Aside from perhaps the Oakland Raiders, no one came into their job with more of a mess to clean up than John Izdik did when he was hired to be the general manager of the New York Jets. Bad contracts, bad free agent signings, putrid drafting, and a terrible habit of trading up and having few picks to use in drafts had left the Jets with no cap room and little talent. Izdik took the Jets job after several other candidates turned it down, because of how bad it was. Many believe the reason Rex Ryan was ultimately retained for another year is that the head coaching job was so toxic, firing him would have resulted in getting the worst candidate available, which would have done more harm than good. After some cuts and ultimately parting ways with the best player on their team, Darrell Revis, the Jets approached the draft looking to add talent to try to add to their talent pool. The good news for the Jets is the talent they do have is in the trenches and while they may not excite fans, they could be the key to a quicker turn around in the long run. All things being considered, the Jets front office did what appears to be an excellent job of drafting talent for this team but some of the moves they made suggest they were perhaps drafting for next year and the next head coach rather than Rex Ryan.
The Jets received a first round pick and a conditional pick for Revis from the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, the 13th overall pick in the draft in addition to the 9th pick they had on their own merits. The two picks gave them a great deal of flexibility in how to address the team’s needs. Depending on how they used these picks, it could have been an indication of who was really in charge in the draft room. Adding to Rex Ryan’s strong suit, the defense, could be an indication they are supporting him more than some might want to believe and giving him the tools to succeed where he excels. Adding to the offense and specifically adding pieces that might not be able to do much now could suggest Ryan is more of a figurehead for this year. The results of the draft gave some ammo to both sides of the argument.
When draft day came along, the Jets were a team that was basically going to wait and see how the board played out and attack the best player available. Many were convinced that Dee Milliner was going to be a Cleveland Brown with the sixth pick in the draft, they had all but moved on from the possibility. In the end, the Browns took Barkevious Mingo at six and Milliner was available. The twist in the draft is when the Rams traded up in front of the Jets to secure Tavon Austin, who was believed to be who the Jets really wanted with their pick. With Austin off the board and the Jets on the clock, they went ahead and grabbed the best corner talent in the draft in Milliner from Alabama.
From a physical standpoint, Milliner has everything a team could want in a franchise corner. He had a nice combination of size, strength, and speed. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury and had surgery on it after the Scouting Combine. Worse was the fact his recovery was slightly behind and it could impact his availability in camp. Milliner has tremendous talent but is still a work in progress at the position. In Alabama’s system, they used a shuffle technique that enabled them to use press without risking losing their shirt. It has yielded fantastic results for the Crimson Tide but at this point, no NFL team uses it. The result is that Milliner was still extremely raw when it came to his back pedal technique and this is something he is going to need to continue working on in the NFL. The other issue is that Milliner has iffy ball skills and teams were not afraid to throw at him. He had a terrific number of pass deflections this past year but the reason is due in no small part that he does not punish opponents for throwing at him enough, so they can afford to keep attacking him. If he can improve at this, he has the chance to be a complete corner and a franchise player for them. Milliner has shown he can really lay the wood in run support and is willing to come down and attack, but he lunges and dives resulting in far too many missed opportunities and attempted highlight hits. The talent is there, but it would not be a surprise if he had some trouble adjusting this year and then coming in and being the player they hope he can be in his sophomore campaign.
Antonio Cromartie is a virtual lock to hold down one corner spot while Milliner will compete with former first round pick Kyle Wilson who has been playing the nickel back the last few years and not been the player they hoped he would be when they drafted him. This is likely going to be Wilson’s last chance to prove he can be that player and being able to take over for Cromartie when he eventually leaves. It seems as though Milliner should take this spot relatively soon after he is healthy but if he struggles coming out of the gate, it could be a more interesting battle than maybe it should be in camp.
After losing Revis, getting the best corner prospect in the draft was a coup for the Jets and they followed up that move by selecting Sheldon Richardson, the defensive tackle from Missouri with the 13th pick. Richardson is an incredibly talented player who demonstrated the ability to be a dynamic playmaker as a 3-technique with the Tigers in their first year in the SEC. He has great explosion off the snap and plays so quickly despite not looking like a somewhat frumpy player. Richardson has impressive range and shown to be a tremendous pass rusher from the inside and constantly getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If an opposing lineman even thought of taking a play off, Richardson would slice through the gap and blow the play up. On talent, the Jets got a great player.
The issue here is that Richardson is a tremendous fit as a 3-technique defensive tackle and in their base defense, the Jets are a 3-4 team. They do run 4-man fronts and it stands to reason they will run many more this year, but they still consider themselves as a 3-4 team as evidenced by announcing that Quinton Coples was moving to outside linebacker at nearly 290lbs. The move suggests they are going to make a move to the 4-3 at some point if they want to make the best use of their talent. Richardson as a 3-technique, Coples at left end, and Muhammad Wilkerson kicks inside to play nose guard. They could have Richardson play right end if they wanted to have a giant defensive line on running downs and have Kendrick Ellis come in and play tackle.
Rex Ryan is fantastic at getting production out of his defense and earns a certain amount of benefit of the doubt in this area, but this move does seem perplexing in terms of making the most of the talents here. Richardson is penciled in as the starter at left end across from Wilkerson with Ellis in the middle which would be a good combination but makes it more difficult for Richardson and Coples to do what they are best. It will be extremely interesting to see what they do with all of these players now. They have a ton of options and versatility.
The Jets sat tight and let the draft come to them in the second round as well and picked Geno Smith, quarterback from West Virginia when he fell right to them. A great value here and some good fortune for the Jets they could certainly use. Geno Smith was not the unanimous top quarterback prospect in the draft this past year but he was the top quarterback on plurality. The Bills took E.J. Manuel in the first round with the 16th pick overall and the expectations on these quarterbacks are far different by virtue of where these guys were picked. Manuel will likely have to be the starting quarterback for the Bills almost immediately and face a great deal of pressure in that regard despite the fact he appears to need developing before he is ready. Smith also has a fair amount of developing he needs to do but the Jets, by taking him in the second round, do not have to put him in immediately. If they feel he is ready and he earns the job, they can put him in, but they can take their time and work with him.
Smith has a strong arm and shows he can have good accuracy but his footwork is inconsistent and it can impact him when he throws the ball causing some erratic throws. Smith is an athletic quarterback who can move in and around the pocket but needs to do a better job of feeling the pressure and not taking bad sacks which resulted in too many interceptions. Smith compares favorably to Aaron Rodgers and has the talent to be a franchise quarterback but he is not that player yet and it will take some work to get there. If the Jets can resist the urge to rush him, put too much on his plate too fast, and ruin him, they could get a great quarterback out of this draft. If not, they could end up being in a situation like the Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert.
In third round, the Jets grabbed Brian Winters, offensive tackle from Kent State. This might be the least exciting pick in terms of flash, but the Golden Flash should be a great pick for the Jets. Winters played left tackle Kent State and played the game with a lot of grit and toughness, especially in the running game. Kent had a mediocre passing game so they were forced to come up with creative ways to run the ball with their talented combination of Dri Archer and Trayvion Durham, which was incredibly successful and led to maybe the most successful year in school history.
Winters had the feet to play left tackle in the MAC, but will likely to kicking inside to guard. It is a great situation for the Jets that he has the feet of a tackle and the tenacity and mean streak to play guard. He should be able to come in and compete for a job somewhere on the line, possibly left guard and give them someone who can protect their quarterback on pass plays but give them a nice push in the running game as well. If he does ultimately take the left guard spot, the Jets have a great left side again with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold flanking him so they can get back to running the football and being able to provide a wall of protection.
After trading their fourth round pick, the Jets used their fifth round pick on Virginia offensive tackle Oday Aboushi. The Jets continue to work on helping their offensive line by going to a school that has had a good run of offensive tackles in recent years. Although undersized and lacking the feet to play left tackle, Aboushi could contribute at right tackle with his combination of attitude and a nice mean streak. Aboushi is a guy who will drive his man into the ground if he gets the opportunity. He has a good understanding of how to play on the offensive line but some bad habits, particularly when he gets tired and plays too tall, can cause problems. If he has the frame to add strength and can do it, he could be a nice player for the Jets in the long run, but unless they think he can play at guard as well, it seems like he is going to need to take the starting job immediately. Being a backup right tackle is a precarious situation and one that can result in being cut for someone who can contribute at multiple positions or at least play left tackle.
The big positive to take away with Aboushi and Winters is the fact that both guys have an aggressive, hardworking, mean mindset, especially in the running game. This could be an indication of the type of team the Jets want to be now and going into the future and should be an indication of what they want to do on offense; running the football. If both of these guys can work out and contribute, the Jets have a revitalized line that gets after it in the running game and plays with a mean streak.
With their sixth round pick, the Jets took William Campbell, defensive tackle from Michigan. Though listed as a defensive tackle, the Jets took him to move him to guard, making this their third offensive line they have selected in this draft. Campbell is an impressive athlete who showed good strength and speed in workouts for a 6’4” 311lb player. This is a long term move as Campbell has not played guard in a little while and it will take some adjusting. The Jets would probably love it if Campbell came into camp and dominated but they are probably just hoping he shows enough promise that they can keep him on the roster and continue working with him for the future. The Jets currently have a couple of journeymen penciled in at their starting guard spots and even if Winters takes one of those spots, they would like Campbell to perhaps eventually take that job. Because of his impressive brute strength, Campbell is probably being looked at specifically for right guard, but if he can be depth for both guard spots in the short term, it could be a good move for them.
With their last pick of the draft, the Jets took Tommy Bohanon, fullback from Wake Forest. Bohanon showed decently well during his time at the Senior Bowl and while they would love for him to be a hammer in the running game, he did make his fair share of plays with the ball in his hands as well. Bohanon will come in and compete for the starting job with Lex Hilliard and if his history is any indication, Bohanon will take that starting job. He was the able to get playing time as a freshman for the Demon Deacons.
If the Jets had not hammered it home already with this draft, they want to run the football. Between the drafting of three offensive linemen and a fullback and the deal for Chris Ivory to be their running back, the Jets are doing everything in their power to take the attention off of their quarterback situation and put it on their running game, which is what allowed them to be successful on offense when they made their run to back to back AFC Championships.
My Thoughts: I understand Revis is a great corner and a great player and think it is incredibly shortsighted that people would suggest a corner cannot warrant a big contract, but I do think the Jets made the move they had to make. Revis is a great player but the Jets are an awful team and it is extremely unlikely he would be there when they are able to turn it around so go ahead and get premium assets for him now as well as easing their cap situation.
On top of that, they were able to land Dee Milliner with the ninth pick and while it is absolutely insane to put Revis expectations on him, he is a good prospect at a fraction of the price. He is still developing and it would not be a surprise to see him struggle as a rookie, but with a coach who loves corners like Rex Ryan, Milliner could develop into an impact player and an important building block for the Jets.
I have a mixed reaction on Sheldon Richardson. I loved Sheldon Richardson in this draft and felt he was a top 10 talent as well as the second best defensive tackle in the draft behind Star Lotulelei. Ryan gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to defense, but the pick of Sheldon Richardson screams 4-3 and allowing him to shoot the gaps to attack opposing offenses. Sure, he can hold up at the point of attack as a 5-tech end, but that is short changing his ability. And with the move of Coples to outside linebacker, the situation is even more confusing. The Jets have the makings of a dominant 4-3 defensive line if they choose to use it, so it will be interesting to see how Ryan uses all of these players. Maybe they love Kenrick Ellis and he is going to be a great player, but just for grins, imagine if the Jets finish with the top pick next year. They take Jadeveon Clowney and have a 4 man front of Coples, Richardson, Wilkerson, and Clowney. Not since Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau would the Jets have a defensive line like that and it could be that much better. Either way, this situation with their fronts will be one to keep an eye on going forward and how they use these guys, especially Richardson and Coples.
Mark Sanchez is a terrible quarterback, but if he can even resemble a competent quarterback, let him go be terrible or use one of the other mediocre quarterback options and let Geno Smith develop. The Jets might be better off taking a baseball bat to some bone in his body that will cause him to go to injured reserve but not impact his overall career. Smith may be the best quarterback on the roster right now, but playing this season might not be the best option for the long term. Wait for him to be ready; not just simply the best of a bad crop of quarterbacks. The situation in New York with the Jets is just so toxic right now; it is difficult for anyone in a Jets uniform to function effectively. I truly believe that if Geno Smith were picked by the Giants, this situation would be far different. The Giants are not chasing headlines, not looking for exposure no matter how damaging, and they would have Smith disappear for a while and develop him just like they are going to do with Ryan Nassib; even in New York.
It is a little concerning just how much of a tendency Smith shows for rabbit ears and hearing too much of the criticism which has only resulted in more, but once he gets into camp and can just focus on football and he can use all of this frustration and anger on proving the doubters wrong instead of throwing jabs back and forth with his former agency; a situation which is beneficial for no one involved save reporters.
With their fourth round pick, the Jets made a trade with the Saints to bring in Chris Ivory to be their featured running back. It remains to be seen if the Jets were smart to make this move or if they should have held tight and drafted a running back, perhaps Jonathan Franklin from UCLA, a running back they were linked to during the draft process and someone that would be a great fit in the West Coast Offense the Jets are trying to run under new offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg. With the move for Ivory, the Jets are signaling a move they should make; getting back to the running game and making it an emphasis for their offense.
Sanchez has never been a good quarterback but he was an average quarterback who could win games and protect leads when the Jets had the ability to run the football and Rex Ryan, with his emphasis on defense, just wants enough points where his defense can win games and to avoid turnovers.
I am a big fan of Brian Winters and think he could be a great asset at guard for the Jets. A left tackle that could move and play right guard is such a great combination of talents from his feet and lateral agility as a pass blocker to just being a mean , gritty, tough blocker in the running game. And if they opt to put him in between Ferguson and Mangold, it could be their best line since they had Faneca there. I do not love Aboushi as a player but I like the attitude the Jets are bringing in with these offensive linemen and if he can be good enough to take the right tackle job and play well there, he should only get better with time as he is able to add bulk to his frame. The Jets have a line that just keeps getting after the opponent and they develop a reputation for being a tough, hardworking team that runs the ball effectively; a great situation to have Geno Smith step into and lead on offense. Continuing their emphasis on the offensive line and running the ball, the Jets bring in a developmental mauler in Campbell and get a fullback in Bohanon. Conceivably, the Jets could have two rookie linemen starting this year, a rookie fullback, and then Chris Ivory as the feature back running the football. It could be a great situation going forward for the Jets and allow them to add skill positions as they need to on offense next year; particularly at tight end.
The Jets defense is built on their defensive line, which is always a good way to go. They have also made investments in their secondary, though the safety is a little scary right now. The test for the Jets will be getting the most out of all of these players and putting them in the best situations to succeed and shine in their defensive system. It has the potential to be a good unit going forward and like with the offense, the defensive line being built allows them to comfortable add linebackers and safeties to take them to the next level in the future.
The other angle to this is so much of this draft was about who was really going to be making the decisions in the draft. That is no clearer than it was before the draft. The Jets went defense with both of their first round picks and worked to establish the running game, which make sense for what Rex Ryan would want to do in order to help him win now while the pick of Sheldon Richardson might end up being more of a pick for the future in a 4-3 defense and they took a quarterback that could have significant upside but should not play immediately. The Jets ended up getting the best of both worlds with their picks and while they could have leaned further in either direction, the balance might be the best thing for the Jets now and the future. And suddenly, it seems as though Rex Ryan has a chance to fight to keep his job. His idiotic bravado aside (which he supposedly regrets now), he can be a good football coach, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It is unclear if the damage he has done to that organization is too much to overcome, but it seems as though his fate is not necessarily sealed afterall.
For all of the flak the Jets get (and it is usually well earned), John Izdik did a nice job in his first draft with the team. There are moves that can be argued and nitpicked such as Richardson and the trade for Ivory, but they deserve credit for not only holding their water and resisting the temptation to move up and instead, allowing the draft to come to them and getting great value for their picks, they had a clear goal and focus for what they wanted to do in this draft. They believed they improved both lines and gave themselves the parts necessary to run the football effectively, which considering their quarterback situation, is a smart move. And once everyone gets past the side show with Geno Smith and he can just focus on football, they might have themselves a nice starting quarterback for the future with great upside. A job well done by the Jets and it could be a tone setter for their franchise for the future.
Topics: 2013 Nfl Draft, Alabama Crimson Tide Football, Brian Winters, Chris Ivory, Dee Milliner, Geno Smith, Kent State Golden Flashes Football, Mark Sanchez, Michigan Wolverines Football, New York Jets, Oday Aboushi, Tommy Bohanon, Virginia Cavaliers Football, Wake Forest Demon Deacons Football, West Virginia Mountaineers Football, William Campbell