NFL Draft 2012: 7 Areas of Immediate Need for the New York Jets

Akiva GoldenbergContributor IFebruary 13, 2012

NFL Draft 2012: 7 Areas of Immediate Need for the New York Jets

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    The New York Jets are at a strange point in the franchise's history. They are too good of a team to rebuild completely but they are currently not good enough to compete against teams with winning records (0-4 against teams with 9 wins or more, 2-7 against teams with 8 wins or more). 

    Many of the team's past draft picks have not met expectations and the team is infamous for drafting players who underachieve in their time with the Jets.

    Arguably the best way to improve any team is through the draft, and the Jets can do so by drafting players in 7 particular positions.

Running Back

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    Shonn Greene, the current starting tailback for the Jets, was inconsistent for most of the 2011 season.

    Some people might say his statistics indicate he performed admirably for the Jets, but his cumulative statistics (provided by ESPN) are misleading, since he only rushed for 100 yards or more twice in the season. Greene has also proven in three years that he is inept in the passing offense.

    For the Jets, who hired Tony Sparano (run-oriented play caller) as their new offensive coordinator, the rushing offense will be more critical in 2012. This year's draft has very strong depth at the running back position and the Jets could easily acquire a starting tailback with the ability to block, catch, and run in any of the first four rounds. 

    If premier prospect Trent Richardson (Alabama) slides down to the 16th overall pick, it is virtually impossible the Jets will not pick him. In the event that does not happen, the team could draft Doug Martin (Boise State), Chris Polk (Washington), or Edwin Baker (Michigan State) in the second or third rounds.

Wide Receiver

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    According to NFL.com, the Jets' wide receiving corps accounted for a combined 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns. This would be impressive for one player— for four receivers, however, these statistics are pathetic.

    The 2012 NFL Draft is the perfect opportunity to get quality talent at wide receiver, especially needed due to the lack of depth the Jets currently have at the position.

    This particular draft has a number of quality wide receivers to choose from in Rounds 2-7. Expect the team to draft two players at this position and at least one of them should have reliable pass catching ability.

    The Jets need two types of wide receiver: 1) a big, strong, and physical player to replace Plaxico Burress, and 2) one who could contribute with speed, quickness, and explosiveness.

    Players to consider include: Joe Adams (Arkansas), Nick Toon (Wisconsin), Brian Quick (Appalachian State), Dwight Jones (North Carolina), Juron Criner (Arizona), and Gerell Robinson (Arizona State).

Tight End

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    Dustin Keller is a very fast tight end who can make plays in open space. 

    Unfortunately, the former first-round pick is one dimensional and can't block effectively. In fact, none of the Jets' tight ends can both catch and block effectively. Sparano's scheme will need such a tight end. 

    The Jets should look for someone who can run, catch and block. Legitimate options will be available in the third and fourth rounds. Three players that fit the profile and could be available at that point in the draft: Orson Charles (Georgia), Coby Fleener (Stanford), and Michael Egnew (Missouri). 

Right Tackle

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    Maybe the most important position the Jets need to fill is the starting offensive right tackle.

    Nothing more needs to be said about Wayne Hunter's inadequacy at the position that hasn't already been said by a countless number of bloggers, fans, television analysts, and sports writers.

    The Jets will likely address this issue in free agency, but if they don't, then the team needs to find someone at the position in Rounds 1-4. If Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram are not available (all of which are not offensive lineman), then the team should strongly consider drafting Cordy Glenn (Georgia) or Mike Adams (Ohio State) with the 16th overall pick. 

    A more likely case is that the Jets will draft an offensive tackle in Rounds 2-5.

    Quality prospects that should be available in these rounds include: Nate Potter (Boise State), Andrew Datko (Florida State), Matt Reynolds (Brigham Young) and Jeff Adams (Columbia). 

Dual Role Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

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    Rex Ryan's team has the most complex defensive scheme in the NFL.The problem with being so complex is the team needs to find players that could fill multiple roles.

    One position the Jets have not been able to adequately address during Ryan's time with the team is the dual role defensive end/outside linebacker.

    The Jets have tried to fill this role with various players and need to be very careful when considering players to draft in this position. The two best prospects at this position (both of which could be available at 16th overall in the first round) are: Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Melvin Ingram (South Carolina).

    Upshaw is the better player when defending the run and Ingram is the superior one when defending the pass. Ingram has higher potential than Upshaw, but the Alabama linebacker is a safer pick. 

    If the Jets won't sign Mario Williams in free agency (likely) or draft either one of the two elite prospects mentioned, then they will need to trade up for an additional second or third-round pick. There are only three other legitimate prospects that could be available in Rounds 2 and 3: Vinny Curry (Marshall), Andre Branch (Clemson), and Bruce Irvin (West Virginia). 

Inside Linebacker

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    David Harris is arguably the second best 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL, but his teammate and fellow starting inside linebacker Bart Scott is no longer fit to start for the Jets. The Jets need a faster and more agile linebacker playing alongside David Harris at the position.

    There is only one prospect the Jets should consider to fill this role: Audie Cole (NC State). Cole is smart, tough, and scheme-versatile with good instincts. During the Senior Bowl, his measurements were 6' 4 1/8", weighing in at 258 pounds.  

    According to Pro Football Weekly, he is also a former high school quarterback and a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Cole could be available in Rounds 2-4. If Cole is available in the fourth round, the Jets should not hesitate to draft him. 

    It is very likely that the Jets will try to address this need via free agency or trade.

Safety

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    The Jets need two new safeties in 2012.

    Jim Leonhard (the team's only starting-caliber safety since Kerry Rhodes was traded away) is injury prone, in addition to lacking the height and mass needed to cover the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. 

    Ryan's defense will have to face Gronkowski twice every year and so they need someone right away who can cover the Pro Bowler or they will continue to lose both annual regular season games against the Patriots.

    General manager Mike Tannenbaum will need to both draft a safety and sign one in free agency if he wants to address the team's needs.

    The only prospect that will definitely be ready to start in the NFL from day one is Mark Barron (Alabama). Barron has the size, speed, and instincts needed to play strong safety in the league.

    He will most likely not be available after the 1st round. If he's not taken by the Jets with the 16th overall pick, he will likely be drafted by either Pittsburgh or New England. 

    The Jets are in an extremely difficult position. They need to get two new starting safeties but most likely can't afford to sign two in free agency. Ryan's team can either trade up and acquire a second first-round pick in the process, or trade down with their current first-round pick in exchange for multiple picks (including a late first-round pick).

    One way or another, the Jets will need to find a way to acquire Mark Barron unless they are willing to draft a riskier prospect and suffer the consequences if the move backfires.  

Last Bit of Important Information

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    Mike Tannenbaum has his hands full. He needs to find a way to get at least seven new starters at various positions via the draft or free agency. It is likely that he will need to take risks because he has too many needs and not enough picks in the first four rounds to fill them all.

    The Jets will probably draft players at every position mentioned in this slideshow, but they will likely not have all their needs addressed when the 2012 regular season begins.