New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Offensive Line

The TOJ Draft Staff looks at what offensive lineman the New York Jets can target in the NFL Draft

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that will certainly be needed to added to via the draft. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential offensive linemen that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York to add up front. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets  and potential running back targets, for the Jets. 

Chris Gross

Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama – 6’2″ 325 lbs – Warmack is arguably the best player at his position in the entire draft class. With New York likely losing at least one of last year’s starting guards to free agency, this position is among their greatest needs. Warmack would be an incredibly safe pick at 9th overall, but could possibly be attained if the Jets decide to trade down a few spots, considering the guard position isn’t normally valued as a top 10 pick. However, Warmack could be an exception to that notion considering his immense strength, footwork, hand placement, and ability to both drive defenders off of the ball and get to linebackers at the second level. Warmack is the total package. He is big, strong, quick, and incredibly tenacious. Selecting him in the first round would give New York stability at guard for the next decade.

UNC FOOTBALL V GEORGIA TECHJonathan Cooper, Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs – Cooper, although not quite the player Warmack is just yet, is undoubtedly the second best guard in the draft this year. Although Cooper does not possess the overall strength that Warmack does, he is incredibly quick for the position, slides his feet very well in pass protection, and uses his hands like a polished NFL veteran. Cooper will likely be a late 1st, early 2nd round pick, and if the Jets decide to pass on Warmack in the 1st, look for Cooper to be the guy with the 39th overall selection. His agility and strength in zone blocking will make him an ideal fit in Marty Mornhinweg’s system.

Barrett Jones, Guard/Tackle/Center, Alabama – 6’5″ 302 lbs – Jones is the only player in the history of the NCAA to win a National Championship while starting at each position on the offensive line. His versatility up front is unparalleled, which would give a team like the Jets some much needed flexibility in terms of depth on the offensive line. He is extremely intelligent, but has all the physical tools, as well with great strength, leverage, footwork, and overall quickness. His leadership is above and beyond any other lineman in the draft, and his toughness is unheard of, as was displayed by his admission to having played in the National Championship game while suffering from a Lisfranc injury. Jones could end up being a 3rd-4th rounder, with a chance of going in the late second. If the Jets decide to focus on positions outside of the offensive line with their first two picks, Jones is a player that must be on the radar in round 3.

Brian SchwenkeBrian Schwenke, Guard/Center, California – 6’3″ 311 lbs – Although not quite as versatile as Jones, Schwenke proved to be effective at both guard and center last week at the Senior Bowl. His quickness is among the best at the position this year, and although he isn’t necessarily the most physically strong player, he makes up for it with his excellent technique and tremendous use of leverage. He shows very good feet in pass protection, and a very good ability to chip off of double teams onto linebackers at the second level. Like Jones, his versatility will be a plus moving forward. Schwenke is likely more of a 4-6 round player.

WarfordLarry Warford, Guard, Kentucky – 6’3″ 325 lbs – One of the heavier guards of the class, Warford certainly is not the typical immobile big man. As put on display in the Senior Bowl, Warford is deceptively quick, with a much better ability to get to the second level than the eye would tell upon initial impression. He has shown to be effective as a puller, as well, as he has an uncanny ability to maintain his feet and balance when blocking defenders in space. The combine will be big for Warford in terms of where he ends up being selected, but as of now he would hold solid value in rounds 3-4.

Zev Sibony

The Jets have an issue on the interior of their Offensive Line. No starting caliber Guards are on the roster. Slauson and Moore and Unrestricted Free Agents, and Vlad Ducasse isn’t starting caliber. Austin Howard was better than some people thought. His run blocking is really good. His pass protection is about average and there is room for improvement. Another thing is that he became a victim of Mark Sanchez holding onto the ball too long. With the switch to the West Coast offense, it should simplify things for Sanchez, thus making the O-Line not have to block for a full 8 seconds. You can’t expect linemen to block for that long without holding or giving up a sack. Just like you can’t expect much from a CB when plays break down and the WR improvises to meet the QB.

Based on need, the Jets need to leave this draft with 2 Guards, a Tackle and a Center for depth. Let’s look at the top 5 Offensive linemen the Jets should look at and where they should draft them:

Chance Warmack- Guard- Alabama- 6’3” 320 lbs- Quite simply, Warmack is the best. He is the best Guard in the draft and the Jets would be wise to use the 9th overall pick on him. Putting him between Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson would be incredible. The left side of the offensive line would be excellent and the running backs would have absolutely gaping holes to run through. Warmack will be a Pro Bowler sooner rather than later in his career. Not to mention, having a really, really good Offensive Line is at the foundation of every team that is a contender. 1st round. 9th pick.

Johnathan Cooper- Guard/Center- University of North Carolina- 6’3” 310 lbs- Cooper is the second best guard in the draft. He gets set quickly, has active feet and great hands. He is a really good run blocker and an even better pass blocker. He will be a starter in the league next year barring anything unforeseen. Since he is the second best guard in the draft, he will be taken in the 1st round, it is just a matter of when. If the Jets manage to trade down or get another 1st round pick, they can take Cooper in the middle to end of the 1st round and that would be a good get. You can still smack him between Feguson and Mangold and have an incredibly dominant left side. The drop off between Cooper and Warmack isn’t big enough where getting Cooper is “settling.”

Larry Warford- Kentucky- Guard- 6’3” 336- Warford was really good the whole week of the Senior Bowl and in the game itself. He was moving linemen all over the field, showing glimpses of Brandon Moore in his prime. Above average at run and pass protection and best suited as a Right Guard. He has a good lower body to drive defenders off the ball and can get out quickly when pulling. For his size, he has good straight-line speed, as well. Some cons are that he falls off blocks because of lunging occasionally, but that is a tendency that can be broken. He also dips his head in open space at times. He has a lot of experience with 25 starts and 35 appearances. After the Senior Bowl, his stock shot up a bit. He can likely be had in the late 1st round to the middle of the 2nd round. Once again, taking him with the Jets current 2nd round pick would only happen if they addressed a different need in the 1st round.

Barrett Jones- Alabama- Guard/Center/Tackle- 6’5” 311- Barrett Jones was probably the most experienced and versatile person on the best O-Line in the country at Alabama. I say more versatile because he has played at every spot on the line. On the three championship teams in ’09, ’11, ’12 he played Right Guard, Left Tackle, and Center, respectively. He is the ultimate depth-machine and would hold great value with the Jets. I saw a lot of grit and toughness from him while I watched him this last year. He played really well, and apparently, he was playing with a Lisfranc injury that he just recently got surgery on. Drafting Jones is a tough question to answer because we haven’t seen him since the Championship game because of his foot surgery. I think at latest he will get drafted by the second round.

Joe Madsen- West Virginia- Center- 6’4” 310 lbs- Throughout the week at the Senior Bowl, Madsen looked real good. He was moving D-Linemen all over the place and looked technically sound. For the Jets, he could be drafted to acquire depth. Madsen can sit behind one of the best Centers in the league and learn. Not only that, he can also learn other positions so he can be more helpful to the Jets as a team. I can see him getting drafted in the 4th or 5th round. He still has some work to do to be a starting caliber lineman in the NFL, but I can assure you he is already better than Vlad Ducasse.

Frank Giasone

Free agency is forcing the Jets to make a decision on the interior of the offensive line heading into the offseason. Brandon Moore isn’t getting any younger, and Matt Slauson was so bad in run blocking situations that Vlad Duccasse was actually seen as an improvement. With those questions looming, finding at least one guard in April’s NFL Draft has got to be a focus for the Jets.

While there’s the perceived notion that the Jets offensive line stinks, the truth is that it’s easily the most noticeable strength of a pathetic Jets offense. Austin Howard improved at right tackle throughout the season, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold both continued playing at a high level. The real issues on the line include a lack of depth, Slauson’s limitations as a blocker, and Moore’s age and contract concerns.

Personally, I can’t justify using the ninth overall pick on a guard—but anything goes on day two and beyond. Here’s a few offensive lineman that should be on the Jets radar moving forward:

PughJustin Pugh, Guard, Syracuse – 6’5″ 301 lbs: Pugh spent three years playing the left tackle position for Syracuse, but after a very impressive showing at guard during the Senior Bowl, he’s now ranked among the top interior lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Coming into the Senior Bowl the biggest knocks on Pugh were tied to his physical drawbacks and his struggles protecting the edge against some of the more ferocious pass rushers. But with the move inside, those deficiencies become less significant, allowing his more impressive attributes to boost him up draft boards.

As a guard, Pugh’s speed and movement help him reach the second level in a hurry, and while he still needs to add some size and refine the use of his hands, he is certainly an intriguing option to replace Matt Slauson at left guard.

Barrett Jones, Guard, Alabama- 6’5″ 302 lbs: –  As Jets fans have seen in recent years, when Nick Mangold goes down, things get ugly…and fast. Although Jones would be best suited as a guard in New York, his résumé at Alabama illustrates extreme versatility on the offensive line; including two years at guard, one year at tackle, and another at center.

Versatility like that is tough to ignore, and it would certainly be convenient to have a viable option to move around the offensive line if need be.

WintersBrian Winters, Offensive Tackle, Kent St– 6’4″ 310 lbs:  Winters is another college tackle that appears better suited to play guard at the next level, mostly due to his wide base and good body control.

A blocker that on relies more on brute strength and toughness than anything else, Winters is quick off the snap and does a good job of using his hands to engage the defender. Although Winters likely has the size to play right tackle in the NFL –and while he lacks experience playing on the interior- developing as a guard may be his best bet moving forward. Projected to go sometime in the third or fourth round, Winters could be an interesting project for the Jets.

Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs: He’s the highest-rated lineman on my list, but in no way do I condone this selection with the ninth pick in the draft. Realistically, there’s no way Cooper falls into the second round, but he could be an option for the Jets if a “trade down scenario” plays out in April.

Cooper is so highly touted mostly due to his impressive speed, lateral movement, and footwork, along with his enormous frame. Cooper’s explosiveness and balance also are very apparent when watching tape, as he’s able to get to the second level with ease. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him climb into the top 20.

New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Wide Receiver

The TOJ Draft staff looks at what wide receivers the New York Jets could target in April’s draft

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position that, although is not a top need, wouldn’t hurt from the addition of a playmaker. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential wide receivers that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York at wide receiver. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterback targets  and potential running back targets, for the Jets. 

Chris Gross

keenan-allenKeenan Allen, California, 6’3″ 206 lbs – While it is highly unlikely that Allen will fall to the Jets in the 2nd round, crazier things have happened on draft day. If Allen were to slip down to the 39th overall pick, it would be extremely difficult for New York to pass up on him, despite having taken a wide receiver in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. While Stephen Hill hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet, the new front office in New York is in no way married to him as a piece of the puzzle moving forward. While there is no reason to give up hope on Hill yet, Allen is a tremendous talent that would hold excellent value as an early 2nd rounder.

Allen is a big body at 6’3″ and possesses above average top end speed, with very good ball skills and athletic ability. He has some of the strongest hands out of any player at his position in this year’s class and does a very good job of getting to the ball at its highest point.

Most importantly, however, is Allen’s character. He has been highly praised by coaches and teammates alike for his work ethic and overall coach-ability. He puts in an extensive amount of time studying film, as well as in the weight room. Everyone that has been close to him during his career at California seemingly cannot say enough about his drive and desire to better himself everyday. On an offense that is in dire need of attitude like Allen’s, combined with what can become elite playmaking ability, he would be an excellent selection at the 39th overall pick, despite the improbability that he falls that far. Still, a name to keep an eye on.

Robert Woods2Robert Woods, USC, 6’1″ 190 lbs – Woods has flown a bit under the radar as of late, but his immense production as a Trojan should not be forgotten. Woods has adequate size, but the top end speed that can certainly stretch a defense and give his offense a real home run threat. Woods has sure hands and demonstrates a very quick initial burst off the line of scrimmage. He isn’t the most polished route runner, but he shows an ability to adjust his routes based on coverage and has knack for finding the holes in a zone, something that could allow him to thrive in an offense like Marty Mornhinweg’s. He is an extremely competitive player who will always fight for extra yards after the catch and, like Allen, puts in numerous hours in film study and in his physical training. Depending on how he performs at the combine, Woods could end up being a 2-3 round pick.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 5’8″ 173 lbs – While Austin certainly does not have the size of the previous two players, his speed and quickness are nearly unparalleled. He needs some fine tuning in his overall route running and ability to get off of press coverage, but Austin has the tools to be a weapon in a scheme like Mornhinweg’s. Picture him in a role similar to what DeSean Jackson had in Philadelphia under Mornhinweg, but a bit more versatile, as he has experience running the ball as well.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5’11” 182 lbs – Wheaton, like Austin, doesn’t have tremendous size, but is another receiver with big play ability. He does a good job of finding holes in zone coverage, and his excellent footwork and agility allow him to come in and out of his breaks with great fluidity, making curls, hitches, and comeback routes seemingly painless for him. Wheaton is also a very tough player, reportedly having played through some significant bumps and bruises at Oregon State. A fairly strong week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl will likely help his stock.

Terrance Williams, Baylor, 6’2″ 201 lbs – The size and talent are certainly there for Williams, who can create excellent separation while maintaining an ability to properly adjust his routes when needed. The biggest question marks with Williams are his character. He has been cited for immaturity, and although has the ability to run good routes, can tend to get lazy at times. This will likely cause him to fall into the mid-late rounds, but if New York feels that his talent is good enough to take a chance on getting his mind and work ethic right, he could be worth a flyer in rounds 4-6.

Zev Sibony 

The Jets can likely go into camp next year with a healthy and hopefully motivated Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jeremy Kerley and have a group that can be sufficient, while continuing to develop 2012 2nd round pick Stephen Hill. Behind the receivers aforementioned, Hill can play without pressure to perform and get better naturally instead of being forced into a role beyond his capacity. Other than these 4 receivers, the Jets should build WR depth with 1 or 2 late picks in the draft.

Name School Height Weight Projected 40 Projected rd.
DeAndre Hopkins Clemson 6-1 200 4.40 Late 1st – Early 2nd
Kenny Stills Oklahoma 6-1 189 4.53 4th – 5th
Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech 6-2 195 4.58 4th – 5th
Tavarres King Georgia 6-1 191 4.49 5th – 6th

HopkinsIf DeAndre Hopkins (82 rec, 1405 yds, 18 TDs) is available in the 2nd round, the Jets should snag him and not look back. Hopkins and Sammy Watkins were supposed to lead Clemson’s receiving corps, but Hopkins ended up outshining Watkins for the majority of the season. As far as receiving goes, he runs great routes, has great hands, and is a burner. He has the ability to beat a defense with precise routes or the deep ball. With the Jets going to a West Coast offense, this will be slam dunk if they can snag him. Watching film on Hopkins, he flashes some talent that resembles that of Julio Jones. Watkins will be tough to get, but if he falls to the Jets, there is a good chance New York looks long and hard at him.

StillsKenny Stills (82 rec, 959 yds, 11 TDs) was always a very consistent receiver for Oklahoma and quarterback Landry Jones. He is a decent blocker and needs to work on attacking the ball in mid air. Stills has great hands and can develop into a good NFL receiver. He can get separation from defenders and has deceptive speed. He had a small issue with a DUI but it was an isolated incident so I don’t believe it should be considered a major issue. He has average size but can make a play after the catch and is superbly athletic and flexible, which is important for WRs.

Quinton Patton (104 rec, 1392 yds, 13 TDs) was electric in his senior year at Louisiana Tech. He went against Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks (possible 1st round pick) and after the game; Banks said he was the best WR he played against. Against Texas A&M, a team out of the SEC, he had 21 catches for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is a strong receiver who can get separation and is also good enough attacking coverage to separate and create with the ball in his hands. He is very good at tracking the ball in the air, has quick feet and good coordination. He won’t test extremely well at the combine and coming from a smaller school may hurt his stock, but he can take the next step and play at an NFL level. There is a chance he is taken within the first 4 rounds, but if he slips, he could hold great value in rounds 5-7.

Tavarres King (42 rec, 950 yds, 8 TDs) has consistently jumped off of his college film at Georgia. While his stats aren’t over the top, he has the skill set to be an NFL caliber receiver. From going up to pluck the ball out of the air to getting separation, he can seemingly do it all, he just needs to be more consistent. This would be a developmental pick, but would give the Jets decent depth at the position in 2013. He can beat defenders over the top with straight-line speed and shows good stop, start, go type elusiveness to make defenders miss. He is above average at getting off press coverage, which makes sense because he played in the physical SEC. He would be a good get in the 5th or 6th round to help out the current Jets receiving corp.

Frank Giasone

The Jets wide receiver group has a number of questions that need to be answered as they prepare for the 2013 season, highlighted by a new-look offense and the continued absence of a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

The biggest challenge the group of wide receivers face coming into the season will be transitioning into Marty Mornhigweg’s “West Coast Offense”, which hinges on precise route running, sure handedness, and the ability to gain yards after the catch. Santonio Holmes, who essentially assumed No. 1 receiver duties by default, should thrive in the system—assuming he’s able to return fully from Lisfranc surgery, and stay motivated. The Jets will likely need to make it work with Holmes considering questions surrounding his rehab and his bloated salary will certainly limit trade options.

With Holmes injured, Jeremy Kerley emerged at the position to lead the Jets with 56 receptions and 827 yards in 2012. Kerley will likely continue building on his success in the pass-happy WCO, able to line up both at the flanker and slot position. But fans will have to wait to see what recently hired GM John Idzik decides to do regarding Braylon Edwards, although it makes sense to bring him back on a one-year deal, especially considering Stephen Hill’s infinite number of issues as a rookie.

With little wiggle room in the salary cap, the most likely scenario for the Jets is to select a receiver in April.

NCAA FOOTBALL 2012: SEP 22 Louisiana Tech at IllinoisQuinton Patton, Louisiana Tech, 6’0”, 202 lbs: Currently slotted to go somewhere in rounds two or three, Patton could find his way into the Draft’s top 40 picks by the time April comes around—especially considering the attention that he’s garnered during the first few days of Senior Bowl practice.

While he may lack the ideal strength and top end speed of an elite NFL receiver, the Louisiana Tech senior is still quick off the line of scrimmage, a very good route runner, and has the ability to consistently gain separation from defenders with his shiftiness and head fakes.

Patton will likely need to add strength in the coming months, as he has shown a tendency to have the ball stripped out of his hands before he can secure the catch.

Conner Vernon, Duke, 6’1”, 200 lbs: Vernon is a very interesting Day 2 option that displays reliable hands, crisp route running, and the versatility to play multiple receiver positions in the NFL.

The ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards lacks ideal speed to thrive consistently on the outside in the NFL, but makes up for it with his precise route running and shiftiness in traffic, as well as his ability to find space in the defense.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 6’1”, 183 lbs:  Wheaton is another receiver likely to go early in Day 2. The Oregon State all-time leader in receptions boasts tremendous speed and solid route running, but his overall strength and the reliability of his hands are concerns.

Wheaton’s speed is clearly his biggest selling point and will certainly help him gain attention from NFL teams looking to stretch the field. But it’s his route running and ability to break tackles that help him turn short passes into long gains, making him a very interesting option for a team running a WCO.

HarperChris Harper, Kansas State, 6’1”, 228 lbs: Harper is a big-bodied receiver who possesses deceptive speed and is sure to get comparisons to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (6’1”, 220lbs) as April approaches.

While he lacks some quickness at the line of scrimmage, as well as the quick twitch some like to see in the NFL, it’s his deceptive buildup speed that allows him sneak behind defensive backs downfield.

Never afraid to go up and fight for the ball, the former Oregon quarterback also uses his size as an advantage, regularly punishing tacklers.

Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington, 6’4”, 214 lbs: Projected as a Day 3 selection, Kaufman boasts consistent and precise route running as well as reliable hands. While he lacks elite speed, he is deceptively fast considering his build, and has no problems lowering his shoulder into an oncoming defender.

His consistency on the field is what has most scouts impressed, despite playing against a lower level of competition at Eastern Washington. If still on the board in Round 6, he’s certainly an interesting option.

 

NFL Draft 2013: Frank Giasone’s Big Board

Turn On The Jets NFL Draft writer Frank Giasone with his first big board for the 2013 Draft

US PRESSWIRE Sports

Draft writer Frank Giasone with his initial NFL Draft Big Board. Be sure to look for fellow draft writer, Zev Sibony‘s Big Board later today, while giving Lead NFL Draft Editor Chris Gross‘s Big Board from last week, and Mock Draft 1.0 from last night a read, as well. Let the debates begin!

1.) Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama63 320 lbs: He’s the best guard in the draft, and some may argue that he’s the best offensive lineman in it as well. Warmack has the footwork, speed and lateral movement scouts want to see in an NFL guard, and will surely have success at the next level.

2.) Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State – 6’4 255 lbs: Arguably the best DE in the draft, Werner still has tons of room for growth considering he only started playing football at age 15. His speed, strength and high motor will certainly translate as a 4-3 DE, but questions remain regarding his ability to fit as a 3-4 OLB.

3.) Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M – 6’6 310 lbs:It’s a deep crop of offensive lineman in the 2013 NFL Draft, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better offensive tackle than Joeckel. After starting all four years at left tackle for Texas A&M, Joeckel is as NFL-ready as any offensive lineman in the draft and should have no problems stepping in for whichever team selects him.

4.) Star Lotuleli, Defensive Tackle, Utah6’4 325 lbs: Lotuleli is a big, strong, NFL-ready defender that boasts surprising speed and explosiveness despite his massive physique. Asked to play both the 3-technique and as a nose tackle in 3-4 fronts at Utah, Lotulei showed impressive lateral movement as well as the ability to drive offensive lineman backward. Rarely blocked 1-on-1 at Utah, Lotuleli’s skill set looks like it will transition very well in the NFL.

5.) Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia –6’3 241 lbs: This draft is loaded with OLB’s, and Jones is certainly one of the most desired of the group. The Georgia stud defender boasts good size, versatility and a relentless motor, and projects best as a 3-4 OLB. His versatile skill set should not only make him a terrific pass rusher, but also keep him on the field in all situations.

6.) Damontre Moore, Defensive End/OLB, Texas A&M – 6’4 248 lbs: Moore is one of the most talented defenders in this draft. With the ability to play standing up as a 3-4 OLB, or with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 DE, Moore shows the potential to wreak havoc in offensive backfields at the next level.

7.) Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama –6’1 197 lbs: The best cornerback in the draft, Milliner leads a fairly weak CB crop in 2013. The Alabama junior has great size and instincts, and isn’t shy to impose his physicality. While he sometimes gets caught out of position, his overall awareness and playmaking ability make him a great prospect at cornerback.  

8.) Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan- 6’7”, 305: Fisher has seen his stock rise recently with an impressive first few days at the Senior Bowl, most likely a result of a lack of talent faced in the regular season. Strong both as a run blocker and in pass protection, Fisher has impressive arm length and movement.  

9.) Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Cal – 6’3 210 lbs: The highest rated wide receiver in the draft, Allen has good speed and big play ability, as well as precise route running and versatility which allows him to line up all over the field. He’s currently dealing with a knee injury, which may hurt his stock as we get closer to the draft.

10.) Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina – 6’3 320 lbs: Cooper is a very intriguing prospect at guard who boasts impressive speed, lateral movement, and footwork—all which are good traits for a pulling guard. Cooper’s size and strength are hard to ignore as well, making him another interesting offensive line prospect.

11.) Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame – 6’6 250 lbs: Eifert boasts the natural ability and size that will translate immediately as an NFL tight end. He’s versatile enough to contribute both in the passing game and as a run blocker, but as a receiver Eifert really shines. He should be a highly sought after offensive weapon come April.

12.) Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame –6’1 248 lbs: He’s become a bit of a punch line lately, which certainly can’t help his stock. His performance in the BCS Title Game against Alabama won’t help much either. But he still possesses the most impressive skill set of any inside linebacker in the draft and will likely find himself as a Day 1 selection.

13.) Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon – 6’7 243 lbs: Jordan possesses ideal speed, size and athleticism to succeed as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He’s a sure tackler and able to play in coverage, but he’s still raw and needs to develop his game. Injuries will also remain a concern in the coming months.

14.) Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas –6’1 218 lbs: Vaccaro has the body-type and athleticism to succeed in the NFL at both FS and SS. Despite his limitations in coverage, Vaccaro’s consistency in the secondary and his impact on special teams make him one of the drafts most interesting defensive backs.

15.) Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU –6’5 240 lbs: It’s my opinion that Mingo has the biggest boom or bust potential at the position this year. He’s still very raw- he only started playing football as a junior in high school- and certainly lacks experience. But his frame, speed, and athleticism are so impressive that a team will likely take a chance and hope he develops.

16.) Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee –6’3 205 lbs: He’s advertised as the total package, able to excel as a receiver, kick returner and, at times, taking direct snaps. While he still needs to perfect his route running, it’s his natural size, strength and ability that make the Tennessee star receiver a highly touted prospect.

17.) Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia – 6’3″ 237 lbs: Ogletree is a very fast and athletic linebacker, capable of making plays all over the field. A converted safety, the UGA ‘backer possesses a leaner than ideal frame and will need to improve his ability to shed blocks as well as becoming more consistent against the run. Ogletree had some issues off the field that could hurt his stock.

18.) Ezekial Ansah, Defensive End, BYU-6’5” 270 lbs: Ansah will likely garner comparisons to the Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul because of his freakish natural athletic ability and lack of experience. Still very raw, Ansah needs to work on technique to truly excel at the next level.

19.) Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri –6’4 295 lbs: While he doesn’t have a ton of experience (only 13 starts), Richardson made the most of his time on the field, putting together a very impressive junior season. Although he’s athletic enough to rush the passer and to chase down ball carriers from behind, Richardson has some off field issues could hurt his stock.

20.) Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma – 6’6 302 lbs: A converted quarterback and tight end (seriously), Johnson only has two years of offensive line experience and is still very raw. His long arms and elite athleticism, as well as his ability to play both left and right tackle, make him an interesting prospect.

21.) Johnathan Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia –6’4 359 lbs: He’s built like a tank, and just as difficult to move. Jenkins has good lateral quickness, as well as the overall power to run over blockers. He is very strong and will likely continue seeing double teams at the next level. While he may lack some versatility inside, his enormous frame will certainly be a factor on the interior of the defensive line from Day 1.

22.) Giovani Bernard, Running Back, UNC– 5’10” 205 lbs: Bernard is a smaller RB with big play ability both as a runner and a receiver. He runs hard and falls forward when tackled, consistently gaining yards after first contact. The UNC ‘back also shows patience at the line of scrimmage, a quick burst through the hole, and devastating moves in open space.

23.) Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas – 6’5 261 lbs: Okafor is a highly athletic 4-3 defensive end with good size and strength. He uses his hands very well and excels at both setting the edge against the run, and chasing down the QB. His 4.5 sacks in Texas’ Bowl Game against Oregon State will likely peak the interest of those who haven’t been paying attention.

24.) Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia – 6’3″ 208 lbs: He’s a highly athletic quarterback who has also had success standing in the pocket—which makes for the perfect fit in today’s NFL. But the truth is Smith was disappointing in 2012 and he followed that up by declining to go to the Senior Bowl – a confusing decision to say the least. But it’s a QB driven league and someone will surely take a chance on him in Round 1.

25.) Sam Montgomery, Defensive End, LSU –6’5 260 lbs: Montgomery boasts a long frame and has the potential to add even more size and muscle working with an NFL strength trainer. He shows some burst off the snap, but at times struggles to get off blocks to get to the ball carrier.

NFL Draft: Scouting Quarterback Prospects

Frank Giasone looks at what the Jets should be looking for if they draft a quarterback this year

120910-wilson-480

Searching for a franchise quarterback is one of the most difficult tasks in professional sports. With so many different identifiers going into finding someone capable of flourishing in one of the most criticized positions in pro sports, sometimes it’s the qualities you can’t find on tape or in workouts that end up being the most critical.

It’s a big decision that can have monumental consequences —something Jets fans know all too well after watching Mark Sanchez’s shaky demeanor lead to a regression in his third and fourth years in the NFL. The last thing any team wants is to invest four or more years in a quarterback, only to have to start over following Year 4.

But this isn’t the forum to get into a debate about why Sanchez has declined (honestly, I don’t have enough time, space or energy to get into that right now). This is the place to look at some of the best ways to identify a potential franchise quarterback, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that teams run into during the evaluation process.

– Mental Toughness: This is a big one, especially for Jets fans—which is why I put it first on the list. It really doesn’t get any worse than seeing your starting quarterback hanging his head or standing with slouched shoulders after a string of bad plays. The quarterback position is unlike any other in sports and nothing can sink a team quicker than a quarterback who fails to remain composed through tough stretches.

It can be difficult to assess with prospects from big, successful schools, most likely due to a lack of adversity faced on the field up to that point in their career. It’s not easy to judge how a man will react when writers, fans and (in some cases) fellow teammates, criticize or turn on him during times of struggle.

– Pocket Presence: It’s pretty simple: Does the quarterback feel pressure when it’s there? How does he react?

As we witnessed from the brutal 11-sack game in Week 16 this season, Jets quarterback Greg McElroy struggled to both feel and react to pressure. While the offensive line and running backs each had wretched performances, McElroy certainly didn’t help matters as he consistently slid into pressure.

A quarterback also needs to consistently keep his eyes focused downfield on his receivers, instead of the 330-pound defensive lineman barreling down on him. For McElroy, struggles in these areas led to rough afternoon…and a brief tenure as the starting quarterback in the NFL.

– Mobility: It’s new and it’s becoming trendy in the NFL. As long as NFL offenses continue having success running the read-option offense, you can bet other teams will hop on board and give it a shot as well. That means the allure of “athletic” quarterbacks (guys who can run with the football and make people miss) will continue to grow.

While mobility outside of the pocket is crucial when scouting guys like RG3, Colin Kaepernick and the like, it’s the ability to move well in the pocket that’s essential for all successful quarterbacks.

If you watch some of the great traditional quarterbacks in the NFL today (guys like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees), the mobility in or around the pocket helps them extend plays and find open receivers. Sometimes they have to get creative when protection breaks down, either by rolling out and throwing on the run, or by tucking the ball and taking off.

– Intelligence: A quarterback can have all of the physical ability in the world but if he isn’t a cerebral player, chances are his success in the league will be limited. Complex language, bottomless playbooks and hours of tape study aside, the quarterback’s intelligence is never more tested than in the seconds before the snap. His ability to read and react to a defense quickly is normally the difference between success and failure. To put it bluntly, a dummy won’t likely flourish at the position.

– Arm Strength, Accuracy and Touch: Everyone wants a quarterback who can throw darts downfield into tight windows. And really, you can’t blame them. But scouting a quarterback’s arm strength isn’t limited to finding a guy that can throw the ball the hardest or farthest (despite what Brian Billick may think).

Scouts are interested in seeing a quarterback throw a ball with good velocity and spin. He wants to see the quarterback lead his receivers by delivering the ball in a spot that only they can get to it, and put his receiver in good position to gain yards after the catch.

– Work Ethic: Another attribute that’s hard for fans to judge is a players’ work ethic. It’s hard for someone outside of the team to know exactly what an athlete is doing before, during and after practice (unless, or course, something is leaked by the media, or a teammate). Evaluators need to quantify how dedicated and hardworking the prospect is. Will he be the type who’s just collecting a paycheck, or does his world revolve around developing into a better quarterback?

– Leadership Skills: When you have a team of 52 alpha males, it can sometimes be tough for a young player to step in and immediately assume a leadership role. As RG3 did in Washington and Andrew Luck appears to have done with the Colts, playing well is the best way to grab the reigns of your team.

– Size: The recent success of “short” quarterbacks like Brees (6’0”) and Russell Wilson (5’11”) has altered the perception of how tall an NFL quarterback should be. The recent success of shorter QBs has put more focus on throwing mechanics and the ability to throw outside the pocket and on the run, rather than a prospects height.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Receiver Stephen Hill

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets second round pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill

The 2011 New York Jets lacked many assets to make them a playoff team, as displayed by their .500 record. Among their several missing pieces was a big, playmaking, wide receiver that could stretch the field and open up the offense. Plaxico Burress fit the “big” bill, but having been over a full year removed from football, he lacked the speed to create any separation from defensive backs, and his presence hardly garnered any respect from opposing defenses. The Jets desperately needed to add a speedy, home run threat to their offense this offseason, and that may be just what they got in their 2nd round selection, wide receiver Stephen Hill.

Having come from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, it is difficult to get a diverse sample of film on Hill to evaluate his receiving skills. In fact, during a 20 play stretch against Georgia last year, the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 18 times, while passing just twice. However, during that sample of plays, Hill was able to display his terrific blocking skills. What makes his blocking so effective is that he works his hands and feet tremendously. His hand placement is near perfect the majority of the time, complemented flawlessly by his ability to move his feet with the defender. Hill is also very aggressive and stronger at the point of attack than one might expect him to be. He blocks right until the whistle, and has shown he can crack down on toss sweeps, displaying some pancake blocks along the way.

As far as receiving skills go, from the small sample of plays that the offense did actually throw the ball last season, Hill stands out. He repeatedly showed the ability to blow by man coverage, and proved that he can adjust to the ball very well. The quarterback play at Georgia Tech last season was subpar at best, so there were many plays where Hill had to comeback for a ball or adjust his route to make the play. His speed can certainly hurt opposing defenses as well. Several times last year, Hill was able to take advantage of any cornerback that peeked into the backfield, blowing by the coverage, while the safety was usually one step too slow to make it over in time.

Hill also has very strong hands and does a good job of utilizing them to catch the ball. Of all the film I reviewed on him, not once did he catch a pass against his body. He can make the highlight reel plays too, as he displayed numerous amazing one handed catches last year, most notably the one against North Carolina.

Hill is excellent after the catch. Besides the obvious fact that he is extremely fast and agile, he is also much stronger than you would expect, and he proved to be very difficult to bring down. Hill has a very rare combination of size, speed, and physicality that could make him a nightmare for defenses as he develops down the road.

What is also appealing about Hill is that he seems to have a blue-collar mentality. Although he came from a run first offense, that didn’t necessarily utilize his skill set to the greatest extent, Hill showed no sign of moping around like a typical diva wide receiver that wasn’t getting the ball. Instead, he went out and continued to work on every play, whether that meant blocking or running routes. This speaks very well to his character, something this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest concern about Hill is how he will adjust from the triple option scheme to an NFL type offense. Although his route running is much better than I expected it to be, he still has a lot of work to do in this area, specifically on underneath routes, in order to ever be a true number one receiver. He also sometimes tends to focus on the run after the catch, before actually catching the ball, which caused for some drops last season.

Hill is a raw product. He has all the physical tools needed to make him an elite NFL wide receiver, but it will take him some time to develop. He clearly has tremendous upside, and the Jets offensive scheme will play to all of his strengths, which is going to make him an early contributor. He is big, strong, fast, and a great blocker, while he also has the ability to stretch the field and be the long home run threat that New York’s offense lacked in 2011. Hill will be able to create separation between the 20s due to his tremendous speed, while his height and jumping ability will make him a valuable red zone threat.

Hill and the Jets are seemingly a perfect fit for each other. With the offense that Tony Sparano is going to implement, a run heavy scheme with a desire for “chunk” plays, Hill is the ideal wide receiver. He should be able to block and stretch the field for the Jets right away, while working on developing a more balanced game for the future. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely enjoy having Hill in his weaponry because the former Georgia Tech product fits his skill set so well. Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, Joe Caporoso noted that one of Sanchez’s strongest points is his play action pass. Hill’s ability to stretch the field should prove to be a vital weapon on these play action passes as he will be able to take the top off of any defense and really open the offense up.

Editor’s Note – Physically, Stephen Hill has everything you would look for in a number one receiver. What is most encouraging is the mental attitude he brings along with the physical skills. It is not easy to be a wide receiver in a run heavy offense but Hill embraced it and blocks with a skill and tenacity that his highly admirable. He is coming into the perfect situation with the Jets. He is not ready to be a number one target because his route running is too raw, however with Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller on board he doesn’t have to be. Hill will see favorable match-ups and be able to focus on being a deep threat this year and in time can develop into being this team’s number one receiver. I think five years from now, we will remember this as the “Stephen Hill draft.”

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Safety Josh Bush

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets safety Josh Bush, one of the team’s sixth round picks this year

With immense struggle at the Safety position last season, one of the New York Jets’ most pressing needs heading into the 2012 draft was to find players to add to the back of their defensive secondary. New York was repeatedly hurt by their safety play last year, especially after the season ending injury to Jim Leonhard. Opposing tight ends generally had field days against the Jets, most notably New England’s Rob Gronkowski. In his two games against Gang Green last season, Gronkowski caught 12 balls for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. If New York ever wants to take the reigns from New England in the AFC East, one of the many things they will have to do is shutdown the young TE duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who also had 9 catches for 97 yards in his two games against the Jets last year.

New York addressed the safety position via free agency with the addition of former first round selection LaRon Landry. However, Landry is known for his physicality and play as a Strong Safety, rather than his coverage ability. The Jets desperately needed to add a quality cover Safety, and that is exactly what they did when they selected Josh Bush with the 187th overall pick in this year’s draft. While Landry will serve an in the box type role this season, Bush has the ability to take over for Leonhard in the center field role for New York. Eric Smith will likely begin the season as the starter, but with Bush’s strong cover skills, there is certainly a chance for him to see significant time, and eventually surpass Smith by mid to late season.

The most obvious trait that stands out on Bush is his athleticism. He has very smooth hips and makes seamless transitions from his backpedal into his forward progressions. He shows fantastic ability to read routes and react to the ball. His has good closing speed which gives him great range and the ability to roam the field freely. This is crucial to the position, because it allows him have the liberty to navigate the secondary.

Bush’s run game skills are excellent as well. His pursuit angles are what a safety’s should be. He will not take poor angles to try and make a play, but instead will take the longer, safer angles, while allowing everyone in front of him to make the tackle before the ball carrier gets to his level, literally making himself the last line of defense. In terms of run defense, this is exactly what a free safety should be doing.

As a true free safety, Bush knows his assignments, and does a great job of orchestrating the defense by getting his teammates in the right spots before the snap. He can certainly make the big play, demonstrated by his 6 interceptions at Wake Forest last season, but he will not be depended on to do so, especially in New York’s star studded secondary. Instead, Bush will need to be cerebral and be able to blanket the Tight End, along with anything else over the middle, something he is no stranger to. Last season against Clemson, Bush was a problem for the Tigers’ All American Tight End, Dwayne Allen. Against Bush and the Wake Forest defense, Allen amassed only 4 catches for 48 yards.

Bush’s strong points are an excellent fit for the Jets. He is very fast, extremely quick, and similar to his rookie counterparts that we have previously reviewed, he is very tough. Bush also demonstrates a vast knowledge of the defense and his responsibilities. He knows his job and constantly executes his assignments with one hundred percent effort. Bush does not get caught up worrying about his teammates’ assignments, which shows he has great trust in those around him, something vital to the success of any defense.

While Bush certainly possesses athleticism, passion, and confidence, there are some aspects of his game that, if improved upon, will only make him a better, more complete player. His ability to shed blocks is somewhat poor, and his tackling skills, although good, are far from perfect. As a Free Safety, Bush’s play in these areas will not determine his success at the position, but improvement here will not only make him a better player, it will enhance the entire defense as well.

In evaluating film of Josh Bush, there is certainly great question as to how he flew so far under the radar in college. Despite being a third team All American, and first team All ACC selection, Bush was snubbed for the Senior Bowl and did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine. He moved from the Cornerback position to Safety for his senior season, so perhaps there were concerns about his level of experience. He also does not have elite size, but at 5’11” 203 lbs, he is certainly big enough to develop into a very productive NFL safety.

Overall, Bush surely has the ability to be an early contributor. His athleticism and coverage skills will make him a great fit for the role he will be placed in with the Jets. Combine that with the extreme lack of depth the Jets have at the Free Safety position, and he will more than likely always be a play or two away from getting on the field. Eric Smith is expected to begin the season as the starting FS, but if he begins to struggle again, expect New York to take a shot with Bush. If he can develop intellectually, he will prove to be a stronger, faster, more athletic Jim Leonhard. The key will be how well he can grasp the defense and how confident he will be in taking command.

Editor’s Notes – Bush reminds me an awful lot of Dwight Lowery. He is a hybrid safety/corner with average size and speed that has very good ball skills and instincts. When the Jets go to a three safety look, he is a logical player to drop into a centerfield type role. It wouldn’t shock me if he found his way on to the field as a starter at some point considering the Jets depth chart but ideally he will spend this season only playing in sub packages and on special teams.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Running Back Terrance Ganaway

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets 6th round pick, running back Terrance Ganaway

TOJ’s very own Mike Mayock, Chris Gross has been breaking down all of the New York Jets draft picks in the film room. Check our his previous entries –

Today we look at 6th round pick, running back Terrance Ganaway.

Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, we reviewed the New York Jets selection of Robert T. Griffin out of Baylor University. Just prior to selecting Griffin with the 203rd overall pick, the Jets used the 202nd pick to obtain his teammate, Running Back Terrance Ganaway. Ganaway had a very productive senior season at Baylor last year, rushing for 1,547 yards and 21 touchdowns on just 250 carries, while playing alongside two first round selections in QB Robert Griffin III and WR Kendall Wright. Ganaway is a very big back at 6’0” 240 lbs, and will pair with Shonn Greene (5’11” 226 lbs) and Tim Tebow (6’3” 236 lbs) to form one of the biggest, most powerful backfields in the NFL. However, Ganaway is more than simply a power back, and will bring an interesting dynamic to the Jets’ run game this season.

One of the things about Terrance Ganaway that is very eye opening on film is how elusive he is for his size. Being such a big running back, you’d expect him to be strictly a downhill power threat. However, he has repeatedly shown the ability to make people miss, while displaying an excellent burst. Ganaway has great patience in allowing his blocks to develop, coupled with a fantastic ability to hit the seam and take off the second it opens. He has exceptional vision, and when he gets to the second level he is deceptively shifty and agile, making his game very multidimensional.

Along with his elusiveness, Ganaway is an extremely strong runner. Rather than being strictly powerful, by displaying the ability to run people over on contact, Ganaway is flat out strong. Very rarely does just one player take him down, and he has dragged and pulled defenders on multiple occasions. He is great after contact and falls forward when tackled, rather than being knocked backwards.

Ganaway will always fight for extra yardage, and proved to be a workhorse in every phase of the game. He not only runs hard, but simply plays hard. Not once did he take a play off on film, displaying an excellent drive and great work ethic. Whether he is getting the ball, blocking, or running a route, Ganaway is going 100 mph, 100 percent of the time. His pass blocking is not perfect, but very effective. He is tough, does not shy away from contact, and most importantly is more than willing to block. His technique could use a little work, as he tends to lunge and drop his head at times, however he has proved to be an effective blocker, overall. Ganaway’s ability to block is going to help him tremendously at the next level, as it will keep defenses honest when he enters the game. A running back that is unable to block in the NFL simply becomes one dimensional, and defenses know to key them as they’re the most likely to get the ball when they check in.

With the several aspects of Ganaway’s game that are good and promising, there are certainly legitimate red flags that caused the former Baylor back to fall to the sixth round. His senior year was his only significant year of production and playing time. In 2010 and 2009, he had a combined 114 carries for just 510 yards. He ran for 5 touchdowns in ’09, but just 2 the following year, so there are definitely some concerns about his consistency. Ganaway also does not possess elite receiving skills, nor does he have much experience in this area with only 12 career catches, but he hasn’t proved to be completely awful here. He is certainly capable of catching passes, he just needs to prove he can do it more regularly.

Ganaway’s lack of elite top end speed was also a cause for his slide in the draft, however he plays much faster than his 4.67 40 time shows. He was not caught from behind once on film, and claims to have never been in his entire playing career. Clearly, this is bound to happen at some point in the NFL, but he certainly shows to be much faster than he appears on paper.

The good thing about Ganaway is that he has tremendous amount of room to grow. He can complement Greene and Tebow in the Jets power running game, bringing his elusiveness and agility as a big back, to add a very interesting dynamic to the Jets’ sudden surplus of runners. I’d expect Ganaway to couple with these two to wear defenses down and open up the possibility of big plays, with Joe McKnight playing the role of the home run hitter out of the backfield.

I would not necessarily expect Ganaway to be a third down back due to his lack of receiving experience out of the backfield, however he has the ability to develop into this role in the future. He will certainly be a viable option to spell Shonn Greene, and has proved to be conditioned and durable enough to sustain long drives if necessary.

Ganaway’s role on the 2012 Jets will most likely come down to how well the offensive staff feels he can complement the other runners, something I think he will do very well. I am not sure how much the play of Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell will affect his status, because their style of play differs so greatly. I expect Greene to be the main workhorse, with Tebow running in select formations, and Ganaway developing into Greene’s primary backup. The Jets have assisted in aiding their identity of becoming a run first team with big play potential. Greene and Ganaway have the ability to wear down defenses, while McKnight and 2nd round pick Stephen Hill possess the quick strike, home run threat.

Editor’s Notes – I love Ganaway’s value in the sixth round. He has the size, downhill running style and option experience to be a perfect fit in the Jets offense this season and become an immediate contributor. Personally, I think his upside is substantially higher than Bilal Powell’s and he will be the backup to Shonn Greene this year while playing in a certain package of plays, primarily with Tim Tebow. His pass protection and receiving have a long way to go but the size and motor are hard to ignore. Outside of Stephen Hill and DeMario Davis, Ganaway is the draft pick I am most excited about.

Looking At New York Jets Post-Draft Depth Chart

TOJ breaks down the New York Jets post-draft depth chart and looks what other transactions could be on the horizon

At this point of the off-season, we are starting to get a good idea of what the New York Jets 53 man roster will look like heading into the 2012 season. There will still be a handful of minor transactions, injuries and surprises that could shake a few things up but here is a general overview of what we know and what to potentially expect in the coming months –

Quarterback – Mark Sanchez is going to be the starter. Tim Tebow will be the backup/option running/occasional h-backing guy and Greg McElroy will be the 3rd quarterback. Unless there is some type injury, these three are locks.

Running Back – Shonn Greene will be back as the starter. Joe McKnight should start out as the primary third down back and will hopefully get more of a chance to play to his potential under Tony Sparano. John Conner is the only pure fullback on the roster. After that it gets interesting, sixth round pick Terrance Ganaway is a bruising back who fits as a natural backup to Shonn Greene and is experienced running the option which should get him a chance for playing time when Tebow is on the field. Where does that leave last year’s fourth round pick Bilal Powell? I am not sure if the Jets will carry five backs or if Powell is good enough to beat out McKnight or Ganaway for a spot.

Tight End – Dustin Keller survived a few trade rumors and will be back as one of the Jets top options in the passing game. Beyond him, the depth chart is very cloudy. The Jets still lack a pure blocking tight end. Jeff Cumberland is a taller, slower version of Keller who is coming off major surgery. Josh Baker is more of a H-Back. Hayden Smith has a tough transition to make from rugby to football. I would not be surprised if the team added a blocking tight end at some point. It is a complete crapshoot who the number two tight end will be at this point and if the team will carry two or three tight ends.

Wide Receiver – Santonio Holmes is the number one. Rookie Stephen Hill is going to be given every opportunity to be the number two. Jeremy Kerley fits well as the slot receiver and should be a high impact player on the offense. Patrick Turner is experienced, familiar with Sparano’s offense and can contribute on special teams so he has the inside track at the number four spot. Recently signed Chaz Schilens has big play potential and if he can stay healthy should stick on the roster. It will be an uphill battle for seventh round pick Jordan White and players like Logan Payne, Scotty McKnight and Eron Riley. A safe bet for now is that they will carry five receivers (Holmes, Hill, Kerley, Turner, Schilens).

Offensive Line – We know Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson will be back as starters. Despite the objections of most rational people in the free world, it appears the plan is to have Wayne Hunter, Vladimir Ducasse and Austin Howard compete for the starting right tackle spot. My guess is that the Jets will see how they look in training camp and if it appears to be a disaster, they could place a quick call over to veteran Vernon Carey who knows Tony Sparano’s offense to step in. Mike Tannenbaum’s favorite player Caleb Schlauderaff projects as the being the top interior backup and rookie Robert T. Griffin could have a decent chance to make the team, if he shows the versatility to play guard and tackle.

Defensive Line – Arguably the deepest position on the team. As of now the starters are Muhammad Wilkerson, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito. However, do not be surprised if DeVito is cut or traded at some point before the season to pave the way for first round Quntion Coples to step into the starting line-up. It would save the team 3 million dollars and the Jets have capable backups in Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua. Kenrick Ellis should also see a little more time this year spelling Pouha in certain situations.

Linebackers – David Harris remains one of the best inside linebackers in football. Calvin Pace is a good outside linebacker who can set the edge to help stop the run but has lost explosiveness in getting after the passer. The Jets are risking the other two starting spots to Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas. Scott looked just about finished last year but is returning at a lighter weight and can hopefully be the solid two down linebacker he was in 2009 and 2010. Bryan Thomas is coming off major surgery but should open camp as starting outside backer opposite Pace.

The depth is intriguing, third round pick DeMario Davis has an exciting skill set and should be able to help on passing downs this year and be the long term replacement for Bart Scott. Aaron Maybin will be a year better in Rex Ryan’s system as a pass rushing specialist and hopefully the addition of Coples will lead to him seeing more one on ones in pass rushing situations. Garret McIntyre, Josh Magua got experience last year and should be able to grab roster spots.

Corner – Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson are one of the better trios in the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets added veteran Chris Johnson to be their 4th corner. If not Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant will be the frontrunners to compete for the spot.

Safety – LaRon Landry and Eric Smith are the starters as of right now and arguably rookies Josh Bush and Antonio Allen project as the top backups. I would not be surprised if the Jets added another veteran to the mix, whether it is Yeremiah Bell or Jim Leonhard for insurance.

Special Teams – Nick Folk and TJ Conley remain the frontrunners to return as kicker and punter, respectively. Tanner Purdum will be the long snapper.

New York Jets Draft Fit Over “Need”

Chris Gross breaks down the New York Jets drafting strategy to select players who fit their offensive and defensive scheme in 2012

With the 2012 NFL Draft officially in the books, the common theme among draft analysts seems to be placing grades on how each team did based on the players selected, and at which point they were taken. However, it is unfair to grade each team or each pick this early. Other than the fact that some of these guys have most likely not even arrived at their team facilities yet, there never seems to be enough emphasis placed on the value they hold with the particular team they’ve been drafted by. Often times when teams complete their drafts they are analyzed by how well they filled their needs and whether or not they got good value at the point in which they took particular players. However, there are variables not accounted for in this practice.

The first is that a team may not necessarily view their biggest needs the same as the people analyzing their draft. The Jets, for example, opted to pass on selecting what seem to be their most pressing needs this year – a Right Tackle, and a pass rushing Outside Linebacker. However, New York may not have viewed these positions as their highest priorities heading into the draft. There are several reasons for this.

First, with a new offensive coaching staff in place, and an offensive coordinator whose main area of expertise is with the offensive line, the team may feel that the players currently on the roster may be their best options at Right Tackle. Previously, at Turn On The Jets, we reviewed the idea that Mike Tannenbaum may still have faith in Vladimir Ducasse, a notion that seems to be getting stronger as each day passes without any activity at the position. It seems as though the Jets are confident that Tony Sparano will be able to get the most out of some combination of Ducasse, Wayne Hunter, and Austin Howard opposite D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Therefore, the Right Tackles available at certain points throughout the draft may not have held the same value to the organization as they would have with other teams.

Second, schematics of a team are often times omitted in draft evaluations. When Sparano arrived in New York this offseason, he made two things that he intended to do with the Jets’ offense very clear. He wants to be a run first team, and he wants to be able to stretch the field with big plays. Based on this, the Jets did very well in this year’s draft. Although the question marks with the team’s approach at Right Tackle will certainly be questioned into the season, and rightfully so, New York’s first three offensive selections all hold the potential to be excellent fits in Sparano’s system.

Terrance Ganaway is a very big, physical back, who will form a hard-nosed trio of runners with Shonn Greene and Tim Tebow. Robert T. Griffin should, at the least, provide some added depth to the interior of the offensive line this year, which has proved to be very crucial to this team, as displayed through the struggles it faced during Nick Mangold’s absence last season. Griffin has potential to develop and contribute nicely down the road.

Stephen Hill holds the greatest potential of all the offensive players selected by the Jets this year. Aside from the fact that his physical abilities give him one of the highest ceilings out of any player in his class, Hill seems to be perfect for the type of offense Sparano plans to implement. He has great size at nearly 6’5” and plays in the 215 lbs range with blazing speed (4.31 40). He comes from a run first offense at Georgia Tech, therefore he has a large amount of blocking experience, which will be critical to the Jets’ ground and pound approach. Most importantly, though, is his big play ability. The Jets were looking for a wide receiver to stretch the field and take the top off of opposing defense, and that is exactly what they got in Hill, who had nine catches of over 30 yards last season. He also has proved he can make people miss and create after the catch, so his big play ability is not just limited to the deep ball. To New York, Hill’s value was most likely higher than other receivers because of how well he fits with what they plan to do on offense.

Defensively, the Jets seem to have taken a similar approach. Although the verdict on selecting Quinton Coples over Melvin Ingram will be open for some time, New York most likely viewed Coples’ value as higher for what they plan to do schematically on defense. Rex Ryan seems to be focused on building this team’s pass rush from the interior before focusing on obtaining an edge rusher. Ryan has already declared that, although Coples has the athleticism to play OLB, he was brought to New York to put his hand in the dirt. Expect Ryan to run several different fronts defensively this year, as he could show more 4-3 looks than the Jets are used to. The Jets depth at defensive line is greater than it has ever been in the Ryan era, so it will be interesting to see how Rex uses that.

Among the other defensive players, DeMario Davis has the ability to be used all over the field. He will be more of a fit in the Jets’ scheme as a 3-4 ILB, but if Rex does choose to show more 4-3 looks this season, he has experience as an OLB there as well. Either way, his speed will likely make him a situational weapon for the Jets this year, as he will be able to provide help on passing downs in coverage and with blitzes from the interior.

Of the two safeties selected, Josh Bush has the potential to play right away because the Free Safety position is more open. Bush has deemed himself a safety with cornerback cover skills, so it will be interesting to see how the first team All-ACC product will do in the area the Jets struggled so badly last year. Antonio Allen will provide much needed depth at Strong Safety, while giving New York a bit of an insurance policy if LaRon Landry gets injured. Allen should contribute on special teams, and could be groomed behind the veteran leadership of Landry for the future.

It is difficult to judge how the Jets did in their draft this early. Many view them neglecting the most glaring needs on their team. While this may be the case, it is just hard to imagine an NFL team doing something like that without a plan. It is certainly fair to assume that the Jets did their homework on each player selected, and depending on what they intend to do in all three phases of the game this year, these guys were most likely viewed as the best fits for New York, which in turn made their value with the team higher than it may have been somewhere else. While the future of this team and these players is somewhat unclear at this point, the Jets, if anything, seem to have drafted for a particular type of identity, something that could finally provide some much needed stability in New York.

New York Jets Draft: Thoughts On Hill And Davis

Thoughts on the Jets selection of Stephen Hill and DeMario Davis

A few quick thoughts on the New York Jets decision to trade up for wide receiver Stephen Hill and draft linebacker DeMario Davis

1. It appears the New York Jets are taking the best player available instead of looking to fill needs. They have ignored right tackle, outside linebacker, and safety despite major holes in their depth chart. With no picks in the 4th or 5th round, look for them to sign Yeremiah Bell, Chris Johnson, and maybe Vernon Carey down the road when they come to the realization that Wayne Hunter, Vlad Ducasse or Austin Howard isn’t the answer at right tackle.

2. I love the Stephen Hill selection, he is a physical freak who has the right attitude to take advantage of his natural abilities to become a big time player in the NFL. It is fair to question the value of spending a 2nd round pick on a receiver in a Ground and Pound offense but if Hill becomes the needed big play threat opposite Santonio Holmes and makes Sanchez that much better it will be worth it.

3. Davis is a great athlete with a high motor who will hopefully be starting next to David Harris at inside linebacker by next year. The Jets have put together the pieces to play a much larger share of snaps in the 4-3 instead of a 3-4. How about this for a 3rd down line up? Coples and Maybin at end. Wilkerson and Pouha at defensive tackle. Harris and Davis at linebacker. Revis, Cromartie, Wilson, Landry and a free safety in the secondary. That should be a line up that gets after the quarterback.