I never was a fan of the “best available” draft philosophy, unless your team is coming off a deep playoff run and have no pressing needs on your roster. The New York Jets are certainly not that kind of team.
They’re a team still technically in rebuilding mode, with a few holes to plug. Talk about a roster transformation: Just 24 months ago, this team had Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Santonio Holmes, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Dustin Keller, Bart Scott and LaRon Landry. None of those players wear green and white today.
The Seattle Seahawks grew mostly through the draft, not flashy free agent signings, and that philosophy ultimately earned them a Super Bowl. Jets GM John Idzik was part of that front office until last year – leaving just before the Seahawks won the ultimate prize. Now he’s drafting for his own future Super Bowl aspirations. The Jets have 12 picks this year, tied with San Francisco for the most in the league. How they use those picks can determine much of the team’s direction going forward.
For you, a glance at the Jets’ most pressing needs going into the draft.
- Tight end. The Jets signed the top free agent wide receiver available, Eric Decker, while failing to acquire a new tight end (they tried for Brandon Pettigrew). That’s the tiebreaker between these two positions on the playmaker-needy Jet offense – they need to draft a tight end, badly. Gang Green did re-sign TE Jeff Cumberland, but he’s a very good TE2, not a TE1. He’d be a great complement to a first-round talent like North Carolina’s Eric Ebron.
- Wide receiver. That being said, the Jets do need to draft a wide receiver of the future, to become what Stephen Hill turned out not to be. Heralded as the most talented wide receiver class in years, the Jets could find a wideout in the second or third round who may be the ninth- or tenth-ranked in the class, but who could end up being a key contributor in 2014.
- Safety. The team is high on free safety Antonio Allen, but strong safety Dawan Landry is not really long-term starter material. The secondary is suffering, suddenly, and drafting a safety, either strong or free, is pretty important in this draft.
- Outside linebacker. Calvin Pace signed a two-year deal to stay with the team, but he’s 33. The Jets now have three fourth-round selections, and one ought to be spent on a pass rusher who can follow Pace’s and Quinton Coples’s examples.
- Offensive guard/center. They’re still looking for the answer at left guard in New York. Brian Winters was a third-round pick last year, and ended up playing a lot while Vladimir Ducasse sat. With Ducasse departing for Minnesota, another interior lineman to compete with Winters would be nice. Extra points for being able to play multiple positions, including center. Nick Mangold is still one of my favorite Jets, but Father Time reminds me he’s 30.
- Running back. The Jets missed out on Maurice Jones-Drew, who chose to sign with the Raiders over New York and several other teams. Drafting a running back allows the Jets to release Mike Goodson, who is shaky at best, and to give some carries to a young guy who might stick around longer than Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.
- Offensive tackle. New York signed Seahawk right tackle Breno Giacomini to a four-year, $18 million deal, so it’s safe to say he’ll start opposite D’Brickashaw Ferguson for the time being. Could the Jets use another back-up? Yeah. O-line is one of those positions where drafting for depth is never a bad idea.
- Punter. With Ryan Quigley posting an unimpressive 38.9-yard average last season, and with the situation at kicker stabilized, new special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey may want to bring in a punter of his own choosing to compete for the job. The late-round selection of a punter wouldn’t surprise me.
- Cornerback. The cornerback situation in New York is the worst it’s been since long before Darrelle Revis was drafted. With no Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner becomes the de facto number one corner, and because Kyle Wilson will continue playing the nickelback role, Darrin Walls is the projected CB2. So why is cornerback so low on my list? Because it would be the Jets’ third time in the last five seasons drafting a cornerback in the first round. Youth and inexperience won’t help youth and inexperience; this is the need the Jets have to address through one more free agent signing. Draft for depth, otherwise.
- Inside linebacker. Some people see DeMario Davis as the weak link of the Jets’ vaunted front seven. (Never mind that in his second season, the former third-round pick upped his tackles total from 36 to 107.) In fact, a few are starting to cry “overrated” in the case of David Harris, too. Maybe improvements could be made, but this is not a pressing need by any stretch of the imagination, so I don’t think they should draft someone at this position.
- Quarterback. The Jets already have the dramatic quarterback competition they wanted – Michael Vick vs. Geno Smith. Matt Simms is a very nice number three to have behind them, so drafting a quarterback will only complicate the matter. They should know to stay away.
- Defensive end. Did you see Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson last year? He and the ’Sons of Anarchy (standout defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and surprising former undrafted free agent Damon Harrison) lead what I unbiasedly think is the best young D-line in the league. Any defensive linemen the Jets draft should be very-late-round insurance policies, and even then, they could fill more pressing needs.
- Defensive tackle. See 12.
- Kicker. Now that Nick Folk has signed a four-year contract with the Jets, there would be no point in drafting a kicker. If the Jets want someone to “compete” with Folk for the job, they can sign one off the street.
News and Notes: If you haven’t read this piece from NJ.com’s Eliot Shorr-Parks and A.J. Perez on DeSean Jackson’s alleged ties to members of the Crips in Los Angeles, I highly recommend it. My previous article concerned Woody Johnson’s interest in DeSean Jackson, not even mentioning new Jet Michael Vick’s desire to keep playing with his old teammate from Philadelphia. But expect owners around the league, even Woody, to proceed with extreme caution with Jackson. It’s not a case of guilty-until-proven-innocent; it’s the aftermath of the Aaron Hernandez saga. I do not want Jackson on my team.
~The Jets signed free agent cornerback Jeremy Reeves yesterday. Reeves played three years at Iowa State, but sat out last year and was not drafted while he rehabbed from pectoral surgery.