9th Overall Selection by the New York Jets
Overview: In one of the biggest moves of the off-season, New York Jets general manager John Idzik traded 4 time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their 2013 first round pick and a conditional 2014 4th round pick(which will escalate to a 3rd round pick if Revis is on the Bucs roster on March 13th). While adding a first round pick and another pick in 2014 will aid Idzik as he rebuilds the Jets roster, it was going to be extremely difficult to fill the void left by arguably the games most dominant corner. Idzik and Jets head coach Rex Ryan wasted little time and used the 9th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft on Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, the consensus top corner in the 2013 draft class. February shoulder surgery has kept Milliner out of all organized team activities and mini-camps, and durability concerns played a strong part in keeping Milliner out of the top 5 as the young man has already undergone 5 surgeries in his playing career. Still, the Jets are hopeful that he can open the 2013 season as the starter opposite of eight year NFL veteran Antonio Cromartie, a long and athletic cover corner entering his 4th year with the Jets. Milliner is a smooth athlete with shutdown potential in coverage, his tackling ability and fearlessness against the run will endear him quickly to the New York faithful. He is a terrific fit in Rex Ryan’s aggressive blitz heavy 3-4 defensive scheme which regularly leaves their corners on an “island” in man coverage, something that Darrelle Revis excelled in which made the “Revis island” moniker so fitting. Fair or unfair, Dee Milliner will be asked to eventually fill that role in Ryan’s defense but may always be playing in Revis’s shadow.
Position Battles: Dee Milliner will most likely enter camp behind Cromartie and 2010 first round pick Kyle Wilson. With Cromartie entrenched as the #1 corner for 2013, the battle between Milliner and Wilson will be among the most watched at Jet’s camp. Milliner has the size and speed advantage over Wilson, but the 3rd year corner from Boise State has NFL starting experience and a comfort level in Ryan’s defense. Regardless of who wins the competition, both players will play heavy snaps. In all likelihood, Milliner will win the job sometime before week 1 and Wilson will play slot corner, a position well suited to his skillset. Antonio Cromartie will shadow opposing #1 wide receivers in 2013, a role he filled in for Revis after the star corner went down with an ACL tear a year ago. Cromartie’s presence is a luxury for the Jets and ensures that Milliner will be allowed to develop at a more reasonable pace with substantially less pressure.
Notable Match-Ups: Dee Milliner’s 2013 season will be a much easier travelled road with Antonio Cromartie shadowing the opposition’s top receivers all year, but there will be a fair amount of tough match-ups for the former 2 time national champion. A week 5 match-up in Atlanta pits Milliner and the Jets defense against one of the NFL’s most explosive passing attacks featuring Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and the receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones. Milliner will face many of the leagues top passers in 2013, most notably New England’s Tom Brady twice, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Not to mention match-ups against some of the leagues rising stars at quarterback like Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins. Some notable #2 wide receivers who Milliner will likely be assigned include names like Cleveland Browns wide receiver Greg Little, Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams, and Tennessee Titan 2012 first rounder Kendall Wright. The most anticipated game for Milliner will be the week one battle against the Buccaneers at home. Not only does Tampa Bay have one of the most talented receiving combinations in the league with Williams and Pro Bowl wide out Vincent Jackson, but it will be the first game back in New York for Darrelle Revis and is likely to be one of the most emotional games of the year.
2014 and Beyond
More changes are sure to be coming to the New York Jets after the 2013 season. Rex Ryan is entering the season with his job on the line and general manager John Idzik could look to make a change at head coach if the Jets struggle to win games in 2013. Given the situation at quarterback and the overall state of the roster it would be a surprise if they did not struggle. Antonio Cromartie will be entering his age 31 season while being due a combined $9.5 million in salary and roster bonuses, which makes his 2014 status questionable at best. Regardless of what happens with Ryan or Cromartie, Milliner will likely take over as the teams top corner and begin shadowing opposing #1 wide receivers. Dee Milliner’s position on the team will not be affected dramatically by any potential changes to the defensive scheme the team runs, as Milliner is capable of playing in both zone and man to man coverage. The Jet’s have done a very good job of beefing up their defensive line with some explosive athletes like Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, and 2013 first rounder Sheldon Richardson, which should provide a strong pass rush and make Milliner’s life easier going forward. As for Milliner himself, he has some mechanical issues that need to be worked out and his health will always be a concern but he is an extremely talented young man with proto-typical size and athleticism. If the Jets are able to pressure the quarterback then Milliner stands an excellent chance at becoming one of the league’s top young corners early in his career. While the 2013 outlook for the New York Jets appears murky at best, John Idzik has begun adding to a decent foundation and should have the Jets back on the playoff radar with another strong off-season or two.