Let’s face it; historically the Jets haven’t had the best luck in the NFL draft. Ideally, the draft should be looked at as a sure thing, but the Jets have made it look more like a band geek on a blind date. This shouldn’t be the case. The Jets simply haven’t felt at home at Radio City Musical Hall, which is right in their backyard.
However all that has changed since Mike Tannenbaum has taken over the draft day reigns for the Jets in 2006. Tannenbaum and the Jets have found great use of their top picks (i.e. OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, CB Darrelle Revis, TE Dustin Keller, and QB Mark Sanchez) while plucking key players from the later rounds (RB Leon Washington, WR Brad Smith, and RB Shonn Greene). Head coach Rex Ryan has made the most out of Tannenbaum’s players with 11 of the 23 either starting or seeing significant playing time.
This year the Jets should have a bit quieter draft, having done most of their retooling through off-season acquisitions. Gang Green addressed some of their most pressing issues: replaced 1,400-yard rusher Thomas Jones with HOFer-to-be LaDanian Tomlinson, added another lock-down corner in Antonio Cromartie to complement Revis, addressed their need of a possession receiver in acquiring troubled Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, and recently signed pass-rushing extraordinaire Jason Taylor. Clearly, the Jets caught a whiff of that Lombardi trophy after their surprising run to the AFC Championship game last year.
With a team that, on paper, looks to be a well-built blueprint for a Super Bowl team and can hang with the big boys of the NFL, what’s left for the Jets to do? Their needs may not be as glaring as with year’s past, but there are certainly holes to be filled. While the Taylor signing gives them a sure-fire pass-rusher, the Jets front seven is not getting any younger. And don’t expect the once highly-touted project, Vernon Gholston, to offer much as he has taken longer to progress than anyone had originally thought. With DT Kris Jenkins both aging and breaking down, the 29th pick should be sent to the trenches.
Penn State DT Jared Odrick could be another defensive menace on the front seven for Ryan. At 6’5”, 304 pounds, Odrick has size to match his speed (5.09 40-yard dash time). Odrick played inside for the Nittony Lions, but many draft experts think he could be moved to the outside as an edge rusher in the Jets daunting 3-4 defense. Despite the recent rumors that Jets are leaning towards Fresno State RB Ryan Mathews, I believe they should not be blinded from the light of the glamour positions. With LT, Greene and Washington, there is a jam at the running back position while having spent a third-round pick on Greene last year. Games—and championships—are won in the trenches.
Building off that notion, the Jets should continue with the conservative style on the 61st pick and move to the other side of the ball. Yes, the offensive line is arguably the best in the league and boasted the best rushing attack last year, but for how much longer can this unit sustain their success? The o-line, much like the defensive line, is aging and having a top-100 player as a backup is a luxury. Keep an eye on the inside linemen from the SEC Maurkice Pouncey (Florida) and Mike Johnson (Alabama). Pouncey is a beast in the middle that can play either guard positions or center. Johnson is regarded by most draft experts as the best all-around guard in 2010. Having either one of these players to be groomed under the current starting line would sure up the inside line for years to come.
All the off-season acquisitions the Jets made should allow for a stress-free weekend at Radio City. However, as history has shown, anything can happen within the given 10 minutes before a pick is submitted. But if Tannenbaum and the Jets stay with this conservative game plan come this Thursday, Jet fans will have very little to boo about this year.
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