Early New York Jets Draft Thoughts

TOJ with a collection of early thoughts on what the Jets could do in April’s draft

The NFL Draft is still a few months away but with the Combine kicking off today, let’s discuss some of the early chatter about what the Jets might do this April.

1. There has been an alarming amount of talk about the Jets selecting a guard in the first round, which I am pretty sure would lead to a storming of the stage at Radio City. Listen, I understand the value of the offensive line but the Jets had three Pro-Bowlers on their line last season. They need to improve one spot on it and that is right tackle. Yes, Matt Slauson is coming back from surgery and Brandon Moore is into his 30s but if they draft a lineman in round one…it better be a right tackle and it better be after trading down.

2. So my preference is clear, I want the Jets to address their pass rush in round one even if that means moving up a few spots to get their guy. Courtney Upshaw is the most complete, ready to go player available at outside linebacker and if gets anywhere near #16 Mike Tannenabaum needs to move.

3. Mark Barron was a player originally being heavily associated with the Jets at the 16th overall pick. However, he is now recovering from double hernia surgery which will likely cause him to fall down most team’s boards. If he gets within close range of the team’s 2nd round pick (47th overall), would they consider moving up for him…especially if they stay put or trade down in the first round?

4. I am aware about the Jets having depth issues from having a limited number of picks in recent years, so it might seem crazy that I am discussing them moving up with their first two picks. However, if you get the guys you want…and need, it is the right move. Do you remember 2007? The Jets traded up for both Darrelle Revis and David Harris. I do not think the Jets will move up in both round one and round two but if they netted a duo like Upshaw and Barron by trading one or two of those picks it will be hard to complain.

5. Mike Tannenbaum has selected four running backs over the past three years and I don’t think anybody would be surprised if he added another one in the middle rounds. The Jets still need depth at the position thanks to Shonn Greene not truly proving himself as a lead back, Joe McKnight having injury issues, and Bilal Powell looking thoroughly average in limited opportunities last year. I am not throwing in the towel on any of the Jets three backs but they need insurance via free agency or the draft.

6. The Jets also need a wide receiver, particularly one with some size. Tannenbaum struck out looking for a big receiver when he selected Marcus Henry. He has had success in later rounds with smaller, slot receivers like Chansi Stuckey and Jeremy Kerley (hopefully). Now he needs to find a player to be a long term split end, unless he address the need in free agency.

New York Jets Draft: Mark Barron Out Until July With Hernia

New York Jets draft prospect Mark Barron is out until July with a sports hernia. Is this a blessing in disguise?

It has been reported today that Alabama safety and frequently mock-drafted to the New York Jets safety Mark Barron will be out until July or August with a double sports hernia. Owch.

At initial glance, this would seem to continue the recently never ending cycle of bad news for the Jets who had to be planning to give strong consideration to Barron at number 16. He is the type of athletic safety Rex Ryan’s defense desperately needs and was without question the top prospect at his position heading into this April.

However, considering the Jets equally…if not bigger need for a pass rushing outside linebacker perhaps this injury will be a blessing in disguise. How about the Jets grabbing Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram at number 16 and then maneuvering up from their 2nd round pick to grab a sliding Barron? That would be a hell of a start to retooling this defense in proper manner.

The Jets have the 47th pick overall pick after their first pick at number 16. Barron was originally projected to go in the 15 – 25 range but with this injury, it isn’t crazy to think he could drift close enough to number 47 where it would be too tempting to ignore the urge to trade up for him.

A nice perk for the Jets this year is that they finally have a selection in every single round.

Reviewing Mike Tannenbaum’s Draft Picks

Most New York Jets fans are appropriately big supporters of General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, his aggressive nature has kept off-seasons entertaining and helped shape the Jets into one of the league’s best teams. With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, let’s take a look at every selection Tannenbaum has made since taking over as GM in 2006 —

2006

  • Round 1, Pick 4 – D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • Round 1, Pick 29 – Nick Mangold
  • Round 2, Pick 49 – Kellen Clemens
  • Round 3, Pick 76 – Anthony Schlegel
  • Round 3, Pick 97 – Eric Smith
  • Round 4, Pick 103 – Brad Smith
  • Round 4, Pick 117 – Leon Washington
  • Round 5, Pick 150 – Jason Pociask
  • Round 6, Pick 189 – Drew Coleman
  • Round 7, Pick 220 – Titus Adams

This was one hell of a draft for Tannenbaum to start his career with. It was a bold move to take two offensive lineman in the first round for a first-time GM, especially deciding to pass on quarterback Matt Leinart, who would have been an extremely popular (but in hindsight an extremely stupid) selection. Ferguson and Mangold have developed into the foundation of the Jets offensive line and are both Pro-Bowl caliber players.

Yes, Kellen Clemens never panned out and the highlight of Anthony Schlegel’s career was muffing an onside kick, but he compensated for it by getting Eric Smith, Brad Smith, Leon Washington, and Drew Coleman in later rounds, who all turned into major contributors on playoff teams.

2007

  • Round 1, Pick 14 – Darrelle Revis
  • Round 2, Pick 47 – David Harris
  • Round 6, Pick 177 – Jacob Bender
  • Round 7, Pick 235 – Chansi Stuckey

Another terrific draft for Tannenbaum who traded up to get Darrelle Revis, who is now the consensus best corner in football and David Harris who is a Pro-Bowl caliber inside linebacker. Bender never amounted to anything but Stuckey turned into a quality player who was an important part of the Braylon Edwards trade.

2008

  • Round 1, Pick 6 – Vernon Gholston
  • Round 1, Pick 30 – Dustin Keller
  • Round 4, Pick 113 – Dwight Lowery
  • Round 5, Pick 162 – Erik Ainge
  • Round 6, Pick 171 – Marcus Henry
  • Round 7, Pick 211 – Nate Garner

Without question Tannenbaum’s worst draft and probably worst overall few days as the Jets GM. Gholston was a complete bust, Ainge had serious drug problems and was suspended multiple times, Henry and Garner never played a regular season snap for the team. Dustin Keller has obviously been an important part of the offense and Lowery has been a serviceable role player but the Gholston pick hurts.

2009

  • Round 1, Pick 5 – Mark Sanchez
  • Round 3, Pick 65 – Shonn Greene
  • Round 6, Pick 193 – Matt Slauson

Two more trade ups that have paid early dividends for the Jets. Say what you want about Mark Sanchez, he certainly has looked the part of the franchise quarterback the Jets drafted him to be by winning four road playoff games in his first two years. Greene was a disappointment in year two but his terrific playoff stretch in his rookie year helped carry the Jets to the AFC Championship Game. Matt Slauson is now the starting left guard and was steady in that role last year.

2010

  • Round 1, Pick 29 – Kyle Wilson
  • Round 2, Pick 61 – Vladimir Ducasse
  • Round 4, Pick 112 – Joe McKnight
  • Round 5, Pick 139 – John Conner

The jury is still very much out on this draft class but the early returns weren’t very good. Wilson struggled heavily his rookie year and barely contributed. Ducasse was beat out by Matt Slauson for the left guard spot and will now compete to be the starting right tackle. McKnight showed up to camp out of shape and didn’t give any meaningful reps all season. Conner showed potential and will be the starting fullback this season.

Concern About The Jets Front Seven

And now back to football…

Appropriately there is a general consensus that the New York Jets need to improve their defensive front seven this off-season, which has been spearheaded by most mock drafts pairing them with a defensive lineman or outside linebacker.

At defensive line and linebacker, the Jets are a little bit old and a little bit slow. Outside of David Harris, all three starting linebackers are over 30 and none (including Harris) have great speed. On the defensive line, Sione Pouhaand Shaun Ellis (if he returns) are both into their 30’s and if you saw Mike DeVito trying to cover Danny Woodhead last year, you know he didn’t run track in high school or college.

The depth isn’t great at either position, Jamaal Westerman and Josh Mauga don’t project as future starters at linebacker. On the line, Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Matt Kroul have potential but still a long way to go to prove they deserve regular spots in the rotation.

Where will the help come from? At a minimum, the Jets need a long term replacement for Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker, a defensive end to replace Shaun Ellis (even if he ends up coming back), and another interior lineman to boost the rotation and maybe eventually take over for Pouha.

The draft could only solve so much, especially with the Jets missing a second round pick. Hopefully, Mike Tannenbaum’s first round pick can contribute immediately and he finds another later round prospect or two that contribute at defensive line or linebacker. The Jets will likely be handcuffed in signing new players in free agency, as they will be limited by the same “Final Eight” rules they were last year, if an injunction is granted as expected on April 6th.

In reality, it is going to take multiple off-seasons to get the defensive front seven where it needs to be. The Jets can take a big step in the right direction this year by having a strong draft, hoping a few of their developmental players (Dixon, Pitoitua) contribute, and maybe swinging a deal or two via free agency or trade.

Prospect Watch: Rahim Moore

You may have heard the word, “value” mentioned on ESPN once or twice; it becomes a buzz word for draft enthusiasts like ourselves come spring time, however value is nothing to scoff at, getting the right value with your picks will make or break your team’s draft.  In the past, my method for picking prospects has been pretty straight forward, the Jets need interior lineman, and a pass rusher; so, we’ve looked at a couple of dudes who love to eat, and Akeem Ayers.  Today, we are going to take a look at Rahim Moore, a player who would bring great value at the 30th pick, and a player that I feel the Jets might take, the more and more I think about it.

Rex has made two things pretty clear in his short tenure as the Head of PR head coach of the Jets; one, he does not value 3-4 ends very much, and two, he loves feet his secondary, and wants to build his defense from the back up.  He showed this by drafting Kyle Wilson with the 29th pick last year, and do not be surprised if he “surprises” us again with another pick for the secondary.  If this is going to happen, the pick will be Rahim Moore; Moore played at UCLA for three years starting every game at safety before deciding to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

As of now, the Jets are trying to squeeze three strong safety’s into free safety and strong safety roles; they need a ball hawking free safety and Moore could be that guy.  He likes sitting back and playing “center-field,” and even models his game after Ed Reed.  Moore has great coverage skills and flies to the ball once its in the air, at first glance, his career numbers blow you away (180 tackles 14 interceptions) but a closer look reveals a unbelievable sophomore year and then average junior year.

After receiving All Pac-Ten Honorable Mention recognition his freshman year, Moore tore up opposing offenses with 10 interceptions and 45 tackles during his sophomore campaign, good for most in the country that year.  However, without the help of future NFL players Brian Price and Alterraun Verner, Moore’s production dipped and while he racked up 22 more tackles his junior year, he didn’t show the ball hawking capabilities that had scouts drooling over him his sophomore year, intercepting only one ball all year.

Moore is pretty good against the run when considering his size, he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the play and will come up to make tackles.  Still, his size is a detriment to his run stopping ability and his coverage is far and away his greatest contribution on the football field.  Still his aggressive nature helps him in all aspects of his game, and most definitely contributed to him being named UCLA team captain his junior year.  Fortunately, he tends to keep his aggressive nature on the field, while off the field he is known as a good student without any team or legal violations.

Value is exactly what the Jets would be getting if they picked Rahim Moore with the 30th pick.  He is the number one rated safety on basically everyone’s board, and while this is a weak safety class, it might be wise to pick up Moore and worry about a linemen in the 3rd round, as the DL class is the deepest of this draft.

Prospect Watch: Akeem Ayers

The arrow has been pointing down on Akeem Ayers draft stock after his sub-par performance at the combine, however the Jets are probably still going to have to cross their fingers and toes for the 3-4 OLB to drop to the 30th pick.  Nevertheless let’s take a look at the SoCal native.

Ayers jumped on NFL scout’s radars with his exceptional sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 55 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a partridge in a pear tree.  His numbers dipped a bit his Junior year but he recorded more tackles and still had 10 TFL, and 4 sacks.

Ayers is expected to translate fairly well into the NFL, however it is hard to find his true calling card once he reaches the next level.  He is a good pass rusher, good run stuffer, good in coverage, and has good versatility.  The “great” aspect of his game has yet to be conceptualized, but that does not mean the right NFL coaches won’t be able to get something special out of him.

Ayers had the athleticism and technique to play standing up and with his hand in the dirt while in college; he gets low and likes to dip and rip through the tackle on his way to the quarterback.  The best aspect of his pass rush is his initial jump off the ball, which allows him to get into the right position when trying to rush the QB.  Where Ayers gets in trouble is finding a counter move if he doesn’t get to the edge before the tackle does.  When dropping back in coverage, Ayers has definitely had some success in his college career, picking off six balls and returning two for touchdowns.

However, according to my research, scouts believe he relies on watching the QB’s eyes too much and that he can be fooled by play action.  The good news is if the Jets draft him, he will probably have at least a year to work on his pass coverage skills, and would primarily be used in pass rushing situations.  One of my favorite things about Akeem Ayers is even though he has the speed to get to the edge, on running situations he is not afraid to use his size, take on blockers, and play physical football; like a Jet. He also shows good pursuit to the ball from what I have seen, and doesn’t seem to take plays off.  As far as intangibles go, he has never had any off the field problems, and is a noted hard worker on the practice field and in the weight room.

Like I said, his combine numbers, hurt him last week, (4.8 40, 18 reps of 225, 31’” vertical jump) but it seems that would be a positive from the Jets point of view, as he will most likely fall a bit come draft day; will he fall all the way to number 30? Who knows, but Ayers is definitely someone to keep an eye out for, and will no doubt tempt gun slinging Mike Tannenbaum to trade up if Ayers starts to drop beyond pick 25.

Prospect Watch: Phil Taylor

Next up, Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.  The big man from Washington DC had an up and down college career but finished strong with his best collegiate season as a senior. 

At 6’3’’ 334 lbs, Taylor is a space eater who can anchor a defensive line.  Primarily a run stopper, Taylor is an above-average tackler who’s 62 recorded tackles his senior season were the most by a Baylor interior lineman since 2002.  He is strong and demands double teams because of his initial punch.  Taylor is generally successful in double teams and is almost impossible to blow off the line.  One of his greatest strengths is his violent hands.  Combined with his jump off the ball, he can push a line backwards, and will collapse a pocket from the middle if the QB holds onto the ball for too long.  His footwork is also good which helps him in his pass rush.  While he isn’t an overpowering pass rusher, that is to be expected.  He has a nice powerful swim move, and can rip through double teams if he can establish leverage. 

He showed this ability at the Senior Bowl. He was disruptive, taking on double teams and freeing up his linebackers.  His footwork and frame is probably good enough to move to the 5 technique at some point, but I don’t think he has the stamina or technique to stay outside for more than selective schemes/situations. 

Throughout his career Taylor’s conditioning was one of the main critiques of his game, however, like I mentioned yesterday, he looked strong throughout the day at the combine. Finally, a number of sources have noted his maturation and change of character since he was arrested on assault charges stemming from a fight at a frat party at Penn State.  I think it’s a safe assumption that he won that fight.

On the negative side of things, concerns over weight management always follow players at this size.  Another common problem that Taylor shares with other big men is his lack of speed and quickness, again this will probably keep him on the inside of the line.  Additionally, his size prevents him from making many tackle outside of the tackle box.  Other than weight concerns, questions about his height and lack of leverage follow Taylor around as well.  At 6’3 he can come to high and has some issues if a center is able to get under his pads.  To this point, he also has a hard time generating momentum if he is stopped at the initial point of attack.  While a decent pass rusher for his size and position, he will need to improve his collection of moves.

I like Phil Taylor, I really do; he will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye out for as Draft Day inches closer.  While “raw talent” is something that the Jets may want to stray clear of this draft, especially in the first round, this guy could become the second coming of Kris Jenkins.

12 Pack of Combine Thoughts

AJ truly embraces the TOJ way by contributing his first 12 pack…of thoughts on the NFL Combine —

1. First and foremost, props to Rich Eisen for keeping me interested in 300 pound linemen running the 40 yard dash.  He was always one of my favorite guys at ESPN and he continues to do an awesome job over at NFL network

2. What are those Under Armor things?  They literally look like something Tony Starks would wear.  Nevertheless, it is really sweet they are measuring the Mph and G force of these guys, but did you see the Under Armor representative? Hisveins were popping out of his neck, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. 

3. Von Miller is a BEAST.  He ran a 4.53 and looked absolutely yoked up in the weird under armor spandex.  He is going to be everything that Vernon Gholston wasn’t.

4. Another defensive player that looked good was Phil Taylor (Prospect Watch will be arriving soon). He looked like he was in pretty good shape for his size, and didn’t tire out as the day went on, something you can’t say about many nose tackles his size.

5. Maybe not a thought on the combine but I am jumping off the Nick Fairley train quickly.  Do I think he will be a good player? Yeah, but I would not take him with the number one pick.  He doesn’t have the best attitude and is known to take plays off, two characteristics I would not want to give $50+ million guaranteed.  Plus, with Carolina running a 4-3, I would want a dominant pass rushing DE to replace Julius Peppers.

6. Do you really think I would get half way through this without mentioning Cam Newton?  I thought he looked really good as far as workouts go, but that was more than expected. 4.59 40 yard dash at 250 pounds, are you kidding me?  Not to mention his 10’6’’ broad jump that just screams explosive.  There was the interview controversy where he called himself a, “an entertainer and an icon,” but I thought he addressed the situation pretty well to the NFL network and apologized for the statement about three times in two minutes.  As far as his throwing drills goes, I wouldn’t be too concerned, wait for his pro day so he can get his timing with his own receivers.

7. Ryan Mallet has a drug problem? I had no idea, I have been rooting for this guy ever since he was going head to head against Jimmy “Bitter Beer Face” Clausen for being the #1 recruit coming out of high school.  Nothing has been confirmed and Mallet is obviously denying the allegations but the story is coming from sources inside Arkansas so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

8. Another player I really like is Mark Ingram and I hope he doesn’t get scooped up by the Dolphins.  His running style reminds me of Ronnie Brown and he is the type of hard nose player Tony Soprano would love to have. He ran slow at 4.62 but there is no denying his production in college and he will be successful in the pros, unfortunately it is going to be for a team not spelled J-E-T-S.

9. Going into the 2010 college football season I was really excited to watch the defense Butch Davis put together at UNC, but all that great work Butch did went down the drain when every defensive starter and their mother was suspended for the season.  The player I was most upset about not seeing was Marvin Austin; but Marvin has had a great lead up to the draft so far playing well in the East-West game and being equally impressive at the combine.  Hey, a man can dream the Jets are able to pick him up in the 3rd round right?

10. Another prospect I would love to pick up in the 3rd round is Jarvis Jenkins out of Clemson.  Like Joe mentioned, the Jets are going to have to commit at least 2-3 draft picks to the front seven and I would not be upset at all if they used their first two picks on the DL.  Jenkins, no relation to Kris as far as I know, has good size and is a known run stopper.  It would be great to let him develop under Sione Pouha for a year or two, but I believe this guy has a relatively bright future at the next level.

11. It was a bitter sweet combine for Jets fans concerning Justin Houston, on the one hand he looked great at the combine, showing exceptional quickness for his size and good instincts during LB drills.  But he might have looked too good and could potentially be off the board before the Jets are on the clock.  Worse news, AFC rivals New England and Baltimore could fall in love with him and take him at number 17 and 26 respectively.

12. Last but certainly not least, I want to say that Damien Woody is handling his release exactly as everyone expected him too, with the utmost class.  He was one of my favorite players on the team and he will be missed.  But that’s the business of the NFL as much as I love it sometimes, it also breaks my heart at times.  Woody will be fine though, just like Alan Faneca last year he will find a team.