The New York Jets could learn many things from the Madden NFL 2017 video game, especially on how to build a dynasty the right way.
The free agency period is flying by this offseason with the 2017 NFL Draft quickly approaching. For all fans of the NFL, and especially those at the top end of the draft (the bad teams), this is an exciting time. Between daily mock drafts, different podcasts, ESPN Analysts projecting where players will fall, it is a time of pure excitement. For fans of the New York Jets, it brings hope for a better future.
The 2017 NFL Combine will most assuredly have several players rising or falling from earlier projections. Hopefully, all players come out unscathed and ready to be drafted. This leads into an idea that might sound incredibly risky and even ridiculous to some: The Jets should draft like it’s a Madden franchise. Now before a coffee cup goes flying at the computer screen or cell phones start to fly across rooms in anger, explore this idea further.
As the real NFL ebbs and flows the EA game franchise has been along for the ride. Currently, players have the option of acting as a general manager for a club as opposed to running a team/player. There are several schools of thought in regards to tactics for building a dynasty. For the sake of this article, here’s how the Jets should handle things as many gamers would approach such a dire situation in Madden.
Picks, picks, and more picks. Trading back, especially with a top 5 pick, will generally reel in such a haul it’s hard to turn down. If a team doesn’t have a player they absolutely love, trading back should be a serious consideration.
Defensive back depth, weighted towards younger, top end talent drafted very close together is huge. Mid round safeties who might be smaller but were captains of their defense or of their secondary unit are ideal for a team like the Jets.
Draft offensive linemen in bulk. Worst case scenario is you have too many good young linemen which then turn into trading chips (if nothing else) or can be used to plug in when free agents leave (and give us compensatory draft picks). Do not use a 1st round pick on an offensive lineman unless you have multiple and can re-up at the same time. The best anchors on offensive lines in the history of the NFL have all been drafted within the same several two to three-year span.
The level of talent is such now that drafting a franchise quarterback in the 3rd-5th round is completely feasible (Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott). Studies have shown that outside of yardage stats such as completion percentage and touchdown percentage show very little drop off from the 1st to the 3rd round. That’s not to say you should pass up Jameis Winston or Andrew Luck. But don’t reach for someone (cough Christian Hackenberg) when you could get them later or a viable alternative option.
You can’t teach speed/athleticism – this applies to both wide receivers as well as edge rushers. Raw freakish athleticism here. Once a player can fully dedicate their time to learning a playbook and scheme they will catch up. If they already have the size/strength/speed but their technique needs some altering or their play recognition and analysis needs to be increased, those are things that coaches can dedicate time and energy too. You can’t teach a smart, above average athlete to get off the ball better if he’s slower/less energetic/athletic. You can, however, teach a spin/swim move though.
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Linebackers are worth earlier picks – especially if they come from a college program that runs a pro system. Now, this is centered more towards the Jets or any team that runs a 3-4 defense as linebackers (specifically middle) are more valuable in this system as opposed to ends or defensive tackles in a 4-3.
Middle linebackers should be smart and fast and better in tackling and zone/man coverage than blitzing. Outside linebackers should be more hybrid edge rusher/linebacker especially if they run a zone blitz defense.
Now, when it comes to running backs, they are running back (zing!) into the spotlight. They are not necessarily a dime a dozen but there is absolutely a surplus between free agency and the draft. The Atlanta Falcons absolutely nailed this. A combination of speed back/power back both can catch and play out of the backfield as well as block. Apply this to the fullback position and repeat, as it’s a grossly underutilized position (in my uneducated opinion).
For tight ends, the Jets need a few that can you know, catch. For the life of me, the Jets are putting goose eggs up on the scoreboard when it comes to their tight ends. You should have two main tight ends, your primary who can do some blocking when necessary but excels in the open field (Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce come to mind). A team’s second tight end should be split on blocking and receiving but be able to do both. Gronk and Martellus Bennett (if they could both have stayed healthy) is a perfect example of what I’m getting at.
Let’s be honest, this idea as crazy as it may sound, might just work. Certainly can’t do much worse than some of the previous draft choices the Jets have made (cough Mark Sanchez). Even if this plan didn’t work perfectly because as some say, “life isn’t a video game” (thanks a lot, Mom), it feels like a strategy that would give this franchise an infusion of youth, draft picks, and a chance at finally nabbing that second Super Bowl title. Hypothetically speaking if everything worked out the Jets (assuming Tom Brady ever retires) could overtake the throne of the top dog in the AFC East for years to come.