This is a weird draft, there’s no other way to say it. From top to bottom this draft is just weird.
It all starts with the CBA negotiations. The NFL is having a scouting combine and a draft and they don’t even know if they will play football next season. How will that affect team’s drafting strategy?
The NFL teams haven’t had a chance to sign any players in free agency this year. Normally that process happens before the draft, allowing teams to fill certain needs and going into the draft with a more clear idea of what positions they need to fill. How will that affect team’s drafting strategy?
Andrew Luck, the clear cut number one quarterback and probably player in the draft, decided to stay in school. That throws the whole draft into a tailspin. Now there are several players you can envision going number one overall, making even the top 5 picks hard to predict. How will that affect team’s drafting strategy?
This draft has more defensive line talent than possibly ever before, and probably ever again. Usually when there is such a drastic surplus of talent at one position it means that good, first round talent can be taken in the second round, and even into the third. But, seeing as this draft is so weird, that might not necessarily be the case. With the combination of the DE class being SO good, and some other positions being SO bad (there might not be a first round RB); we might see as many as 13 defensive linemen taken in the first round. How will that affect team’s drafting strategy?
If a new CBA is signed before the draft, we might see this installation of a rookie wage scale, making top 10 picks more attractive again. It has gotten to a point where teams drafting in the top 10 would almost prefer to trade back to avoid paying one rookie more than most vets already on the team. If there is a rookie wage scale we might see teams wanting to trade up aggressively into the top 10 again, how will that affect team’s drafting strategy?
But how does all of this affect the Jet’s drafting strategy? The Jets select 30th overall, and don’t pick again until the third round, so if they stay put they may miss out on most of this powerful defensive class. The Jets might be best served to trade back out of the first round into the second, and get some extra picks along the way.
The combine is this week, and the Jets (along with every other NFL team) will get their first chance to talk to most of the player’s they will consider drafting. But, who will they consider drafting? Even though the defense is the strength of the team, the Jets will likely be looking to draft a lot of defensive players. In particular the Jets will probably be looking at defensive linemen (both at DE and NT), rush Outside Linebackers, Safeties, Wide Receivers, and of course a few Cornerbacks. The Jets would also be smart to watch their depth at certain positions like Inside Linebacker and Offensive Linemen.
So what players should you be looking out for during this year’s combine?
3-4 Defensive Ends
J.J. Watt – Wisconsin – Likely long gone by the time the Jets pick, Watt is a relentless player who can really improve his draft stock by proving he is a better athlete than people think.
Muhammad Wilkerson – Temple – At 6’5″ and 305 lbs this mammoth of a man probably still has room to add healthy weight to his frame, which is scary. He is an ideal 5-technique DE that is needed for a 3-4 defense, and since he came out as a junior he might be available for the Jets at the 30th pick, whereas analysts such as Mel Kiper think he could have been a top 10 pick next year had he stayed in school.
Marcell Dareus – Alabama – A potential top 10 pick, he played the 5-technique in a 3-4 in college, so his proven experience there will make him a commodity on draft day. The Jets would need to trade up for a shot at Dareus, who will probably run very well for a man his size.
Cameron Jordan – Cal – Another guy with college experience playing DE in a 3-4, Jordan has the ability to be a pass rush threat from the position. He will likely be drafted in the middle of the first round, and should test well at the combine.
Christian Ballard – Iowa – Ballard is a hard one to project. He has all the physical tools you could want, but his football instincts appear to be lacking, and he wasn’t overly productive. I personally am not a big fan of Ballard, who is probably a second round pick, but he will most likely put on a show at the combine.
Drake Nevis – LSU – Might not be a perfect fit in a 3-4, but it will be interesting to see how he weighs in and performs. He isn’t the biggest and doesn’t have very long arms, so he probably will be drafted by a 4-3 team, but keep an eye on him.
Allen Bailey – Miami – You probably couldn’t ask for more from a prospect physically. Bailey’s problem has been his technique. He is a prospect who probably started the year as a sure fire first round talent, but is probably sitting in the second round now. He is a classic boom or bust type. Bailey will surely test well at the combine, but it will be up to the team that drafts him to turn that physical ability into production.
Other players to watch for…
Terrell McClain – USF
Robert Quinn – North Carolina – Quinn hasn’t played since 2009 due to the scandal at UNC involving improper contact with agents. Because of that, the combine is very important for Quinn. Most envision Quinn as a top 10 pick, and he certainly has that kind of talent. But, he is worth watching for the Jets fan as you never know with the NFL and players with” baggage.”
Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue – Kerrigan is a strong man, with an absolutely relentless motor. However, he is stiff in the hips and probably more suited as a 4-3 DE. If 3-4 teams are going to draft Kerrigan they will want to see him in coverage and agility drills to see if they think he can make the switch to OLB.
Brooks Reed – Arizona – Another incredibly strong player, as shown in his youtube clip of him ripping a phone book in half, that can really improve his draft stock by proving his athleticism. Reed has a variety of pass rush moves, including a good spin move. A second round pick that could shoot up into the first with a really good combine.
Jabaal Sheard – Pittsburgh – A second or third rounder that has been very productive, he reads the field very well and always finds the ball carrier in traffic. He is a little stiff in the hips, and can use the combine to prove his athleticism.
Greg Romeus – Pittsburgh – Sheard’s teammate, and formerly the more highly regarded of the two; Romeus missed most all of his senior season with injuries. Romeus has been inconsistent in his career, and will need to prove he is healthy, but he does have 20.5 career sacks and could prove to be a steal in the mid rounds.
Sam Acho – Texas – Acho was a productive player at Texas, but scouts question his ability to bend the edge at the pro level. He is a hard worker and will likely interview very well. If he performs well in agility drills, he could see his stock rise from the mid rounds up to the third or possibly even late second.
Von Miller – Texas A&M – He is undersized and 6’2″ and 237 lbs, but is blazing fast and might produce the best times in drills among front 7 defenders. In my opinion he isn’t a 3-4 linebacker, and needs to learn better technique and more pass rush moves. He ran around college tackles, but if those tackles get their hands on him he can’t counter.
Other players to watch for…
Bruce Miller – UCF
Dontay Moch – Nevada
Justin Houston – Georgia
Jeremy Beal – Oklahoma
Note…In the wake of a fantastic safety class last year, this year the class is really poor. There probably isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a first round safety. And on with the safeties…
Rahim Moore – UCLA – A smallish safety who had a terrific ’09 campaign, logging 10 interceptions. He wasn’t quite the ballhawk this past season, with only 1 interception. Which one is he?
Quinton Carter – Oklahoma – Carter brings a good blend of coverage and hard hitting abilities. He is slightly undersized for a safety, but well built. If he can put on some weight in muscle for the combine he might move up draft boards from a mid round pick.
Ahmad Black – Florida – His production looks like a playmaking safety, but talk about undersized. At only 5’9″ and 190 lbs it is hard to imagine Black being successful as a safety in the NFL. Can he play corner?
Deunta Williams – North Carolina – Williams is solid in all areas, but doesn’t stand out as elite in any one attribute. He could be a more physical and powerful tackler, but all in all I think you know what you’re getting with Williams.
Robert Sands – West Virginia – A very tall safety at 6’5″, the questions around will be about his ability to stick with quicker receivers.
Other players to watch for…
DeAndre McDaniel – Clemson
Jaiquawn Jarrett – Temple
Phil Taylor – Baylor – A big bodied, well put together NT who has questions to answer about his character and motivation as he was dismissed from Penn State.
Kenrick Ellis – Hampton – A mammoth man most closely compared to Kris Jenkins. He too has to answer questions about his character as he was dismissed from South Carolina. However, Ellis appears to play very hard and passionately and couldn’t be accused of taking plays off.
Stephen Paea – Oregon State – He is a muscularly built DT who might be slightly undersized for the position. However, he plays the run very well, and as we’ve learned from players like Justin Bannan you can succeed at the position if you’ve got the right skill set and mentality. His weigh in will go a long way in determining if he becomes a 3-4 NT or a 4-3 DT.
Other players to watch for…
Jarvis Jenkins – Clemson
Sione Fua – Stanford
Ian Williams – Notre Dame
Jerrell Powe – Ole Miss
Note: I don’t expect the Jets to take an early WR, but I expect they will at the very least sign one of Edwards and Holmes. So the players listed below aren’t expected first rounders, but rather players who will go in the middle rounds.
Greg Little – North Carolina – Another victim of the UNC scandal who missed his senior year. A former RB, this emotional player has great hands and ball skills to go with his big, strong frame. Little can really boost his stock with a good 40 time and of course a good interview after the UNC scandal.
Leonard Hankerson – Miami – Extremely hard worker who has really improved himself while at Miami. Hankerson has an exceptional understanding of route running and finding soft spots in the secondary. He has big, strong hands but drops some passes seemingly due to mislaps in concentration. If Hankerson runs a faster 40 time than expected he can help his stock.
Austin Pettis – Boise State – Might have the best hands in the draft, just catches passes with smooth ease. Pettis has great size, leaping ability, and toughness…but he severely lacks in both speed and quickness…leading scouts to wonder if he can get open at the NFL level. Pettis badly needs a good 40 time in the combine.
Jeff Maehl – Oregon – Very undersized at 6’1″ and 184 lbs, but he runs great routes and has good hands, and I’m of the belief that these guys can always find at least a little success in the NFL. If he bulks up for the combine he can help his stock, but for now he is a late round pick at best.
Other players to watch for…
Terrence Toliver – LSU
Greg Salas – Hawaii
Kendric Burney – CB – North Carolina
Mason Foster – LB – Washington
Kelvin Sheppard – LB – LSU
Lee Smith – TE – Marshall
Orlando Franklin – OL – Miami