I Dreamed A Dream – The 2011 Draft and How To Survive The Doldrums

After checking about 4,200 mock drafts, ranging from the cracked out enthusiasm of the schizophrenic Mel Kiper, the “fatdudewithablog.com” mock draft, and even the lowly ESPN stat boy who has created entire formulas of efficiency regarding the maximum upside of every draft pick. I have learned absolutely nothing about potential draft choices. Actually less than nothing, I believe this is what I am trying to illustrate:

Nothing  >  What I learned

Who would have thought that all our collective energy could go to something so utterly useless? I hereby declare silence unto the stat dorks, the combine creeps and the game tape goons, all you proclaim is dressed up fantasy, and my logic will no doubt be forced to lead us through these murky waters.

OK, the Jets draft at 30, which means that if any of those teams before them decide to trade picks up or down, the entire draft becomes, in scientific terms, an exponential clusterf*ck. Let me just ask now, who predicted the Leon Washington trade and grabbing McKnight in the 4th round my dear soothsayers?

Let us imagine the doomsday scenarios, those are more exciting anyway. What if Belichick went completely insane and traded his two second round picks for a 1st and 3rd, which would leave them with “potentially” (I do not know the exact point formulas) three 1st round picks. Do you think THAT would affect how the Jets draft?

What if the grand face of slate nabbed both Julio Jones and Mark Ingram? Tannenbaum would undoubtedly be forced to recognize the unholy alliance of size, speed, and brains that would make quick work of 90% of the NFL. Unless the Jets somehow managed to get  my “dream defense”, which would require the intervention of various holy men and deals so underhanded they scoop mud, it would nearly be impossible to compete.

Let’s think about this for a second. Does anyone honestly think that Mark Ingram wouldn’t be the best Patriots running back in the last 10 years? Or that Julio Jones isn’t the receiver Tom Brady dreams of when he lays his head upon the soft linens? Its awful to think of. Which is why we need my dream defense. Debate it as you will.

THE DREAM DEFENSE – TO BE IMPLEMENTED AT START OF 2011 SEASON……IF THERE IS ONE

Defensive End – I’m gonna go out on a limb and think that Rex would like to keep Trevor Pryce for one more year, just as a sort of mentor and rotation player. 6’5 290lbs doesn’t lie. He may be old, but you know he would lift up a train if Rex Ryan asked him nicely. I think Mike Devito would be a great second rotation player. To be specific I like Pryce at Left End. I think there are few things are essential as Shaun Ellis on this team, because as we know Rex, we know he loves the big men. Also, who doesn’t love that Wikipedia picture of him? Priceless. So Ellis at Right End.

Defensive Tackle – Here is where we crank the “FREAK O METER” up to 11. Ok, so you think, old man and old man at Defensive End. Big shit. Ok, how about this. A HEALTHY Kris Jenkins at Nose Tackle. Yes, you have all seen him make those bear swipes on centers and guards, you have seen the Sport Science episode, it’s completely terrifying. Kris Jenkins wants to hurt your quarterback, like they say….”he makes noises”. Oh, and because I love Nose Tackles…..how about we put my favorite Nose Tackle in the 2011 draft Marcell Dareus next to him. So we have a polar bear and a lion. Kris Jenkins lands on you. Marcell Dareus hits you. They both have claws, and they would undoubtedly have contests to see who could inflict more damage. And to top it all off we got Sione Pouha rotating in when the opposing team is down to their 4th quarterback.

Outside Linebacker –  Calvin Pace is the worst pass rusher in football according to certain statistics, like when he had 3 sacks against the Raiders in 2009, which is why I am starting him as my first outside linebacker. He can stand up and spin in circles for all I care, just don’t let those halfback tosses get past ya friend. Yell things, knock tight ends off their routes….be that last note on a blitz chord….remember….”wont start no stuff wont be no stuff”. So that leaves my second draft pick, Sam Acho to creep around and pick up scattered body parts of fullbacks and skinny running backs with dreadlocks. Acho is a DE/OLB hybrid but I think Rex Ryan likes to….um….move people around. I’m still waiting for Kris Jenkins to play fullback…..just one play.

Inside Linebacker – The mouth and the motor. Bart Scott is now a certified flight attendant, and so he is going to use those wings to fly on towards a QB scrambling for his life. Imagine this if you will, Calvin Pace coming off the edge, Dareus and Jenkins right up the middle, and this screaming banshee coming from somewhere in the shuffle. Oh, dear me, I believe since we run a 3-4 half the time we get another linebacker. Meet David Harris. He is the bruiser of the gang. He once broke a truckers entire hand thumb wrestling. He is a fan of sacks, forced fumbles, and key interceptions in things like the playoffs.

Cornerback – There is no doubt in my mind that at some point in his life, Darrelle Revis had Kill Bill style Ninja training. Have you seen some of those interceptions? They will never be recreated, duplicated, or contested. Despite my tendency to get a little crazy, I think Cromartie will get better in terms of technique with another year under his belt. He is still relatively young, and learning the Jets defense takes at least a year, just look at how confused Kyle Wilson was when he wasn’t a nickel corner. I think Cromartie is great for deep threat receivers, but he still acts like a punter when it comes to contact, despite the fact that he can smash faces in via Twitter. Lets just say Coleman, Cole and Wilson will all compete for third and fourth string corner spots, but I think Wilson will take the top of the heap, come on Boise State!

Free Safety – I am not alone in thinking Dwight Lowery would end up better at free safety than cornerback. He thinks he would be better at safety too. He keeps his eye on the ball more than the man he is covering, and thus is better at assisting than having to guard in man to man coverage. I also think Brodney Pool would make a great rotation player, and seeing what he can do with a full year under the defensive coaches would make their free safety tandem quite good.

Strong Safety – Jim Leonhard is a little ball of defensive genius. Shame he didn’t have another 50 lbs and 6 inches to his height, because I could see him being a pro bowl caliber player at that size. Which is why I have added another little touch of beauty to our safety rotation. Quinton Carter. This guy is a freak. He scares receivers. The Jets need a bruiser to add to Jim Leonhard, so Quinton fills the relative lack of size. And you know you are going to love him because quarterbacks are going to be forced to chuck a few up there and say a prayer, which is where Carter lines up your receiver from 20 yards out and…

If we were to then translate this into a “46” defense, we would have our front line consisting of Ellis, Dareus, Jenkins and Pryce followed by Pace, Scott and Harris at linebacker, occasionally subbing any of those three out with Sam Acho. Quinton Carter creeping down at Strong Safety and Jim Leonhard over the top, and now that I think about it, I would probably want to rotate Lowery and Carter every few plays, or even have both of them  start up front and drop back to cover the middle. Last but not least, our two corners, Revis and Cromartie in man to man coverage, which could get dicey with guys like Tom Brady and Peon ytManning, but as Joe Theismann once said, “it is very hard to get to your receiver in man to man when you are laying on your back.”

To recap:

Draft Picks

1) Marcell Dareus, Alabama (2010 BCS Championship Defensive MVP)

2) Quinton Carter, Oklahoma (2010 All Big 12 Team)

3) Sam Acho, Texas (2010 Wuerffel Trophy & Campbell Trophy Winner)

To be clear, the Jets would have to make a few trades and give up their 5th, 6th & 7th round picks, maybe parting with Damien Woody, Eric and Brad Smith as well. Obviously I couldn’t legitimately work out the exact solutions but it’s more fun to make an insane defense than balance a team….that’s for the coaches.

Prospect Watch: Muhammad Wilkerson

Another day, another 3-4 defensive end to dissect here at TOJ: this time around we are going to look at Muhammad Wilkerson, the 6’5 305 pound freak that looks like he could be one of the Mon-Stars in Space Jam.  Muhammad hails from Linden, New Jersey and played his college ball at the newly rejuvenated Temple football program.  He is comparable to Cameron Heyward in position (both would be best suited as a 5 technique) and size (both are big boys). However, Heyward tends to use his brute strength to overpower offensive tackles, while Wilkerson uses his tremendous agility and footwork to plug holes and find the ball carrier.

There is no question Wilkerson has some things to work on, but what he lacks in initial bursts and explosion, he gains in his strength and ability to create separation.  These skills allow him to beat blockers even if they manage to engage him initially.  His nimble feet are a main reason why he is so effective using his signature swim move, and is a good sign that he will be able to expand his pass-rushing repertoire once in the NFL.  Just as good, if not better than his pass rushing technique is his ability to shed blockers.  Wilkerson is able to engage his blocker, create separation, identify the play and attack the ball carrier very quickly. Wilkerson is excellent at using his long arms to swallow up RB’s and QB’s alike.  Against the double team, Muhammad is better at slipping the blockers and getting the QB than standing his ground and eating up blockers but is well above average at both.  He understands what gap he is responsible for and more times than not fills it before the back can get through; additionally he has a knack for the forced fumble which would be a nice addition to a Jets defense that could use some more forced turnovers. 

Perhaps Wilkerson’s biggest asset coming into the NFL, and the reason I believe he will be able to overcome the weaker parts of his game, is his unquestioned work ethic and character.  Muhammad makes a ton of hustle plays and you can always see him running after the play if he isn’t in on making the tackle.  He was also elected team captain as a junior, demonstrating his leadership and his teammates respect for him.  Furthermore, he is well spoken during interviews and has already promised to return to Temple to finish out his degree down the road. 

What I am concerned with is his lack of explosion coming off the ball combined with his tendency to stand up out of his stance.  While his stack and shed technique works wonders against offensive linemen in the MAC, it is not going to translate as well into the NFL, where tackles are going to throw him around if he doesn’t learn to fire off the ball harder.  On top of this he needs to get stronger and learn to use his hands with more force at the next level.  Against stronger competition like Penn State, he got overpowered sometimes, especially when double teamed and his lack of strength and hand-work became a little too obvious.  However, like I said earlier, I think these are all things that are fixable and will be corrected based on his work ethic and commitment to football.

In case you can’t tell I like Muhammad Wilkerson, I like him a lot.  I think the Jets would be very lucky for him to drop to them and would be pretty hard pressed to find a better player if he is still available.  There are definite questions with him, just like any prospect that’s expected to be picked at the end of the 1st round, but I think these are all off-season issues that can be worked on and fixed before the season, especially with the all powerful motivator Rex at the helm.  Wilkerson’s athleticism is too much to pass on if given the opportunity, I say take him.

Prospect Watch: Cameron Heyward

As far as needs are concerned, defensive line is at the very top of the Jets list this year.  Depth and youthare both concerns on the inside and outside of the line, and after skipping over the position the last two drafts, it is time Mike Tannenbaum pulls the draft day trigger on a defensive end.

The first Big Ugly we are going to take a look at is Cameron Heyward, a strong defensive end who has had a ton of hype throughout his college career but did not have as strong of a senior season as he might have hoped for.  Not lacking in experience, Heyward has started on the defensive line since his Freshman year.  Additionally, he is the son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Lauded for his off the field leadership, Heyward has become a perennial run stopper, yet has never fully developed into a dominant pass rusher.  While he shows flashes of dominance, Heyward gets beat by seemingly inferior talent at times, especially when he cant get initial contact.

Heywards biggest strength is his size and….strength.  At 6 foot 6, 287 pounds he is pretty much already ideal size for a 3-4 end.  He has very powerful hands and is able to extend his long arms and create space when he makes initial contact.  Heyward has above average instincts, which comes from him playing all four defensive line positions at one point while in college.  He is able to stay low at the line and drive, which helps him on double teams, something he will see a lot of while at the 3-4 end spot.  All of these traits make Heyward a force to be reckoned with stopping the run, however his pass rush has never fully developed and will need some work, especially at the next level.

Perhaps the biggest concern with Heyward is his lack of athleticism.  He is pretty much a one trick pony, he engages and reads the play, a process that is far to slow to translate to the NFL.  Aside from his lack of pass rush moves, he doesn’t seem to move fast enough to get to the QB.  The combine should be huge for Cameron as he has the chance to show he is quick enough to pick in Round 1, or slow enough to wait for the second day.  Aside from that, Walter Football’s evaluation states he takes entire games off, which is never a good sign.

I don’t think taking Heyward with the 30th pick would be a good move for the Jets.  His name has been linked to the Jets because of their need for DE, but as we have seen, Rex does not put a premium on 3-4 ends, especially ones who can’t get to the QB.  If the Jets had a 2ndround pick I would use it on this guy, but the front office has pressure on them to get 2 rounds worth of value with their first pick, and getting a run stopper akin to ­­­Mike Devito would not be great value.  The Jets first pick must be able to make an immediate impact, Heyward needs to be coached up, and his immediate impact would be just as much as a Rent-A-Veteran while costing the team a lot more.

TOJ's Initial Thoughts On Jets 2011 Defensive Depth Chart

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First guess on the what the defense will look like 2011…

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Defensive Line – Draft Pick, Free Agent, Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, Kris Jenkins, Shaun Ellis, Ropati Pitoitua – I think Kris Jenkins will agree to take a major pay cut and give it another shot for the Jets. What other option does he have? Nobody is paying him with how much time he missed the past two years. I can see negotiations with Shaun Ellis getting ugly, the Jets letting him waver in free agency for awhile but then ultimately finding a way to bring him back on a cheap, short-term deal. Does he really want to go somewhere else after spending his whole career here? He is another guy who won’t get big money elsewhere. The Jets do need to spend an early draft pick at defensive end and should sign a veteran to replace Trevor Pryce. Hopefully, Pitoitua can contribute this year.

Linebackers – David Harris, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, Draft Pick/Free Agent, Jamaal Westerman, Josh Mauga – This is another area the Jets need to spend a draft pick in. I am not sure what free agency will look like in this area but it would be good to see them add some youth here. Jason Taylor won’t be back. Westerman and Mauga have shown potential in the past couple years and are developmental players. David Harris isn’t going anywhere, you can bank on that.

Secondary – Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Jim Leonhard, Brodney Pool, Kyle Wilson, James Ihedigbo, Marquice Cole, Dwight Lowery, Draft Pick – I think the Jets will find a way to get Cromartie back after dealing with Harris and Santonio Holmes. They can’t keep everybody so don’t be surprised to see Drew Coleman and Eric Smith leave, as they will want Kyle Wilson to have a bigger role and Pool’s play improved down the stretch. I am sure Rex Ryan will insist they spend another draft pick in the secondary, either at safety or corner.

Overall – I think the Jets will be able to get Jenkins and Ellis back on the cheap as they work younger players into the defensive line positions. The bottom line is that long term replacements are needed for Ellis and Bryan Thomas and the Jets aren’t loaded with draft picks, so Mike Tannenbaum needs to hit in the first and third round or get creative with free agency or a trade. Rex Ryan loves his corners, which is why I think after taking care of Harris and Holmes, the Jets next priority won’t be Braylon Edwards or Brad Smith, but will rather be Cromartie. Eric Smith, Drew Coleman, Jason Taylor, and Trevor Pryce are the major contributors who won’t be back.