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.