With less then a week to go until draft day, the Jets have to start circling the wagons and prepping their big board. Among many things, the Jets will need to be prepared for every draft day scenario—possible trades to move up or down and (if they stay put) to answer the age old question of talent versus need.
The Jets are a team with a plethora of needs, and they weren't able to address many of them in free agency because of a lack of salary cap space. The Jets can still free up some space by releasing the aging Brandon Moore, but he's likely ticketed for one more season in New York before he's handed his pink slip.
The Jets are a team that usually looks for the best available player at a position of need, and are well known for being a team that likes to trade up on draft day. Mike Tannenbaum traded up twice in 2007 to land Darrelle Revis and David Harris, into the back-end of round one for Dustin Keller in 2008, up 12 spots for Mark Sanchez in the first round of 2009 and up for Joe McKnight in 2009 as well.
The last two years, however, Tannenbaum has stayed put in the early rounds in an attempt to build a little depth (and also due to a lack of ammunition).
But the Jets have ten selections in 2012, and pick in every round except for the fourth. With this in mind, the speculation has already begun and the Jets have been heavily linked to the Jaguars in rumors of a trade up from 16th to seventh.
With that in mind, consider that the Jets could also be in a prime position to trade back if the Jaguars are asking for too much. This scenario could arise if three certain prospects are off the board and the Jets don't feel safe pulling the trigger on anyone at sixteen. We're going to take a look at these three prospects, what it will take to get them, and what the Jets' backup plans are.
The compact 6'1'', 264-pound hybrid end/linebacker will turn 23 on draft day, and the perfect birthday present would be a selection in the top eight picks for Melvin Ingram.
Though the draft is not a science, it's virtually safe to say that if Ingram falls to the Jets on draft day without them trading up he's going to be the selection. Ingram is almost a consensus top-10 pick who has put up outstanding production at South Carolina.
He has shown the ability to line up at multiple positions (DE, DT, and OLB), outstanding athleticism, and a great motor, so it's no surprise that Melvin Ingram has surpassed Quentin Coples as the draft's top pass rusher. Ingram is stout at the point of attack, can set the edge as a run defender and shows good, instinctual play.
As a pass rusher, he's surprisingly well developed, with an array of moves and the aforementioned great motor. He's also a fluid player in the field for a guy of his size, and will likely be too agile for most offensive tackles in the NFL.
Ingram's biggest issue is his short arms and smaller stature. Still, short-armed players like Tamba Hali have found great success, and vertically challenged players at this position have found a lot of success over the last decade (Dwight Freeney, Elvis Dumervil, LaMarr Woodley). His short arms likely won't scare away the Jets on draft day.
So what are the scenarios?
Well, Ingram could fall to sixteen depending on how the draft shakes up (especially if Ryan Tannehill and Stephon Gilmore both sneak into bottom half of the top 10), but this is unlikely and the highly aggressive Mike Tannenbaum has been linked to the Jaguars in a possible trade (the Jags are, allegedly, desperate to move down on draft day).
For the Jets, they badly need impact players in this draft, so Tannenbaum will have to measure the difference between trading picks in 2012 and trading future picks in 2013. Most front offices agree that a future pick is usually valued a round back (i.e. a 2013 first-round pick would be the equivalent to asecond), and some value those future picks far more than others (hello, New England).
If the Jets were to trade up with the Jaguars, it'd be a guarantee that they would have to send picks 16 and 47 to Jacksonville, along with a likely mid- to late-round pick in 2012 and probably a third or a fourth in 2013. It depends on the suitors though, and Jacksonville has reportedly had trouble garnering interest in the selection, so that gives the Jets some leverage.
The other possibility, if the Jets want to be able to stay in Round 2 this season, would be to send the 16th pick, the 77th pick, another late-rounder this season, and then a 2013 pick—possibly even a first.
While Mike Tannenbaum has been very aggressive, he's never parted with a future first-round pick before and I wouldn't count on him starting now. The success rate of trading future firsts has been pretty low, and the risk behind possibly sending a high draft pick is usually not worth the reward (San Francisco wound up losing a top eight selection by trading with New England to acquire Joe Staley in 2007).
Another team that might be interested in a trade is Carolina at ninth, which would cost a little less, but Carolina has a tendency to love SEC football players and southern players in general, and with a need at the position (though they have some good project ends on the roster behind Charles Johnson) it would surprise me a little if they moved down.
It's a serious possibility for the Jets to move up on draft day, but in a draft this deep, it would make far more sense to stay put at 16 and let the draft come to you. Melvin Ingram could very well become a New York Jet on his 23rd birthday, but not if the Jets are forced to give up a future first-round pick in the process.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
At one point during draft season it seemed actually realistic that the Jets might be able to land Trent Richardson, but those days seem long gone.
Still, it's not at all out of the question. It almost entirely depends on two teams—Cleveland and Tampa Bay. The Browns have not even attempted to address the running back position, and a recent report from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland has the Browns looking at either Trent Richardson or Morris Claiborne at the fourth pick.
Even stranger, GM Tom Heckert has said that the front office is on the same page with who they are drafting—and hinted it won't be Justin Blackmon. That limits the options here, but there is one angle that Cleveland could be playing—Ryan Tannehill. If the Browns were truly interested in Tannehill, there is no way they'd make that known publicly in fear of losing out on the franchise quarterback to a trade-up by a desperate team like Miami.
These are all things to think about on draft day, especially if Richardson and Claiborne both fall to fifth overall. It gives Tampa Bay an interesting selection considering their on-field problems with LeGarrette Blount and their off-field problems with Aqib Talib.
And after that, it's free-fall mode for Richardson. Teams are unlikely to trade up for a running back, even one as talented as Richardson. One NFL insider even commented (anonymously) that he would not draft a running back in the top ten, even though he believes Trent Richardson will be an outstanding player.
I'm also of the belief that Richardson is going to be an outstanding NFL player, and a dynamic difference maker wherever he goes. Richardson has a compact 5'9'', 228-pound frame with outstanding range, a sturdy lower body, and legs that seem to keep churning. He's unbelievably agile with outstanding field vision, and is almost the perfect running back prospect. He is a thoroughbred.
Falling to sixteen is really not that crazy, but Richardson has to get by Cleveland and Tampa Bay first. I don't think he will, but if Minnesota takes Kalil (no longer even close to a guarantee) and Cleveland takes Tannehill, that would put the Bucs in a position to grab Morris Claiborne. In that scenario you'd likely see Richardson start sliding.
If he fell all the way to 13 or 14 without someone trading up, the Jets may make the move (which wouldn't require a big package of picks) to go up and secure him.
The Jets don't need a running back, but they can't pass up one like Richardson if he becomes realistically available. Shonn Greene has shown that he's more then capable behind a good offensive line, and can even be explosive (though he was missing that badly in 2011). The Jets have drafted running backs in three consecutive drafts (Greene in the third round in '09, McKnight in the fourth in '10, and Powell in the fourth last year).
They aren't likely to take a mid-round guy again, but if the best back in the draft becomes available unexpectedly it would make too much sense to take him.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Though this won't be the most popular selection on draft day, DeCastro is everything the Jets are looking for in a guard (he's everything that everyone is looking for in a guard).
He's athletic and agile, an outstanding technician and strong, with a great first punch. He's one of the best prospects at the position I've ever watched, and can play both left and right guard. He's also a leader in the huddle and on the practice field—constantly getting guys in the right position for plays.
At 6'4'' and 316 pounds, DeCastro is one of the leaner offensive linemen in the draft—something the Jets are looking to improve upon from last season. The Jets want a quicker, more athletic line (though they didn't specify a move to the zone blocking system, this could be possible), mainly because they want to be able to handle the speed that seems to continue to be infused into pass rushers at an alarming rate.
Many Jets fans will probably question this pick considering the Jets have three players on the roster now who are expected to contribute—Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, and Vladamir Ducasse. Slauson has been serviceable at left guard in his career, but with slow feet and limited athleticism may be better suited moving over to the right side. Also, consider he tore several ligaments in his shoulder at the end of the season and didn't have surgery until January. He's looking at a five to six month rehab, and that gives him almost no time to work with the team when Sparano installs his offense in OTAs. Slauson is also entering the final year of his deal.
Brandon Moore is coming off of hip surgery last off-season, and struggled early on in the season. He never really got his chops as a run blocker, and even though Wayne Hunter's awful play probably hurt him, Moore's best days are likely behind him. The undersized former defensive tackle was one of the most effective pass blockers in the league according to Pro Football Focus (allowed zero quarterback hits through sixteen weeks), but was not as good in the running game (though Football Outsiders metrics tend to disagree with this notion). Still, Moore is 31 and in the final year of his contract. He's not a lock to return to the roster in 2012, and is likely gone after this season.
Lastly, the Jets are expecting Vlad Ducasse to compete for a starting job at either guard or tackle this season, but are more focused on the former second round pick competing at right tackle. Ducasse is a gifted player, athletically speaking, but is far from a technician and also needs to lose some weight to fit the Jets' new desire for a more athletic line. At this point, Ducasse probably can't be counted on at guard, a position he had never played before joining New York.
In the end, a Jets selection of David DeCastro is extremely likely if he falls. Guards have a tendency to fall on draft day, but he's so highly touted there is a possibility he goes as high as ninth overall to Carolina (they cut former starting guard Travelle Wharton this offseason). Arizona at 13 is another very possible destination for DeCastro, but if he makes it to the Jets at 16 he's probably going to be the selection.
What if all three are available?
I have yet to find a simulation when doing mock drafts that would put the Jets at sixteen with all three of these players being available, but I'm going to keep searching. Perhaps in this order?
6. Fletcher Cox
7. Stephon Gilmore
8. Justin Blackmon
9. Riley Reiff
10. Michael Floyd
11. Dontari Poe
13. Here's the problem...Arizona would grab DeCastro or Ingram.
Basically, don't count on it. Even in the above scenario it doesn't really work and is extremely unlikely. Draft day can have a lot of surprises, but Richardson, Ingram, and DeCastro are likely in the top ten on most big boards—falling that far would be a shock.
And if they're all gone?
If the Jets choose to let the draft come to them and it turns out that all three of these prospects are gone, they turn to a couple of different options.
A popular pick for New York is Michael Floyd, but I think that the Jets would be a little turned off by Floyd's off-field history (which is seriously checkered).
Other options will be USC pass rusher Nick Perry (Adam Schefter thinks he'll fall out of Round 1, but his measurable numbers scream Round 1), Alabama safety Mark Barron (if he's available, and I'm not sure the Jets would be sold on him), UNC defensive end Quentin Coples (would be an experiment playing five-tech in a 3-4), Baylor receiver Kendall Wright (his small frame and lack of height probably eliminate him as an option in an already undersized receiving corps), and Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (at 345 pounds he doesn't really define "lean," but I am a fan).
My thought process leads me to believe the Jets would trade down in this scenario and I think there would be more than a few suitors. Though the Texans have never traded up in the first round under the current front office, if they feel they are a nose tackle away from success and can tame the beast that is Dontari Poe they may move up for him.
Another possibility could be a team trying to secure Michael Brockers (the Jets may have some interest in him, but I think they'll pass based on Brocker's status as a raw player).
If the Jets were to move down in the late first, there are several guys to look at, including Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina), Stephen Hill (WR, South Carolina), Shea McClellin (DE/OLB, Boise State), and Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame)
All four of these guys are fringe first-round prospects—and names to look out for if one or two are available in the second round when/if the Jets select at pick 47.
If I was playing armchair GM for just a moment, I would stay put if I were New York. The cost to move up and get Ingram is likely going to be too high, and with such depth in this draft it wouldn't be a bad thing if the Jets moved back from the 16th pick. My ideal first three rounds would look something like this:
Round 1 (16th): David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Round 2 (47th): Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Round 3 (77th): Jake Bequette, DE/OLB, Arkansas
No matter the outcome, Thursday the 26th will be a day of importance for the New York Jets. Coming away with a speed rusher, a big-framed receiver, and at least one offensive linemen on the interior or at right tackle are essential—but most importantly, the Jets can't sacrifice value for need.
Play the game the right way—draft at positions of need, but don't prioritize the needs. Draft on the value.
If they do that, the Jets will be looking at another successful draft.
Alex Wiederspiel is a broadcaster with the Champs Sports Network based in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the former Sports Director at WWVU-FM, Sports Anchor for the award wining college newscast WVU News, and West Virginia's men's and women's soccer play-by-play announcer for MSNSportsnet. Alex has written for isportsweb, BDLSports, and Scar Draft covering the New York Jets, the NFL, and the NFL Draft. You can follow Alex on Twitter @HammeredBySpiel.