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?