NFL Draft 2012: Who Will the New York Jets Take with the No. 16 Pick?

Anthony CorrenteContributor IMarch 20, 2012

(left to right) Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, Woody Johnson
(left to right) Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, Woody JohnsonPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

There was a time when fans of the New York Jets would shudder in fear as the NFL Draft approached.  Let's face it, it would be hard for anyone to forget Kyle Brady being selected ninth overall in 1995 as fans chanted, "We Want Sapp!  We Want Sapp!"

Thankfully, since Mike Tannenbaum has taken the reins as general manager, those draft blunders for the most part can stay in the past.  Okay, except for Vernon Gholston.

The Jets approach the 2012 NFL Draft with holes and weaknesses at a few key positions.  A surefire No. 2 wide receiver is a necessity, as it's likely newly-signed Chaz Schilens will mainly be for depth.

Safety, particularly free safety, remains a weakness.  LaRon Landry helps to solidify the strong safety position, but the Jets have lacked a ball hawking center fielder type of safety ever since they traded Kerry Rhodes to Arizona.  Youth and depth are also needed on the offensive line and at running back, inside linebacker and tight end.

First and foremost is one thing New York Jets fans have been clamoring for since the Jets traded John Abraham, and that is someone who can provide a pass rush.

With the 16th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois.

This is the type of pick the people seem to either be totally on board with or would not be happy with at all.  Mercilus is a freak of an athlete.  The keyword there is that he is an athlete.

He embarrassed tackles in the NCAA with a combination of both speed and strength, and he has a first step that may be unmatched by anyone else in this draft class.  As a junior at Illinois, he led the nation in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with eight.

Selecting Mercilus would not come without downside, however.  His strengths are in rushing the passer, which is a skill set the Jets are desperately searching for.  However, he is not as sound overall as someone like Courtney Upshaw, who possesses the ability to get after the quarterback, but is also very sound in setting the edge and stopping the run.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that some Jets fans may be weary of selecting a college defensive end who has one breakout season under his belt (sound familiar? Think 2006 and the "Ghost" from the first paragraph), but Mercilus has the potential to be an absolute monster coming off the edge in Rex Ryan's defense.

Couple that with the fact that depth later in the draft at positions of need, such as wide receiver, is much greater than the depth at outside linebacker; a pass-rusher needs to be the selection.

Whitney Mercilus could be the answer to the New York Jets' pass-rushing woes.