New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position in dire need of a substantial upgrade. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential 3-4 defensive end/outside linebackers 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’s defensive edge and pass rush. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdowns of potential quarterbacksrunning backswide receiversoffensive linemen, and defensive tackles.

Chris Gross

1) – Jarvis Jones, Georgia, 6’2″ 242 lbs – Jones is arguably the best defensive player in this entire draft class. Coming from a 3-4 scheme at Georgia, he undoubtedly has the best experience at the position among all of his counterparts, so there are no questions about how he may transition to a 3-4 OLB in the NFL.

Along with Texas A & M’s Damontre Moore, Jones is probably the best natural pass rusher in this year’s class. He has excellent burst out of his first step, and uses a variety of pass rush moves combining speed, strength, explosiveness, and agility. He has a great ability to dip his shoulder coming off of the edge, while maintaining a tight hip to hip relationship with his opposing blocker, allowing him to reach the quarterback in the most time efficient manner.

Against the run, Jones has proved to be strong as well. He uses his hands and arms to effectively get the opposing offensive lineman away from him, allowing himself to make the proper reads for what type of run play is coming at him. His leverage can be inconsistent at times, which leaves him vulnerable to being pushed around, but when he plays low, he is as good against the run as any edge defender in the draft pool. He just needs to show a bit more consistency.

At Georgia, Jones was consistently schemed around by opposing offenses as shown by the vast amount of double teams given to him through both inline blockers, motioned backs and tight ends, and slot receivers tight to the line of scrimmage.

Coverage wise, Jones’s natural athletic ability gives him the tools needed to match up with tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers. He has smooth hips and shows very good instinct and awareness in route recognition and reaction.

Jones has a tremendous motor, showing no give in his pass rush, along with excellent backside pursuit against the run. He brings it on every play, consistently coming hard throughout the course of games.

A diagnosis of spinal stenosis has drawn some red flags, but Jones was recently cleared by doctors, and a medical report has been sent to all 32 teams. While teams will likely look further into the injury, this news likely solidifies his status as a top 10 pick. Remember, a certain Patriots Tight End dropped in the draft a few years ago for concerns over lingering spine issues, and New England ended up getting excellent value for Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd round. While Jones is a sure first rounder, he is a top 5 talent, so getting him anywhere from 6 and beyond would be very good value.

2) – Damontre Moore, Texas A & M, 6’4″ 248 lbs – While Moore doesn’t have the initial first step of Jones, his long stride and extremely quick feet make up for it in his pass rush. Like Jones, he has an excellent arsenal of pass rush moves, combining both strength and speed. His length can be a real problem for opposing tackles, as he uses his long arms as a great advantage. He simply has a knack for getting to the quarterback, one way or another.

Against the run, Moore shows very good instinct and block recognition. However, like Jones, he needs to be more consistent in maintaining leverage. He often gets underneath the opposing blocker effectively, but can tend to stand up at times, making himself vulnerable to giving up ground and being driven off the ball.

Moore has an excellent motor and is going to give you everything he has on every play. Some character issues were initially a concern after being arrested for possession of marijuana last summer, but he has since stayed out of trouble while demonstrating very good leadership ability at A&M.

Moore is another sure top 10 selection, with an excellent chance to be taken in the top 5. It will be all about fit for the teams looking at him. He has the prototypical size for a 3-4 OLB, but also has the length to fill out his frame and be an effective 4-3 DE. Either way, he is sure to be a very promising young edge defender at the next level.

Bjoern Werner, Perry Simmons3.) – Björn Werner, Florida State, 6’4″ 255 lbs – Werner has arguably the best motor out of any player in this entire draft class. He consistently fights, chases plays from the back side or downfield, and will always work in multiple moves if unsuccessful in his first. He has very good bulk for the position of an edge defender in the NFL.

Against the pass, Werner has a good first step, but separates himself with anticipation and instinct. He is undoubtedly one of the strongest players at his position this year, and has tremendous explosion. He plays with some of the best pad height and leverage among his peers, and uses his hands very well to shed opposing blockers whether it be against the pass or run.

Against the run, Werner’s strength, footwork, and tenacity combine with the leverage and hand technique mentioned above to make him an elite defender. He is very strong at the point of attack and maintains a great ability to engage, recognize, shed, and tackle.

The question for Werner will be where he fits at the next level. During his 2011 season, he played more of a 6i technique, lining up primarily on the inside shoulder of the tight end. Technically, this made him a bit of an interior defender, but he was still able to amass 7 sacks on the year. In 2012, he played more off of the edge, accumulating 13 sacks. The versatility is certainly there, and Werner seems to possess the mindset to be successful regardless of where he is lined up on the field.

To me, Werner is best fit as a 4-3 defensive end, but he surely does have the athleticism to make the transition to OLB in a 3-4. The question will be whether or not he can adjust, mentally, to suddenly having to read more things with his eyes, not just his hands, while developing some route recognition and instinct in coverage. It should be interesting to see which scheme he ends up in.

4) – Dion Jordan, Oregon, 6’7″ 240 lbs – A long, athletic, somewhat raw prospect, Jordan is one of the most impressive physical specimens you will see in the draft. While he will also need to add some bulk, his length and athleticism are exceptional. He has very good quick twitch moves, an explosive first step, shows great flexibility and has extremely smooth hips.

His hands are very good, but he needs to do a better job of keeping them active on every pass rush. He may not have elite strength as of yet, but he plays with good leverage and use of his long arms, which allows him to use a combination of strength and speed against opposing tackles.

Against the run, he can be a bit reckless in his assignment at times, but has been able to make up for it at the college level because of his athleticism. Instinctually, he hasn’t shown that he is elite, but he has been praised by coaches and teammates for his mental capacity and willingness to learn new roles/assignments.

While his length would typically be a concern for a possible 3-4 OLB prospect, Jordan has shown he is comfortable in both a two point stance and with his hand in the dirt during his career at Oregon. He has shown to be effective in coverage as well as in his defense of the run, and his pass rush. He could very well become the most versatile player out of his counterparts after a few years of play at the next level.

A shoulder injury sustained in his last collegiate game forced him to miss the Senior Bowl, but he will likely turn heads with a strong combine and pro-day/individual workout performances. He has good intangibles, motor, and toughness, and as aforementioned, his versatility is off the charts.

Mingo5) – Barkevious Mingo, LSU, 6’5″ 240 lbs – Mingo has put together quite an impressive resume at one of the best defensive schools in the nation during his time in Baton Rouge. Despite a drop in production from 2011 to 2012, Mingo has elite top end speed and some of the best suddenness at the position, meaning everything he does is extremely quick and fast twitch. He has very smooth hips, which give him good ability to bend around the edge in his pass rush.

Mingo has very quick feet, along with quick, violent hands, but he needs to grow into how to use them more effectively. His tape sometimes reveals that after his initial move, he has no real plan and often relies on athleticism beyond the first couple of steps.

Against the pass, his speed and suddenness give him a very unique talent, one that can make him a special pass rusher at the next level. His long frame gives him an advantage in keeping blockers away from him. He does a good job at setting up opposing offensive tackles, but as mentioned above, he needs to become more consistent beyond his initial move.

Against the run, Mingo is tough, but a bit reckless at times. Technically speaking, he needs to be more sound in his fundamentals, but his athleticism masks a lot of his deficiencies in the area. Like most of his counterparts, he needs to consistently play with better leverage, particularly in the NFL, considering his weight. He is much too long and light at this point to be playing with a high pad level.

An argument can certainly be made that Mingo possesses the most natural pass rushing ability in this entire class. The physical tools are off the charts, but in which scheme will they fit the best? Athletically, he could become a stud in a 3-4 because of his versatility. He has the length to be an effective 4-3 defensive end, but would have to gain 15-25 lbs to become a force, something that could potentially take away from his athleticism and speed. If he can get to about 250-252 lbs as a 3-4 OLB, he shouldn’t have to sacrifice any of his physical tools, and will be more fit for the next level. While he is certainly raw, it is hard to see him being unsuccessful if drafted to the proper scheme.

More names to keep an eye on: Ziggy Ansah, Alex Okafor, Sio Moore, Brandon Jenkins, Corey Lemonier, Tank Carradine, Trevardo Williams.

Frank Giasone

1.) Dion Jordan, Outside Linebacker, Oregon- 6’7″, 241 : Selecting Dion Jordan at No.9 has been my position ever since we started our 2013 NFL Draft coverage–and I’m not changing my stance today.

Jordan has everything you could ask for from an outside linebacker, highlighted by his ideal speed, size and athleticism. By now, many have seen video of Jordan covering slot receivers, which is impressive all on its own considering his 6’7” frame. And while there’s a huge discrepancy between slot receivers in the NCAA and an NFL, it’s encouraging to see a potentially dominant pass rusher display such versatility.

Although there’s tons to like about the Oregon linebacker, it’s worth noting that he is still raw. In the NFL, Jordan projects capable of playing as an outside linebacker in 3-4 fronts, while also able to play with his hand on the ground as a DE. The combination of versatility between Jordan, Wilkerson and Coples would make the Jets defense a nightmare to deal with for the foreseeable future.

Jordan will undoubtedly need to evolve his pass rushing skills in order to fully realize his potential. Another concern is his shoulder injury, which was reported as a torn labrum that will require surgery following the combine. It certainly makes for an interesting story as he heads to Indianapolis in a little over a week.

2.) Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU- 6’4″ 240: Mingo makes his way on my list mainly because he’s a popular name that has been projected by many draftniks as the Jets “must have” prospect at No. 9. I’m not as confident in Mingo as some others, and I would even venture to say that he’s too much of a risk to take in the top 10.

But his 2012 tape contradicts almost everything we saw from him in his sophomore campaign. Yes, he has the body type and speed that make him look the role of a premier 3-4 OLB in the NFL, but his production took a major hit in his junior year. And despite being faced with less double teams, Mingo proved to be much less of a factor in the backfield.Mingo is the type of prospect that makes your head spin as you try to project his fit in the NFL. After watching tape of his sophomore season (2011), it’s easy to see why so many people have such a high appreciation for the LSU defensive end, as Mingo spent much of his sophomore year commanding (and beating) double teams. He also proved to be effective against the run, regularly causing disruption in the backfield.

It’s that inconsistency that makes me question Mingo’s ability to translate his talent to the NFL. His inexperience playing linebacker at LSU makes him a project for a team that selects him as an OLB, and the ease with which he was neutralized this past season makes me think he has more Aaron Maybin in him, than he does elite LB talent.

3.) Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia- 6’2″, 242: Jones is another highly touted OLB projected to go anywhere in the top 10 picks of the draft thanks in large part to his projection as an elite pass rusher and capabilities in coverage.

There have been some conflicting opinions about Jones being a one-dimensional linebacker capable of only rushing the passer, as his limited size may negatively impact his ability to play against the run and to shed blocks. And of course, his spinal stenosis diagnosis while at Georgia remains a big concern, despite the recent reports that he’s fully healthy.

I see Jones as one of the more complete ‘backers in the draft, and disagree with the assessment that he will only provide help as a pass rusher. While he’s not as versatile as Jordan, Jones will prove to be very capable at the next level if he’s able to stay healthy.

Chase thomas4.) Chase Thomas, Outside Linebacker, Stanford- 6’3”, 241: Thomas isn’t similar to the other linebackers on this list, as he relies more on football IQ and high motor than his natural ability. While he projects as a third round prospect this year, it won’t be very surprising to see him taken somewhere in Round 2.

Thomas proved difficult to contain at Stanford as the outside linebacker terrorized offenses as an edge rusher, while also boasting an impressive ability to shed blocks and help against the run.

His likely fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, as well as his ability to shift over and play ILB, will help his stock tremendously, and may lead to an earlier than projected selection for the former Cardinal.

Zev Sibony

1.) Jarvis Jones- OLB- Georgia- 6’2” 242 lbs – Jarvis Jones is the most solid OLB prospect in the draft. He is the most well rounded and complete player of the bunch and will be a star in the NFL quickly. He reminds me of a Von Miller, but better and faster. One knock against him is that he doesn’t hit the weight room as hard as he should. That can be an issue, but in a professional atmosphere, I don’t see that to be an issue. There also was a spinal stenosis scare for a bit a couple weeks ago. NFL doctors recently cleared him to work out in the combine, so that’s that. For Jarvis Jones I don’t really see a need to spew out numbers or try and convince people how great of a player he actually is, but if you need to know, he was the best OLB in the best conference in college football, the SEC. (85 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 24.5 TFL, 7 FF, 3 PD, 1 INT)

2.) Dion Jordan- OLB/DE- Oregon- 6’7” 243 lbs – This kid is an absolute freak of nature. Flat out. Period. Point blank. At 6 foot 7, there were concerns about him being so tall it would affect his ability to play in coverage. After watching some film, I’ve noticed he played coverage more than I thought, which explains why his sack numbers aren’t too high. He is incredibly versatile and can be a game-changer with the right coaching. Jordan is incredibly raw as a player but can still play right away and have an impact. He has some pass rush moves, but he has got to work on his spin move. All of that comes with time. I think out of Jones and Jordan, Jordan might have the higher ceiling, but lower floor. He can probably stand to gain about 10-15 pounds coming into the league, but at 6 foot 7 and so fluid and athletic with his movements, he shouldn’t gain more than that because that will eventually have an effect on mobility.

Sio Moore3.) Sio Moore- 4-3 DE- UConn- 6’2” 229 lbs.- Moore stood out after an impressive Senior Bowl, following his season at UConn where he had 72 takcles, 15.5 TFL, 8 sacks, and 11 PD. That is pretty impressive. He showed speed and great instincts while also just having a physical demeanor.

Two areas of concern: 1) He played in the Big East conference and didn’t have the best competition. However, his play in the All-star games proved he can certainly hang with elite competition. 2) Can Moore make the switch to a pass rushing OLB? 

4.) Zaviar Gooden- 4-3 OLB- Mizzou- 6’2” 230 lbs – Gooden was also an unknown. He played on Mizzou, a team new to the SEC, but showed flashes during the season. For Senior Bowl week and the game itself, he stood out.

Gooden has great speed, as he used to be a running back (Who else was a RB AND an OLB? Oh, me). Quite simply his speed and coverage ability will bode well for him as he switches over the 3-4 OLB spot. He uses his hands a lot which is a good sign for the future. A potential pick that needs good coaching and he can then be effective in the NFL. He will likely be drafted in the 4th or 5th round.

5.) Jelani Jenkins- 4-3 DE- Florida- 6’1” 230 lbs – Jelani Jenkins was hurt much of last year at Florida. He probably should’ve stayed in school, but declared anyways. He needs to get a bit bigger and refine his skills, but his sideline-to-sideline speed is off the charts. All of the upside is there, just needs to be coached properly. I think he is capable of making the switch to a 3-4 OLB if he puts the effort forth, he just needs to tap into his potential.

Carradine6.) Tank Carradine- DE/OLB- Florida State- 6’5” 265 lbs – Tank Carradine is an interesting prospect. He tore his ACL in the game against Florida while putting together a stellar year (80 tackles, 13 TFL, 11 sacks). Carradine was a sure bet to be a first round pick until he hurt his knee. He played 4-3 Defensive End but has the size and pass rush moves to switch to a 3-4 Defensive End. The issue will be his health. If he can get back there, he has the potential to be a steal.