-late round selection brought in to compete with Vlad Ducasse, who saw his most time as a pro last season, but is not married to the new front office in any way.

Either way you look at it, it is going to be a bit tricky moving forward. In all likelihood, there will be at the least one new starter on the offensive line. There is also a good chance that there are two new starters, but at least three players should return, nothing less.

Steve Bateman – The offensive line doesn’t really concern me as much as it probably does some other people. That said, it’s clearly an area that needs to be considered, as expiring contracts mean that there will likely be some fresh faces in the front five. The appointment of Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator basically heralded the death knell for Matt Slauson, in my opinion. If, as is widely expected, Mornhinweg operates a zone-blocking run game, Slauson’s lack of speed would make him entirely inadequate in terms of coming off his primary block and moving upfield to occupy defenders at the second level. A player that I like as a cheap but effective replacement for Slauson is Oakland Raiders guard Cooper Carlisle – a lineman who is out of contract this year and who also has experience of zone-blocking systems under Greg Knapp.

In my book, bringing Brandon Moore back is by no means a certainty either. His contract demands will be towards the higher end of the market for a lineman, and the Jets brain trust may decide to trim their budget by cutting Moore loose and replacing him with a rookie next year. This is perhaps not as scary a proposition as it may first seem, as linemen suited to Mornhinweg-like schemes (namely guys who are quick, agile, but not neccesarily too powerful) can regularly be found towards the bottom of the draft board. This is one of the key reasons as to why I’m staunchly opposed to the idea of taking Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the first round.

In terms of what’s already there, I’m obviously very happy to see Nick Mangold handling the nose tackle and protection calls, while D’Brickashaw Ferguson came back from a disappointing 2011 to have a quietly outstanding campaign last year. I’m also happy to see Austin Howard in the starting lineup at right tackle, but there is one proviso here. It’s an odd anomaly in the modern NFL that the player who is traditionally the team’s worst pass-blocker is often left to deal with the opposition’s best rusher. This is generally not a problem, however, as offenses scheme for the mismatch by ensuring that their right tackle gets help with double-teams or chip-blocks from running backs and/or tight ends. Too often last year Howard was exposed because the help he received was hopeless, and so going forward I think it’s critical that he’s supported by players who won’t crumble in the way that Jeff Cumberland and Bilal Powell did far too often in 2012.

The exit of Tony Sparano should also help the offensive line, as it will no longer fall victim to a gameplan that was almost entirley devoid of draws and play-action passes. Count on Mornhinweg to add some versatility to his playing staff, and look for him to keep opposing defense on their toes by running out of pass-heavy personnel groupings and vice-versa. In many ways, Sparano’s abject failure to do this last year left his offensive line facing unwinnable battles through no real fault of their own.

Chris Celletti – A few seasons ago, the Jets’ offensive line was one of the best in the league, but the past few seasons have seen a slow, significant demise. The guard positions in 2012 were manned by the aging Brandon Moore and the never-quite-good-enough Matt Slauson, and with both of them being unrestricted free agents, it seems like now is a good time for the Jets to think about a little revamping that position. Obviously, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson are among the best in the league at their respective positions, so you’re set there. After a bit of a shaky start to last season, Austin Howard was serviceable at right tackle, and the Jets should bring the restricted free agent back if they can do so for reasonable money – which I would expect to be possible. It’s the guard spots that the Jets should be looking to replace.

I would seriously look at adding one starting-level guard in the Draft – I would nab Chance Warmack if available at No. 9. Drafting a guard with a top-10 pick isn’t going to elicit too many cheers from the Jets fans in attendance, but it’s a prudent move. As with any high draft pick there is risk, but the Jets may have one of their guard spots locked up for a decade if the book on Warmack is right. If you have that opportunity, you go for it. As for the other guard position, my stance is this: Anybody but Vlad Ducasse. Get a cheap veteran, draft someone in the mid rounds, make an under-the-radar trade, re-sign Brandon Moore on a one-year deal or use Tim Tebow there if you have to…anything or anyone but Vlad Ducasse.

New York Jets: The Revis Debate

Revis

Outside of NFL Draft Prospects and potential free agent additions, the hottest debate topic circulating the New York Jets at the current time is undoubtedly the recent news that the Jets will look into trading Cornerback Darrelle Revis. When discussing a team’s best player, one who is arguably the best defensive player in the entire league, debates are destined to gain intensity. Unfortunately, there will not be much clarity on this situation until the new league year begins in March. However, there are certainly strong arguments that can be made both in favor of and against trading Revis. Here, the Turn On The Jets staff gives their take using three basic points –

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary

2.) Possible Trade Compensation 

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL?

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments thread below or by giving us a shout on Twitter!

Chris Gross

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – It is surely difficult to argue against the value of a dominant cornerback in today’s NFL considering how offenses in the league have evolved over recent years. Darrelle Revis is surely more than just a cornerback, he is a player who consistently takes 1/11th of opposing offenses away on a weekly basis. When preparing for a Revis-led secondary, teams often need to adjust their game plans accordingly, taking away from time that would normally be spent on overall preparation against a team with two cornerbacks who are simply considered to be “good.”

Having said that, New York has two top tier cornerbacks on their roster. While Antonio Cromartie surely isn’t in the class that Revis consistently reminds us is occupied solely by number 24, he is a more than capable player who can be successful with money spent across the board to provide a better supporting cast.

The question here isn’t really whether or not the Jets should trade away their best player because, unfortunately, it runs much deeper than that. Speaking solely from a football standpoint, making Revis a Jet for life is a no brainer, something that 31 other teams would love to do, as well. However, this goes beyond what Revis can provide on the field. While it is easy to subscribe to the notion of “just pay the man,” the Jets would be foolish to commit $16 million per season to a cornerback, even if that cornerback has the potential to be among the greatest to ever play the position.

As noted above, offenses in the NFL are evolving into the most complex passing attacks that the sport has ever seen. The Jets, on the other hand, are well behind in this evolution. There is no denying how putrid New York’s offense was last season. In a nutshell, the Jets have been trying to invent the wheel while the rest of the league is nearing NASA like technology.

Yes, Tony Sparano proved to be a poor hire. The recent acquisition of Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator has given some ray of hope for the Jets to begin to catch up with the remainder of the league in terms of offensive relevancy. Unfortunately, however, the Jets still lack vital components in their offensive personnel that can give them an offense capable of having success in today’s game. Paying that type of money to a cornerback would even further prohibit the Jets from acquiring the necessary players to put a competitive offensive unit on the field. The salary cap space that a long term contract like that would eat up would be crippling to a team that all but needs an entire offensive overhaul, outside of about 3-4 players.

When looking at the position value vs. money spent, consider the fact that only two quarterbacks, a position that is unquestionably the most important in the NFL today, make over $16 million per season, on average. Outside of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, both of whom have won Super Bowls, Eli Manning (2 Super Bowls), Tom Brady (3 Super Bowls), Ben Roethlisberger (2 Super Bowls), and every other signal caller in the league make less money per year, on average, than what Revis is asking for. Tying up so much money at a position that, although important, could certainly be won with above average players at, would set this franchise back even further than the 6-10 mess that was on display this past season.

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – The notion that Revis’s value will be hindered by his ACL injury last season is a valid concern. However, the reality of the situation is that, with so many holes all over the roster, the Jets simply cannot afford to have two top tier cornerbacks eating up so much cap space.

The idea of trading Antonio Cromartie has been floated for a few reasons. First, it is easy to look at the numbers for next season and realize that Cromartie counts more toward the cap than Revis does. This is true. However, beyond 2013, Revis’s number will grow astronomically if given the salary he is reportedly seeking.

Look at some of the biggest contracts around the league and consider how much those annual salaries counted toward the cap last year. Peyton Manning had a 2012 base salary of $18 million, all of which counted against the cap. Drew Brees had a base salary of just $3 million, but counted for $10.4 million against the cap, a number likely to jump significantly next season. Eli Manning’s base was only $1.75 million, but counted for $9.6 million against the cap, a number that will likely increase as he enters the years of his contract with a larger base salary. Simply put, there is no way around the cap hit of a contract similar to the one Revis is looking to land. Terms can be altered and adjusted so some years are less than others, but the bottom line is that, at some point, that cap number is going to be a problem for whoever ends up paying Revis when they’re looking to spend money on the other 52 roster spots. If you’re a well balanced, strongly built team, this is not as significant of an issue. Unfortunately, the Jets are anything but.

Beyond the cap number, a growing desire to trade Cromartie seems to be out of the idea that, with Revis coming off of an ACL injury, the two players will have equal trade value. This could not be further from the truth. While Cromartie is certainly coming off one of the best, if not the best, years of his career, no team would be willing to part with more than a 2nd round pick for him. An injured Revis will likely garner not only a 1st rounder, but multiple other picks, and possibly players as well. As one General Manager has reportedly claimed, the interest in Revis could be “one of the biggest potential trade markets for a player ever.” Regardless of the season Cromartie had, it was in no way, shape, or form comparable to what a healthy Revis could provide. It is capable to win with a cornerback like Cromartie on a roster where money is spent to improve other positions, but alone, there is simply no way that his market is equivalent to that of Revis.

The amount of compensation that the Jets will get in return for Revis is surely a big factor in this decision, regardless of how anyone looks at it. Unfortunately, however, without a long term solution to keeping Revis, the trade needs to be done. The Jets can absolutely not allow Revis to enter a contract year, return to form, and then walk at the conclusion of the season, leaving them with nothing but a compensatory pick in return.

Revis is surely a once in a generation type player, but in terms of the current situation, that is a double-edged sword. Yes, it would be a tough decision to trade a player of his caliber. But at the same time, for a team looking to completely restructure their roster over the course of the next few years, there is no better trade piece to use outside of an elite quarterback or pass rusher.

Consider history for a moment. Prior to the 2009 season, then New England Patriot Richard Seymour found himself entering a contract year with the team that used the 6th overall pick to select him, only a few years prior. With no long term solution in place, and fear of losing him to free agency following the season with nothing in return, the Patriots traded the 3 time Super Bowl Champion, 5 time Pro Bowler, and 3 time 1st team All-Pro to the Oakland Raiders for a 1st round draft pick. Seymour was a player in his prime who had been a vital piece to the championships that New England had won earlier in the decade. How could the Patriots trade him away?

The answer is simple. New England had a long term vision for the overall well being of the franchise. The situation with Seymour was no part of that plan in anyway. For the Patriots, it was either let him play out his remaining year, let him hit the open market, and sign with another team, for absolutely nothing in return, or resign him to a long extension, and allow the one position to eat up a tremendous amount of salary cap space (Remember, Seymour was made the highest paid defensive player in the league in 2011 when the Raiders gave him a 2 year $30 million extension). To New England, there was really no positive solution to keeping Seymour, regardless of how vital he had been to the team’s past success. Instead, Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office jumped on such a significant offer from Oakland without blinking.

So, how did it work out? Since acquiring Seymour, Oakland has gone 25-39 over four seasons, while sacrificing a significant chunk of cap space and money to him, depriving other spots throughout the roster. Although Seymour was selected to 2 Pro Bowls as a Raider, the team never finished better than third in the AFC West since the trade was made.

The Patriots, on the other hand, used the 1st round pick sent from Oakland to select Nate Solder, a young offensive tackle who has been a key part to an offensive unit that has been among the best the league has seen in recent years. Since shipping Seymour to Oakland, New England has gone 49-15 with 4 divisional crowns and 1 Conference title. At the present time, the Patriots remain a few pieces away from a return to the Super Bowl, while Oakland will likely allow Seymour to walk as a free agent this year, with nothing to show for it outside of a third place divisional finish.

This is not to compare Seymour to Revis. Was Seymour the caliber of player that Revis was at the time of the trade? No, but he is certainly no slouch. Seymour had 3 championships, 5 Pro Bowl appearances, and was selected to 3 All-Pro teams. Unfortunately for him, however, his demands were not in the best interest of the franchise. New England sold high, and it paid off significantly. Coming off a serious injury, trading Revis now may not return the same compensation that trading him following the 2009 season would have, but with no long term solution in place, this is the highest his value will be while under contract with the Jets.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – Yes and no. With how the league is trending, having an elite, shutdown cornerback would presumably give any team a monstrous defensive advantage. This is certainly tough to argue, but in relevancy to other vital positions, cornerback ranks 4th behind quarterback, offensive line, and pass rushing defensive front 7 personnel.

Look to the final four team’s of this year’s playoff tournament. Not one of them sent a cornerback to the Pro Bowl, nor did anyone of them see a cornerback reach the All-Pro team. Conversely, when lumping quarterback, offensive line, and defensive front 7 personnel into one category, the Ravens, 49ers, Falcons, and Patriots collectively sent 13 players to the Pro Bowl, including 5 to the All-Pro 1st team, and 6 to the All-Pro 2nd team.

Is this to say team’s with quality cornerbacks are not successful? Of course not. Champ Bailey, a Pro Bowler and 2nd team All-Pro selection, was part of a Denver Broncos team that finished with a regular season record of 13-3, earning the AFC’s top seed. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who made the Pro Bowl and was a 1st Team All-Pro selection, was a vital piece to his team’s success that included a divisional crown and finished one poor defensive drive short of reaching the NFC Championship Game. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings of the Chicago Bears were both voted to the Pro Bowl, and received 1st and 2nd team All-Pro accolades, respectively. Chicago was tremendous at taking the ball away this season, and finished a respectable 10-6 in a tough division, but fell just short of the playoffs before seeing Head Coach Lovie Smith receive his pink slip.

So, on the question of whether or not cornerbacks are vital to success in today’s NFL, the answer depends on how an organization defines success. Is success a top seed in the playoffs, a divisional title, or a winning record? Or is success conference championships and Super Bowls? The majority of those employed by NFL teams will surely choose the latter.

Looking at recent Super Bowl champion teams, even the most dedicated football fan will have trouble naming each team’s starting cornerbacks. Conversely, when asked to name the quarterbacks or pass rushers on those teams, that same fan will rattle off names like Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger, along with Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, Clay Matthews, Will Smith, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley, among others. In fact, a 1st team All-Pro cornerback has not won a Super Bowl since Ty Law did it with the New England Patriots in 2003.

The bottom line is that while Revis is undoubtedly one of the best players in the NFL, his price tag is simply going to be too much for the Jets. This isn’t a matter of being too cheap to pay him. Woody Johnson has been bashed by countless fans and analysts over the past year for caring only about ticket sales and revenue. Why then, would he trade away his biggest attraction, rather than paying him his price? It is because this is a cap space issue. Simply put, Revis is worthy of some type of big pay day, there is no doubt about it. Will some team give him his record breaking contract? Probably. But that team will likely have nowhere near the amount of holes on their roster that the Jets do.

New York has been criticized for not investing enough into the offensive side of the ball, something that has been widely viewed as being the sole factor that has held them back from being consistently competitive over the past decade or so. For the Jets to end their streak of offensive ineptitude, they need to trade Revis and receive the proper compensation and salary cap relief that is needed to build a strong 53 man roster. The Jets have been top heavy in terms of player salary over the past few seasons, leading to average at best and very poor players occupying the remainder of the roster. New York cannot fix this by giving out the largest contract for a defensive player in the history of the NFL. Even if that player is Darrelle Revis.

Mike Donnelly

First, let me start out by saying I am firmly in the #KeepRevis camp, and I think John Idzik and the Jets brain trust should do everything in their power to keep their best player wearing the green and white in 2013 and beyond…like, until the day he steps into Canton as a Hall of Famer-type beyond. Let me tell you why.

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – I don’t buy into the whole “You can’t pay a CB that much money” line of thinking because to me, Darrelle Revis is far more than “just a corner”. He is not only the best corner in the league, he may very well be the best player in the league, and as such, he has a tremendous impact in each and every game he plays. I think he’s completely justified asking for a contract in line with what the top defenders are getting paid. I’m not saying to write him a blank check and break the bank to keep him, but with all the terrible contracts on this team, I think the front office should look to make changes elsewhere and find a way to keep the GOOD players, like Darrelle.

Currently, Mario Williams is the highest paid defender in the NFL. It’s not unrealistic for Revis to get paid in the same ballpark, because he does more for a defense than a guy like Williams. Offenses have to completely game plan around Revis each week and know where he is on every play. It’s not easy going into a game knowing that throwing to your best wide receiver isn’t going to be an option that day, but that’s exactly what #24 brings to the table. Remember in the 2010-11 playoffs when the Jets played the Colts? Peyton Manning refused to even look in Reggie Wayne’s direction. That’s a Hall of Fame QB-to-WR connection, and it was completely erased from the game. Again, he’s not just a corner. He’s an elite player and does things for a team that nobody else in the league can match. He deserves to get paid, and with a ton of money able to come off the books in the next two years (Pace, Scott, Harris, Holmes, Po’uha, Sanchez), there’s no reason Revis can’t be kept while the team is rebuilt around him by drafting and developing players.

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – I think this is where a lot of Jets fans are getting jaded. Many seem to think that trading Revis is going to bring in this great haul of draft picks that will allow the team to rebuild right away and build a dynasty like the Cowboys did by trading Hershel Walker. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no Walker-type haul coming our way. The best we can hope for is a mid-to-late-1st round pick and a mid-round pick thrown in. Revis is coming off a torn ACL and is going to demand huge money from his new team, which will severely limit his trade value. I’m not an economist or anything, but I’m pretty sure the “sell while value is lowest” strategy isn’t going to get us very far. Oh, and for the people kicking around trade proposals involving established players (I’ve seen Elvis Dumervil mentioned), that’s not going to happen either. If you’re going to trade for a guy who is going to get paid handsomely, why not just keep Revis?

Here’s another newsflash: Trading away Revis isn’t going to magically get us a franchise QB who is going to lead the team to prominence. Having extra picks is good, but the draft is a major crapshoot, where more players fail than succeed. More than likely, that extra 3rd or 4th round pick we pull in will at best give us a useful role player, while the 1st round pick will give us a good player that will hopefully one day grow up to be HALF as good as the guy we are giving away.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – I’m not going to say that if you were building a team cornerback would be the most important position to fill, but what I will say is that you would probably want a superstar defender who terrifies even the best quarterbacks in the league, and that is exactly what Darrelle Revis brings to the table. He shouldn’t be viewed strictly as a corner, but rather as a superstar defensive player who makes everyone around him better. Look what happens when he’s on the field: the #2 CB never has to worry about facing the other team’s best receiver; there’s no need for safety help, which enables the safety to come up and defend against the run more (something we lacked this year), or help out against tight ends and slot receivers since Revis is on his Island; the D can send an extra blitzer if need be.

I keep hearing “There are no Pro Bowl Corners in the Super Bowl” as a reason to trade Revis, and I don’t understand that at all. There’s a major difference between “great corner” and “Revis corner”, so it’s basically a moot point. The last corner to play on Revis’s level was Deion Sanders, and last time I checked, he had a few rings on his hand and nobody was trying to trade him for pennies on the dollar. I don’t see any All-Pro receivers playing in this year’s Super Bowl either by the way, does that mean the Lions should trade Calvin Johnson too? Players who perform at that high of a level transcend their position, and should be viewed as more. In my mind, when you have a Hall of Fame-type player, you keep him and do whatever it takes to build around him, even if he’s “just a cornerback”. The Patriots win every year not because they don’t invest big money in cornerbacks; they win because they have Tom Brady. We don’t have Tom Brady, and like I said, trading Revis isn’t going to magically fix that. It’s just going to make the defense–and the team–worse.

Some may say that there being no star CB’s in this year’s Super Bowl proves that Revis is expendable. I look at it the other way and see two excellent defenses battling it out, and I don’t think there’s any reason the Jets defense can’t be just as good or better than them in the coming years, like it was in 2009 and 2010. And the number 1 reason for that being possible is Darrelle Revis. Pay the man. #KeepRevis.

TJ Rosenthal

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary

A healthy Darrelle Revis will make the Jets entire team better. Except if he holds out for, and obtains the type of money that will hurt John Idzik’s chances to gain a plethora of affordable useful pieces as a result.

The Jets defense can hold teams to under 23 (23.4 avg in 2012) points or so often enough without him, that it makes the notion of dealing him at least understandable. This, if Idzik believes he can help boost the Jets 17.6 scoring average by sending him elsewhere. If the new GM can add offensive guys who can contribute to one more TD a game, to a 24.0 scoring average in 2013, imagine what the Jets win loss record could be then.

Those are the numbers that we care about the most when it comes to the notion of Revis: Points scored and points given up. Will his exit help the Jets score more?

2.) Possible Trade Compensation 

Revis on two strong knees, if the Jets also throw a few perimeter guys in along with him, is worth a few first rounders..or a first and second rounder, and some vets in return. As it stands now, he’s worth less.

Maybe a club gambles away a first on Revis before seeing hos he looks in July, but we are looking more likely at a second and fourth or so for him right now. Which we believe is not enough to pull the trigger.

The bigger question comes down to, what does the Revis team want? What are they willing to fight for? We hear the “100 million dollar long term deal” rumors, but what is the truth? Once that is made known to the front office, then a clearer view can be had as to what is the more prudent path for Gang Green to take.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL?

Considering the type of style that Revis employs on the field Yes. Revis is not a clutcher, or a grabber. He’s a WR shadow thanks to great instinct and footwork. A guy who shuts down top threats outside, and who doesn’t get flagged for headhunting, or PI’s at all.

We are now entering a finesse phase of defense in the NFL, as the league tries to adapt to the increase of size and speed in it’s players, while concussions are being treated with the utmost caution.

Revis fits seemlessly into this new modern world that is built for passing games to succeed. He is one of the few who owns the skill set to slow it down.

He should not be dealt solely to alleviate a future cap issue. He should be dealt first and foremost, to reverse that seven point scoring differential we previously mentioned. Any other benefits of dealing him should be secondary.

We hope Revis stays, and that other solutions as to how to attack the personnel issues on offense are taken. We fear that they will not be. We worry on top of that, that Woody Johnson remembers the last two holdouts and is not in the mood for another one from the same player. Even if it is the great Revis Island.

Steve Bateman

1.) Position value vs. Contract Terms/Salary – If you want the top players you have to pay top dollar – that may sound blindingly obvious but it really is the bottom line in this whole debate. But here’s where it gets tough, because what applies to cornerbacks applies equally – if not moreso – to running backs, wide receivers, guards, and the myriad other offensive positions where the Jets need to reinvest during this off-season. So for me it’s not so much a question of can we afford to keep Revis, it’s more a case of whether or not we can afford to keep shovelling so much of our salary cap into a position which has become fundamentally devalued in the modern NFL (more of which later).

2.) Possible Trade Compensation – This is a team in transition. Or at least I hope to goodness that it is. If the Jets are going to become competitive again they have to address so many position needs that it would take a miracle for it to be achieved in one season through free agency. Consequently draft picks are going to be valuable beyond all measure over the coming years, and although I wouldn’t expect much more than maybe a third-rounder in 2013 with a conditional first in 2014, it’s sensible to look at the situation logically and build for the future by saying farewell.

3.) Are Cornerbacks vital to success in today’s NFL? – Darrelle Revis is way beyond great. In fact, he’s better than most people realize, because not only is he one of the three genuinely elite modern-day cornerbacks who can lay claim to the title of “Shutdown Corner” (add Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders) but he’s also plying his trade in a league where the odds have been stacked against him. Quite honestly, I find it hard to convince myself that he’s not one of the greatest players to have ever set foot on a gridiron.

But ironically, what makes him great is what also makes him expendable. In the modern game there’s a growing trend towards sacrificing cornerbacks at the expense of developing an effective pass rush. Why? Because with recent changes to pass interference rules, any team that tries to defend the pass by relying on its secondary is fighting a losing battle from the outset.

Therefore my preference – and the path I think the team will in fact take – would be to ditch Revis in order to bring in a couple of pass-rushing OLBs who are able to capitalize on the awesome two-gapping work of Mo Wilkerson. If Quinton Coples also continues to develop as a 3-4 defensive end – and there’s no reason to think that he won’t – then this is by far the Jets best chance of building an effective pass defense going forward.

In cap terms the Jets are down to their bare bones, and like it or not, Revis is a luxury that they simply can’t afford.