By Connor Rogers, Staff Writer
The Jets have a large amount of “need” positions this offseason. While this tends to happen to many teams in the NFL, the Jets will not be overwhelmingly active in free agency due to cap restrictions. While trading players such as Antonio Cromartie or David Harris frees up cap space, there are no guarantees the Jets will having trading partners.
The 2013 draft is vital for the Jets in all seven rounds and they’ll need to maximize value in each pick. The years of taking raw project players such as Stephen Hill and Kenrick Ellis are behind us as the team needs impact players. Lets take a look at each “need” position and break down what rounds we might be looking to fill these spots.
1) Outside Linebacker:
The Jets haven’t drafted a true edge rusher since Rex Ryan implemented his 3-4 scheme. Rex’s overload blitz packages brought fresh life to the team, but opponents caught on. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are not expected to be back with the team, which would leave both starting outside linebacker positions unfilled. I fully expect the Jets to take an edge rusher with their first round pick.
There are no clear cut top notch quarterback prospects in this draft, but the position is overvalued every year in the draft. Geno Smith will go in the top five unless he bombs the NFL combine. After Smith, there’s a good chance a quarterback won’t be taken until the second round.
Guys like USC’s Matt Barkley and NC State’s Mike Glennon could find their way into round one with excellent workouts, but certainly are not top ten worthy selections. The Jets will look at taking a middle tier quarterback in rounds 2-4 such as Ryan Nassib (Syracuse), E.J. Manuel (Florida State), or Zac Dysert (Miami Ohio).
3) Offensive Tackle:
Austin Howard stepped in nicely for a former undrafted player, but he is certainly not the answer on protecting whoever is playing quarterback. If the Jets aren’t sold on whichever pass rusher’s are available at pick number nine, they’ll have a plethora of tackles to choose from. Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M is the best tackle in the draft and will most likely go in the top 5.
After him, expect the Jets to look at names like Taylor Lewan (Michigan) or Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) who are also top 15 worthy selections.
4) Offensive Guard:
I’ve noticed a trend with Jets fans early in this offseason: They either clamor for the Jets to use their ninth overall selection on Alabama’s Chance Warmack or completely neglect how vital of a need guard currently is. First off, I think Warmack is the best prospect in the entire draft if your judging how superb each player is at their position. Although Warmack is nearly flawless, he’s not a top ten selection because of the impact and value offensive guard holds.
I personally feel the Jets need to renovate their offensive line (both guard spots and right tackle) but you have to be precise with the strategy you take in each draft. If the Jets want to draft a guard they need to find a partner to trade their ninth overall selection to and acquire more picks. If they can’t, they’ll have to look for guard in later rounds. Fortunately for the Jets, excellent guards are drafted in later rounds each year.
The two best guards in the NFL (arguably) are the Raven’s Marshall Yanda and the Buc’s Carl Nicks, former third and fifth round picks. While I respect the fans embracing an elite talent such as Warmack, there will be many better “value” options in the middle rounds such as Larry Warford (Kentucky) and Alvin Bailey (Arkansas).
5) Tight End:
Dustin Keller had an injury plagued season in a contract year, a recipe for disaster going into free agency. Even though the Jets have all the leverage in contract talks, they still might let Keller walk. The 2013 NFL draft has a plethora of talent at tight end. Notre Dame’s Tyler Eiffert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz will most likely come off the board toward’s the end of round one or early in round two.
If one of the two slide to the Jets second round selection, I fully expect them to snag either one. If they choose to wait until rounds three and four, a player like Florida’s Jordan Reed or Michigan State’s Dion Sims could hear their name’s called by the Jets.
6) Running Back:
It’s a mystery why Joe McKnight isn’t more involved in the Jets offense. The Jets need speed at running back to compliment Bilal Powell (Shonn Greene is a free agent and will most likely walk). Two guys that fit the bill perfectly are Clemson’s Andre Ellington and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, two players that may be available in rounds 4-6. If the Jets are looking for a more complete, between the tackles type of runner, Ray Graham from Pittsburgh is an under the radar back and will be available very late.
With LaRon Landry most likely set to walk and Yeremiah Bell aging, the Jets have two question marks at the safety position. Bell will most likely be back on a one year deal and Landry will most likely score a big contract with another team. While former sixth round draft choice Josh Bush will have a chance to start, adding a safety in the draft is a must.
Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas is the best safety in the draft and will go at the end of round one or in the beginning of round two. The Jets will take a serious look at him if he slides or they add more picks. Another player who would fill Landry’s void nicely is Florida’s Matt Elam. While Vaccaro is quite steady, Elam is a playmaker who has faced top talent his entire career.
If the Jets choose to add later round prospects like last year, names such as Phillip Thomas (Fresno State) and Rashard Hall (Clemson) could hear their names called.