By Ryan Alfieri, Editor
As their search for a new bell-cow runner continues, the Jets brought in Saints running back (and restricted free agent) Chris Ivory last week. The Jets could sign him to an offer sheet, but it would cost them a second-round pick if the Saints decide to match it. As good as Ivory is, a 2nd rounder, especially in this deep draft, is quite a hefty price tag for a player like Ivory.
However, the Jets seem interested in a possible trade for Ivory, while the Saints have plenty of depth at the running back position and are trying to rebuild their struggling defense. Just how much should the Jets give up for the undersized-yet-physical back?
First, we must compare Ivory to some of the running back prospects the Jets could elect to take in place of Ivory. All of these runners should be available in the middle rounds:
- Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Terrific burst and plays with physicality, one of the bets talents in this draft but often found himself in the doghouse with his head coach. If he can get his mind right, he could be a star.
- Stefan Taylor, Stanford: Not a home-run hitter, but Taylor has great vision and catches the ball well out of the backfield.
- Andre Ellington, Clemson: Ellington did not run well at the combine but he shows explosiveness on tape and would thrive in a by-committee role.
- Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State: A bigger, physical back that would be a great replacement for Shonn Greene.
- Montee Ball: Well-rounded runner who has a lot of tread on his tires from a long career at Wisconsin.
There are a lot of quality options, and as with every draft pick, there is no guarantee the Jets will be able to land any of them. Trading for Ivory erases another need, allowing the Jets to focus on other more needy areas on draft day. While he was able to flash his ability in 2010 when the Saints backfield caught the injury bug, his potential has yet to be fully realized, making Ivory more of a rookie with some upside than a veteran who has already reached his ceiling.
Ivory has been a bit injury prone, but he is a physical runner with good vision and can catch the ball out of the backfield. He should thrive playing in a by-committee role with Bilal Powell, who can take care of third down duties and make up for Ivory’s deficiencies in protection.
Plus, because the Jets need for a runner is more immediate, drafting a rookie to play a heavy role in the offense would be very risky. It takes some time for rookie runners to adjust to the blocking concepts and enhanced speed of the game, while Ivory is already well-versed in the professional ranks.
However, there is considerable risk in trading for Ivory in that he could potentially leave in free agency next year if the Jets do not extend him long-term. With his spotty health history, it would be a gamble for the Jets, but no extending him would be renting Ivory for a draft pick—which is not a great strategy for a team looking to rebuild for the future.
What exactly would be an appropriate offer for Ivory? In my estimation, anything higher than a fourth-round selection would be too much, but and deal involving day three picks would seem fair. Perhaps something like a fifth and swapping sixth-round picks would makes sense as well.
In any case, it is evident that the Jets realize what their needs are and are attacking them in a smart, patient and effective way.