The TOJ Draft staff looks at what interior defensive lineman the New York Jets should consider in the upcoming 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, although very promising, will almost surely need some added depth this offseason. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential interior defensive 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’s defense to add up front. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and offensive linemen.
The interior defensive line situation for the Jets is quite interesting heading into the offseason. New York surely has young staples up front in Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, as well as Kenrick Ellis, who flashed brilliance at times last season but struggled to stay healthy. Conversely, the Jets face questions regarding key players on the defensive front. Mike DeVito is an impending unrestricted free agent, and his price tag could end up driving him out of New York. While he is certainly not as flashy as the defensive ends aforementioned, DeVito is the blue collared, lunch pale type player that is a necessity to any defensive line. While it will be difficult to replace a player like DeVito, there are certainly a good amount of players of his mold at defensive tackle in this year’s draft class.
On a similar note, the Jets have uncertainty with nose tackle Sione Po’uha. Po’uha had arguably his least productive season as a Jet last year, largely due to a lingering back issue that hampered his ability to get off the ball and maintain leverage throughout the season. A release of Po’uha is seemingly imminent as it would clear some much needed cap space for Gang Green, while paving the way for Ellis to take over as the full time starter.
The situations of DeVito and Po’uha leave the Jets with some subtle needs along the defensive line. While it would be ill advised for New York to select a defensive tackle in the first round, considering the immense amount of need throughout the entire roster, do not be surprised to see one or two picks used on a defensive lineman this year, depending on how free agency plays out. With that being said, let’s take a look at who could be on the Jets radar come April. Continue reading “New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Defensive Tackle”
Chris Gross with his second big board of NFL Draft Season. Who is rising and falling?
With the Senior Bowl in the books and the NFL Combine just two weeks away, we are beginning to get a better idea of where each NFL Draft prospect will rank among draft boards leading into April. Although there will likely be a few dramatic changes following Combine and Pro-Day performances, there are still an abundant amount of prospects whose value remains relatively clear at this point. Today, we bring you our first update of the Turn On The Jets 2013 NFL Draft Big Board. As more of the events aforementioned run their course, this board is surely subject to change, but for now let’s look at where each prospect ranks to current date.
1.) Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama – 6″3″ 320 lbs: No change at the top for now, as Warmack is still the best player at his position in the entire country. He was the best offensive lineman on a team that ran for an average of 224 yards per game out of a pro-style offense in the SEC. Warmack has excellent strength at the point of attack, and combined with his fantastic footwork and ability to get to the second level. Warmack will be NFL ready from day one and should start right from the get go for whichever team selects him this April. It is a bit unclear where he may go, considering the value of the Guard position, but make no mistake, Warmack is one of the most talented players in the draft pool this year. Previously: 1
2.) Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia –6’3″ 241 lbs: Jones is probably the most balanced linebacker in this year’s class. While he has the ability to be an effective 4-3 OLB, his combination of strength, explosiveness, and pass rushing technique make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 DE/OLB. Jones has the size and long frame to become a nuisance to offensive tackles in the NFL, and combined with his speed, agility, and relentless motor, he will be ready to come in and start for whichever team he ends up with from day 1. He has been declared by some to not have the ideal bend around the corner in his pass rush, but his film shows these notions to be untrue. Outside of Texas A & M’s Damontre Moore, Jones is the most dynamic pass rusher in a class that is full of them, but also displays a superior ability in coverage. Against the run, he struggled at times when facing the double team at Georgia, but in a 3-4 scheme with quality lineman in front of him, this should not be a concern, as he will likely see more isolation blocks against the tight end, and with his ability to set the edge, he should excel against the run, as well. Previously: 3
3.) Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M –6’6″ 310 lbs: Joeckel leads a very strong class of offensive tackles this year. A stalwart to the Aggies offense that yielded 2012′s Heisman Trophy winner, Joeckel fits the Matt Kalil, Jake Long, and Joe Thomas profiles as one of the NFL’s next great offensive tackles. While his size and strength are a key factor to what make him so great, it is his tremendous footwork that will allow him to be a day 1 starter when he enters camp. Joeckel will be NFL ready from day 1, like Warmack, but will face some competition for the top tackle spot after a strong Senior Bowl performance from Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher. Previously 4
4.) Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M –6’4″ 248 lbs: Moore has the rare versatility to play standing up or with his hand on the ground, making him a perfect fit for any 3-4 defense in need of a pass rusher. However, he certainly has the frame and technique to be a stellar 4-3 end, where he may have more success at the next level, depending on how much weight he will be able to add. Either way, Moore is an extremely versatile prospect with a natural ability to rush the passer, something that is of high priority in today’s NFL. He accumulated 12.5 sacks this season largely due to his arsenal of pass rush moves and great ability to dip his hips and shoulders to get by opposing offensive lineman. Previously: 5
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.
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.
Jonathan 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 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.
Larry 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.
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.
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 Fergusonand 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:
Justin 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.
Brian 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.
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.
Keenan 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 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.
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.
Late 1st – Early 2nd
4th – 5th
4th – 5th
5th – 6th
If 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.
Kenny 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.
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.
Quinton 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.
Chris 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 playingagainst a lower level of competition at Eastern Washington. If still on the board in Round 6, he’s certainly an interesting option.
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.
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 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.
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.
DL – 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.
One 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.
The Turn On The Jets draft staff looks at what running backs the New York Jets could target in the upcoming 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 of great need for a team that struggled mightily to generate any type of offensive excitement in 2012, running back. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential targets 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 running back. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdown of potential quarterback targets for the Jets.
The running back position for the New York Jets in 2012 was, to put it nicely, abysmal. Shonn Greene flashed some quality against inferior defenses, but when put to the test of a contending defensive unit, he revealed himself as having nothing more than the ability of an average secondary option, capable of complementing a strong lead back. Greene will enter free agency when the new league year begins in March, and will likely be looking for a contract that exceeds his actual value to a team. Since the Jets are going to be operating on a relatively tight budget this season, it is more than likely that Greene will be allowed to walk to another team. While he is surely a capable 1B option, Bilal Powell remains under contract with the Jets at a much cheaper cost and is essentially just as effective, if not more so, than Greene in that role. Financially, depending on Powell to fill the 1B role, while letting another team pay Greene is the smartest, most realistic option for Gang Green this season.
So the question remains, where do the Jets turn to fill the void for that coveted 1A back? Earlier this week, we took a look at some potential scenarios that could play out as we move into the coming months. Looking ahead to the 2013 NFL Draft, the class of running backs may not posses a name that jumps off the sheet as the next Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, or any other premier NFL running back, but this group is deceptively deep, with a very good amount of talent throughout. Running backs in today’s NFL, with the exception of the players aforementioned and a few more, are generally viewed as one of the most disposable pieces of the roster.
However, as we saw this past season, a quality lead back can help an offense that struggles in a variety of places to overachieve. Minnesota had a very subpar passing game, but was able to earn a playoff bid on the back of Adrian Peterson. Marshawn Lynch aided the development of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson by giving the youngster a strong running game to lean on. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and a few others has similar effects on their respective offenses. An emergence of a strong running game in New England has made the Patriots offensive attack arguably the greatest we have seen in recent years, while the lack thereof in Green Bay handcuffed a team with an exceptional quarterback. While the league is certainly driven by quality signal callers, the running back position is still very much a vital piece to a successful offense.
That being said, the direction that the Jets decide to go in at the position, personnel wise, remains dependent on the hire at offensive coordinator, as does the majority of the offensive roster. However, there are certainly some names to keep an eye on as of right now that are sure to be appealing to any coordinator, regardless of scheme.
1.) Eddie Lacy, Alabama – 2012 stats: 204 attempts, 1322 yards, 6.5 YPC, 17 TD – Lacy has put together a very impressive career at Alabama, netting nearly 7.0 YPC over his three seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide. Having spent his first two seasons underneath Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, and 2012 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson, respectively, Lacy emerged this season as a dominant force leading the Tide to a national championship. At 6’1 220 lbs, Lacy has the size of a prototypical power back, but possesses the top end speed and elusiveness of a dangerous speed back. In short, Lacy is arguably the most well rounded running back in his class. He maintains elite balance, while showing great vision and patience in waiting for his blocks to develop, giving him an excellent advantage. A very strong showcase in the National Championship game has boosted Lacy’s draft status over recent weeks, and an expected impressive showing at the scouting combine should propel him even higher. Depending on how the next few weeks play out, Lacy could be out of the Jets reach, unless, perhaps, New York trades down from the 9th overall selection to select him in the later half of round one, where he would currently hold more value.
2.) Giovani Bernard, North Carolina – 2012 stats: 184 attempts, 1228 yards, 6.7 YPC, 12 TD – Bernard has put together an impressive two seasons at UNC, having averaged over 5 YPC in each of them, including the astounding 6.7 this past year. Bernard is widely regarded as the top back in this class, and for good reason. Bernard has excellent speed and lateral quickness, coupled with fantastic vision and burst. Beyond that, he is a very capable pass blocker, while remaining a viable option as a passing target. He has the ability to take a check down pass for a larger chunk of yards than most backs would, and is certainly not afraid to stick his nose into pass pro. These aspects of his game cannot be valued. A back with the ability to be effective as both a blocker and receiving option in the pass game will keep defenses honest and unsure of any tendencies. Bernard certainly has the body of someone who will be a durable NFL back, displaying tremendous bulk, particularly in his legs. Bernard should perform very well in each of the pre-draft events, and is poised to be one of the first three backs taken this year. He would be a reach for the Jets at the 9th pick, but perhaps a trade down in the first, or a trade back into the bottom half of the first round would allow New York to get their hands on him.
3.) Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State – 2012 stats: 382 attempts, 1793 yards, 4.7 YPC, 12 TD –Bell is a player who may fly under the radar a bit, coming from a conference like the Big Ten, but make no mistake, Bell is a premier name in this year’s crop of running backs. His immense size (6’2″ 244 lbs) combine with fantastic strength, making him a nightmare to bring down in the open field. Conversely, he is deceptively elusive which gives him an edge that most backs at his stature do not posses. These tangibles give Bell a rare skill set, one that could translate tremendously to the NFL. He is one of the rare prospects, like Lacy, that has the ability to run through defenders, or make them miss with his surprising agility. The pre-draft events will be crucial for Bell. While his film shows a highly productive player with great potential, there are certainly questions on his top end speed, primarily concerning whether or not he will be able to break through the second level for a big gain in the NFL. If Bell, a known workhorse in his training regiments, can post a good 40 yard dash, while displaying the elusiveness and agility that his film shows in the combine drills, he may find himself as an early to mid second round pick, among the first few backs taken. He could very well be available when the Jets select in the 2nd round. His performance over the next few weeks will determine whether or not he will be worthy of that selection.
4.) Montee Ball, Wisconsin – 2012 stats: 356 attempts, 1830 yards, 5.1 YPC, 22 TD – Similar to Bell, Ball is a back who may get a bit overlooked due to the school he played his collegiate football for. However, Ball has been immensely productive throughout his career as a Badger, totaling an astounding 77 rushing touchdowns over his four seasons. At 5’11” 210 lbs, Ball certainly has the size of an NFL lead back, with elite speed and elusiveness separating him from the average player at his position. While Ball doesn’t have elite strength to carry defenders for extra yards, he does have great tenacity as he has shown he is not afraid to initiate contact with a defender, and will always fight for extra yards after contact. He is average at best in the passing game, but his intangibles will allow him to be coached up in the area at the next level. Ball should available anywhere between the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and depending on how the board plays out, could be a great selection for New York. He has the ability to step in as the opening day starter next season, with Powell or a free agent addition serving the role as the 1B back.
5.) Kenjon Barner, Oregon – 2012 stats: 278 attempts, 1767 yards, 6.4 YPC, 21 TD – Barner faces question marks surrounding how he may translate to a pro-style offense, having come from Chip Kelly’s read option system at Oregon, but he very well may be the fastest of all of this year’s backs. Barner is a tremendous big play threat in both the running and passing games, as he has displayed countless times during his tenure at Oregon, where he posted a 6.0+ YPC average in each of his four seasons as a Duck. A dual-sport athlete in college, Barner also excelled on the track team, while maintaining a strong enough training regiment to prepare him for each year’s football season. Coaches and teammates rave about his work ethic on and off the field, and for a team in need of offensive leaders, Barner could fit the bill. While it is unlikely he will be able to be an every down back at his size, he would be an excellent complement to a bigger running back, perhaps a free agent addition (Chris Ivory, anyone?), while growing into a larger role down the road. As it stands now, Barner is likely grading out in the 2nd-4th round range, but his 40 time at the combine could blow scouts away and propel him toward the top of the 2nd round.
Wild Card – Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – 2012 stats: 143 attempts, 662 yards, 4.6 YPC, 11 TD – Lattimore was widely regarded as the premier back in this year’s class, however a gruesome knee injury ended his 2012 campaign short. Despite potentially being a mid to late round pick, as a result of concerns over how well his knee may heal, Lattimore has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. This is a very intriguing situation. When healthy, Lattimore is head and shoulders above any of his counterparts. He has the prototypical size needed for an elite every down back at the next level, with top end speed far above average. Lattimore is extremely tough, and has a tremendous amount of versatility. He is very elusive for a back with his size, and his vision and patience is second to none. He has the best natural running instincts out of anyone in this class, and has a combination of size, power, agility, and speed that can make him an elite back in the NFL. The knee concerns are very real, however. It is unclear how far along he is with his recovery at this point, but rest assured that NFL scouts will be paying close attention to his medical progress as April draws near. With his stock likely to fall due to concerns over his knee, Lattimore could potentially be the biggest steal of the draft if he gets back to full strength next season. If he is there in the middle rounds, the Jets would be wise to take a flier on him, if he shows promising recovery progress.
1 – Stepfan Taylor has been a 3 year starter at Stanford while accumulating some impressive stats. As a true sophomore, he had 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns. His Junior and Senior years he exploded with 1330 yards and 1530 yards, respectively. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his junior and senior years while marching in for 23 touchdowns. He shows some versatility out of the backfield while catching passes, along with a good mix of speed and strength, and is definitely capable of being a 3 down back. Taylor has the best chance of being a true workhorse for the Jets next year. Taylor is also good in pass protection, which is clearly a benefit. For value, I think the Running back from Stanford will provide the best results. He is somewhat of a sleeper and can be had in the 3rd, possibly 4th round
2 – If Eddie Lacy is available in the top of the 2nd round, the Jets should draft him.. Lacy is, in my opinion, the best running back available in the draft. He played in the hardest conference and rushed for 1,322 yards, averaged 6.4 a carry and had 17 touchdowns. That is impressive, but he was running behind one of the best, if not the best, offensive line in the country. (That is all well and good because hopefully we can draft Chance Warmack at #9 and find a solid right tackle to shore up the O-line for next year.) Lacy also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns this past year. He has good speed and even better strength. If he is available at #39 overall, yes please.
3 –Le’Veon Bell is the same guy in stature as Shonn Greene. But that is where the similarities end. Bell weighs about 10-15 pounds more than Shonn but is much quicker. Not only is he quicker, he is stronger and actually makes people miss. He is quite the anomaly. Another 3rd or 4th rounder that will provide great value.
4 – Giovani Bernard has carried the UNC Tar Heels the last two years. Both years he had at least 1.200 yards and 45 receptions out of the backfield. He averaged 5.24 and 6.7 yards per carry over the past two years, respectively, while having at least 14 total touchdowns each year. Not only being consistently good, he has the speed and ability to break off big runs and make people miss in open space. He can also return punts and did so with success this past year.
5 – Marcus Lattimore. While recovering from another gruesome knee injury, The Jets should consider taking a flier on Lattimore. When he is healthy, he has been one of the best, if not the best running back in the NCAA. He really has it all but just has to stay healthy.
With Shonn Greene and Gang Green likely parting ways this offseason, April’s NFL Draft is the perfect time for the Jets to find a versatile running back with big play speed. Bilal Powell should be back, and after a vastly improved 2012 season he’ll likely return with some anticipation. While he may or may not be feature back material, it’s fairly obvious to anyone watching that he can, at the very least, do what Greene has done in the No. 1 role. But Powell clearly won’t be able to do the job alone, and Joe McKnight hasn’t proved capable of an increased workload thus far, which means the Jets must address the running back situation either in free agency or the Draft.
1 – Giovani Bernard (UNC, 5’10”, 205 lbs): The sophomore RB might be off the board when the Jets get ready to pick in the second round, thanks in large part to his big play ability out of the backfield both as a runner and a receiver. Bernard is a hard runner who keeps his legs moving and consistently gains yards after first contact. The UNC ‘back shows patience at the line of scrimmage, a quick burst through the hole, and devastating moves in open space.
Despite some questions regarding the level of competition in the ACC, racking up over 1900 all-purpose yards (6.7 yards per carry, 10.4 yards per catch) and 19 touchdowns, is hard to ignore. Combine his abilities out of the backfield with great punt return skills and Bernard could be one of the most versatile Jets since Leon Washington.
He’s my No. 1 RB in the 2013 Draft, and it’s my guess that lots of scouts feel the same way. While he’s currently projected as a second round pick, a solid showing at the Combine or individual workouts could easily propel him up draft boards and into the first round.
2 – Eddie Lacy (Alabama, 6’1”, 22 lbs): After devastating the Notre Dame defense to the tune of 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the BCS Title Game, Lacy’s name has shot up Draft boards. One of the top running backs in the ’13 Draft, some experts are so enamored they have him projected to go in the first round.
A hard runner who keeps his feet moving and shows some quickness, Lacy is decisive when hitting the hole and flaunts an impressive jump cut and spin move. Not afraid to lower his shoulder into a defender, Lacy also shows promise as a receiver out of the backfield.
Lacy dominated the SEC racking up 1332 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, along but some question the impact of rushing behind the best offensive line in the nation. Some other concerns include his top end speed and injury concerns.
3 – Andre Ellington (Clemson, 5’9”, 190 lbs): Smaller than some of the other top running backs in the ’13 Draft, Ellington’s most impressive traits are his tremendous balance and footwork, as seen in his ability to break tackles and pick up yards after contact.
While the Clemson senior faces the same ACC questions as Bernard, he also boasts similar versatility as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Ellington shows the acceleration and explosiveness to create big plays, as well as patience running behind blockers, good vision and the ability to make strong cuts.
At only 190 pounds Ellington struggles with blitz pickup, tending to dive at a defenders knees rather than fully committing himself to the block, and has some questions regarding his durability. He’ll likely have to put on size to survive in the NFL, but his natural ability and highlight reel moves certainly make him an attractive option for the Jets after Round 2.
4 – Kenjon Barner (Oregon, 5’11”, 192 lbs): Barner also lacks the ideal size for a running back in the NFL and can sometimes struggle hanging on to the ball, but boasts some of the best big play ability at the position.
While Chip Kelly’s scheme may have enhanced his numbers over the past two seasons, his quick, shifty moves are undeniable and will likely translate in the return game. Certainly a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, Barner is projected to go sometime in the Round 4 or later and should garner lots of interest.
5 – Johnathan Franklin (UCLA, 5’11”, 198 lbs): Franklin is another speedy prospect who capable of breaking a big gain at any time. Projected to go somewhere in the fourth round, the UCLA senior is similar to Barner in that they both share smaller builds, big play ability, and struggles with fumbles.
A patient runner with good vision, Franklin also struggles in pass protection (although showed progress in ’12) and lacks experience as a return man. Franklin emerged as a receiving threat in his senior year, finishing with 33 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns (his previous season high was 10 catches in 2009).
Frank Giasone looks at the top NFL prospects from Notre Dame and if any of them would fit with the New York Jets
A big welcome to Frank Giasone who is going to assist Chris Gross and Zev Sibony with the Turn On The Jets NFL Draft Coverage. In the aftermath of the National Championship Game, Frank takes a look at Notre Dame’s top NFL prospects, while Zev will be looking at Alabama’s (coming soon)…Both will also take into consideration if any of the prospects could be a good fit for the New York Jets –
While Monday night’s National Title Game was certainly nothing short of awful, the team that found itself on the losing end – the No. 1 ranked (please, try not to laugh) Notre Dame Fighting Irish- really does have some NFL-ready talent coming out in the 2013 Draft this April. Although some Draft stocks may have fallen with Monday’s performance, the overall sentiment remains that this Irish team has a few prospects that appear talented enough to help the Jets in the future.
Today we’ll take a look at the top six potential Notre Dame draft picks in 2013, and see which ones, if any, the Jets should target this April.
Manti Te’o (ILB) – Drafting Te’o has been a highly debated topic within Jets circles the past few months. The middle linebackers’ impressive senior season has led some to deem him the Draft’s “best pick”, while others have gone as far as comparing him to Ray Lewis. His performance on Monday night will surely temper the enthusiasm of a lot of people, as questions now arise regarding Te’o’s ability to shed blocks against the behemoths up front in the NFL. Although Te’o may turn out to be a successful inside ‘backer in the NFL, organizational needs make him a doubtful option for the Jets in Round 1.
Tyler Eifert (TE) – Eifert is another one of the guys that lots of Jets fans are clamoring over. Arguably the highest rated player coming out of South Bend (as far as the Jets needs and system), Eifert boasts the natural ability and size that should translate in this, the ever-evolving world of the tight end. With Dustin Keller’s “Injury Tour” (also known as his Jets career), likely coming to an end, April’s Draft is the perfect place to find his replacement. This time around, Jets fans everywhere are hoping Rex & Co. can find a more complete TE, versatile enough to contribute both in the passing game and as a run blocker. Eifert looks like that guy.
Standing at 6-foot-6, 255 lbs. the Notre Dame TE’s most prevalent attributes are his skills as a receiver. Efiert shows terrific hands and quickness, the ability to go up and catch the ball at its highest point, and solid route running. While most Jets fans want to hear that Eifert will still be on the board when the Jets hit the podium in Round 2, the truth is that he will most likely hear his name called sometime late on Day 1. There’s also the possibility that Eifert could go as high as the top 20 (a team like Chicago may have interest, although glaring needs on the OL make the selection debatable), or at No. 22 to St. Louis. The most likely scenario – assuming he slides past No. 22- is that he’ll find himself as a late Day 1 selection, possibly as Jermichael Finley’s replacement in Green Bay or as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta. If the Jets really like him, they’ll probably need to sneak back into the first 20-26 picks or – the less likely option – trade down from No. 9
Interesting Note: Only one TE has been taken in Round 1 since 2010 (Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati, Pick No. 21).
Zeke Motta (FS) – The possible departures of Laron Landry and Eric Smith (the latter more highly anticipated than the former) means the Jets, once again, need to figure out the safety position. Motta doesn’t project as a starting FS in the pro’s, but he does exhibit great size, and is a sure tackler who makes his presence felt on the field. Motta’s strengths are his physicality and intelligence, but his fit in a two-safety system at ND -and his flaws in coverage – make some nervous that he’s susceptible to getting beat deep by NFL wide receivers.
With that being said, his open field tackling and special teams potential make him an interesting Day 3 option.
Prince Shembo (OLB)- While the talented junior has yet to declare for the ’13 NFL Draft, Shembo’s intangibles make him an intriguing prospect as a 3-4 OLB. Impressive speed, quickness off the ball and a high motor, in addition to his sure tackling and ability to fight through blocks, helped him to 52 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2012, as he seemingly came out of nowhere to shine for the second-ranked run defense (seriously, stop laughing) in college football. The junior also shined at DE when the Irish defense switched to 4-3 looks, increasing his overall value. Shembo may decide he’s better off heading back to school for his senior season, as he’s currently projected to be a Day 3 pick. If he does declare, he’s another interesting option for the Jets ever-needy linebacker corp.
Cierre Wood (RB) – Wood, another Notre Dame junior who has yet to declare for the draft, is a one cut runner who exhibits quickness getting to the second level. Never afraid to lower a shoulder into a defender, the ND ‘back is at times too indecisive behind the line of scrimmage, meaning his decision-making and instincts will need to improve if he wants to have success in the NFL. Another concern with Wood is the absence of breakaway speed that many teams covet in a running back. Doubtful that the Jets will have interest if he declares, especially with Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell on the roster.
Kapron Lewis-Moore (DE) – Lewis-Moore saw his draft value plummet Monday night, after a torn ACL in his right knee took him out of the game in the first half. The injury occurred on the same knee that cut Lewis-Moore’s 2011 season short with a torn MCL. Before the injury, Lewis-Moore was projected as a fifth or sixth round prospect at the DE position, capable of having success at both the three and five techniques in the NFL. With the severity of the injury, and the probable 1-year rehab following surgery- Lewis-Moore may find himself undrafted.
Chris G gives one final round-up of the New York Jets 2012 draft class
After watching hours of film on every selection made in the 2012 Draft by the New York Jets, we have analyzed each player and where we think they will fit in with the team, based on their skill set and potential. Now, it’s time to have fun with some predictions for each of these rookies in 2012 and beyond. Let’s have a look at what a yearbook of the Jets’ 2012 Draft Class would probably read.
Most Likely To Succeed – DE Quinton Coples. This was a very tough decision, as I think Stephen Hill will undoubtedly have a successful career in the NFL. However, Rex Ryan is a defensive minded coach, and besides Darrelle Revis, has yet to have a player in New York with the physical upside of Coples. With all the criticism emerging from the Jets’ decision to pass on Melvin Ingram for Coples, expect Rex to make it a priority to ensure the young DE out of North Carolina will thrive underneath him.
Most Likely To Be Considered A Steal – LB DeMario Davis. Davis has the passion, drive, and physical ability to be an elite NFL linebacker down the road. It will benefit him greatly to play in a system designed by Rex Ryan, while learning under the tutelage of David Harris and Bart Scott in the early years of his career. From what Davis was able to demonstrate in college, along with his tremendous speed and size for the position, there is a very high chance that, in the coming years, people will be questioning how he ever fell to the third round.
Biggest Sleeper Pick –WR Jordan White. Not too many people are talking about White, but when taking a closer look, this kid has all the potential in the world to be a very solid NFL Wide Receiver. His production at Western Michigan speaks for itself, while he has repeatedly proved to be tough, physical, and athletic on film. His intelligence displayed by his ability to find holes in the defense, as well as his fantastic route running ability will put him right where he needs to be in camp in order to compete for a roster spot. I would be shocked if he is not on the active roster at some point this season, while developing into a reliable safety net for Mark Sanchez in the future.
Best Value – S Antonio Allen. After reviewing the game film of safety Josh Bush, I have an excellent feeling about his play and how he will succeed as a Jet. However, I have had Allen rated as the third best safety in this year’s class right behind Harrison Smith. A further review of his game film only solidified that notion, and in the 7th round, the former Gamecock was certainly the best value pick by New York this year. The Jets likely selected Bush ahead of Allen because of their greater need for a true centerfield-type safety, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum were ecstatic to see him still on the board in round 7.
Least Likely To Ever Play A Significant Down – G Robert T. Griffin. Don’t get me wrong, Griffin’s massive frame, and great tenacity give him tremendous upside. However, he appears to be light years away from being a capable NFL offensive lineman. His skill set is very far behind in terms of his strength, footwork, and technique. There’s always a chance that he proves this assertion to be false, but in all likelihood, Griffin will find a home on the practice squad and settle there for a few years, before becoming a career backup, at best.
Only time will truly tell how each of these young men will fare as NFL players. Surely, they have all done things well enough to find themselves in the rare position that they are in. There’s no doubt that they are all good football players, but which of them will go the distance to ensure success in the NFL?
Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets first round pick, defensive end Quinton Coples
Today we come to the end of our complete breakdown of every New York Jets draft pick, by looking at first rounder Quinton Coples. In case you haven’t been paying attention, here are the links to all the previous articles. Another huge shout out to Chris Gross, TOJ’s own Mike Mayock, who didn’t leave the film room the past two weeks.
When the New York Jets selected Quinton Coples with the 16th overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, the organization immediately found itself under heavy criticism. Many expected the Jets to trade up for DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, but when he fell to New York at 16, it was seemingly too good to be true. When the Jets opted to pass on the highly touted player out of South Carolina, the reaction was not very warm among the green and white faithful. What made the decision to pass on Ingram even worse was the scrutiny that Coples found himself under in the weeks leading up to the draft. Once regarded as the best pass rushing prospect in this year’s class, red flags regarding his character and effort level began to surface on draft boards throughout the entire nation.
However, it is an unfortunate occurrence when individuals let others decide their opinion. With several draft experts in the media declaring Coples a talented, but lazy player, unworthy of the spot he was drafted in, people adopted this opinion as their own. But on what basis were these declarations made? On what grounds do analysts have the proper footing to deem Coples a lazy, unmotivated player? For the final edition of our draft analysis here at Turn On The Jets, my primary goal in evaluating Coples was to generate a completely objective opinion. I shelved everything I had heard about him, and simply watched him as if he were any other player. Some concerns about Coples may not be totally unwarranted, however to declare this young man as a waste of a selection and label him as a guy with a bad work ethic is completely unfair.
The first characteristic that stands out on Quinton Coples when evaluating his game film is, undoubtedly, his explosiveness. Coples gets off the ball perhaps faster than any defensive player in this year’s draft class. He also plays with excellent leverage, as he demonstrates the ability to get underneath offensive lineman, which is even more impressive when considering his 6’6” stature. The majority of the time, he is very aggressive in his approach to an opponent by showing an attack first mentality. Rarely does he allow the offensive lineman to initiate the contact with him. He is adamant about striking fast, and controlling the blocker.
Along with explosion, Coples, most notably, has exceptional pass rush skills. He reads his keys extremely well, and displays tremendous ability to “run the circle.” For a defensive lineman, the ability to run the circle refers to how well the player can dip their shoulder to gain leverage on the opposing lineman, while maintaining enough speed and coordination to stay in their pass rush lane and get to the quarterback. Coples does this just as good, if not better, than anyone I have evaluated in this year’s class, including Ingram and Courtney Upshaw of Alabama.
Coples is also very versatile. During his reign at UNC, he lined up at defensive end, tackle, and even some outside linebacker. His physical tools give him the ability to move all over the field, something Rex Ryan will surely take advantage of. He is very powerful, but at the same time, is extremely agile and smooth in his movements. During his junior season, Coples played primarily defensive tackle, and registered 10 sacks. His ability to play both inside and outside on the defensive line should make his value immeasurable to a creative coach like Ryan.Although Coples effort and work ethic came into question following his senior season at North Carolina, there is not enough substantial evidence to label him anything remotely close to “lazy.” Countless times, Coples showed valiant effort in his play either by continuing to work up field on a pass rush with double moves, spin techniques, or an extra push, or on run plays where he repeatedly screamed down the line of scrimmage chasing runs away from his side of the field.
The knocks on Coples being inconsistent are generally the only ones that I found to be true. There are times during games when he does not consistently play at a high level. However, there are several factors that are rarely considered as to why this happens. The first, and probably most obvious, is that regardless of the player, it is just about impossible to maintain an elite level of production on every single play. Secondly, with the immense amount of success Coples had during his junior year, coupled with the threat his physical abilities make him to opposing offenses, teams clearly game planned around him last season. There were numerous plays in which Coples faced double, and even triple, teams last year. It is very likely that #90 was circled on every offensive game plan among North Carolina’s opponents in 2011. A player like Coples needs to be accounted for at all times, because if he is not, it can cost coordinators and coaches their jobs.
Another very important factor that may have played into Coples inconsistency was the amount of turmoil that the North Carolina football program faced during his time as a Tar Heel. Besides the heavy amount of negative publicity and suspensions the team was dealt within the past two years, Coples also had the unfortunate burden of playing for four different position coaches in each of his four years with the program. It is very difficult for a player to get comfortable and gain consistency when there is no stability whatsoever. The fact that he still was able to perform at a level high enough for him to be considered one of the best, if not the best, defensive lineman in the draft should speak volumes to his character, rather than tarnish it. Granted, the argument can be made that as a division I scholarship athlete, there should be no excuses like these, but it is often forgotten that these players are simply kids. Instability within a program can be detrimental to a young man.
With all of that being said, I still did not find enough substantial evidence to consider Coples a “lazy” player. He is ferocious off the ball, chases plays down, and has great tenacity. He even showed enough of a motor in the Virginia Tech game last year to have ESPN analyst, Jesse Palmer refer to him as a “high effort player.” To me, it is a mystery as to where the claims on Coples’ motor came from. Inconsistent, perhaps, but the bottom line is that he shows passion in his play and gets after it far more often than not.
Coples’ largest challenge as a Jet is going to be earning the love and respect of the fans. Although it is completely out of his hands, the choice by New York to pass on the highly regarded Ingram for Coples will be criticized until he lets his play speak for him. He needs to come out of the gate in a dash and keep his foot on the pedal without a second of hesitation. He will most likely be compared to Ingram, at least for this season, in terms of production and quality of play. Coples needs to show why Rex Ryan and the Jets have so much faith in him, and everyone in New York will soon forget about all of the other defensive players taken following the 16th pick.
Coples true character should show early in the season. One would expect a player as highly criticized as he has been to come out with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove all of his doubters wrong. Expect Coples to display high energy, tenacity, and motor from the moment he takes the field this season. If he does anything else, then, and only then, will it be time to raise the red flags.
As far as his role with the Jets, Rex Ryan has already declared that he will see the majority of defensive snaps this season. While this is not necessarily a statement I am too fond of, for a player should have to earn that type of recognition, it is certainly something that needs to be done. Coples is far too big, strong, athletic, and versatile to be wasting time on the sidelines. He needs to play immediately and prove his worth as the 16th overall selection. Rex will certainly utilize his abilities to the highest degree. Expect to see Coples in a vast amount of packages, primarily at defensive end, while sliding all over on passing situations. Ryan feels he can get double-digit sack production out of Coples, and based on the UNC product’s abilities, there is no reason to think otherwise. Consistency of play is going likely going to be the most important factor in his success.
Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets second round pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill
The 2011 New York Jets lacked many assets to make them a playoff team, as displayed by their .500 record. Among their several missing pieces was a big, playmaking, wide receiver that could stretch the field and open up the offense. Plaxico Burress fit the “big” bill, but having been over a full year removed from football, he lacked the speed to create any separation from defensive backs, and his presence hardly garnered any respect from opposing defenses. The Jets desperately needed to add a speedy, home run threat to their offense this offseason, and that may be just what they got in their 2nd round selection, wide receiver Stephen Hill.
Having come from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, it is difficult to get a diverse sample of film on Hill to evaluate his receiving skills. In fact, during a 20 play stretch against Georgia last year, the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 18 times, while passing just twice. However, during that sample of plays, Hill was able to display his terrific blocking skills. What makes his blocking so effective is that he works his hands and feet tremendously. His hand placement is near perfect the majority of the time, complemented flawlessly by his ability to move his feet with the defender. Hill is also very aggressive and stronger at the point of attack than one might expect him to be. He blocks right until the whistle, and has shown he can crack down on toss sweeps, displaying some pancake blocks along the way.
As far as receiving skills go, from the small sample of plays that the offense did actually throw the ball last season, Hill stands out. He repeatedly showed the ability to blow by man coverage, and proved that he can adjust to the ball very well. The quarterback play at Georgia Tech last season was subpar at best, so there were many plays where Hill had to comeback for a ball or adjust his route to make the play. His speed can certainly hurt opposing defenses as well. Several times last year, Hill was able to take advantage of any cornerback that peeked into the backfield, blowing by the coverage, while the safety was usually one step too slow to make it over in time.
Hill also has very strong hands and does a good job of utilizing them to catch the ball. Of all the film I reviewed on him, not once did he catch a pass against his body. He can make the highlight reel plays too, as he displayed numerous amazing one handed catches last year, most notably the one against North Carolina.
Hill is excellent after the catch. Besides the obvious fact that he is extremely fast and agile, he is also much stronger than you would expect, and he proved to be very difficult to bring down. Hill has a very rare combination of size, speed, and physicality that could make him a nightmare for defenses as he develops down the road.
What is also appealing about Hill is that he seems to have a blue-collar mentality. Although he came from a run first offense, that didn’t necessarily utilize his skill set to the greatest extent, Hill showed no sign of moping around like a typical diva wide receiver that wasn’t getting the ball. Instead, he went out and continued to work on every play, whether that meant blocking or running routes. This speaks very well to his character, something this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
The biggest concern about Hill is how he will adjust from the triple option scheme to an NFL type offense. Although his route running is much better than I expected it to be, he still has a lot of work to do in this area, specifically on underneath routes, in order to ever be a true number one receiver. He also sometimes tends to focus on the run after the catch, before actually catching the ball, which caused for some drops last season.
Hill is a raw product. He has all the physical tools needed to make him an elite NFL wide receiver, but it will take him some time to develop. He clearly has tremendous upside, and the Jets offensive scheme will play to all of his strengths, which is going to make him an early contributor. He is big, strong, fast, and a great blocker, while he also has the ability to stretch the field and be the long home run threat that New York’s offense lacked in 2011. Hill will be able to create separation between the 20s due to his tremendous speed, while his height and jumping ability will make him a valuable red zone threat.
Hill and the Jets are seemingly a perfect fit for each other. With the offense that Tony Sparano is going to implement, a run heavy scheme with a desire for “chunk” plays, Hill is the ideal wide receiver. He should be able to block and stretch the field for the Jets right away, while working on developing a more balanced game for the future. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely enjoy having Hill in his weaponry because the former Georgia Tech product fits his skill set so well. Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, Joe Caporoso noted that one of Sanchez’s strongest points is his play action pass. Hill’s ability to stretch the field should prove to be a vital weapon on these play action passes as he will be able to take the top off of any defense and really open the offense up.
Editor’s Note – Physically, Stephen Hill has everything you would look for in a number one receiver. What is most encouraging is the mental attitude he brings along with the physical skills. It is not easy to be a wide receiver in a run heavy offense but Hill embraced it and blocks with a skill and tenacity that his highly admirable. He is coming into the perfect situation with the Jets. He is not ready to be a number one target because his route running is too raw, however with Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller on board he doesn’t have to be. Hill will see favorable match-ups and be able to focus on being a deep threat this year and in time can develop into being this team’s number one receiver. I think five years from now, we will remember this as the “Stephen Hill draft.”