The Jets don’t get nearly enough attention for a five-win team, right? Short of Rex Ryan orchestrating an assassination attempt on Mark Sanchez – would the lion cage at the zoo really be so different than the fourth quarter of a preseason game? – it’s hard to picture a team with less talent generating much more controversy. Shad Khan would switch places with Woody Johnson in a heartbeat.
So it seemed like an opportune week to review the Jets’ 2013 draft. Teams rarely pull back the curtain on draft-day strategy – Woody Johnson, along with the Irsays, providing the occasional exception – but the Jets showed a remarkable change of direction from the Tannenbaum era. While Tannenbaum bet the house on boom-or-bust players who seemed to bust too often, new general manager John Idzik has imposed a new sense of order on the team’s personnel decisions. (Although the team remains organized chaos on the field…)
Although I like to isolate a team’s draft-day decisions from those that precede it – we don’t hold Reggie McKenzie accountable for the Raiders trading away all of McKenzie’s draft-day ammunition before his arrival – the Darrelle Revis trade is worth discussing. Securing a top-thirteen pick for a 28-year-old player should normally provide cause for celebration. Teams turn over nearly their entire roster in a matter of three to four years. Securing two young, upper-echelon talents – historically, a line drawn after the draft starts to creep into the teens – to add to a roster in transition is a good move. I happen to think, however, that Revis is the kind of talent you can rarely replace in a given draft – a bit like a great quarterback – so I viscerally disliked the trade when it happened. But it certainly shows that Idzik will be making decisions with much more cool objectivity than his predecessor. And, when you consider the toxic relationship between Revis and the team, this probably counts as a big score.
I also liked the players the Jets took with their picks. I had Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson numbered ten and eleven in my “Most Valuable 50” column, which makes them both solid bets to develop into top-tier defensive players. Mike Mayock summed up Milliner perfectly: the player does no one thing exceptionally, but he is good at everything, and he will prove athletic enough to stick at the NFL level. (My opinion hasn’t changed in light of Milliner’s early struggles in the NFL. He gave up position to players like Kenbrell Tompkins in the first two games; he succeeded against better receivers in college, and he’ll turn things around at the pros.)
Richardson looked like an odd fit for Ryan’s three-four – his quickness jumps off the tape more than anything – but he still generates tremendous power and uses his hands effectively enough to succeed in a two-gap scheme. Moreover, players like Quentin Coples and the newly-acquired Antwan Barnes give the Jets enough flexibility to switch to four-three fronts throughout the game.
If Milliner and Richardson made for good picks, Geno Smith was incredible value. I listed him atop my board, more for the position he plays (quarterbacks matter a lot, as any Jets fan can attest) than on pure talent. But Smith clearly showed the arm strength, touch, and pocket awareness to succeed in the pros, despite his accuracy problems.
I would not have let Geno slip last past 13. Think of it this way: the Jets and Bills look markedly better because they improved the quarterback position in the draft; the Jaguars looked putrid because they still have Blaine Gabbert starting. Why risk another year with Sanchez under center? That said, as I mentioned in my review of Ryan Nassib, 20 to 25 NFL teams have good starting quarterbacks at the moment, so few teams were really bound to fight the Jets for Geno’s services. Maybe waiting until 39 was a calculated risk; if so, it paid off handsomely. Again: discipline.
The Jets took a few more gambles with their later picks. Brian Winters generated a lot of tape during Senior Bowl week – little of it remarkable. Other good players remained at the seventy-second pick of the draft – personal favorites include Keenan Allen, Markus Wheaton, and Corey Lemonier. Thinking more creatively, Eddie Lacy would have made the perfect fit for the Jets’ new running scheme; he was chosen only eleven spots earlier.
Much like the Revis trade, I’m of two minds regarding the acquisition of Chris Ivory for the Jets’ fourth-round pick. It fills a massive hole on the roster – with a player who spent as many games on the injury report as in the lineup for the Saints. Ivory really shines on toss sweeps and off tackle runs, where he can use his speed to get to the corner, then plant and speed upfield. He also shows exceptional instincts on some plays in the open field, and plasters defenders when cornered. The big transition he will face as a Jet – other than staying healthy – is running against a stacked box. Ivory will have to read defenses accurately just to gain positive yardage for the Jets, a problem he has yet to face in the NFL.
Oday Aboushi is a project, but an exciting one. He has the frame and, seemingly, the temperament to play tackle in the NFL, and he has some agility and balance to his game. He also made mistakes routinely in college: he let pass rushers get into his body despite his long reach; he often missed assignments, picking up an outside rusher while leaving an inside man free; and he never really confronted rushers with the power he will face in the pros. He may find more consistent success at guard in the NFL, and I bet he becomes a useful backup to multiple positions for the Jets.
William Campbell moves from nose tackle to guard for the Jets. He does move well for a big man. I guess we’ll see.
Jets fans may look back at 2013 as the year the team reloaded. The collection of talent that brought the team back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship is gone or in decline; last year’s awful campaign also poisoned the proverbial well. This strong draft class combined with savvy, budget free agent pickups like Barnes, Dawan Landry, and Willy Colon have already paid dividends. Maybe most importantly, Idzik seems to have an organization formerly in disarray reading from the same playbook for once.