This is where things really get interesting. With April 25th quickly approaching, the excitement surrounding the 2013 NFL Draft gets amped up. For the New York Jets, this draft is one of the most important in recent memory, as the chances to rebuild (or reload, if you’re an optimist) a roster in desperate need of talent will hinge on a solid three days at Radio City Music Hall.
Along with a heightened anticipation comes a hoard of mock drafts from draft analysts everywhere. With countless scenarios capable of playing out, mocks don’t offer much more than educated guesswork. But while we all know it’s an inexact science, the truth is, they’re fun to read.
So it’s with those factors in mind that I decided to put together a four-round mock draft solely from the Jets perspective including multiple draft selections for each round, bracing for the likelihood that the most highly sought after player will be off the board when the Jets pick.
Round 1 (Pick No. 9): Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon: There was a time (brief as it may have been) that Jordan falling to the Jets at No. 9 was a very likely scenario. Needless to say that’s no longer the case, as more and more projections have the versatile outside linebacker/defensive end being selected in the top six or seven picks.
The TOJ draft team has detailed Jordan’s extremely impressive skill set a number of times already – and for good reason. Jordan projects as a very capable pass rusher, and despite standing 6’7″ 248 pounds, is able to drop back into coverage and cover running backs in the flat. His versatility and excessive upside could help the former Oregon Duck be off the board by the time the Jets pick.
Backup Plan: Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, OLB, BYU: This kid is one hell of a “backup plan”. Ansah has grown on me since the end of the 2012 season, and even with his lack of experience and potential delays converting to outside linebacker, I still love the pick. At BYU, Ansah was the most versatile piece on the defense, used all over the defensive line, at outside linebacker, and at times at inside linebacker.
Considering he’s a 271-pound former track star (he competed in the 200M before joining the BYU football team) who only has three years of football experience, his freakish natural ability and size helps conjure up images of a future pro bowler.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with this pick, largely due to the questions regarding Ansah’s ability to transition to a 3-4 OLB. But anyone who can dominate college competition at multiple positions with as little experience as Ansah is certainly worth taking a risk on.
Option No. 3: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: I didn’t include trades in this mock, but that doesn’t mean I’m against the Jets trading back. Truthfully, if both Jordan and Ansah are off the board, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Jets shopping the pick.
Although many fans will disagree with me, happier to see Jones as the first option targeted by the Jets rather than the failsafe, it’s his injury history and questions regarding his ability to add size that really concern me.
While a trade down scenario is a long shot – as is the likelihood of Jordan and Ansah still being on the board at No. 9 – the Jets may choose to focus more on Jones’ upside as a pro-ready pass rusher, making him the first selection of the ‘John Idzik Era’.
Round 2 (Pick No. 39): Giovani Bernard, RB, UNC: Lots of fans and analysts develop what some might deem an unhealthy attraction to certain prospects during the pre-draft process. In my case, the offensive player I most want to see in green next season is Bernard. The 5’8” UNC running back offers everything you can look for in an undersized back, and considering the approach of offensive coordinator Marty Morningweig, could offer the Jets a weapon similar to the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy.
While he leaves something to be desired in pass protection, his homerun capability is hard to overlook – and it’s something that’s been missing in New York since the days of Leon Washington. Whether he’s bouncing to the outside, running between the tackles, catching passes, or returning punts, Bernard is always a threat to impact the game.
The smart pick here is to continue rebuilding the linebacker corps or to address the offensive line, but the fan in me wants to see a legitimate weapon on the Jets offense, and Bernard is certainly that. As it looks right now, the only way New York will have a shot at grabbing Bernard is if they’re able to acquire multiple second round picks. But in this trade-less mock draft, we’ll pretend Bernard slides to No. 39 and the Jets acquire a RB capable of breaking a run longer than 10 yards.
Backup Plan: DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson: Drafting Stephen Hill in the second
round of the 2012 NFL Draft will sour some people on this pick, and it’s understandable. But if this team wants is really building for 2014, they’ll need to add a receiving threat to go alongside Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill, and If Santonio Holmes doesn’t renegotiate his deal, theres a good chance we won’t see him on the roster in 2014.
Hopkins would offer the Jets good route running, strong hands and straight-line speed. It’s those traits could see him off the board sometime in Round 1, but if he’s there in Round 2, the Jets will have a serious decision to make.
Option No. 3: Barrett Jones, Guard/Center/Tackle, Alabama: Although I’m not a particularly big fan of targeting interior lineman early in the draft, the Jets are thin on the offensive line. And by “thin”, I mean they don’t have any guards on the roster capable of starting.
While Jones projects as a guard in New York, his versatility on the offensive line makes him the ideal insurance plan. The only player to win a National Title in three different seasons while starting at three different positions on the offensive line, Barrett would be able to move around the offensive line in a pinch. Considering we’ve all seen what happens when Nick Mangold goes down, it’s safe to say some insurance couldn’t hurt this team.
Concerns surrounding the Lisfranc injury he sustained this season could see him slide further than the second round. But if healthy, he’s one of the best options available in Round 2.
Round 3 (Pick No. 74 ): Travis Kelce, Tight End, Cincinnati: Kelce is another prospect who has grown on me since the end of the season. While not as refined as some of the other top-rated tight ends in this draft, Kelce’s skill set could offer the Jets a much needed weapon both as a receiver and as a blocker.
There are some off-field concerns with Kelce though, as he was suspended by the Cincinnati coaching staff for the entire 2010 season due to a violation of team rules. But with Dustin Keller not expected to return, and Jeff Cumberland the only legitimate tight end on the roster, acquiring a player that can stay on the field in both rushing and passing situations would be a much needed addition for the Jets.
Backup Plan: Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss: It’s not likely that Collins will be available in Round 3, and if the Jets are serious about including him in the rebuilding process at the linebacker position they may have to find a way to move back into the end of the second round. But stranger things have happened, so let’s assume (if Kelce’s off the board) the Football God’s give the Jets a break and leave Collins, a raw but highly athletic outside ‘backer, on the board at pick No. 74.
Option No. 3: Justin Pugh, Guard, Syracuse: I’m all over the map in this round, going from a tight end, to an outside linebacker, and now landing on the offensive line with Syracuse junior Justin Pugh as my Round 3 failsafe. If the Jets are serious about moving on from Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore, they’ll need to address the offensive line at some point during the draft. They could certainly do worse than a guy like Pugh, whose mobility and footwork enable him to reach his second level blocks in a hurry. While he played tackle at Syracuse, his build and arm length make him a better option at guard in the NFL.
Round 4 (Pick No. 103): Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon: Lots of assumption goes into this one. I’m
assuming the Jets don’t end up with Collins in Round 3 (I can’t see the Jets drafting three LB’s in the first four rounds), and I’m assuming that Alonso falls to Round 4. With those two assumptions in mind, Alonso would be a great consolation prize for the Jets.
Although the Jets already have Demario Davis and David Harris inside, the addition of Alonso would offer Rex Ryan some flexibility, as both he and Davis have the skill set to slide outside and rush the passer, among other things. People may shy away from an inside ‘backer considering all of the other needs on this roster, but the 3-4 defense is predicated on strong linebacker play, and this pick could essentially complete the rebuild at the position.
Backup Plan: Andre Ellington, Running Back, Clemson: Although Ellington could go sometime in rounds two or three, there’s still a decent chance that he’ll be around for the Jets in the fourth. There have been some reports that the Jets have interest in the undersized Clemson back, but it’s hard to put much stock in leaked rumors this time of year.
Ellington boasts tremendous balance and footwork, which helps him routinely break tackles and pick up yards after contact. While he has some concerns about his ability to stay healthy and will certainly need to get stronger to have an impact in the NFL, his natural ability alone makes him an interesting option in the Jets backfield.
Option No. 3: Brian Winters, Guard, Kent State: Another offensive lineman for the Jets to target as a fallback plan, Winters, who played tackle at Kent State, projects as a quality guard or tackle in the NFL, and would offer the Jets a little flexibility on the O Line. The former high school wrestler has a great motor and footwork, but still needs to improve his technique and balance.
After the draft’s first four rounds, the Jets’ rebuilding plan appears to be taking shape. They’ve secured talent at the outside linebacker position, on the offensive line and at running back or wide receiver, and have plenty of opportunities to continue finding talent in the final three rounds.
Names to look for in Rounds 5-7:
- Duke Williams, Safety, Nevada
- Josh Evans, Safety, Florida
- Connor Vernon, Wide Receiver, Duke
- Zeke Motta, Safety, Notre Dame
- Chris Harper, Wide Receiver, Kansas State
- A.J. Klein, Linebacker, Kansas State