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There is no denying the reality that current Jets inside linebacker and resident loudmouth Bart Scott has many more days behind him than in front of him as a professional football player.
The significant role of an inside linebacker in the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defensive scheme is unquestionable and with the limited number of available free agents at this position, this could be first on the shopping list for Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
The Jets will have a difficult decision to make should they decide to pursue a defender in Round 1, and will have an even more precarious decision, albeit narrowed in options, to make should they focus on their linebacker corps.
There are only two inside linebackers entering this year’s draft class that are potentially capable of being selected in the top 75 picks. These two players, Hightower and Boston College standout Luke Huechly, stand alone as the only real recruits worthy of a first-day selection.
The Jets have the capability of making a huge mistake here should they choose Hightower over the record-setting Kuechly, but it would not surprise me in the least if they did.
Hightower is the larger of the two candidates, standing two inches taller and coming in at a pre-draft weight 23 pounds heavier than his ACC counterpart. Hightower has also been assessed as a fraction of a second faster than Kuechly in the 40-yard dash.
When you add to these statistics the fact that Hightower played for an SEC powerhouse in Alabama, he has the upper hand in exposure and perhaps even in significant-game experience over Huechly.
As a follower of ACC football, I have become quite familiar with Kuechly and I believe that the Jets would be making a reprehensible mistake if they were to pass on him if available. The former Eagle received three of the highest honors awarded to collegiate defensive players in 2011 including the Butkus Trophy, the Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
Kuechly accumulated 191 tackles this past season for Boston College, 102 of them solo. The two-time consensus All-American may very well be the hands-down most aggressive tackler on the field and is custom-made for the Rex Ryan style of defense.
All of this said, Jets fans have been here before. It is Warren Sapp/Kyle Brady déjà vu all over again. With their sights set on returning their hard-nosed defense to prominence and the probable defection of Bart Scott, will the Jets choose flash over substance?