Could the ‘no-ring circus’ laughingstock of the National Football League actually be starting (using that term loosely) to look like a real football team again? Of course, I don’t need to preface the above statement for you to know who I’m talking about.
The New York Jets made some bold moves in the first round of the draft. Dee Milliner—the Jets first pick, drafted 9th overall—comes with baggage. Five semi-serious surgeries in his college career? The anointed responsibilities/expectations to replace the departed Darrell Revis?
Yes, he came out of the best defense in college football in 2012 and was arguably their best overall player. Yes, he has tremendous upside and maybe could become as good as Revis (‘could’ is an awful disconcerting word in the NFL). Playing against bigger and faster players, coupled with the pressure to perform makes me worried the guy is going to get hurt again.
Regardless, what I loved about Milliner is that he said all the right things in his interviews and sounded incredibly confident without coming off cocky. Overall, it was a smart pick for the Jets, though I don’t think a single fan could argue that no one would have been more exciting than wideout Tavon Austin, who was stolen one pick earlier by the St. Louis Rams.
The Jets now have a second shutdown corner to pair with Antonio Cromartie. With that optimistic perception, coach Rex Ryan will once again be able to crowd the box and run some creative blitz schemes.
But who will do the blitzing?
We then turn to their second pick in the first round—four picks later—13th overall. At this point, you could argue for any position. The one spot you can’t argue for is the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson took a huge step forward in 2012, Mike DeVito stepped up terrifically and rookie Quinton Coples played as well as expected.
So what did Ryan and co. opt for? Yep, a defensive lineman out of the University of Missouri named Sheldon Richardson.
Its obvious Ryan gets exactly what he wants and he wanted another Haloti Ngata or a second coming of Kris Jenkins. Yes, the defense thrived with a disruption player like Jenkins and you can’t underestimate the value of a guy who can command two blockers on a regular basis—which Richardson could eventually do…if he’s coached well. The only coach that can do that is a Rex Ryan-type, so what good will a work in progress be if his coach may not be around next year? Its a high-risk pick that could have been used to take a sure-thing player like the draft’s best tight end out of Notre Dame, Tyler Eifert. But Ryan doesn’t care as much about offense. As a result, the Jets end up with two very high upside guys but questions of their ability (and drive) to even meet their expected thresholds.
Moving into the second round, I thought for sure the Jets would grab a running back. But why would they waste an opportunity to grab control of the spotlight to draft the scorned Geno Smith? And they did just that, further throwing the quarterback situation into disarray. If Mark Sanchez’s confidence—and ego—was damaged by the arrival of Tim Tebow in 2012, then God only knows what happened to his psyche on Friday night.
As far as I’m concerned, Sanchez is on his way out the door. This move was the nail in the coffin of the ‘Sanchize’ era—as short-lived as it was. Unless he receives a lobotomy in the offseason, there is no hope for Sanchez (as a Jet) in 2013. As far as Smith is concerned, could he possibly play as good as Russell Wilson—who, by the way, was drafted by former Seattle Seahawks and current Jets general manager John Idzik—or even the amazing Colin Kapernick? Maybe, but I doubt it. Smith was projected to be a very early first round pick, if only because teams were so desperate for a quarterback. The fact that he was passed over should raise some warning flags for Jets fans.
Things can go one of two ways—Smith plays way over his head thanks to the chip put on his shoulder or he caves to the pressure of playing under the scrutiny of the New York press. Smith caused some concern for me as he made some alarming comments along the lines of the Jets being a playoff team in 2013. Someone was dined while being wined on Rex Ryan-flavored Kool-Aid.
In my opinion, the best—and safest—move the Jets have made during this draft is trading their fourth round pick to the New Orleans Saints for running back Chris Ivory. The guy is a player and was lost in the crowded Saints backfield. He’s an instant upgrade over the recently departed Shonn Green and will make an interesting backfield tandem with former Oakland Raider Mike Goodson.
As for the rest of the draft, the Jets need to grab a guy who can develop into a number two—or three—wide receiver, a strong blocking tight end and some guys who can rotate in and out of the linebacker position for blitzing packages.
There is an outside chance the Jets could sneak into the playoffs if everyone—and I mean everyone—plays hard for Ryan and executes on every play. Other than that, at worse the Jets are looking at a three win season but I’m betting they don’t see more than six or seven wins in 2013. They just need too much and are much too thin—depth wise—across the board.
BY MICHAEL AUGUSTINE ON APRIL 27, 2013