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With So Much Talent in the 2012 NFL Draft, Who Should the Jets Target?

By Maurisse Johnson

With the turbulent 2011 season behind the Jets I think it’s safe to say for all Jet fans that the playoffs and the Super Bowl could not end soon enough. While some Jet hopefuls are secretly praying for a Manning sighting in green and white,

I think it’s best to tempura those hopes and look to the NFL Draft to improve our team and chances to make the post season next year. I purposely left out FA and trades in the previous sentence because I do not believe the Jets have the players or cap space to make any significant trades or signings that will improve this roster. And speaking of roster, let’s look at the many holes that we have and pair that up with players the Jets should be looking at in the upcoming draft.

1) Safety – by far our biggest position of need. As Luck would have it (pun intended) the safety position is pretty deep this year. The usual draft pundits around the internet have Alabama (S) Mark Barron as the top of the class. And while that may be true for some he’s coming off a hernia surgery that kept him out of the combine.

The Jets may be a bit better off with a player like Harrison Smith out of ND who when I look at tape is just as instinctive and fluid as Barron. Both players I suspect will be off the board by the middle of the 2nd round. This would force the Jets to select either one of them with their 16th overall selection. It would be hard for the Jets to bring two rookie safeties in to start at the same time, so I’m guessing either Pool, Leonard (if healthy) or Smith will be back to start alongside one of these guys.

2) OLB/DE – we haven’t had a consistent pass rush since Abraham was traded to the Falcons. In the previous two years prior to the 2011 season, Ryan deployed blitz packages that forced QB’s to throw the ball away or force plays. The league as a whole has gotten smarter and has countered that by running tight ends down the middle of the field for big gains.

Without a legitimate pass rusher in on every down so the offense can’t accurately call out blitz packages (Maybin) 2011 will hold similar problems for the Jet defense. The elite pass rushers in this year’s combine are a solid bunch and include Coples, Ingram, Curry and a player who I really like in Upshaw. Coples will be long gone before the Jets can think about trading up a couple of spots to get him. The players they should target are Upshaw or Ingram as I believe Curry is a second round talent.

3) OL – The OL is a fluid situation depending on the health of both guards: Slauson/Moore and any potential FA RT’s the Jets can go out and get. The Jets have publicly stated that they expect Hunter to be the opening day starter, lol. Tannenbaum isn’t a very good poker player when he says things like that.

I think the internet is a buzz with how many times the Jet GM has publicly backed a player only for that player to be released or traded later. Whether they replace Hunter or not may not be the larger issue as they have already picked up his $2.5m contract for 2012. The larger issue is at the guard spot as Slauson battled injuries all season long and had shoulder surgery this past offseason.

Moore had hip surgery last spring and at 32 is anything but a spring chicken. This year’s draft has a couple of guards and tackles that could immediately start for the Jets. Leading that crop of guards is DeCastro out of Stanford. When Mike Mayock described DeCastro at the combine he said “this kid is a pro-bowl player waiting to happen”. He really is that good and would instantly replace either Moore or Slauson. The other guard leading the pack is Georgia Bulldog Cordy Glenn. A massive man at 6’5 345lbs he is a really good run blocker who could play RT or inside at guard. USC Tackle Matt Kalil heads this drafts tackle position and he too will be long gone by the time the Jets select as he is a top 10 talent. Iowa tackle Riley Reiff and Ohio States Mike Adams are also 1st round talents that could immediately start for the Jets.

4) WR – The Jets really disappointed me this year with what started out before preseason as a really good bunch but with the release of Cotchery and the trading of Mason this group lacked explosiveness and didn’t have anyone who could stretch the field. This isn’t to say that the players they traded or released were stretch the field type of players it’s just that they had a better group as a whole before those transactions. With Burress unlikely to return (he’s an Eagles fan) and a gaping hole at the WR position opposite Holmes you can bet the Jets will draft one even if it isn’t a starter.

The Jets will run the ball a lot this year with Soprano but they doesn’t mean they will not need a competent starter that will threaten teams deep and can take some of the double teams away from Holmes. The Jets haven’t had a good 1-2 punch in the WR slot for years – maybe since the Keyshawn/Chrebet days. This year’s WR draft prospects is really good at the top of draft, the first two rounds can provide a team with starters. Justin Blackmon leads the group and again because of the position the Jets presumably will draft at (16) Blackmon will be long gone, which still bolds well for the Jets. The other 1st round talents in this WR group include Floyd and Wright. Wright is a bit small (5’10) to pair up with Holmes in that Holmes is just 5’11 himself.

Floyd improved his stock during the combine with a 4.4 40 time. His size at 6’3 230 would instantly replace the red zone target that Burress provided and gives us a speed threat down the field. Other players are notable targets for the second round such as Jeffery whose 4.8 time in the 40 disappointed many who thought he was a 1st round talent. Also notable is former Jet great Al Toon’s son Nick who has some speed and height at 6’1 to make an impact. Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech could also be a great target as he ran a blazing 4.3 at the combine. 4.3 for most players is exceptional but for Hill who measures out at 6’4 ½ that really exceptional. He may not make it to the second round.

So with so much talent in the draft and so many holes to fill, how should the Jets target? The Jets would do well by securing at least one starter before the draft so they aren’t left with so many positions to fill during the draft. Obviously our cap situation will not allow us to make a huge splash but I suspect they can find a RT on the FA market to become a stop gap for the next two years. Doing that would allow you to focus on Ducasse’s development and draft based on the best available player instead of reaching for talent to fill a need.

There are sparse rumors flying that the Jets want to bring back Braylon Edwards who had knee surgery in the fall. Even if he does come back I think the Jets should draft a WR. Again, if they signed a healthy Edwards it just presses the need to draft a WR out of the first and second round into the third or fourth round. The residual effect of picking up a RT in FA and possibly Edwards would be profound for the Jets. They would be able to pick up a replacement at the guard spot with DeCastro or Glenn or finally pick up a pass rushing OLB like Upshaw or Ingram in the first round.

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One Response to “With So Much Talent in the 2012 NFL Draft, Who Should the Jets Target?”

  1. JD says:

    Sparano* not Soprano.. That’s the 2nd freaking mistake in your articles.

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