New York Jets Draft Scenarios: What Are The Best Options?

Chris reviews the New York Jets options at number 16 in the first round of the draft

Check out Turn On The Jets most recent mock draft projection for the New York Jets by myself and then where Chris Gross argues about my undervaluing of Courtney Upshaw. Today Chris reviews the Jets primary options with the 16th overall pick. I will be publishing my updated mock draft this Friday and then a full first round mock draft next Wednesday.

Take it away Chris… – JC

When it comes to the New York Jets,  there is a number of ways they could go with their first selection. So who will it be? Here are the options the Jets might consider, ranking from top to bottom in terms of what I think they should do.

1A – Stay put at 16 and Draft Courtney Upshaw – I’ve said this before in a previous article, I think Upshaw is unfairly falling down draft boards. He has everything the Jets need as an outside linebacker: pass rush ability, every down capability, high motor, and plays his best football in big games.

1B – Trade Up for Melvin Ingram – In my defense of Upshaw, I made note that I do not think the Jets would be making a bad move in trading up for Ingram. However, these two players are similar enough for the Jets to not sacrifice the picks and stay put at 16. However, if Mike T and Rex love Ingram enough, I am on board for the move and would not hate to see them grab the South Carolina product.

2 – Jump Ahead of Dallas and Grab Mark Barron – It is no secret the Jets need help at the Safety position. Even with the signing of LaRon Landry, Barron is a high quality young prospect who could be a top tier Safety in this league for years to come. In a division where you play Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez twice a year, safety is one position you can never have enough depth at.

3 – Do Whatever it Takes to Get a Right Tackle – Whether this means trading into the top 10 and drafting Iowa’s Riley Reiff or trading down for someone like Cordy Glenn from Georgia or Jonathan Martin of Stanford, the Jets would not be killing themselves in selecting an Offensive Tackle. We all know how poor the play at Right Tackle was last season, which in my opinion was the biggest factor in Sanchez struggling at times. However, I still firmly believe that Gang Green has full intentions of entering training camp with Ducasse and Hunter battling it out, so I wouldn’t put a lot of faith into a move like this. Still, it cannot be ruled completely out.

4 – Move up into the top 10 and draft Michael Floyd – I am completely against this move, only because I think the Jets have too many needs to take a wide receiver that I am not completely sold on. In an offense that lacks a WR who has the ability to stretch the field, Floyd had only one catch over 35 yards last season, and has had some off the field issues. I am not saying that he will not be a good pro, but for what New York needs, I think this would be far too great a risk. However, with only Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley opposite Santonio Holmes, this is not completely out of the question.

5 – Sell the farm and trade up for Trent Richardson – I know, on the surface this seems crazy. But if the Jets are truly committed to returning to ground and pound, what better way to do that then to pair this year’s top running back prospect with Shonn Greene and Tim Tebow, who is expected to see a lot of time at H-Back, for the toughest, most lethal backfield in the draft. Clearly, the Jets have too many other needs to make a move like this, but with Mike Tannenbaum, we can never say never. Ideally, the Jets make one of the other 5 moves, and address running back in the later rounds, possibly with Miami’s Lamar Miller or LaMichael James out of Oregon, but would anyone truly hate seeing Richardson in Green and White next year?

If I could have it my way, I’d have New York stay put at 16 and take Upshaw, while either trading back into the first round for S Harrison Smith, or waiting to grab Lamar Miller in the second, if available. Miller has the home run speed the Jets lacked on offense last year (4.38 40), which would be fantastic paired with Greene and Tebow grinding out the tough yards.

Why The Jets Would Be Foolish To Pass On Upshaw

Chris Gross makes the case for Courtney Upshaw, whose stock has fell recently in the NFL Draft

If you haven’t seen our updated mock draft yet, check it out from Friday. Today we have TOJ writer Chris Gross playing Devil’s Advocate to his editor and others out there who are aren’t high on Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

As the 2012 NFL Draft draws closer each day, prospects continue to see their stocks rise and plummet on what seems to be an hourly basis. One player in particular who has been extremely up and down since the end of the college football season is Alabama OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw. The last time scouts saw Upshaw with pads on he was celebrating the Crimson Tide’s National Championship victory over SEC rival LSU. After that game, the idea of Upshaw falling to the Jets at the 16th pick in the draft seemed extremely far fetched. Jets fans knew what Upshaw could bring to the team, but at that point, it just did not seem realistic that New York could obtain him without trading up.

However, as weeks have progressed into months this offseason, Upshaw has seen his stock dramatically fall, with fellow OLB/DE draft prospects Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram jumping ahead of him in just about every analyst’s rankings. As is the case for every draft, this practice is expected. Countless analysts and scouts lose sight of production and focus heavily on testing numbers during this time of year. Since Upshaw did not blow anyone away with his pro day numbers in comparison to Ingram and Coples, he has been drastically plummeting down draft boards. Several draft experts currently have him available at pick 16 in their latest mock drafts with the Jets passing on him. However, passing on Upshaw would be a horrible mistake for New York, one that could end up being Kyle Brady/Warren Sapp like.

Ingram and Coples are both solid prospects. Although the Jets would be foolish to trade up for Coples, it would not be a bad move to do so for Ingram. As we all know, Mike Tannenbaum has yet to miss on trading up for someone, so if he does it, believe that it is in good faith and knowledge. However, there is no reason for them to sacrifice draft picks if it looks like Upshaw will be available at pick 16. Ingram and Upshaw have very similar career statistics. Both had minor injuries early in their collegiate careers and did not start playing significantly until their junior and senior seasons. During both of those years Upshaw had 16.5 sacks and 104 tackles. Ingram, on the other hand, had 19 sacks while recording 75 tackles.

Statistically, these players are both very close, and both would help the Jets tremendously at OLB, the position this defense is literally starving for. While Ingram is seemingly the more athletic, pass rushing type, one cannot argue Upshaw’s overall production. In his last two seasons at Alabama, he had only 2.5 less sacks than Ingram, while recording nearly 30 more tackles. Testing numbers certainly don’t account for on the field production.

Aside from overall statistics and numbers, Upshaw possesses the greatest intangible that gets left out of draft evaluations, the intangible that puts him above every prospect at his position in this year’s draft, the ability to play big in big games. Not only does Upshaw have the big game experience, playing on arguably the best defense in the best conference in college football the past two seasons, but he has also has risen to the challenge in every big game he has played in. This past season alone, 9 of his 9.5 sacks came against SEC opponents. 2 of those were against rival Auburn, while he recorded 1 in each of the matchups against LSU, which proved to be the best two defensive games college football has seen in recent years.

Upshaw has answered the calling when its mattered the most, and this should certainly not be overlooked. The bottom line is that Upshaw has the “it” factor that only few players in every draft posses. Although trading up for Ingram would certainly not hurt the Jets, it would serve them right to wait at 16 and take Upshaw, who has played his best football on the biggest stages. Not only is his position a dire need for Gang Green, but so are his intangibles. Other than Darrelle Revis and David Harris, there were very few members of the Jets defense who came up in big moments last season. New York could certainly use another guy like this to bring back the vaunted defense that helped them to two straight AFC title games.

History Looks Favorably On Mark Sanchez’s Development

A look at recent Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks early in their career, paints a promising picture for Mark Sanchez’s future

The acquisition of Tim Tebow by the New York Jets has led many to question the amount of faith the organization has in starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Many fans and league analysts have come out and publicly stated that they do not feel as though Sanchez is the right quarterback for this team now or in the future. Some have even said that Tebow chose to come to the Jets because he believes he can take over as the starting quarterback at some point during the season. However, anyone who feels this way has clearly not taken the time to look at the facts.

There are no excuses to make for Sanchez and his inconsistent play in the final three weeks of the season last year. But those three weeks should not define Sanchez’s career thus for, nor should they write his future. If history tells us anything, it is that most, if not all, elite NFL quarterbacks take time to develop to that level. In observing Sanchez’s numbers through his first three seasons in comparison with the three previous Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in their first three years in the league, it is obvious that this kid has not only over achieved for his age, but more than likely has a future destined for greatness as well.

First, let’s look at games started. In his first three seasons with the Jets, Sanchez has started 47 out of 48 games (Remember, he missed the Tampa Bay game in 2009 after injuring his knee against the Bills in Toronto). Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Eli Manning started 28, 0, and 41 games, respectively. Now, it is hard to argue any numbers Rodgers had in his first three seasons due to the fact that he was sitting behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Brett Favre. However, this also means that Rodgers had ample time to learn, and his growing pains came about on the practice field, rather than under the spotlight of New York as Sanchez’s have. That being said, Rodgers’ and Sanchez’s numbers in the first three years of their careers cannot be compared because there is not a high enough sample of Rodgers’ production during that time.

So let’s focus on Brees and Manning. In Brees’ first three seasons, he completed 540 of his 909 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 59.4. During that span, he threw for 5,613 yards, 29 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. He also rushed for 1 touchdown over those three years. Other than an inflated completion percentage due to only 27 attempts in his rookie season, Brees’ numbers in his first three years show he was anything but a franchise quarterback. Even his own team didn’t believe he was the future, and selected Eli Manning with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, before trading him to the Giants for Phillip Rivers. However, unlike with Sanchez, no one really seemed too concerned with how Brees’ feelings would be affected. Brees went on to have two breakout seasons in 2004 and 2005 before the Chargers let him walk as a free agent and sign with the Saints in 2006. We all know the rest.

Similarly, Eli Manning’s first three seasons were anything but extraordinary. The incumbent Super Bowl MVP completed 690 of 1,276 passes, while accumulating a 54.0 completion percentage, 8,049 yards, and 54 touchdowns. Manning also threw 44 interceptions during those three years. Again, not exactly numbers that scream elite NFL quarterback, and anyone that lives in New York knows that the majority of fans and writers alike were calling for Peyton’s little brother to be shipped out of town. So, how did Manning respond? By coming out the next season and pulling off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. Now he is the Giants’ Golden Boy.

Finally, on to the Sanchise. In Sanchez’s first three seasons, he has completed 782 of his 1,414 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 55.3, more than a full point higher than Manning’s, and very close to Brees’s inflated 59.4. Sanchez has also thrown for 9,209 yards, 55 touchdowns, and 51 interceptions. Although his turnover rate is higher than the other two quarterbacks, his yards and touchdowns are higher as well. He’s also rushed for 12 touchdowns throughout those three seasons. In that same time frame, Sanchez has won four of six playoff games on the road, while neither Brees nor Manning could win one between the two of them.

So here we sit at this awkward point in Sanchez’s career. This is the point where Sanchez has done enough to win over the coherent fans, but has made one too many young mistakes to force the media and fair weather fans to call for his head. Whether people realize it or not, this happens everywhere. Brees was run out of town, and Manning was at the cusp of getting his pink slip as well. The non-believers in these two, now elite, NFL quarterbacks looked plenty foolish while Manning and Brees were busy breaking NFL records and winning Super Bowl rings.

So is Sanchez next? Although no one can predict the future, if history tells us anything, it is that most quarterbacks in this league need time to grow and develop. Sanchez’s early success makes him an easy target anytime he struggles the slightest bit. However, just remember that he is not the only one who faced downtimes early in his career. The best of them have and were able to overcome it, while coming out on top, laughing at their critics.

New York Jets: Tannenbaum Might Still Have Faith In Ducasse

New TOJ writer Chris Gross explores if Mike Tannenabum is being stubborn at right tackle because of faith in Vladimir Ducasse

EDITOR’s NOTE: TOJ would like to welcome aboard our newest writer, Chris Gross. You can follow Chris on Twitter (@CGross97). He is a recent graduate of Union College and continues our trend of hiring former D-3 athletes who attended schools that lost to my alma mater Muhlenberg in football, when I attended there. Happy to have you on board Chris! – JC

Throughout his run as the New York Jets’ General Manager, Mike Tannenbaum has become widely known as one of the most active GMs in the NFL. So with a glaring need at right tackle, Jet fans everywhere are wondering one thing: What is taking him so long to fill the huge hole occupied by Wayne Hunter last season? Not only have the Jets not signed someone to fill this void, they seemingly haven’t even reached out to any of the big name free agent tackles on the market. It is easy to assume the Jets will be going budget on the offensive side of the ball to spend big on one of the remaining safeties left on the market, presumably Reggie Nelson or LaRon Landry. While that may be the case, there may be another reason for Mike T’s madness (or lack thereof).

With a new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator in place, Tannenbaum and the Jets coaching staff may have more confidence in the tackles currently on their roster then some believe, namely Vladimir Ducasse. While Mike T has previously stated that he fully expects Wayne Hunter to be the starter at RT next year, there are questions regarding the sincerity of that comment with reports that Hunter was shopped before the start of free agency. Remember, this is the same man who publicly stated that he expected Brian Schottenheimer to be the Jets’ offensive coordinator next season.

So, enter Ducasse, the Jets 2010 2nd Round Draft Pick. While Ducasse has done little during his short tenure as a New York Jet to illustrate to the fan base that he is worthy of ever setting foot on the field, much less be a starter, all hope may not be lost for him in the eyes of the Jets front office. Based on the remainder of the Jets starting offensive line, it is safe to say that the Jets feel confident in their ability to develop players up front. Ferguson, Mangold, and Slauson were all drafted by the organization, while Brandon Moore signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002. Although Ducasse has seen very limited game time in his two years with the Jets, it is possible that the organization still believes he can be a significant piece in rebuilding the right side of the offensive line.

Although this theory may seem crazy to some, there are certain things to remember about the Jets and Big Vlad. First, he came from Division 1 FCS University of Massachusetts. Although the NFL has seen countless players succeed from lower level schools, there are very few who had an impact with their respective teams early in their careers. The perfect example of this is Victor Cruz. Unless you are a Giants or Jets fan, odds are you had no idea who Victor Cruz was up until week 3 of this past season. Until his breakout game against the Eagles, even fans of both New York teams only remembered Cruz for his 2010 preseason performance in which he torched the Jets for three touchdowns. Cruz had the early hardships that most young players coming out of small schools face. In 2010, he appeared in only three games, and was virtually irrelevant to the NFL before his breakout 2011 campaign. There is no question that players drafted from smaller schools have a more difficult time transitioning to the NFL than those who come out of larger schools.

Second, the Jets may feel that Ducasse could benefit greatly with new voices in his ear. Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano made his mark in the NFL as an offensive line guru, and along with newly hired offensive line coach Dave Deguglielmo, the organization could be developing the idea that these men can mold Ducasse into the player they envisioned when they took him with the 61st overall pick in 2010. After all, Vlad fits the psychical mold of an NFL tackle at 6’5” 325 pounds. The Jets may feel that Sparano and co. will now be able to help him fit the mental mold as well.

Finally, Tannenbaum and the Jets do not like to give up on players that were selected with early round draft picks. In 2008, the Jets selected Vernon Gholston with the 6th overall pick in the NFL draft. Although he did not record a sack during his entire NFL career, the Jets held onto Gholston for three years hoping he would eventually develop into the pass rusher they thought they were getting. Certainly there was much more of a financial commitment to Gholston then there is with Ducasse, but the point is that Mike T likes to give his guys time to develop.

Although the Jets lack of activity along the offensive front is frustrating, they could simply be putting a lot of faith in Ducasse. And while it does not seem smart for the organization to put confidence in such an unproven player, especially considering they just gave their franchise quarterback a multi-year extension, it might just be their train of thought. If they do in fact feel this way, expect a continued lack of interest toward free agent offensive lineman by the Jets in the coming weeks.