Turn On The Jets Roundtable – All New York Jets Rookie Edition

The Turn On The Jets Roundtable discusses expectations for the New York Jets rookie class

What are your predictions for the New York Jets rookie class? 

Joe Caporoso – It is fair to have reasonably high expectations for this year’s New York Jets rookie class. Considering the depth chart, many are going to have a chance to make an immediate impact. Top ten pick Dee Milliner should start from day one and while he will likely struggle at times due to how frequently he will be targeted opposite Antonio Cromartie, he has the make-up and skill-set to provide more stability than Kyle Wilson has in recent years. Sheldon Richardson has the highest ceiling of any pick this year and while he may not be a de facto “starter” from day one, he will be a key component of the Jets nickel and pass rushing packages. Richardson should play more and more as the season goes on and turn into one of Rex Ryan’s most versatile weapons.

Geno Smith is the big wildcard here. Can he sieze the starting quarterback job from day one? Seizing the job in the summer simply requires playing Mark Sanchez to a near draw, at which point the reigns would likely be handed to him. Even if he doesn’t start week one, Geno is going to play at some point this year. Similar to any rookie quarterback, there is going to be ups and downs. The hope is that he improves with each passing week and create enough optimism to be the week 1 starter in 2014.

Third round pick Brian Winters is capable of starting from day one, considering what he could offer compared to Stephen Peterman. He was quietly a terrific value pick and somebody who will fit well into what the Jets will be trying to do on offense this season. Oday Aboushi has a good chance of sticking on the final 53 as a backup tackle but isn’t a player who is likely ready for action in his rookie year. William Campbell seems like a prime candidate for the practice squad as he transitions from defensive lineman to Guard. Keep an eye on Tommy Bohanon, who could very well start from day one as the Jets fullback and provide a solid receiving option in the flat.

Mike Donnelly – I have extremely high expectations for the Jets 2013 rookie class, but unlike many, they aren’t based on 2nd round QB Geno Smith. In the long run, I think Smith may develop into the team’s quarterback, but I don’t expect that to happen in 2013. That doesn’t mean I don’t think this crop of rookies will make an immediate impact, however. There are four projected (by me) 2013 starters in this group: Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson, Brian Winters, and Tommy Bohanon.

First round picks Milliner and Richardson are hard not to like. Milliner will be compared to Darrelle Revis throughout his Jets career, which isn’t fair, but that’s the way it works in New York. He will most likely never live up to those lofty cornerbacking standards set by his predecessor, but he doesn’t have to. Milliner is a tremendous athlete who has all the tools to be a Pro Bowler, and while rookie corners typically struggle, I think Milliner will perform well in Rex Ryan’s system.

That being said, I think the real star of the 2013 draft class is defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. On a defensive line with players like Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, Richardson has the potential to be absolute dynamite. With an elite first step and pass rushing repertoire, Richardson could make his presence felt from day one, especially when you factor in his versatility and ability to play anywhere along the defensive front. He is a major reason I think the Jets will finally show a pass rush that makes them again one of the league’s great defenses.

Elsewhere, I expect Guard Brian Winters to step in and start sooner rather than later, and once he gets his feet wet, his nastiness and athleticism on the interior offensive line will be a major boost for the offense. Bohanon projects to start as the team’s fullback and he will add much needed versatility to that position because he can get out into the flat and catch passes. Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell will both likely make the team and provide much needed offensive line depth, but both are at least a year away from contributing heavily on the field.

Mike O’Connor – To start, I think we all must recognize how great this rookie class’ chances are of being, well, great in making an impact in their rookie years. I say this comfortably because of the depleted talent on the overall Jets’ squad heading into the 2013 season.  n a league that truly exemplifies the “next man up” theory, any of these rookies could get a fair shot if they impress during training camp and the season.

With that out of the way, here are some specific predictions of mine for this rookie class:

Geno Smith – In the end, I do expect Rex to make the right move for the franchise and give Geno the starting job in camp, barring any surprising comeback by Mark Sanchez. Whether Sanchez outperforms him to a certain degree or not, I think it’s the best move to keep the fans at ease and mold a possible new beginning for a team that looks to be building around the few studs that they currently have.

As the starter, I expect Geno to play very well at times, but show inconsistency. His pre-snap reads and decision making were always a question, at least to me, when he was coming out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this results in him having an even touchdown to turnover ratio in his rookie year. For a specific ratio, I’m thinking a 24 touchdowns to 17 interceptions/3 fumbles sounds realistic. However, I don’t think we’ll be thrilled with Marty Mornhinweg about “limiting” Geno and not letting him let loose like we have with other quarterbacks in the recent past.

Dee Milliner I actually believed the Jets would be best advised to stash Milliner in the slot and give Kyle Wilson the starting nod across from Antonio Cromartie until about two weeks ago, when I had a football-epiphany. I think we’ll be nervous with Milliner out on an island in man to man coverage heading into the season, but an impressive start to his season will hopefully change that for Jet fans. He will be targeted a lot, so we’ll surely get to see what the rookie is made of. With his scrappy style and smooth hip movement, I would say a sturdy rookie season with 3-5 interceptions and a handful of tackles in the backfield are in the books for Milliner.

Sheldon Richardson – Unfortunately, I think we might see Rex shelter Richardson and give him limited snaps like he did with first round pick Quinton Coples last year. This year’s defensive line rotation should be an extensive one, and we all know Rex won’t play Richardson just because of his first round status; he will have to separate himself from the likes of Antonio Garay and Kenrick Ellis (if he expects to see snaps from the A gap). Eventually, I think we will see Richardson start as a defensive end mainly rushing from the 5-technique position, but with the amount of 4-3 looks the Jets will incorporate, he might find himself off the field more than he’d like. However, I still think we’ll see a healthy 5 sacks from Richardson, with about a dozen tackles for loss. Watch for him to have some struggles versus the run, however. He’s a raw talent, and his hand technique sometimes forces him to lose leverage and get pushed around.

Brian Winters – I believe we’ll see Winters start from Day 1 after thoroughly outplaying veteran Stephen Peterman in camp.  he durable rookie will impress blocking against the run, and hold his own against the pass. Winters’ durability should allow him to start all 16 games.

Others – I don’t expect Oday Aboushi to play at all this year. He should provide depth down the road and possibly battle for a starting spot in a few years, but he won’t play any significant snaps this year, barring an injury. Next, I think William Campbell will have a hard time making the team.  This 2013 draft class revived the depth at the guard position, and Campbell might be too deep of insurance to keep around. However, he’s a Rex favorite, so he should be able to cling to a spot on the practice squad.

Tommy Bohanon should be a pleasant surprise, as he’ll run Lex Hilliard out of town this summer and take the starting spot at fullback. I love Bohanon’s versatility, and I think this will allow him to catch a dozen or so passes this year while being a smooth blocker, as well. Lastly, I think UDFA Zach Rogers will provide some spark to the offense if he makes the team. Defenses will need a keen eye to watch for him if he sees the field as a fifth receiver; he’s a complete target who actually brings more explosiveness in his routes downfield that one would expect from a first glance. I could see him bringing in ten catches in his rookie year. Safety Rontez Miles needs to get healthy for training camp, but I think he comes around and offers a nice backup safety for either free or strong because of his versatility. Lastly, I think Ryan Spadola, another talented UDFA the Jets brought in, will be stashed on the practice squad.

Connor Rogers – In regards to the topic, the rookie class is always very interesting from the fan and media perspective. After the draft, optimism is sky high. One mediocre to bad rookie season and everyone is immediately down and out on the player (Stephen Hill?). When “predicting” what kind of impact the rookie class will have, expectations need to be reasonably and realistic, so here we go:

Dee Milliner – I guess I’m not being too daring when I say this, but Dee Milliner is “my guy” from the 2013 draft class. He’s a much better football player than some of the guys selected ahead of him in the top ten (Ziggy Ansah alert!) and dominated in the SEC, the notoriously best conference in college football. Dee will most likely win the starting corner spot in camp alongside Antonio Cromartie, which will certainly put him to the test immediately. Cromartie will take on the number one target each week (A job Dee excelled at in college ball), leaving Milliner with the second wide receiver or a pass catching tight end. I expect him to struggle at times like any rookie corner would, but overall he should be rock solid in the secondary. The anemic safeties playing behind him should be more of a problem then the rookie corner.

Sheldon Richardson – The “boom or bust” pick of the draft, Richardson is elite at his trade (rushing the passer from the interior of the defensive line) but will need to adjust to NFL competition. On the bright side, Richardson played his best against the better teams in college ball, so maybe we’ll be in for a surprise. I’ll say Richardson finishes the year with 4.5 sacks due to seeing time only on nickel and dime situations, poising him for a huge role his sophomore season.

Geno Smith – I’ve been on the Geno bandwagon for quite some time and have never cheered so loudly for a Jets draft pick. As exciting as the thought of Geno can be, this offense is lacking playmakers. Inexperienced NFL quarterbacks need playmakers to avoid poor decision-making. While I feel Geno will prove himself in the preseason, the Jets will most likely start Mark Sanchez to avoid throwing Geno into the fire immediately. Expect him to start around week 9, where he can certainly make some noise with a healthy Santonio Holmes and gain momentum for his sophomore season.

Brian Winters – It boggles my mind how every “analyst” has ignored this pick and assumed Winters will not start. Premier guards are often selected in the 3rd round, for example Ravens pro bowler Marshal Yanda. I won’t go out on a limb and say Winters is Pro Bowl bound, but he’s a mauler who plays with an attitude and often throws defenders backwards. I expect him to beat out Stephen Peterman for the starting guard spot opposite Willie Colon, where he should display steady guard play for a rookie.

Oday Aboushi – The tackle from Virginia has the size and athleticism to find success in the NFL, but is certainly a project in the meantime. Hopefully the Jets keep him at tackle where he can focus on improving as a backup throughout his rookie season.

Will Campbell – The former Michigan defensive tackle is one of the strongest players selected on day 3 of the draft. The Jets have had success in the past moving defensive linemen to offensive guard (Brandon Moore). Campbell should make the practice squad and be given at least a year or two to learn the position.

Tommy Bohanon – Bohanon is in a position seventh round draft picks dream of: competing for a starting position as a rookie in training camp. Fortunately for Bohanon, the odds are in his favor as his competition is Lex Hilliard. Bohanon is an athletic pass catcher who seems to fit Marty Morninhweg’s offense perfectly at the fullback position.

*My two picks to make the team as UDFA’s are Zach Rogers and Rontez Miles. Rogers should be a perfect backup for Jeremy Kerley as a slot receiver and Miles is a player with potential as a special teams demon. Big hitter who plays with NFL caliber speed, Miles will surprise many in camp.

Dalbin Osorio –  The Jets rookie class is loaded with 5 potential starters (Millner, Richardson, Smith, Bohanon, and Winters). Milliner will be an upgrade from Kyle Wilson opposite Antonio Cromartie. Richardson’s impact won’t jump out on the stat sheets as much as Milliner’s, but his impact will be evident by Wilkerson, Coples, and Barnes’ sack totals. In fact, it can be argued that Richardson dominating up front will be evident once you look at the impact Milliner will have, and vice versa; if Milliner locks up his matchup, Richardson will have more time to cause havoc up front, and if Richardson’s causing havoc up front, then Milliner will have more of a chance to be successful. I expect both defensive first round picks to play similar to Joe Haden and Gerald McCoy in their first year before really blossoming next season.

With Geno Smith, I expect him to be the starter eventually. I’m not 100% sure if it is from Week 1 unless he clearly outplays Sanchez in training camp and the pre-season. If it is close, I think Sanchez starts. With that said, I expect Geno to start by the Jets bye week if the Jets have a losing record. Geno has the luxury of learning from a very good Offensive Coordinator in Marty Morhinweg, with what should be a good offensive line, a potent running attack, and a top 5 defense. He’s more capable of the big play than Sanchez, and I expect him to have more individual success than Sanchez did in his rookie year. Brian Winters should start opposite Willie Colon. Winters reminds coaches of Richie Incognito who, while not a Pro Bowler, is a hard hat player that will clear running lanes for the running attack. I expect Tommy Bohanon to start at FB from day 1, as he beats out fan favorite Lex “The Fall Down A Yard Short of the Marker ” Hilliard. Bohanon’s a better fit, and I expect him to produce like a Jerald Sowell type player from back in the day.

Cole Patterson – The 2013 draft class is the first draft class in years where most Jets fans can enter the season with confidence. The optimist may predict that 5 out of 7 picks will be early contributors and eventual starters. The pessimist may question the long term viability of an injury prone corner, the place of a seemingly schematic misfit defensive lineman, and the success rate of second round quarterbacks.

Personally, I have high hopes for this draft class. I think as long as Milliner stays healthy, his talent and intuition (developed from playing against top college competition) will shine in Rex’s aggressive defensive backfield. The scheme questions around Richardson have weak foundations, as Rex puts his talented players in a position to succeed regardless of scheme (as we have discussed many times here at Turn On The Jets). Winters has a bright future as a mauler along the Jets line and Bohanon’s versatility will ensure him a spot as an H-Back in Mornhinweg’s varied offense. Geno Smith, as all QBs naturally are, is the biggest question mark. But the talent and accuracy are there, can the Jets put him in a position to succeed?

Dan Marcus – Many people will look at this and say they want see “x” out of Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner but the defense is going to be pretty stout regardless of what either of them do. There’s typically a somewhat steep learning curve for rookie corners so I expect Milliner to make his fair share of mistakes and to be targeted quite a bit. To me, Richardson is the more compelling first-rounder because it was a pretty big surprise when the Jets took him so I’m looking for him to go out and justify his draft pick. I don’t care if he goes out and lights up the stat sheet (although that would be ideal) but if he shows some raw ability in terms of getting after the passer, that would be enough for me.

The one guy I am expecting some things from because of what I’m hearing about his ability/versatility is Third Round-Pick, Brian Winters. Scouts raved about his ability to play both Guard and Tackle, the Jets will likely slot him in as a Guard, right next to D’Brickishaw on the left side of the line. Although Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman are currently slotted in as the two starting Guards, something tells me that one of them is bound to get hurt and even if they don’t, I expect newly-minted Offensive Line Coach, Mike Devlin, to rotate him in. Nothing would make me happier than knowing that the Jets have a young stud Offensive Lineman that they can slot in as a starter for the next 5-7 years.

Right now, the Jets probably have more Guards/Offensive Linemen on their roster than any other team in the league, which means something’s got to give and that something will likely be Vlad Ducasse’s roster spot.

Mike Nolan– I loved John Idzik’s approach to this draft. He went with the mantra of drafting the best player available and despite mixed initial reactions, it is a strategy that will pay dividends in the long run. I expect the defense to have two legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates in Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson. Although Milliner will probably have more growing pains at first, he will see plenty of action coming his way with Cromartie on the other side. I expect him to shut critics up about his ball skills and finish the season with about 4 or 5 picks. Richardson should be a stud from day one in Rex Ryan’s defense because he is extremely versatile and has a non-stop motor. He will bolster a weak Jets pass rush from the inside.

On offense, there are a few more projects. I expect Mark Sanchez to be the starter come week one, not Geno Smith. I do, however think we will see Geno to play either late in 2013 or be the starter in 2014. By then he could be ready to take the reigns and show that he is the frachise’s future.

On the offensive line, Brian Winters should beat out Stephen Peterman and start from day one at right guard. In years to come, he has the ability to develop into an excellent guard.  Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell will serve as back-up developmental prospects for year one. If Aboushi fixes some issues, he could be the future at Right Tackle, if not he will be a career back-up. However, I am more excited about Campbell as a long term project that has the skill set to develop into a solid guard, perhaps, upon Willie Colon’s departure, although that could be asking too much. The key question will be to see if he has the mental make up to stick on the roster and get it done.   could also see UDFA center Dalton Freeman taking Caleb Schlauderaff’s spot, where he is kept around, but listed as inactive as long as Nick Mangold is healthy.

Another rookie I love is Tommy Bohanon. Because of his excellent pass catching ability, I expect him to have a large role in the offense immediately as an H-Back/Full Back and to haul in somewhere around 25 receptions in his rookie year. Mornhinweg has used guys like Bohanon in the past very successfully (Cory Schlesinger had almost 100 receptions in 2 seasons under Mornhinweg).

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports