Final Thoughts On New York Jets & NFL Draft, Part 1

Chris Gross gives his final thoughts on the New York Jets heading into the NFL Draft tonight

In part 1 of our final thoughts on the NFL Draft, staff writer Chris Gross gives us a review of what to look for this weekend. Check back in a few hours for my final thoughts and a first round mock – JC

After extensive review and evaluation at Turn On The Jets all week, I have a few final thoughts regarding the Jets potential moves before Roger Goodell takes the podium at Radio City Music Hall tonight.

5 Moves I’ll Be Happy With

1. Stay put and draft Courtney Upshaw – By now its obvious that I feel this will be the best move for the Jets. I’ve gone over everything I love about Upshaw and how I think he will be a tremendous fit in Rex Ryan’s defense.

2. Trade Up for Mark Barron – Barron is another player I feel will be a great fit under Ryan. The Jets still need help at safety, and although Yeremiah Bell is on the radar, Barron could team with Revis to form a dominant secondary for years to come. Depending on the asking price, I think Barron is worth jumping ahead a few spots.

3. Stay at 16 and draft Melvin Ingram – I have not been very high on Ingram at all. I still feel Upshaw is the better player and should be taken over him if both are available. However, if Ingram can be had without making a trade and New York opts to select him, I will be all for it. As I have said, he has tremendous upside. He is strong, fast, athletic, and versatile and I have to believe that if Ryan takes him, it is for good reason. Rex can certainly get this promising prospect to fulfill his potential.

4. Somehow end up with Fletcher Cox – Odds are Fletcher Cox will be selected before pick 16, so if this were to happen, the Jets would likely have to trade up for him. However, like Barron, I think he is one of the few players worthy of the sacrifice. Cox will undoubtedly have an impact right away, and his explosiveness and tenacity will upgrade the D-Line to one of the best in football.

5. Select Michael Brockers at pick 16 – I would not be very fond of trading up for Brockers, simply because I do not think he holds high enough value at his position to be worthy of such a move. However, if he can be had at pick 16, or even by trading back a few spots, I would gladly be on board. Brockers has tremendous size and ability to be a great 5-technique on the Jets defensive line, and would provide a great interior pass rush playing opposite Muhammed Wilkerson. This would help to get pressure off of the edge with the amount of attention offensive lines would have to pay to the interior.

5 Moves That Will Have To Prove Their Worth

1. Trade Up For Melvin Ingram – As I said, if Rex sees something to take Ingram over Upshaw, I trust his judgment. However, from what I have seen on him, I don’t like the idea of sacrificing picks to get him.

2. Select Chandler Jones at any point – Whether they take him at 16 or trade back, Jones will have a lot to prove. I do think that he has the potential to be a fantastic player in this league. His size and athletic ability give him an extremely high ceiling.

3. Draft Quinton Coples – Like Jones, Coples has a very high upside as he is very athletically gifted and has great size. However, as much as I hate to say it, I see too much of Vernon Gholston in him to immediately support a move like this.

4. Trade Up For Trent Richardson – The only reason I put this move in this category is because of what it will cost the Jets. There is no doubt in my mind that Richardson will be an elite NFL Running Back, however if New York is going to sacrifice the necessary picks to obtain him, he better become that in a hurry. Giving up a first rounder next year is a serious gamble, and although I think it will pay off, I’d still need to see it happen.

5. Draft Michael Floyd – I do like Floyd, but with the holes on defense, and the Jets clear commitment to the run game, I’m not very fond of the idea of taking a Wide Receiver in the first round. Alshon Jeffery could be available in round two, and although he may not be as polished as Floyd, he could still develop into a great player.

2 Moves I Would Hate

1. Taking Dontari Poe  – As I wrote in my D-Line preview, Poe would not be a good choice for the Jets and they should not consider him at any point. He does not play up to what his combine numbers show, and he seems extremely lazy. I’m not saying he will not develop into a good player, I just think the Jets would be wasting their pick on him. This would be a terrible decision, and one that I would be shocked to see.

2. Taking an Offensive Lineman In Round One – I do realize the Jets need a Right Tackle, but there is so much talent at other positions of need in the first round. The Jets have neglected this position while there is decent talent still available on the free agent market (Vernon Carey), so to see them use their pick on a position they seem comfortable with would not be good.

Names to Keep An Eye On

Running BacksDavid Wilson, Lamar Miller, Doug Martin, LaMichael James. All of these players would be quality second round selections, and would all add speed and explosiveness to the Jets running attack. Each of them would bring a different dynamic to the table and would complement Shonn Greene well. Of the bunch, Miller is probably the fastest, Wilson is the most complete, and James has been the most productive at the college level.

Outside LinebackersVinny Curry, Jonathan Massaquoi, Bruce Irvin. Curry and Massaquoi have good size and average speed at the position. Conversely, Irvin has below average size, but excellent speed. Curry has the potential to be drafted the highest, but I don’t necessarily see him as being that much better than Massaquoi or Irvin. Irvin certainly has the highest ceiling, but comes with some baggage, having had multiple run ins with the law in his past. None of these players are comparable to the OLBs who could be obtained in round 1, but if the Jets opt to go in another direction, they all could develop nicely down the road.

Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina – Jeffery is reportedly on the Jets radar and for good reason. He has tremendous size at nearly 6’3” 216 lbs, and good speed to go with it, having run a sub 4.5 40 at his pro day. He would provide the Jets with the big target capable of stretching the field that they need opposite Santonio Holmes.

Vontaze Burfict, LB Arizona State – I’ve defended Burfict throughout the entire draft process arguing that his character was being unfairly judged and that his lackluster testing numbers do not hamper his abilities on the field. However, Burfict made me eat my words this week when news broke of a positive drug test at the combine. Although I do think he has some mental issues he needs to work out, I still stand by my assertion that Burfict has the ability to be a great linebacker in this league. He needs to get into the right situation, with the right people around him, and believe it or not, I think the Jets would be perfect for him. As much as the Jets are perceived to have a circus like atmosphere, I do think that Rex Ryan is one of the best player coaches in the league, and despite what happened last year, can still get his guys to buy in as good as anyone. It would do Burfict wonders to be around guys like Mangold, Revis, Harris, and Ferguson. If he could be had in one of the later rounds, which I think is very realistic, he would be a pick worthy of the risk for New York. He has the potential to form a deadly combination at Inside Linebacker with David Harris in the future.

NFL Draft: Melvin Ingram vs. Courtney Upshaw

We debate the value of Courtney Upshaw verus Melvin Ingram

Despite my belief and desire for the New York Jets to take Melvin Ingram in the first round, staff writer Chris Gross has remained adamant on his preference of Courtney Upshaw. Considering that he played defensive end and linebacker in college, I set Chris loose on the game film to make his argument. Here is what he came up with, followed by my rebuttal – JC

From the surface, both players are similar. Both stand around 6’2 and weigh around 270 pounds. Their statistics are close, Ingram with a couple more sacks, Upshaw with more tackles. Yet after breaking down full game footage, I came up with the following conclusion – Courtney Upshaw is head and shoulders above Melvin Ingram as a football player.

Courtney Upshaw – I’ve previously discussed all of Upshaw’s statistics, measurables, and testing numbers, all of which may not be mind blowing, but are impressive. Some of the biggest knocks on Upshaw, and why he seems to be falling down draft boards, are that he did not test well in position drills at his pro day and that he does not possess the arm length that you look for in an elite pass rusher. On film, Upshaw shows tremendous explosion of the ball, some of the best I’ve seen out of any prospect this year. Although the assertion that he does not have elite reach is correct, he uses his hands extremely well and undoubtedly plays with the best leverage I’ve seen out of any defensive player in this year’s class. He is not hampered by his lack of reach because he makes up for it with elite technique.

Another knock that I have heard on Upshaw is that he has reached his potential, and does not have a high ceiling. This is another assertion that his game film proved false. As much as I love Upshaw’s game, there are several areas where he needs improvement, which can certainly be done under a coach like Rex Ryan. At times last season, Upshaw tended to drop his head causing him to miss tackles and lose outside contain when lined up at defensive end. There were also times when he shot too far up field on his pass rush, and ran completely by the quarterback. On three step drops, Upshaw needs to react quicker by either getting his hands up or executing a faster pass rush move. If he can improve this at the next level, he will register even more sacks and will establish himself as a premier pass rusher, as well as a fantastic all around player.

Upshaw also proved to be very physical, and most importantly, plays with an extremely high motor. This is an asset that cannot be measured, especially at the position he will be asked to play if he is drafted to the Jets. This past season against Florida, he repeatedly ran down players on pass plays at the second level after rushing the quarterback. In that same game, he also showed fantastic awareness. On one particular play that stands out, he realized he was beat off the ball, and instead of tussling with the tackle, he immediately located the quarterback, tracked where he was going with the ball, and made an interception at the line of scrimmage, proving to be a very intelligent player.

The main things about Courtney Upshaw that stand out on his game film are his physical play, his high motor, his violent hands, and his power at the point of attack. When you watch this kid on film you can just feel his confidence on the field. He knows what he is doing in every situation, and his ability to react and redirect are on another level. Upshaw is going to be an elite player in the NFL, regardless of which team he ends up on.

Melvin Ingram – Ingram’s athleticism on film is obvious. When he plays to his potential, he is fast, explosive, and strong. However, in all of the film that I watched on him, he rarely lived up to that potential. Ingram has several flaws in his game, which he was able to mask with his athleticism in college, but will not be able to do so in the NFL. Some of these flaws are very fixable by good coaching. He tends to turn his back to the sidelines at times, giving up the edge, and he does not show a wide arsenal of pass rush moves, instead relying solely on speed and strength to get to the quarterback. He also has a habit of getting lost in the shuffle, seemingly focused on making plays rather than executing his assignment. Again, these are fixes that can be made by good coaching, and if there is one defensive coach in the league that I would trust to do so, it is Rex Ryan.

However, there are some things about Ingram that even the greatest coaches may not be able to fix. He does not display a very high motor at all. At times, he tends to look lazy and disinterested. He gets pushed around on drive and down blocks way more than a person with his strength should, which tells me he does not play with good leverage, and does not come off the ball with enough authority. Ingram is also the furthest thing from a sure tackler and has trouble staying on his feet in stretches.

I tried to look for any possible reason as to what was causing these flaws that I saw, and I actually came up with a good rationale. The defense that Ingram played in at South Carolina last year seemed to ask him to do too much. Many times he seemed to be worrying about numerous jobs, which could be a result of the team giving him too many responsibilities. Perhaps this is because he was one of the only players on the defense they felt they could trust with certain tasks. However, if that is the case, it hurt his play tremendously.

Ingram also drew many more double teams than Upshaw did, primarily because he lined up inside more, and Upshaw had 3 other all Americans playing alongside him that teams needed to account for. That being said, I do not think Ingram was the best player on South Carolina’s front seven. True Freshman Jadeveon Clowney overshadowed him, and one would think that if anything, teams would be accounting for him rather than Ingram. Maybe it was the other way around, which was a cause for Clowney’s success.

My rebuttal –

I don’t dispute many aspects of your evaluation of both players. Yet, my film analysis hasn’t changed my perspective. Courtney Upshaw is going to be a good NFL player. I saw a guy in college surrounded by immense amounts of talent who produced at a high level but a player who is better suited to spend the bulk of his reps at defensive end, not outside linebacker. I have no doubt he would improve his craft under Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s coaching but at his ceiling, I see a very good starting outside linebacker. A player who would be an improved version of Calvin Pace, setting the edge for the run and bringing in 6-8 sacks per year. Upshaw isn’t going to be a bust and he can start immediately, both enticing aspects of him as a prospect.

You can view Upshaw playing for Alabama, the best team in college football as both a positive and a negative. In the positive, he performed well on the biggest stage possible at his level and played against elite competition. In the negative, he was supported by a stacked lineup, including fellow soon to be first round picks Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron.

Mark Ingram didn’t have any other first round picks on his defense, despite the scary potential of freshman Jadeveon Clowney and still produced at a comparable, if not higher rate than Upshaw.

Is Ingram as consistent as Upshaw? Probably not. Yet, there are two things that jump off the page and put him ahead of him, big plays and versatility. Last season, Ingram had 10 sacks to go with 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 touchdowns. He has a nose for the football and an ability to make something happen with it when it gets into his hands.

Ingram is going to give the Jets more than an outside linebacker. He can line up at inside linebacker, defensive end, and even defensive tackle. His ability to move around the formation will allow the Jets to get the most out of his pass rushing skills and explosiveness. I disagree about his lack of motor with Chris but do agree he needs work on being a more consistent tackler against the run. The Jets will still have Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas to slow down the run and help groom Ingram, while he is moved all over the formation by Rex to get after the quarterback.

Rex Ryan is going to see a more athletic version of Adalius Thomas who can become the double digit sack artist his defense desperately needs. Beyond that, he is going to remember what Jason Pierre-Paul did for the Giants last year and the benefit of having a player who can line-up “outside either tackle, move to tackle on third down, and rush the passer standing up inside or off the edge.

The Jets have run stopping linebackers. When they need new ones, they will be easier to find in the draft or free agency than an elite pass rusher. Now is the time for the Jets to finally get a player who can get after the quarterback so they don’t have to overextend themselves with blitzing.

NFL Draft: How Will Risers And Fallers Impact New York Jets?

The rising and falling of certain draft prospects could alter the New York Jets draft plans

It is a familiar process to anybody who follows the NFL Draft. Players skyrocket up draft boards, while simultaneously players who were popular months ago begin to see their stock steadily decline. Look at the case of three pass rushers associated with the New York Jets. A few months ago, it appeared South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram would be well out of reach for them with the 16th pick. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw was a popular pick for the Jets but some questioned whether they’d need to move up a few spots for him. Syracuse’s Chandler Jones was considered a second round prospect who the Jets could trade back to target if they focused on a different position in round one.

Take us to today, where there is talk of Courtney Upshaw falling out of the first round, Ingram being available for the Jets at 16 and Jones potentially being taken even before Ingram.

Jones is 6’5, 247 pounds and has the long arms teams desire in their pass rushers. Many teams, including the Jets if they take him, believe he could make the transition from being a college defensive end into being a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has more explosiveness off the ball than Courtney Upshaw and most believe he has a higher upside. I am not sure if he actually will end up leapfrogging Ingram on draft day but if the Jets miss out on Ingram, it would no longer be a surprise if they took Jones over Upshaw.

Due to his versatility, Ingram has to be the top pass rusher on the Jets draft board. While many teams wouldn’t be happy with Ingram’s lack of a clear cut position, Rex Ryan loves it and would relish the chance to turn him into an improved version of Adalius Thomas during his Baltimore years. Ingram would likely see time at four different spots in the Jets defensive scheme and give them much needed explosiveness in their front seven.

The question for the Jets now becomes, can they risk waiting until #16 for Ingram? Most people seem to agree that Ingram is going to fall out of the top ten but there is increased chatter that Seattle could target him with the 12th pick. A move from #16 to #11 should’t be cost prohibitive for the Jets as they may be able to hang on to their 2nd round pick this year in the process.

Ultimately, it will come down to how badly the Jets want Ingram in comparison to other pass rushers in the first round. I think his versatility sets him apart enough that they will do what it takes to get him, even if it requires moving up a handful of spots. Jones is a tempting fallback but I still think he is valued too high at number 16. The Jets will hope Mark Barron is available if they miss out on Ingram but if he isn’t, it could come down to staying put and taking Jones or Upshaw.

Why The Jets Would Be Foolish To Pass On Upshaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOJ New York Jets Mock Draft 2.0

TOJ rounds up all the recent mock drafts and gives his selection for who the New York Jets will be taking with the 16th pick in the draft

The NFL Draft is now 13 days away. Here is an updated look at what multiple mock drafts have the New York Jets doing with the number 16 pick in the first round, along with our current projection. Why look at the TOJ projection?…Because we were right the past two years –

Kyle Wilson

Muhammad Wilkerson (#2 in the 12 pack)

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Charles Davis, NFL.com – Dont’a Hightower, Inside Linebacker, Alabama

Albert Breer, NFL.com – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois

Todd McShay, ESPN – Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker, Syracuse

Rob Rang, CBS – Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois

DrafTek – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

TOJ – Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker, South Carolina

Analysis – A few general trends since the middle of last week – Courtney Upshaw appears to be falling to the point that he will definitely be available at number sixteen but there is a feeling the New York Jets could pass on him. We have written about our concerns on Upshaw here before. The Jets need an explosive pass rusher and while Upshaw should turn out to be a solid pro, he could be too much in the mold of Calvin Pace. He will stop the run, set the edge but never be a consistent double digit sack guy.

On the other hand, safety Mark Barron is climbing the boards and it is being speculated he won’t get past Dallas at #14. Personally, I’d prefer Barron to Upshaw at #16 if both remain available but that is seemingly less likely every day. Wide receiver Michael Floyd isn’t expected to get out of the top ten and it’d be a big surprise if the Jets had a shot at him if they stay put.

Personally, I am buying into the Jets professed love of Ingram. The reports from his Pro Day were that they were the most smitten with him and that Jacksonville isn’t interested in him at #7, where most people had him projected to go. Assuming Miami takes Ryan Tannehill at #8, it would seem the Jets could trade up to #9 to get their hands on him. According to the draft board, they’d have to give up their second round pick but would likely get a fourth rounder back.

I think Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office have had a quiet, somewhat confusing off-season. From his past history, Tannenbaum loves to trade up and make a splash to get players the team highly desires. He did it for Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and Dustin Keller. Rex Ryan sees Ingram as Adalius Thomas 2.0. An explosive player who can line up at any spot in the front seven. This is a player that the Jets don’t just want, it is a player that they need. I say they swing the deal and then look to target safety Markelle Martin with their third round pick.

At the moment, here are my projections for the Jets first round pick in descending order of likelihood:

5. Stay Put and Take Michael Floyd – I highly, highly doubt he falls to #16 but if he does, the Jets will strongly consider him especially if they miss out on Ingram and Barron.

4. Trade Back For Andre Branch or Chandler Jones – If the Jets trade back into the mid to late 20s, they could target one of these pass rushers. Tannenbaum rarely trades back but if he can’t move up for Ingram and isn’t sold on Upshaw, this could make the most sense.

3. Stay Put and Take Courtney Upshaw – Seemingly less likely by the day, the Jets may actually even be able to trade back 4 or 5 spots and still take him.

2. Stay Put or Trade Up A Few Spots For Mark Barron – If Barron gets to 16, I think the Jets will take him. If they miss out on trading up for Ingram, they could look to leapfrog Dallas to take Barron.

1. Trade Up For Melvin Ingram – This will be a headline grabbing move that actually makes football sense.

New York Jets: Concern About Courtney Upshaw

TOJ looks at the New York Jets options at number 16 in the NFL Draft and if taking Courtney Upshaw is a smart move

The prevailing logic on the New York Jets first round pick has them selecting a pass rusher in the first round. Most draft boards have Courtney Upshaw still being available for them with the 16th overall pick. Yet, is Upshaw good value for the Jets at #16, especially if safety Mark Barron or wide receiver Michael Floyd is still on the board?

Since the off-season has started, I have written that wide receiver is not a priority position for this team. With the way their offense is built it doesn’t make sense to spend a first round pick on a receiver to put opposite of Santonio Holmes, who you have already invested huge money in. That being said, Floyd is pretty much regarded as a clear cut top ten talent right now and arguably being on the same level as Justin Blackmon. The Jets would be getting a needed big play weapon and a player who could take away double teams from Santonio Holmes, making him more productive. It is a selection that takes away from the Ground and Pound identity they are trying to build but ultimately could substantially improve their offense.

A more practical solution could be looking to move the pick if Floyd is available. There should be a line of teams anxious to get their hands on him and the Jets should be able to collect an extra second or third round pick for moving back, which will give them more versatility and options in the top 100 selections of the draft with plenty of mid-round talent.

When it comes to Barron or Upshaw, most people’s initial reaction is to take the pass rusher now and worry about safety later. If you are sold on Upshaw as a game changer rushing the passer, that is the right move but if not, it isn’t so clear cut.

Upshaw isn’t on Melvin Ingram’s level when it comes to explosiveness, speed or versatility. I am all for the Jets making an aggressive move to get Ingram but if they are going to stay put at 16 and miss out on him, Barron could be a better option.

At 279 pounds and looking more like a 4-3 end than a 3-4 outside linebacker, Upshaw could very well translate in Calvin Pace 2.0. He is going to be a productive NFL player but will he give the Jets another outside linebacker who is solid against the run, struggles in coverage and maxes out at 8 sacks in a season because he lacks elite burst off the ball? That type of addition certainly would help the defense but the Jets could survive with Pace and Bryan Thomas playing the bulk of reps for another year if that is the case.

The Jets currently have serious depth issues at safety. Right now the depth chart is LaRon Landry who has major durability concerns. Eric Smith who needs to be a role player, not a starter and Tracy Wilson who has never played a meaningful NFL snap…that’s it. This defense needs a player who can step in and start immediately. Can the Jets risk that with a 2nd or 3rd round pick or should they take the safer route with Barron if he is on the board?

I am not advocating for the Jets to ignore outside linebacker/pass rusher because they need one but maybe that is the position they look to address in round two or three, or even trading up into the back end of round one. Remember the Jets have veterans in place who can play the bulk of the reps at outside linebacker. They don’t have that at safety. If you have Barron or Upshaw to choose from and you grade out Barron higher, take Barron.

TOJ New York Jets Mock Draft 1.0

TOJ rounds up all the recent mock drafts and gives his selection on who the Jets will take at number 16 in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is only 22 days away. Let’s take a look around at what various mock drafts have the New York Jets doing with the 16th overall pick and then we will give our current projection:

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated – Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com – Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Todd McShay, ESPN – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Walter Football – Mark Barron, Safety, Alabama

Rob Rang, CBS – Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame

Pete Prisco, CBS – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Draft Countdown – Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

TOJ –  Courtney Upshaw, Outside Linebacker, Alabama

Analysis: Roll Tide. Barron and Upshaw have been popular picks for the Jets since the day the season ended. Both players were key parts of a National Championship defense and both players fill huge areas of need for the Jets. At this point it seems that Upshaw is the pass rusher who matches up the best to the Jets spot in the draft. Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples should both be off the board. Andre Branch probably could be selected in the late 20s. Despite rumors of the Cowboys being interested, #16 seems a little high for Barron who the Jets might be able to trade back a few spots and still grab. Floyd’s stock has been soaring and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him selected in the top ten.

Upshaw would be a solid selection, although there should be concern about him fitting into the 3-4 outside linebacker role. At 279 pounds and lacking an elite burst off the ball, Upshaw could be Calvin Pace 2.0. A player good against the run, who struggles in coverage and gives you 6-8 sacks per year. He has also had knee issues over the past few months.

At the moment, Upshaw does seem like the safest bet for the Jets at 16, if he is still on the board. Here are TOJ’s projections as of right now in descending order of likelihood

5. Stay Put and Take Michael Floyd – It is hard to see the Jets prioritizing a receiver in the first round with the type of offense they plan to run but Floyd’s talent could be too much to ignore if he is still available at 16.

4. Trade Up For Melvin Ingram/Quinton Coples – Mike Tannenbaum has never been shy about going to get his guy. It would cost the Jets a hefty price to move into the 7-9 range needed to select one of these guys but they could view Ingram’s value as too much to ignore.

3. Trade Down For Andre Branch – Depending on how the board breaks, the Jets could look to move back 10-12 spots and select Branch, a player they are apparently pretty high on while accumulating another pick.

2. Stay Put Or Trade Down A Few Spots For Mark Barron – The Jets could be content to take Barron at #16 if Upshaw is off the board or they could trade back a few spots and look to still grab him. An intriguing scenario could arise if the Jets trade back to the 27-29 range for Branch, see Barron beginning to fall and then use the extra pick/picks acquired in the Branch trade to hop into the first with a second pick and maybe grab both.

1. Stay Put And Take Courtney Upshaw – Seems like the safest bet at the time.

New York Jets: What Have You Done To Win Your Division?

The New York Jets must build the type of team who can consistently beat New England

There is an inevitable reality in the AFC East as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are active participants, the New England Patriots are the team to beat if you want to win the division. Until the New York Jets find a way to get past them in the standings, they will be forced to scrap for a wild-card spot and win three straight road games if they ever want to appear in a Super Bowl.

In Rex Ryan’s first two seasons as the Jets head coach, they were able to go 3-2 against the Patriots including a memorable playoff upset. In these games, the Jets were able to overcome Bill Belichick’s countermove to their talent at cornerback by building his offense through Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, thanks to terrific game planning and timely big plays from their offense.

They weren’t as fortunate last season as the Jets lost both games and never seriously threatened the Patriots for the division. On defense, the Jets couldn’t scheme around their deficiencies and they never got the needed big plays from their offense.

Why could the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots twice last year? They could hit the quarterback and they could make big plays in the passing game to take advantage of their weak secondary.

We have seen the Buffalo Bills sign Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to improve their ability to get after Tom Brady. Whether their passing game can generate big plays remains to be seen but at a minimum New England will have a difficult time protecting Brady and he shouldn’t have time in the pocket to distribute the ball to Gronkowski, Hernandez and recently signed Brandon Lloyd.

When you look at the Jets current roster, they are still yet to address their gaping hole at pass rusher. There is only so many blitzes you can throw at Brady until he beats you, hence the team’s need for a player who can simply beat his man one on one to the quarterback. There aren’t many players, if any who can adequately match up on the Patriots tight ends in single coverage. The Jets certainly aren’t equipped with them as they are still woefully undermanned at safety. They are going to need as many people in coverage as possible, meaning they don’t have the luxury to continually throw their extra defensive backs on blitzes.

The rumors have the Jets addressing their hole at pass rusher through the draft. How aggressive Mike Tannenbaum pursues the need remains to be seen but something needs to be done to enhance the speed and athleticism of the front seven.

On the other side of the football, you need to make plays in the passing game to beat New England. Think about the Jets victories over the Patriots in recent years. In 2009, Jerricho Cotchery gashed them for big plays down the middle of the field in the second half to lead a comeback victory. In 2010, Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller ripped apart their secondary in the regular season victory and in the playoffs it was Cotchery and Edwards who again did the damage.

Last season the Jets didn’t have Cotchery ripping off a 58 yard reception in the 4th quarter or Edwards hauling in a 37 yard grab down the sideline to set up a touchdown. The big plays were nowhere to be found.

They must return this year, whether it comes from Dustin Keller being used properly, Braylon Edwards returning or the Jets finding another big play receiver.

It certainly could create a dilemma for the Jets on draft day. If you are sitting at number 16 with Melvin Ingram and Quinton Couples off the board, staring at either Courtney Upshaw or Michael Floyd, what do you do? Upshaw’s stock as a 3-4 player has fallen due to his size and potential issues with his knee while Floyd’s stock is climbing every day as a big play receiver. It seems at this point that Floyd would be much better value at that spot but is the need too big to ignore at outside linebacker or can you justify taking Floyd by saying you need to replace the big plays in the passing game that allowed you to beat New England in previous years?

New York Jets Set For Big Draft

The New York Jets have ten picks in April’s draft and plenty of holes to fill

The New York Jets will head into April’s draft with 10 picks. They have a first round selection (16th overall), second round selection (47th overall), third round selection (77th overall) and then a fifth round selection, three six round selections and three seven round selections. It is worth noting that they cannot trade their compensatory picks, two of which are in the sixth round and two of which are in the seventh round.

So what can we expect from the Jets? Throughout Mike Tannenbaum’s history, he has aggressively pursued trades to acquire starting caliber players using the draft. Whether is was Thomas Jones, Kris Jenkins, Antonio Cromartie, or Santonio Holmes, he isn’t shy about parting with picks to fill needs with veteran players. Tannenbaum also has a history of trading up to acquire players the organization has targeted like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, and Shonn Greene. Generally, it would be wise not to expect the Jets to stand pat with their ten selections.

The Jets still have holes on both sides of the football, most notably in three locations: right tackle, free safety, and outside linebacker. Outside of that, they could use help at wide receiver, running back and inside linebacker.

The early chatter about the draft has the Jets targeting a pass rusher with their first pick. Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples will both likely be gone by number sixteen, so if the Jets want either badly they will need to trade up into the 7-10 range. Courtney Upshaw could fall to them and if he does, expect them to snap him up. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they moved up a few spots to grab him if he slides into the 12-14 range. Finally, they have taken time to individually work out Clemson’s Andre Branch. He is a player the Jets could trade back into the late 20s to grab and acquire another pick in the process.

Mark Barron, the top safety in the draft, is also likely to be picked somewhere in the 25-35 range and the Jets could consider coupling a trade back for Branch with a trade up from their second round pick to grab Barron. The team could also choose to stay put and target Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith, the second ranked safety in the draft on most boards, with their 44th pick.

Overall, with three picks in the top one hundred and ten picks overall, the Jets need to find 2-3 new starters, whether it is through the draft and, trading picks for veteran players, or going back over the free agent market. There are upgrades out there to Wayne Hunter, Jim Leonhard, Bryan Thomas, and Chaz Schilens, it is just a matter of Mike Tannenbaum pulling the trigger.

TOJ Monday Morning Rant: New York Jets Pass Rush

The New York Jets have ignored their pass rush for too long

Considering the disappointment of the 2011 NFL season, I find it fitting to kick off the next few weeks with a rant. Today’s topic is the New York Jets pass rush…or lack thereof.

In 2005, John Abraham had 10.5 sacks for the Jets defense. It is the last time a player on their defense has recorded double digit sacks in a single season. We are on six seasons and counting now…

We have long heard about Rex Ryan’s obsession with collecting cornerbacks. He seems to be of the belief that he can manufacture a pass rush from his blitz schemes if he is comfortable leaving the members of his secondary in man coverage. What we saw this past year was offenses caught up with what Rex was throwing at them. Blitz after blitz, not coming close to the quarterback and the pass rush not making nearly enough game changing plays.

If you are going to beat the elite quarterbacks in this league, you need to hit them. You can’t beat them with coverage, by loading up with top shelf corners. You need a pass rush that can consistently get after the quarterback and not always be aided by the blitz.

The Jets paid Calvin Pace a ton of money before the 2008 season to be this guy and despite being a pretty good all around player, he is nowhere near explosive enough to be a team’s top option as a pass rusher. In the draft, he looked to compliment him with Vernon Gholston…and we all know how that went.

Mike Tannenbaum went 0-2 prior to that season looking to substantially improve his pass rush and he appears to have been scarred from that, as the Jets have ignored pass rushers in free agency and the draft since. Four seasons have came and went. It is now time for Tannenbaum to make the pass rush his number one priority and give it another run.

There are plenty of reasons the Giants are 2-0 in the recent Conference Championship games and the Jets are 0-2 but a big one is the Giants ability to accumulate pass rushers over the years. Right now they have three (Pierre-Paul, Tuck, and Osi) who are head and shoulders above any of the Jets pass rushers. Hitting on Pierre-Paul compared to whiffing on Gholston makes a big difference.

Right now the Jets top pass rushing threat is a guy they found off the scrap heap in Aaron Maybin. He is a nice role player but considering his size and skill set, it would be foolish to rely on him as a top option.

The Jets need to seriously consider doing everything in their power to get a player like Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, or one of the other draft’s top pass rushing prospects on their roster. They also shouldn’t hesitate to add another outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback in the middle rounds to develop. In free agency, they should explore what it would take to sign Mario Williams, especially if New England is going to be after him. Williams is a long shot and if they can’t get him, they should look at adding a second tier free agent like Anthony Spencer who has long term potential.

This team can’t afford another off-season of putting the pass rush on the backburner, now is the time to aggressively pursue making a drastic improvement to it.