The Curious Case Of Joe McKnight

Joe McKnight has been dealing with unfair expectations since he was a five star recruit coming out of John Curtis Christian High School in Louisiana.  By now, mostly everyone reading this probably knows his sob story.  From the day he stepped on the USC campus everyone in the greater Los Angeles area expected him to carry the load of the Southern California dynasty and duplicate the highlight reel that Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush left behind.  McKnight, to no fault of his own, has been living off of his recruiting legacy since that first day of summer practices and the expectations have followed him since. 

There was no exception to this when the Jets drafted him in the 4th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The common fan expected Joe to make a mockery of AFC defenses and their coordinators.  However, McKnight was a disappointment for Jets fans as soon as he came to camp out of shape. 

Since that disappointing camp, there has been a steady rise in his play.  He worked hard to get in shape and become one of the more reliable special teams players for the Jets as a gunner on the punt team.  Given the chance to start, McKnight ripped through a terrible Bills run defense in the last game of the season accumulating 158 of his 189 total yards for the year.  It is easy to write off McKnight’s performance on special teams and in the last game of the year, but it would also be wrong.  While the fans might not have taken Week 17 seriously, McKnight did, and proved that he is able to be successful on the NFL level given the right opportunity. 

This is what Jets fans should expect out of their 4th round picks, hard special teams play, and a mentality to take advantage when given the opportunity to start. Even though this is only his second year, I believe it is a make or break year for McKnight.  He has to believe that he can be a key contributor to this team in order to be successful on the field.  McKnight’s biggest issue seems to be his nerves and hopefully they will be calmed with a full season under his belt.  With a more than capable mentor in LaDainian Tomlinson, McKnight will be able to hone his skills and ease into a role on the Jets offense.

Waiting for a catch…how will McKnight develop without a full offseason?  Will he show up focused and in shape?  Will he revert back to his old habits?  Will he know the playbook and everything else that is asked of him?  Can he pick up things fast enough to get significant (8-12 touches) playing time within the first few games of the season.  Thankfully, all of these questions will be answered soon enough with the lockout coming to an end.  If I were a betting man, I would put my money on McKnight coming into the 2011 season focused and determined to be a vital player in the Jets offense. 

Yet, remember Jets fans, he is not going to become Tomlinson in his prime.  Readjust your expectations for McKnight from his reputation to a 4th round draft pick and I can almost guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised by his play.

New York Jets: Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Joe has already done a great job recapping last night but I want to give my thoughts as well.  The Jets picked up a scotch double by selecting a versatile player who is able to play the end and nose in the 3-4, which are two obvious needs for the Jets as we have gone over.  I really like Wilkerson, and we should expect to see him in the starting line up when the Jets open up against the Cowboys.  This could be a potentially bitter sweet pick as fan favorite Shaun Ellis’ future with the Jets is very much up in the air now.

Everyone is talking about how Wilkerson can be Haloti Ngata 2.0, and I agree, I am excited to see what Rex has in store for Wilkerson.  Muhammad is very athletic and is able to shed blocks and get to the QB, he will instantly improve our pass rush and now the Jets can look on to what they are going to do today.

The Jets were able to wait and get their guy in the first round but I am not so sure they will be able to do that again.  Look for the Jets to trade into the 2nd round and pick up a player like Akeem Ayers, Brooks Reed, Aaron Williams, Rahim Moore, Brandon Harris, or maybe even Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea.

Two miscellaneous thoughts about the draft: Da’Quan Bowers knee must be SCREWED UP.  I mean there is so much talent there, he was in serious contention for the number one pick; he might be the unhappiest man in America after not cracking the first round.  Can you imagine how much money he just lost? Also, the Patriots trading out of the first round was maybe the most unsurprising thing that has ever happened.  I mean I saw that from a mile away, and I really hope they don’t take Brooks Reed with the first pick of the second round like  idiot Mel Kiper has them doing.

TOJ’s Final Mock Draft

AJ’s final mock draft before the festivities kick off this extended weekend…

1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton

Everyone has Newton going with this pick, and I can’t argue.

2. Denver Broncos- Marcell Dareus

Denver had a thrilling competition with the Texans last year for the league’s worst defense, I was really tempted to put Patrick Peterson in this spot as that is what I would do but it seems the Broncos like Dareus more.  Denver might also look to trade out of this spot, if the price is right.

3. Buffalo Bills- Blaine Gabbert

Buffalo looks to land their franchise QB.  Chan Gailey will let Gabbert sit at least the first half of the season behind Ryan Fitzpatick before giving him a shot.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green

The best WR in the draft, doesn’t get out of the top five. It will be interesting to see how the circus in Cincinnati plays out this year.

5. Arizona Cardinals- Von Miller

Miller experiences a bit of a slip, but should feel a lot better going to Arizona than Buffalo or Cincinnati.  The Cardinals get a very nice consolation prize with the top two QB’s off the board, and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton gets a new toy to play with.

6. Cleveland Browns – Julio Jones

The Browns have a tough choice between Jones or Robert Quinn, I’m going to go with Jones here, Mike Holmgren will want to improve the offense ASAP, and Jones is a physical receiver who will be able to get open over the middle for Colt McCoy.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson

I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I dropped Patrick Peterson any lower; he is the best player in this draft and is prime for a long and prosperous career.

8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley

Once a contender for the #1 pick, the buzz on Fairley has cooled off a bit, but that does not mean the kid can’t play.  While the Titans could look in different directions, I don’t think they will be able to pass up on him, even if he does have football character issues, which are the worst variety in my opinion.

9. Dallas Cowboys- Tyron Smith

The Cowboys are a bit handcuffed into drafting an OL and the best one will still be on the board with the #9 pick.

10. Washington Redskins- J.J. Watt

The Redskins pick up a very talented player here who is versatile enough to move back and forth between the 5 and 3 techniques.  However, look for the Redskins to perhaps trade out of this pick, they apparently really like Jake Locker, so if they think they could move back, pick up some extra picks, and get Locker I think that’s what they will do.  They could also potentially trade back into the 1st round with the Jets if Locker is available at 30.

11. Houston Texans-Robert Quinn

The Texans war room is ecstatic that Quinn, a definite top ten talent, drops to them at 11.  Quinn on the other hand is not happy at all and will use this as motivation for an explosive season and an even more successful career.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Costanzo

The Vikings pass on a couple of high quality defensive prospects to fill a pressing need at Tackle.  Costanzo is the top rated tackle at this point and the BC Offensive Line reputation speaks for itself.

13. Detroit Lions- Prince Amukamara

The Lions find themselves in unfamiliar waters this year as they pick outside of the top ten.  But fear not, they still are able to land a very highly touted CB.

14. St. Louis Rams – Aldon Smith

The cat is out of the bag that the Rams would love to have Julio Jones playing for them next year, but with him off the board St. Louis drafts a player who is able to get to the QB.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey

In my first mock I had Ingram at this spot to help the Dolphins running game, but Pouncey has the opportunity to improve their running game just as much if not more than Ingram.  Pouncey comes in and starts day one for the Phins and replaces my least favorite player in the AFC east not named Tom Brady, Richie Incognito.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars- Ryan Kerrigan

The Jaguars try to bounce back from one of the most perplexing picks since Darius Heyward-Bey in Tyson Alula.  Like the Jets, the Jags have an aging defensive line and will need to infuse some youth (and talent) sooner or later.

17. New England Patriots – Cameron Jordan

Jordan is the best available DE at this point in the draft and will fit well in a Belichick defense (who doesn’t).  The Patriots continue to reload on the defensive side of the ball and put more pressure on the Jets to sure up their offensive line.

18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget

The Chargers are fortunate to get Liuget at this point in the draft who has tremendous upside and will be able to make an impact in 2011.  Liuget plays both the run and pass very well.

19. New York Giants- Gabe Carimi

The boring team in New York misses their guy in Pouncey but is still able to find a quality lineman in Gabe Carimi.  It seems that offensive line is the pick here for the Giants and they will take the best available linemen whether he plays guard or tackle.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Da’Quan Bowers

Da’Quan Bowers’ draft stock has been like a game of shoots and ladders.  Lately, he’s been riding the biggest shoot on the board but finally lands in Tampa Bay, and for the second year in a row the Bucs get a very talented defensive line prospect.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Derrick Sherrod

Sherrod should be able to step into the right tackle role that the Chiefs so desperately need.  If nothing else, Sherrod has experience on his side playing 50 games and only missing three to injury.

22. Indianapolis Colts- Nate Solder

Solder is a monster at 6’8’’ 319 pounds and should be able to help the Indianapolis running game that struggled all of last year.  While the trendy thought is that the Colts will pick up a QB with this pick, I don’t think they pull that trigger yet and instead address a more pressing need.

23. Philadelphia Eagles- Brooks Reed

The Eagles are pretty much set on the offensive side of the ball and while they need a tackle, with Sherrod and Solder off the board, a OL would be a reach at this point.

24. New Orleans Saints- Adrian Clayborn

Defensive end is a big need for the Saints and Clayborn is a great value pick at 24.  Clayborn’s battle with Erb’s Palsy, which leaves him temporarily paralyzed in the upper arm, has been well documented in the last couple of months which is why he drops this far, but he is a top 15 talent that has overcome a lot in his life and will continue to defy odds as a Saint.

25. Seattle Seahawks- Jake Locker

While I think Mallet is probably the third best QB prospect in this draft, he seems to be doing everything wrong and might even slip into the third round.  Locker is an extremely athletic player that Pete Carroll will love to have on his team.  Accuracy is a concern which is why he goes this late in the 1st round.

26. Baltimore Ravens- Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith is an exceptional talent that has been hurt by “character issues,” meaning he got drunk in college. (OMG!) He is an absolute steal at this pick as he can go toe for toe with Prince Amukamara.

27. Atlanta Falcons- Justin Houston

The Falcons take a bit of a gamble with Houston, as the biggest concern with him is his motor.

28. New England Patriots- Mark Ingram

Ingram is a tough back who will compliment everyone’s favorite story Danny Woodhead in New England’s offense.  Ingram has been dropping like a ton of bricks lately but he finds a home with New England.

29. Chicago Bears- Danny Watkins

There is no getting around it in Chicago, Jay Cutler has gotten ROUGHED UP during his time in the Windy City and the Bears need to do something about it immediately.

30. New York Jets- Muhammad Wilkerson

Why not? This would be a huge steal for the Jets at this point as teams seem to really like Wilkerson’s skill set.  He is exactly what the Jets need and offers a lot more hope than Phil Taylor who is practically already drafted by the Jets if you look around different mock drafts.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Phil Taylor

Taylor doesn’t slide after the Jets pass on him as the Steelers defense looks to avoid the curse of Super Bowl losers and get back to the playoffs.

32. Green Bay Packers – Cameron Heyward

Cameron Heyward got out of Ohio State at just the right time and his luck continues as the defending Super Bowl champions draft him with the last pick in the first round.  Dom Capers will coach the heck out of Heyward and he should fit well in his defense.

Late Round Prospects For Jets

We have been paying a lot of attention to whom the Jets are going to pick with their first round selection, but one guy cannot account for all of the Jets needs. Mid round picks are essential for the development of a championship team. With the Jets not having a second round pick, the need to land quality players in the later rounds is even bigger.

The first late round prospect we will look at is Chykie Brown (pronounced shock-ey) who  is an athletic cornerback from the University of Texas.  There is little doubt that he would be a project for Dennis Thurman, but some believe his athleticism should be enough for the Jets to take a chance on him.  His long arms and athleticism make his ball skills the strongest part of his game.  However, he does not have the best awareness on the field and can sometimes be thrown around a little by bigger receivers, on top of that, he does not offer much in terms of run support.  Going into a draft with Rex Ryan at the helm, cornerback is always an option, especially this year with uncertainty around who is coming back and who might change positions in the Jets secondary.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets might be looking to improve their wide receivers.  One guy who the Jets could take a look at is Austin Pettis.  Pettis is a tough, hard-working player who the Jets could move into the slot position.  He is more quick than fast as he ran a 4.56 40 at the combine but had a combine best 20 yard shuttle at 3.88.  He has good hands andsome big play potential, however he seems to be a one-speed player who lacks the ability to consistently separate from NFL man coverage.  Personally I think the Jets needs for a receiver is overstated, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to roll the dice on a hard working player. 

Back to defense, the Jets might be wise to pick up a safety sooner than later and that guy could be, if he falls, Ahmad Black from Florida. Coming out of a program like Florida, Black has played in big games and should be able to handle the pressures of playing football in January.  He was very productive in college and is able to read the QB eyes and keep the play in front of him.  Black has the athletic ability to play center field in a Rex defense and is much more comfortable in that role than playing press man to man.  Black has the potential to be a productive player at the next level, he is one of the better safety’s in a weak class and the Jets would have to get him in third round if he even drops that far.   

The last guy we will look at is Mississippi State linemen Pernell McPhee.  Rex has shown the ability to be able to get production out of average talent at the defensive line position.  McPhee is best against the run; he uses good leverage at the point of attack and is able to get into the backfield.  Against the pass, he isn’t quick enough to get around the edge and to consistently get to the quarterback.  He does have a bull rush which was effective in college, but he will need to expand his pass rushing skills if he wants to stay on the field in the NFL.  It might be tough for him to transition to the 5-technique but there is nobody questioning his motor so if picked, hopefully he will work to get better.

TOJ Mock Draft – Version 1.0

AJ takes his first crack at projecting the first round in the NFL Draft…

1. Carolina Panthers- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

People with more inside information than me seem to think Carolina is leaning towards a QB and a “face of the franchise,” Cam Newton would be both

2. Denver Broncos- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Another rumor floating around is that John Elway would love to draft a QB at this spot, but I don’t see that happening if Newton is picked #1overall.  Dareus is a disruptive player that any team would love to have.

3. Buffalo Bills- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

I don’t think I need to tell anyone how bad the Bills were against the run last year, they need an anchor for that new 3-4 they implemented, and Von Miller isn’t good enough against the run to warrant this pick.

4. Cincinnati Bengals- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

If I am a Bengals fan, and thank god I’m not, I would be praying they take Green in this pick instead of Julio Jones.  Green a natural born route runner who could provide an immediate impact.  He also has the best first name in the draft.

5.  Arizona Cardinals- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Cardinals need to get their QB situation together; John Skelton might be a good story out of Fordham, but Larry Fitzgerald deserves better than him.

6. Cleveland Browns- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Haden and Peterson at the corners? Scary.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

If I’m Von Miller I am not happy about dropping this far but this would give the 49ers a very good and young linebacker core, which they could build off of.

8. Tennessee Titans – Robert Quinn, DL, North Carolina

The Titans would obviously love for one of the top two QB’s to drop to them, or maybe they think about trading up, but at this point, they should pick the best player available, which is exactly what Robert Quinn is

9. Dallas Cowboys- Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida

Pouncey Tweeted that he would be surprised if he weren’t a Cowboy next season after he visited with the team.  Hey, I’ll go to the Looney Bin with you bro.

10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

The Redskins have more holes than Augusta and should be happy to pick up a quality receiver here at #10.

11. Houston Texans – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Once considered a top 5 pick, Bowers’ draft stock has taken a hit because of questions about his knee coming off surgery.  But he’s got the talent, and a combination of Bowers and Williams would have Peyton Manning shaking in his boots.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Jordan has great ability and with the Vikings most likely set to lose DE Ray Edwards, they are going to need someone to fill his role immediately

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

The Lions have been doing a funny thing lately, drafting quality players, they will continue the trend this year by drafting Amukamara who is flying under the radar a bit because of super-prospect Peterson.

14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, DL, Illinois

The Rams two biggest needs are probably WR and DL. They aren’t going to pick up Green or Jones, but should be very happy to pick up Illinois’ Corey Liuget who is good against both the run and pass

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

This has been a popular pick for sometime now, Ingram is the type of hard runner that Tony Soprano loves, but I mostly put Ingram here because I don’t want to think about him going to the other division rival with one of their two picks

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Aldon Smith is the physical lineman Jack Del Rio is looking for to solidify his defensive front.  Smith could potentially transition to an outside linebacker, but the Jags would try to use his athleticism with his hand in the dirt.

17. New England Patriots – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Kerrigan is known around the league as a pretty safe pick.  While his ceiling is not as high as some of the other prospects at the DE position, he is a proven football player who is smart on the field and was productive throughout his collegiate career.

18. San Diego Chargers – J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin

J.J. is flexible enough as a defensive lineman to play the 3 and 5 technique.  A true Big Ten guy, Watt is a smart and high energy player who always seems to be around the ball.

19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC

The Giants get an absolute steal here with Tyron Smith, while they would love to get an interior linemen like Mike Pouncey, Smith is the best lineman available in the 2011 draft and at this point cannot drop any further, the Giants get a gem here and will find a place for him on the field.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Muhammed Wilkerson, DL, Temple

If you followed my Prospect Watch at all you know that I really like this guy and I think he should be at the top of the Jets wish list for this draft.  Unfortunately it probably won’t happen as his stock has been steadily increasing since the draft season began.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Another prospect out of Offensive Line U (BC) Castonzo is considered NFL ready.  The Chiefs had a surprise season last year and they will attempt to form a foundation for future consistent success, and there is no better way to do that than sure up your OL.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Carimi and Castonzo could flip flop these picks but either way, the Colts are going to have to improve a line that has been in steady decline for the last couple of years.  The Colts will hope Carimi can improve a Colts run game that struggled all last year.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

After a dormant first half of the draft OL lineman are coming off the board fast in the meat of the 1st round.  The Eagles will want to make sure they protect Mike Vick as much as they can or he will only be around for one or two more years.

24. New Orleans Saints – Adrian Clayborne, DE, Iowa

Like the Jets, the Saints ran into problems getting to the QB without blitzing last year.  Clayborne comes from a great program in Iowa and it shows in his discipline during the games and on the practice field.  He drops a little because of a medical condition restricting movement in his arm, but it didn’t seem to bother him too much in college and he should be prime for a productive pro career.

25. Seattle Seahawks- Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Locker has had to work his behind off after having a sub-par season at Washington.  The Seahawks’ QB problems are well documented, Hasselback belongs in a retirement home and the Whitehurst trade was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.  A training camp competition between Locker and Whitehurst could be good for both players.

26. Baltimore Ravens- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Smith could be a great fit for Baltimore, he has great speed and a high ceiling, with some teaching from a veteran Ravens defense, he could really shine in years to come

27. Atlanta Falcons- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

Ayers has dropped in this draft and it is very possible that if he slides this much a team could trade up and grab him.  Nevertheless, the Falcons are looking for a future replacement for John Abraham and someone who could take some reps from him immediately.

28. New England Patriots – Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona

The Patriots spend another pick to improve their defense and they pick up another quality player in Brooks Reed.  A pass rushing specialist with some serious size, Reed would fit perfectly in the Patriots defense.

29. Chicago Bears – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

The Bears pick up a player who has got to be high on the Jets board.  A prototypical NT, Taylor could potentially be a beast playing the 3 technique in the Bears 4-3 defense.  They do need a OL but any prospect might be a reach at this point so the rich get richer as the Chicago defense improves tremendously with this pick.

30. New York Jets – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Everyone knows that the Jets DL is in most need of an adrenaline shot, but Rex is creative and can get anyone to play hard for him.  I think they should wait until their 3rd round pick to start working on the DL.  This leaves us with pass rushing specialist Houston, who could excel in the role that Jason Taylor played last year until he is groomed enough to be a full time starter.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Harris brings the speed and athleticism for a nickel/ dime package corner.  If he can figure out some character issues and get serious about playing the game he could be a very good NFL player.

32. Green Bay Packers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Here we go, the defending champs, The Packers pick up the best player available here in Heyward who suffered a bit of a drop.

Prospect Watch: Stephen Paea

Fear not, back from the dead, but most definitely back is TOJ’s Prospect Watch.  This time around we will dissect Oregon State defensive lineman Stephen Paea, yes, the guy who benched 225lbs 49 times at the combine.  Paea, originally from the Kingdom of Tonga, an archipelago of 176 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, moved to the United States at age 16.  He played only one year of high school football, his senior year, before he attended Snow Junior College; so for those you have been keeping track at home, he only completed 3 years of organized football before he enrolled at Oregon State.

Some cite Paea’s lack of experience as a knock on him, while others can’t imagine his potential once he gets a full feeling for the game. One place his lack of experience has hurt him is his pass rush, where he has not been able to develop a full repertoire of moves.  This confines him to pretty much being a one-trick pony as far as getting in the backfield, however his one-trick, an overpowering bull rush, is one hell of a weapon and he has been disrupting Pac-10 Offensive Linemen since he put on a Beaver jersey in 2008. 

Like most late first round interior lineman prospects, Paea’s statistics don’t jump off the page. He is the two time defending Morris Trophy Award winner, which is an award for the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10 voted on by the offensive lineman in the conference, which shows a lot more than a stat line could.  He fires low off the ball and uses leverage from his, “bowling ball” frame to plug gaps and blow up plays in the backfield. 

As his combine numbers would indicate, he is considered one of the strongest players in the country, again, because of his leverage, he is able to translate weight room strength to on-the-field strength easier than other players who put up gaudy combine numbers.  His well above-average strength becomes blatant when watching him take down ball carriers, a stat that should raise the ears of the Jets front office is his forced fumbles, a career total of nine, which is an Oregon State record.

Paea’s run defense is absolutely where he will earn his playing time wherever he goes in the NFL.  He is a heady player who will engage and lock on a defender, but also knows when he is beat and will cause a pile before he gets blown up by a double team.  His pass rushing, however, is a different story.  As I said earlier, he lacks any real pass rushing moves other than a straight bull rush, and also will have a hard time tracking the QB down if the QB has any sort of athleticism. 

Paea plays a pure power game and is not very effective sideline to sideline.  However his biggest concern, unfortunately, is his durability.  He had a bursa sac in his knee during his junior year, and although he played through it, it is still a concern for NFL teams; especially when considering he suffered another knee injury at the Senior Bowl this year, which has limited his draft-season preparation and has hurt his stock a little as well.

It will be interesting to see what happens if Paea is still on the board when the Jets are picking.  If the Jets want to go the defensive lineman route in this draft it might make more sense to address the end position.  But Paeacould be the best lineman available at this time, in which case I would have all the confidence in the world in Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to find a place for Paea to succeed.

Should the Jets Trade Down in the Draft?

There is no shortage of needs for the Jets this offseason.  In an ideal world, the Jets could improve at DE, DT, OLB, FS, WR, and depth at the ILB, OLB, and QB positions.  However, come April 28 the Jets are going to have to work with 6 picks:

NYJ 1st round,

NYJ 3rd round

NYJ 4th round

NYJ 5th round

NYJ 6th round

Ari 7th round

So the question is, with an excess of needs and only the draft to fill these needs because of the lockout, should the Jets think about trading out of the 1st round and getting more picks?  It sure would go against the Jets drafting tendencies of the last couple of years; but this is a different year .

If the Jets are not guaranteed to land their top guy, they might want to get as many picks as possible and play trial and error with this year’s draft class.  Especially since Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Free Safety, and a 3rd WR can be found in rounds 2-4 fairly easily.

By looking at the trade value chart, the Jets could trade:

Their 1st round pick (30th overall), 6th round pick (190th overall), and 7th round pick (222nd overall)

For the…

Jaguars 2nd round pick (48th overall; 16th in the 2nd round) and 3rd round pick (80th overall; 16th in the 3rd round).

This is just a random scenario I cam up with but it begs a couple of questions.  Is having a mid 2nd rounder and two 3rd rounders better than a 1st and two late selections? Do you think we would lose “our guy” by trading back?  Is this draft too deep to give up late round picks like that?  Give your opinion in the comment section.  You also can create your own concoction here, and see what dream scenario you can come up with.

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.