At 4-7, the New York Jets are clearly beginning to shift their focus to the offseason, where they may be able to reload with the help of the healthy return of key players, some free agent acquisitions and some opportune draft picks.
First round selections are generally expected to be capable of coming in and contributing immediately. Coming off this season, this is a must for any prospective draft pick for Gang Green.
The Jets are in the bottom third of the league, and If the draft were tomorrow, they'd be selecting ninth. This is obviously subject to change, but assuming Gang Green continues their mediocre play, we can conservatively expect the Jets to be drafting somewhere between the 7th and 15th overall picks.
This puts them out of the running for some of the popular top picks unless they are willing to trade up. Given a roster with many question marks, I think it would be wise for the Jets to keep as many of their early round picks as possible, and even consider downgrading picks via trade to stockpile first and second round selections.
So what positions should they look to draft? LB's Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas are aging and Thomas is at the end of his contract, as is RB Shonn Greene. Safeties Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell both also have contracts that expire after the 2012 season.
With many question marks on the roster, the Jets have a variety of options for viable first round selections, but who will they be?
With the return of Landry and Bell uncertain, the Jets may want to look to select a safety in the first round.
Walterfootball.com describes Vaccaro's skill set:
"The thing that stands out the most about Vaccaro is his instincts. He does a good job of staying around the ball in the passing attack and ground game. Vaccaro has good range, too, and covers a lot of ground; possessing the quickness to cover the deep part of the field. He has good size to defend the run and is a nice form tackler."
Landry and Bell were more heavy-hitting, borderline linebackers, than they were safeties. A player with strong speed and field awareness is just what the defense is in need of.
Vaccaro is also an outspoken leader, as evidenced by his comments on the sub-par effort put forth by the Texas defense, at times, throughout the year. The Jets are in need of the kind of accountable, disciplined style of play Vaccaro demonstrates for the Longhorns.
It's hard not to like a player that comes out of Nick Saban's defense at Alabama.
C.J. Mosley is no different. The junior is a dynamic linebacker comfortable in rushing the quarterback and dropping into coverage. In 2012, he has 92 total tackles (56 solo), six for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions. The real question is whether he will decide to enter the draft.
Mosley isn't the best linebacker in the class, but he is a nice safety net should Manti Te'o be off the board (as many are expecting) by the time it is the Jets turn to draft.
Mock drafts currently have Mosley falling anywhere in the first round after the 12th-13th pick, so he should be available for Gang Green.
Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are 32 and Bryan Thomas is 33. While David Harris is 28 and the Jets drafted DeMario Davis last year, the team could stand to get younger at the linebacker position.
Selecting an offensive lineman in the first round is the kind of pick that is safe. It doesn't get the fans as riled up as a flashy receiver or a ball-hawk safety, but in the end, drafting an OG tends to pay big dividends.
Warmack is the consensus top guard in the 2013 draft class. Toddy McShay has described Warmack as the best offensive guard prospect he's seen in over 10 years.
His CBS Sports prospect profile describes him as:
"While shorter than scouts would prefer, Warmack uses his natural leverage and surprisingly long arms to his advantage to move defenders off the line of scrimmage as a drive blocker, clearing a path for Alabama's talented ball-carriers."
"In pass protection, Warmack does a nice job of supplying an initial punch and grasping hold of his opponent, showing good lateral agility to slide, as well as the anchor to handle powerful bull-rushers. Due to his lack of height, Warmack may lack the position versatility of his more recognizable linemates but he is further along in his development than Fluker and, frankly, makes more eye-popping blocks than Jones."
Despite the high praise, Warmack likely will still be available when the Jets are drafting. David DeCastro was the undisputed top guard in the draft last year, and he came off the board with the 24th overall pick.
Warmack would be a strong candidate to fill the holes left by potential free agent departures Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson.
Some mock drafts project Barkevious Mingo as one of the first players taken off the board, others see him falling to the mid-first round.
I am generally opposed to drafting project players in the first round, but were he to fall to the Jets, I might have to make a rare exception.
Entering his 2012 campaign, Mingo was expected to be a top, if not the top pick. His production, so far this season, has left something to be desired, but his "measurables" might simply be too much to ignore. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Mingo offers the speedy powerful pass-rushing presence the Jets defense has lacked for seasons.
Walterfootball.com's profile on Mingo states:
"It is crystal clear that Mingo has elite speed and athleticism. He is a physical freak and is reminiscent of Jevon Kearse, a.k.a. the Freak. Mingo has a lightning first-step and burst off the snap. He accelerates in an instant and has fantastic closing speed. Mingo is extremely fast crashing into the pocket or running around the field. There is talk that he runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5 range."
Mingo, to the Jets, is a popular pick in many of the early iterations of the mock drafts available. With his current size, he seems to project best into an OLB role in a 3-4 defense at the NFL, making him a good fit in New York's defensive schemes.
Mingo would essentially be Calvin Pace 2.0, and have an opportunity to learn from the veteran before taking over as the Jets main pass-rush threat.
I hate to put a wide receiver on this list, particularly because the Jets took Stephen Hill in the second round of last year's draft.
The injury to Santonio Holmes made it glaringly obvious how little depth the New York Jets have at wide receiver. At 6'3", Keenan Allen is a legitimate NFL deep threat, and offers a more refined skill set than Hill entered training camp last year.
"At 6-3, 205 pounds he possesses the light feet, balance and acceleration to make plays after the catch -- a rarity for receivers of his size. . . . Whether he posts the statistics to be recognized with individual awards or not, Allen's worth will be shown on draft day -- when he'll compete to be the first receiver selected."
At the moment, Holmes is under contract through the 2015 season, and is due $7.75 million next season.
As Rich Cimini details, Holmes' contract puts the Jets in a bind; they cannot trade the star receiver so long as he remains injured; if they decide to keep him, it is a $15.25 million commitment in guaranteed money, or they can cut him and owe him $7.75 guaranteed and take an additional $12.5 million cap hit.
Allen should be looked at as a last resort selection for the Jets. Should Holmes make a healthy return, Allen becomes more of a luxury than a necessity.