By Connor Rogers, Staff Writer
In the next few days I’ll be featuring a series of articles discussing the New York Jets draft strategy in comparison to the team’s defensive and offensive formations. The most popular discussion regarding schemes is the 4-3 defense versus the 3-4 defense.
When Rex Ryan came to the Jets, fans and media asked: “How can the Jets transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense in the matter of one offseason?” While the base defense Rex runs contains four linebackers and three defensive linemen, the Jets often switch up their fronts showing teams many different looks.
Lets break down how each scheme will effect the draft, including a few players that are “scheme specific.”
The 3-4 Defense:
Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s preferred front is the 3-4, but since Kris Jenkins retirement it’s been difficult to perfect for one reason: lack of a consistent pass rush. Jenkins played nose tackle, a position that doesn’t often rack up sacks but can draw multiple blockers. When healthy, Jenkins not only pushed the pocket , he often got to the quarterback beating two offensive linemen.
Sione Pouha filled in nicely after Jenkins departure, but he doesn’t bring much to the table besides his run-stopping ability. The Jets are hoping former third round pick Kenrick Ellis develops over time and I firmly believe he has the potential to be a disruptive force. If Rex feels Ellis can develop into a guy that draws multiple blockers, the draft room will be looking at an edge rusher (Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are quite useless in this role). Three guys that could possibly end up on the Jets draft board are as follows:
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jones is the highest ranked pass rusher on the board and is almost guaranteed to be off the board within the first ten picks. The Jets will only have a shot at him if they trade up or absolutely tank these last few games. He’s a special player with not only pass rush ability, but playmaking ability much comparable to Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. I’ve watched a ton of tape on him and my first impression was that he looks undersized.
After watching him actually play, he displays incredible speed and strength off the edge. He’ll have to put on ten or fifteen pounds to transition into the NFL as he only weighs about 240 pounds (according to CBS sports). When I look at pass rushers I analyze how their skill will translate to the NFL, a detail that was clearly not evaluated when the Jets drafted Vernon Gholston.
Jones has dominated top competition such as Florida, showing a consistent burst to gain access to the backfield. He often hacks at the ball while wrapping up with the rest of his body. He’ll top every team’s draft board that needs an edge rusher.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Mingo is a player that has the “potential” to go in the top five, but I personally feel this is a huge boom or bust pick for whomever selects him. His athleticism combined with his size is off the charts. When given the opportunity to play he’s succeeded in rushing the passer and stopping the run, proving himself as an every down linebacker.
My knocks against Bingo is that I’ve seen a lot of tape on him where he looks overmatched. I’ve seen players drive him back in one on one match ups. He also plays on a defense full of caliber future NFL talent, often putting him in the position to succeed. Mingo is a very difficult player to predict how his talents will translate into the NFL, but from what I’ve seen I find him highly overrated.
Perfect selection if available in the middle of the first, but should certainly be avoided by teams picking in the top 5.
Dion Jordan, Oregon
Jordan plays defensive end and also rushes standing up. I view him as a future pass rushing outside linebacker because he displays much more speed than power. He’s an intriguing player standing at 6-6 and playing in multiple spots. Off the edge he often finds a way to disrupt plays, forcing the quarterback to roll out. The problem with Jordan is that he shows no other moves besides an outside speed rush. He doesn’t succeed bull rushing or swimming through the line.
Running around offensive tackles in college takes half the skill it would in the NFL. I think Jordan can be a very successful edge rusher in the NFL under Rex Ryan, but he’s certainly not worthy of a top fifteen selection. If the Jets trade back, he’s certainly a viable option at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second.
The 4-3 Defense:
Switching to the 4-3 defense next season could be a real possibility and would certainly help our younger players in the long run. Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are most likely going to be salary cap casualties, leaving two spots open on the starting defense. Switching to a 4-3 front would leave David Harris as the lone middle linebacker and most likely two new outside linebackers next to him. The defensive line would have Quinton Coples on one end, his most dominating point of attack.
The other end would either be a player drafted or Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson is a beast on the edge and from the inside, capable of playing tackle or end very well. Back to Coples, this is a very good reason playing more 4-3 fronts would benefit the Jets. Coples has shown to play the run extremely well and would have a better opportunity to succeed as a pass rusher as a defensive end.
Let’s take a look at some draft possibilities to play the other defensive end position (assuming Wilkerson would play tackle).
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
An extremely impressive talent off the edge, Moore displays quite a complete game for a Junior in college. Moore displays the speed to attack from the edge, but what I found most impressive was his interior pass rushing ability against top level competition. He likes lineup outside of the tackle and bull rush towards the guard, often overpowering the guard through the gap.
While this strategy can limit his stats at times, it leaves wide open holes for teammates to run at the quarterback. He displays excellent form tackling and has the talent to be an elite defensive end. Expect Moore to be selected between picks three-ten, depending on his combine and bowl performance.
Bjoern Werner, Florida State
A prospect I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Werner is a very realistic option for the Jets. His stock ranges in the middle of the first round and he has a ton of value at that point in the draft. Werner’s skills and style of play are very comparable to Jason Babin’s. He’s a demon from the edge, often too fast and strong to contain on the outside. If he can show consistent interior rush ability like Damontre Moore, his stock will shoot up even more.
Sam Montgomery, LSU
Barkevious Mingo’s teammate, Montgomery is as equal of a force. What is more impressive about Montgomery is that he lines up against the opposition’s left tackle. What’s even more impressive is that he’s the LSU team leader in sacks. Clearly both of these talented pass rusher’s feed off of each other and there’s no guaranteeing who will have the better career. What I can tell you is Mingo has more raw athleticism, while Montgomery appears to just go out and play the game.
I’ve always been more of a fan of the guy’s who go out and get it done, rather than the developmental prospects. Although guys who were once raw can develop into elite talent, such as the New York Giant’s Jason Pierre-Paul, they more often than not turn into busts (such as Vernon Gholston and countles others). Montgomery disengages his blocks real well against the run, a skill the Jets desperately need as well as pass rushing.
As a Jets fan, get used to hearing these names often. Many of them are future top ten selections, but players fall every year for different reasons. Quinton Coples was once a top ten projection and happened to fall into our laps. We’ve seen the Jets succeed with mid-round picks before (Darrelle Revis), so don’t be underwhelmed even if they are selecting between thirteen and eighteen.