May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA;Calvin Pryor
(Louisville) poses for a photo with commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number eighteen overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the New York Jets at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Draft is over and the Jets used all of their 12 draft picks. I was there on Saturday for rounds 4-7 and it seemed like every half hour the Jets would pick sometimes sooner than that. A quick aside, if you ever have a chance to see the NFL Draft in person I strongly suggest you do because the presentation is spectacular and the interaction with other Jets fans and fans of other teams is a lot of fun. Back to the issue at hand, how did the Jets do? Here is the good, the bad & the ugly:
1) Two impact players – The Jets nailed their first two picks, drafting an impact player for both sides of the ball. In the first round they drafted Calvin Pryor, a safety from Louisville, who flies all over the field, hits like a truck and can cover the back-end. Before you say he is a box safety, in watching his games and reading scouting reports on him he has range and takes good angles and has played centerfield well taking advantage of his excellent ball skills. Jets safeties last year were terrible at helping deep and the results were a ton of big plays being made against the corners. In fact there were 55 receptions of over 20 yards, a 32% spike over the previous year according to an article written 4 days ago by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Pryor is an intimidator, whose hits cause receivers to have alligator arms (not extend their arms) when he is around and not come across the middle as often. He can also play in the box as a run defender (he had 100 tackles as a sophomore) and he forced nine fumbles in his career.
In the second round, the Jets finally got a tight end that causes mismatches in the secondary in Jace Amaro. Amaro, who was not expected to last until pick 49, is 6’5″ and 265 lbs. and ran a 4.6 forty yard dash at his Pro Day workout. Last season, he caught 106 passes for 1,352 yards with seven touchdowns at Texas Tech. He plays mostly in the slot which causes problems for a defense because a linebacker or safety aren’t fast enough to cover him and corners aren’t big enough to cover him. Amaro will excel running up the seam, pressuring the defense and creating big plays. He will also be a big target to throw to on 3rd downs and in the red zone. He has work to do learning to be a better blocker but the strength and willingness is there, the technique is what needs to be learned. Amaro changes teams game plans and that is what the Jets needed to go with Eric Decker.
2) Creating competition in areas of need – Overall, the Jets added four pass catchers (3 WR, 1 TE), one developmental quarterback, three defensive backs (2 CB, 1 S), one offensive lineman (G), and three linebackers (2 OLB, 1 ILB). The organization has made it perfectly clear that competition is the mantra and it isn’t empty words. There is a big log jam at receiver and defensive back especially with a lot of players with interesting skill sets. Adding a quarterback that was recently thought of a 1st round pick at the end of the 6th round is just good draft strategy and taking a shot at finding an aging David Harris‘ and Calvin Pace’s replacements was a necessity. The guard they drafted, who has a starter’s skill set, will go along with the return of Dalton Freeman, who would have made the team last year, and an improved Oday Aboushi and William Campbell fresh off of their redshirt year.
3) Addressing the wide receiver position – The Jets drafted 3 wide receivers and they are different types of wide receivers. Jalen Saunders of Oklahoma is a quick, shifty slot receiver who can shake defenders and get open quickly. He may be under 5’10” and 165 lbs but durability was never an issue and he played very well at a high major school against big time talent, including Alabama. Saunders ran a 4.37 forty yard dash and has great burst off of the line of scrimmage and makes quick hard cuts to get open. He thrives in the middle of the field and finding spots in a zone. Plenty of potential for yards after the catch. Saunders is also an electric returner averaging 15 yards per punt return which is outstanding and fills an area of weakness for the Jets. Evans has size at 6’1″ and sure hands with deceptive field vision to get down the field. He is a good, physical route-runner who can beat you deep as well as take balls away from defenders on errant throws with his height and long arms. Another returner as well. At 6’2″ and 225 lbs. Quincy Enunwa ran a 4.45 forty yard dash. Enunwa can line up all over the formation as an outside receiver, insider receiver or even H-Back. He is a prototypical West Coast offense receiver that uses size and toughness to use his body to get open. A 21-year-old captain at Nebraska that is extremely smart and had his best year as a senior gives this pick hope that he will get it and be a productive member of the Jets. So, one shifty slot receiver, one boundary receiver with the skills to cross the middle and get deep, and one extremely versatile, physical receiver. The rest of the receiving core has been put on notice that all jobs are up for grabs.
Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Furman offensive lineman Dakota Dozier goes through drills during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4) Getting a guard with starters potential at the end of the 4th round – Dakota Dozier was considered a 3rd round talent by most who, although playing at FCS school Furman (he was a FCS All-American in 2013 and All-Conference 3 years running, excelled both when his team played FBS (Division 1) schools and impressed during the practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game. Excellent athleticism with great movement skills, laterally and kick out, changes direction well and has great body control. He was a tackle at Furman but was moved inside at the East-West Shrine Game week and that’s his NFL fit. Great fit for a line that’s getting deeper with Dalton Freeman returning as a backup center, as well as tackle/guard Oday Aboushi, guard William Campbell and tackle Ben Ijalana.
5) Getting a developmental quarterback that was recently thought of as a first round pick at the end of the sixth round – Tajh Boyd was a 4 year starter at Clemson that prior to this year, and into this year was considered a potential 1st round pick by some and a 6th round pick by none. Boyd throws a great deep ball and can make all the NFL throws. Although not particularly fast, he is athletic and makes plays with his feet especially as a power runner around the goal line. He is also poised in and out of the pocket. He is inconsistent and has made some boneheaded plays in some big spots but overall has been a winning quarterback in a major program. Boyd is knocked for having NFL caliber receivers that made him instead of vice versa. I personally don’t agree with that. I thought he was a 4th round quarterback on par with the rest of the class. It will take him awhile to adjust to playing under center in a pro offense but I think he can do that and be a quality backup that can push Geno Smith down the road.
6) The Jets let the draft come to them – This is something I like about this draft, how patience paid off. Not all of the draft picks are going to make the team. Realistically, 8-10 of the draft picks will make the team meaning 2-4 will be cut so there was room to take chances if the opportunity presented itself. According to John Idzik himself, the Jets were trying to trade up in round 2 and according to reports it was for Marqise Lee of USC, but they couldn’t get a deal done. That worked out for the Jets because they stayed at 49, didn’t have to give up any picks and drafted Jace Amaro, a difference making tight end. When a fan on Twitter happened to run into the Jets brain trust at a Cigar Bar last night, Jeff Weeks (director of college scouting) said the one player he really wanted but missed out on was Martavious Bryant, WR, Clemson who was picked just after the Jets second 4th round pick. If he felt that way they could have picked him instead of Shaq Evans or Jaylen Saunders. Most likely he was overruled by Idzik. The Jets drafted players in positions of need and trusted their scouting department to choose the right players. Time will tell if they made the right decisions.
Oct 27, 2012; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Kent State Golden Flashes running backDri Archer
(26) is brought down by Rutgers Scarlet Knights linebacker Nick DePaola (43) during the second half at High Point Solutions Stadium. Kent State won 35-23. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
1) Were there trades that could have been made? – I like the Jalen Saunders pick but if the Jets liked Dri Archer better they could have cheaply gotten up to Denver’s spot at the end of round 3. Did they prefer Telvin Smith to Jeremiah George in round 5? Moving up 10 spots would only cost a 6th round pick. Antone Exum over Brandon Dixon in round 6? Would have cost a 7th rounder. That’s assuming that the Jets had these players ranked higher than their draftees. I just took players drafted in the same round that were in the same position the Jets drafted.
2) The linebacker class – Time will tell with George, Enemkapali and Reilly but there is no sure-fire, day 1 starter among the bunch. I can’t even say with certainty that any of them will be ready to be a full-time contributor at anything other than special teams next year. Reilly is the best of the bunch. He has the skill set of a player that should have been drafted in the mid rounds but dropped because he had knee issues and will be a 26 year old rookie. Reilly was a great pick for the 7th round, he can rush the passer, he can drop into coverage and he can stop the run. The man is as strong as an ox , lifting 225 lbs. 26 times at the Combine. Is his knee really good to go and is he athletic enough are the questions? Jeremiah George lifted 225 lbs. 28 times at the Combine but is an undersized (both height and weight) inside linebacker. He should be a good contributor on special teams right away but I was hoping to get someone a little closer to ready when Harris’ contract is at a cross roads next year. IK Enemkapali is a power player that doesn’t have as much athletic ability as other players but is a player who is constantly studying to improve and plays extremely hard to get the maximum amount out of himself. If Reilly makes the roster and contributes as a situational pass rusher and special teamer and either 1 of George or Enemkapali stick, that would be a best case scenario in my opinion. The return of Antwan Barnes is still the most important offseason linebacker addition as he gives the defense another pass rushing dimension.
3) No top flight corner added – I like Dexter McDougle more than most and think he can make the team and help inside but I’m not so sure that with his height and strength that he can cover bigger wide receivers on the outside. He’s quick, he’s got ball skills, he’s physical and he will make this secondary better as a whole than it was last year but the jury is out on if he can be a starting caliber boundary corner. McDougle is also coming off of major shoulder surgery. Brandon Dixon will need time to develop coming from a small school but he does have all the traits you look for in a corner. He has size, 4.41 speed, quick feet, ball skills and is extremely, extremely physical. Dixon loves to play press coverage and has the mold of a Rex Ryan corner. Can he make a quick transition from non-elite college competition to the pros? Maybe. But for year one he will be a special teamer that has an apprenticeship at corner. Next year maybe the Jets have a diamond in the rough. I like the corners drafted but there were others that were more pro ready. Phillip Gaines of Rice was picked just a few picks after McDougle and is big, physical and can play press coverage. Bashaud Breeland of Clemson may not be as fast but he also presses well and would have been a good fit for the defense and was picked at the top of the 4th round. Keith McGill of Utah is another athletic, rangy corner that is more fit for the outside than McDougle. McGill went in the middle of the 4th round and Pierre Desir dominated at Lindenwood, then had a good East-West Shrine game week. Desir might not be a day 1 starter but he will earn time and be a year 1 contributor. I just gave you the ones I liked that were picked after McDougle. That being said Rex Ryan has forgotten more about corners than I know so I give him the benefit of the doubt.
Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) fights to catch a pass against the Baylor Bears at AT&T Stadium. The pass was broken up. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Ugly – None
Overall – I really like the draft as a whole and I feel the Jets are a better team today than they were on Wednesday of last week. These players need to play and we will see over time if the picks were the right ones but I like that the Jets finally have an impact safety and a threat at tight end that will open up the field for the wide receivers. I like the wide receivers chosen, especially the fact that they all play a different style. Getting more depth in the secondary was also a high point although neither will be an impact outside corner this year. Tajh Boyd in the 6th round was a steal and a great addition to the team as someone who in a year or 2 will be a solid backup that come in and win games in Smith gets hurt. Boyd may even push Smith for his job in a couple of years. I wish they would have drafted a pass rusher a bit earlier and I quibble with their choice of corners but all in all the Jets did well. Idzik stuck to his mantra of competition being key. I won’t give a grade since you can’t really judge a draft class for 2-3 years after it but I left Radio City Music Hall late on Saturday afternoon happy and positive about the present and future of this team.