2012 NFL Draft: 8 Worst-Case Scenarios for the New York Jets

Rocco ConstantinoContributor IFebruary 11, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 8 Worst-Case Scenarios for the New York Jets

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    New York Jets fans have a love-hate relationship with the NFL draft.  

    Without fail, they represent the draft's loudest fanbase every year, and they usually leave believing they will either be Super Bowl champions or picking at the top of the draft the next year, depending on their selections.  

    While Jets fans love to get hyped for the draft, they recognize that there is a long history of worst-case scenarios that have come true over the years.  

    Picking Johnny Lam Jones over Anthony Munoz, Ken O'Brien over Dan Marino, Al Toon over Jerry Rice, Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp and Dewayne Robertson over Terrell Suggs have kept the franchise in neutral most of the past three decades.

    The Jets also came one pick away from drafting Brett Favre in 1993 and still are left in wonderment how 198 players were selected ahead of Tom Brady, who landed in the worst possible place for the Jets. 

    Jets fans know that anything can happen in the NFL draft, and they usually expect the worst.  

    With their history, can anyone blame them?

    As the 2012 draft approaches, there are any number of things that can go wrong for the Jets.  Here's a look at the eight worst-case scenarios for the Jets in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Reach for Vontaze Burfict or Whitney Mercilus in Round 1

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    With needs in many areas, the Jets should just stick to their draft board and select the best available player—as long as it's not a tight end.

    However, if they decide to address their lack of a pass-rush in the first round, the worst thing they could do is reach for a player like Whitney Mercilus or Vontaze Burfict at No. 16.

    The Jets are in a spot in the draft where they are just out of range of the top talent, but are still sitting strong enough to add an impact player to the squad. A best-case scenario would be for an elite player to fall into their laps, but what if that doesn't happen?

    The best moves the Jets could make would be sticking to their board or trading down. A reach here could have catastrophic ramifications, especially if they chase a pass-rusher.

    Currently, Mel Kiper's mock draft has Mercilus and Burfict at Nos. 28 and 29, respectively. If the Jets love them, that's fine. I don't think any fan would argue if Mike Tannenbaum was able to trade down, land an extra pick or two and still grab his man.

    But taking a pass-rusher 10 spots ahead of where they are projected would instantly draw Vernon Gholston comparisons and disappoint a jaded Jets fanbase that has been looking forward to the draft for months.

Trade Up in Round 1

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    Mike Tannenbaum has an outstanding record of draft day trades while with the Jets. Core players like Darrelle Revis, Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, David Harris and Dustin Keller were all selected with picks acquired through trades.

    Despite that excellent track record, one of the worst things Tannenbaum could do is trade up in Round 1.

    For the first time in recent years, the Jets approach the draft with widespread needs across the roster. They desperately need an infusion of youth and speed, and it is something they must address through the draft in 2012 and 2013.

    Trading up in Round 1 this year will make that impossible.

    While landing players like Revis, Keller and Harris worked great, it left the Jets bereft of draft picks in 2009 and 2010 when they had just seven picks combined. The lack of picks led to an older, sluggish roster in 2011.

    In 2012, the Jets finally enter a draft where they have picks in all seven rounds. It is imperative that Tannenbaum turns those picks into seven players. It would be a disaster for the Jets if they started packaging those picks in order to move up for some big names like Trent Richardson, Quinton Coples or Justin Blackmon.

    Those players are all nice, but after what looks like a weak draft in 2011, the Jets need to hit on multiple picks this year, and the best way to accomplish that is by drafting in quantity.

The Chargers Trade Up with the Eagles, Nab a Falling Big Name

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    While the first two slides dealt with possible disasters based on moves the Jets could make, they can also come up as draft-day losers based on what other teams do.

    One team Jets fans need to keep an eye on during the draft is the San Diego Chargers.

    When Rex Ryan proclaimed that he would have won multiple Super Bowls if he was the Chargers' coach, he might not have been far off. The Chargers have had as much talent on their roster as anyone over the past decade, but find new ways to be a colossal disappointment every year.

    Going into 2012, San Diego still has a roster rich in talent. With the Patriots, Ravens and Steelers as annual contenders and young teams like the Texans and Bengals on the rise, the last thing the Jets need in terms of their Super Bowl hopes is for the Chargers to get straightened out.

    A nightmare scenario for Jets fans on draft day could play out as follows: Player X (insert Quinton Coples, Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson) inexplicably starts to tumble in the draft.

    Jets fans sit with anticipation as the teams directly in front of them (the Eagles, Cowboys and Cardinals) all have very specific needs to address that don't match up to the falling player's position. Player X is still on the board with the Jets just having to survive the Eagles' pick, which is all but certain to be Luke Kuechly.

    With Jets fans on the edge of their seats, Roger Goodell strides up to the podium and announces a trade between the Eagles and Chargers.

    Not only do the Jets miss out on Player X, but the Chargers are now that much better and can ride that new injection of energy right to the playoffs.

    Unless, of course, Norv Turner gets in the way once again.

Stand Idle in the Trade Market

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    Of all the scenarios, this one is probably the least likely to happen.

    As stated earlier, Mike Tannenbaum has a history of being very active on draft day and usually does well in the trade market.

    While it would be detrimental to the long-term future of the Jets if Tannenbaum packaged picks to trade up, it would be great if the Jets could somehow repeat what they did in the 2006 draft. Through trades and compensation picks, the Jets drafted 10 players, which included D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Brad Smith, Leon Washington, Drew Coleman and Eric Smith.

    That draft bounty helped lay the groundwork for the success Rex Ryan enjoyed in his first two seasons as head coach.

    The Jets have the potential to do something similar this year, and Tannenbaum would be foolish to stand idle on draft day.

    Unless a star player unexpectedly falls to the Jets at Pick 16, they could probably get a player of similar talent anywhere between Picks 16-25. One target that jumps off the page is the Cleveland Browns, who have two picks in the first round.

    The Jets can explore trading down to Pick 22 and maybe pick up Cleveland's second-round pick (No. 36 overall) in addition. It is imperative for Tannenbaum to get creative like this in order to play the percentages as they upgrade the roster. Having seven picks in the draft gives the Jets flexibility, and they need to use that to their advantage.

    If the Jets were unable to parlay their current situation into extra picks in 2012 and 2013, they will be missing a great opportunity to overturn their roster in a cost-effective way.

The Patriots Hit on Their First Four Picks

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    Something scary is happening in New England.

    Bill Belichick will be sitting pretty on April 26 because the mad genius holds four picks in the first two rounds of the draft. If New England hits on those picks, the Jets and the rest of the AFC will be in big trouble.

    The Pats hold picks at Nos. 27, 31, 48 and 63. Using the 2009 draft as a barometer, players like Hakeem Nicks and Beanie Wells were available at Picks 27 and 31 while LeSean McCoy and Shonn Greene could have been had with Picks 48 and 63. If any two of those players ended up in New England, who knows how the past three years would have played out.

    What makes these four picks dangerous, though, are the options it gives Belichick. It could create any number of nightmare scenarios for the Jets. The Pats could easily use those picks to trade up in the draft or target an established veteran in a trade.

    It's not that unreasonable that the Pats could go after one of the top wide receivers in the draft to elevate a scary offense into an all-time unit. Imagine the doomsday scenario if Justin Blackmon falls in the draft and the Pats jump up to nab him.

    What if the Pats decided to solidify their running game? They have plenty of ammunition to acquire players like Ben Tate or Darren McFadden (pending the status of Michael Bush). There is also nothing holding Belichick back from pilfering a top defensive veteran off a team in rebuilding mode.

    Whatever the Patriots do with their first four picks, the Jets better hope they miss, because if they hit on these picks, Tom Brady will have a loaded team ready to chase down his fourth Lombardi Trophy.

Spend a Pick on a Quarterback

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    Not long after the Jets' season ended in utter catastrophe, Rex Ryan assured fans that the quarterback position would look different in 2012.

    That statement sat well with most Jets fans since the quarterback position was abysmal in 2011.

    Questions still stand about Mark Sanchez on and off the field, Mark Brunell is one of the least viable backup quarterbacks in the NFL and third-stringer Kevin O'Connell wouldn't have even been on the roster if it wasn't for a preseason injury to Greg McElroy.

    Where the Jets will go wrong in their quarterback makeover depends on if they spend one of their 2012 draft picks on a quarterback.

    The Jets are in good shape with seven picks in hand and have a number of routes they can go with those picks. The Jets have needs in so many other areas that they can't afford to spend even one pick on a quarterback.

    It is very likely that the Jets will bring in a veteran quarterback who could push Sanchez, and McElroy showed great promise before his injury. That should be the extent of their quarterback tinkering.

    The Jets' early-round picks are too valuable to spend on a player who might not even see the field in 2012, and they are better off taking a shot with athletic players who can contribute on special teams in the late rounds.

    Picking a quarterback in any round would be a waste of a pick in a year where the Jets need to be stockpiling players.

The Dolphins Trade Up for Robert Griffin III

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    While the Dolphins have been a thorn in the Jets' side the past few seasons, their franchise has been mostly insignificant over the past decade.

    Aside from a 2008 season when the Dolphins went 11-5, the Phins have gone 27-53 since 2006.

    While they haven't been as awful as the Browns or Rams in recent years, they have been buried behind personalities like Brady, Manning, Big Ben, Rex and Rivers in the AFC.

    That's just the way the Jets like it.

    The Dolphins haven't been a consistent threat in more than a decade and haven't had someone to be excited about since Dan Marino's heyday. That would all change if the Dolphins landed Robert Griffin III.

    If Cam Newton broke new ground as the prototypical NFL quarterback of the future, Griffin might be the next in line.

    A tremendously smart and classy athlete, Griffin would energize the franchise and surely cause nightmares twice a year for the Jets. He would get the NFL to notice the Dolphins, and if his game translates to the NFL the way some think it will, Griffin will be the cornerstone the Dolphins build on.

    The Dolphins started the season firmly entrenched in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes after they lost their first seven games in 2011. They blew that by going on a midseason winning streak, and when Matt Barkley chose to return to USC, the Dolphins fell further away from finding a franchise quarterback in the draft. For now, they look like they are doomed to more seasons of mediocrity with Matt Moore at the helm—unless they work a draft day deal to bring RGIII to South Beach.

Fall in Love with a "Workout Warrior" at the Combine

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    With the Jets' long history of draft-day blunders, it's actually surprising they haven't fallen for players with "Mike Mamula Syndrome" more often.

    For those unfamiliar with the legend of Mamula, he was a defensive lineman who had a strong junior year at Boston College in 1995. He entered the draft early and was projected as a third-round pick. However, Mamula was one of the first players to train specifically for the tests at the combine and, when his time came, he had one of the most impressive workouts ever up to that point in time.

    Mamula's incredible agility, speed and strength boosted him all the way into the Top 10 of the 1995 NFL Draft, and the Eagles were the ones who took the bait. Needless to say, the undersized Mamula did absolutely nothing in his NFL career.

    It's basically the same story as Vernon Gholston, except 15 years earlier.

    By all means, the Jets cannot afford to fall in love with a workout warrior this year. The Jets need to target productive players with ideal size and speed who played for major college football programs.

    While there are projects who pan out just perfectly (Jason Pierre-Paul might ring a bell), 2012 is not the year the Jets need to be gambling that way.

    The top candidates to be the combine warriors who move up the draft board include Zach Brown (OLB, North Carolina), Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis) and Michael Brockers (DT, LSU). The Jets cannot afford to get bilked on a Gholston or Johnny Lam Jones type of player this year.

    If the Jets draft a player based largely on his combine workout and numbers in the essential speed and agility tests and that player fails, it could cost Mike Tannenbaum his job.

     

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