8 Biggest Draft Needs for the New York Jets

Rocco ConstantinoContributor IJanuary 1, 2013

8 Biggest Draft Needs for the New York Jets

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    It's no secret that the New York Jets have a ton of holes to fill on the roster.

    From impending free agents to salary cap casualties to players who performed poorly, there will be a number of players from the current Jets roster whom you will never see in green and white again.

    The NFL draft is going to be the main route the Jets use to rebuild their roster.

    Their current salary cap situation isn't crippling, but it isn't ideal either.  They need to find multiple NFL-ready players at key positions who can come right in and start immediately.

    The 2012 draft provided the Jets with Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Antonio Allen and Demario Davis.  They were players who contributed in 2012, but they were mostly projects rather than impact players from the start.

    The Jets can't be expected to find seven key players in one NFL draft, but they better come pretty close to that.  They would do themselves a huge favor to acquire extra picks through trades and build from there.

    Rex Ryan can't afford for the Jets to draft players who need two or three years to develop.  His job is on the line and he needs to win immediately.

    The Jets need players at every skill position and that's just a start.

    Here's a look at the eight biggest draft needs for the Jets in 2013.

Pass-Rushing Linebacker

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    This is one area that has plagued the Jets for years, and this year seems to be a very good year to finally address the situation long term.

    Calvin Pace will likely be cut in the offseason as the Jets need a major overhaul of their linebacking unit.

    The Jets seriously need a young playmaker on the outside, and this year's draft class has some good choices.

    Players like Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Barkevious Mingo (LSU) and Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) all rate as top 10 draft picks in most current mock drafts.  If the Jets can land any of the three, it could give the Jets an additional young stud to lead the defense with Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples for years to come.

Right Tackle

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    The Jets' right tackle situation is pretty cut and dried.

    They have Jason Smith under contract, but he's due $12 million next year if he stays around.  That's obviously not happening.

    Austin Howard gained valuable experience in an up-and-down season, but he's not a starting tackle on a good offensive line.  

    The ideal situation would see the Jets cut Smith, move Howard into Smith's role, which was valuable, and then add a legitimate starter through the draft or free agency.

    The good news is that there are a number of options available whichever route the Jets go.

    Most current mock drafts have Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) all ranked in the top 15 overall.  

    If the Jets choose to draft an offensive tackle with their first pick, they could have their choice of at least a couple of those players.

Premier Running Back

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    One of the main reasons Mike Tannenbaum is without a job is because he thought a backfield consisting of Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight was a legitimate stable of backs.

    While there aren't any first-round stars projected for the 2013 draft at the position, the Jets could still find their man.

    In 2012, five of the top 10 leading rushers in the NFL were drafted in the third round or later.

    Current mock drafts project that Alabama's Eddie Lacy and North Carolina's Giovani Bernard could come off the board somewhere in the top of the second round.  

    Pairing one of them with Bilal Powell would give the Jets a young one-two punch to go forward with in 2013.

Guard

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    Jets fans are faced with a very scary reality that Vladimir Ducasse could go into next season starting on the offensive line.  

    With Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore currently free agents, Ducasse is the most experienced guard on the Jets roster under contract.

    The Jets could fix their guard situation though by re-signing either Moore or Slauson and drafting Chance Warmack out of Alabama if he's available.

    Warmack is the consensus top guard in the draft, and if the Jets land him, it would go a long way in solving a problem that could completely sabotage the offense next year.

    The current projected free-agent crop is thin at guard, so whether the Jets get Warmack in the first round or not, expect them to address the position in the draft for sure.

Quarterback

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    There doesn't seem to be an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the 2013 NFL draft, but that doesn't mean the Jets can't take a shot on a new young quarterback in the second or third round.

    The Jets are going to need at least one new quarterback once Tim Tebow is gone and could possibly need another depending on the Mark Sanchez situation.

    Whether or not the Jets draft a quarterback in one of the top three rounds depends on the direction the new general manager goes with the quarterback position.

    If  Sanchez remains a Jet at his current price or if the Jets bite the bullet and cut him, they are going to have to fill their depth chart with cheap choices at the position through the draft.  

    If the Jets somehow manage to pull off a miracle and trade Sanchez at some cap savings, they could be able to afford a more expensive veteran option.

    There are just too many factors in this situation to predict exactly what the Jets are going to do with their quarterback position, but they could very well take one early in the draft.

Linebacker Depth

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    Even though the Jets put another top-10 defense on the field in 2012, they need to completely revamp their entire linebacker unit.

    Bryan Thomas, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace all figure to be gone in 2013, and the Jets don't have the money to fill all those gaps via free agency.

    An impact outside linebacker/defensive end is a real possibility as a first-round target, but the Jets can't stop there.

    Last year they did well to nab Demario Davis in the third round of the draft, and he expects to slide into one of the spots vacated by the departing players.

    The Jets are going to have to add more depth at the position though, and the draft is a good place to do so.

    Players like Sio Moore (UConn), Lerentee McCray (Florida), Cornelius Washington (Georgia) and Kiko Alonso (Oregon) would be good targets in the second half of the draft.

Tight End

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    The tight end position hindered the Jets all season long.

    Dustin Keller couldn't keep himself on the field, Jeff Cumberland didn't scare anyone and Konrad Reuland often went multiple games without being heard from.

    This position depends on what the new general manager's plans will be regarding Dustin Keller.  

    Before this season, Keller had no problem staying healthy, and his injury problems may have driven down his asking price.

    If Keller is willing to come back on a team-friendly contract, the Jets should take him.  After that, there are some intriguing middle-to-late-round tight end prospects the Jets could target.

    One of the more interesting options is UCLA's Joseph Fauria, the nephew of former Pro Bowl tight end Christian Fauria.

    Fauria stands at 6'7" but is still considered a project.  If the Jets could land him in the later rounds and put him in a unit with Keller and Reuland or Cumberland, it would be an upgrade over what they had this year.

    Other late-round targets could include Zach Sudfeld (Nevada), Jake Stoneburner (Ohio State) and Michael Williams (Alabama).

Wide Receiver

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    The Jets need a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver and would be much better served acquiring one in the free-agent or trade market instead of the draft.

    However, that doesn't mean they should completely ignore the position in the draft.

    If a player like Da'Rick Rogers, a troubled, yet talented receiver who had to spend a season at Tennessee Tech after a drug violation while at Tennessee, drops down to their spot in the third round, the Jets should nab him.

    Aside from that, they're better off taking a mid-to-late-round flier on Aaron Mellette (Elon), Marquess Wilson (Washington State) or Aaron Dobson (Marshall).