The New York Jets have a lot of holes they need to address. This 2013 NFL draft could be the most important draft for the Jets in a while. If they don't completely nail it, the Jets may not be a playoff team for at least a few years. In this slideshow, I will provide the players that New York should draft in the first and second rounds.
Let's begin with what the Jets should not do with their first- or second-round draft picks. Then I'll go into my top four realistic selections I think would improve the Jets the most, along with a couple of second-round picks that would accompany the selection.
Why the Jets Shouldn't Draft a Quarterback Early
This is not a strong quarterback class. If the Jets were to draft a quarterback early, the quarterback should be ready to start in the NFL. Most of these quarterbacks are projects that will take a couple of years to fully develop. Also, even though Mark Sanchez was horrendous this year, his contract probably buys him another season. If the Jets really want to make a move, they should try to acquire Alex Smith from the 49ers or Matt Flynn from the Seahawks.
Why the Jets Shouldn't Draft a Running Back At All
The Jets have drafted a running back in three of the past four years in the middle of the draft. Shonn Greene was drafted in the third round in 2009, and he looks like an average running back at best. Joe McKnight, drafted in the fourth round in 2010, is a special teams stud, but he is not an NFL-caliber running back. Bilal Powell was drafted in the fourth round in the 2011 NFL draft, but he has not turned any heads in his two seasons.
I just think the Jets should look at other areas to improve the team in this draft. The best move for the Jets would be trading Tim Tebow and a low draft pick for Maurice Jones-Drew or signing a running back coming off an injury with success in the past (Rashard Mendenhall or Peyton Hillis).
Why the Jets Shouldn't Draft a Wide Receiver Early
This wide receiver class is extremely deep. While the Jets are short on playmakers, they can still grab a quality receiver in the middle of the draft. The Jets drafted Stephen Hill in the second round last year, but could've waited another round to draft promising receivers T.Y. Hilton or Mohamed Sanu. Had they done that, they could've drafted a strong defensive player in the second round (Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David and Casey Hayward were all available).
The Jets have struggled to find an elite pass-rusher over the years, and they need one now more than ever because they are expected to cut Calvin Pace in the offseason. Jarvis Jones is phenomenal at getting after the quarterback. He had 14.5 sacks this season for Georgia, including multi-sack games against Florida, Alabama and Nebraska.
However, the thing that makes Jones my favorite potential Jets draft selection is his versatility. His 86 tackles, seven forced fumbles and three passes broken up show that Jones isn't a one-trick pony. He's also a strong leader and hard worker. Jones would be a great fit in the Jets' young front seven with Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. He has elite pass-rushing potential and skills that Rex needs to finally complete his defensive scheme. The only negatives about Jones are his durability and his age (24).
While Damontre Moore is not as versatile as Jones, he's a more consistent pass-rusher. He has 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss for Texas A&M this season, and he still has one more game left to pad his stats. He also leads the Aggies in tackles with 80, which is eight more than anyone else on their defense.
Moore has a good initial burst and outstanding pass-rush techniques. His elite quickness and power constantly give him the advantage over whichever offensive lineman is blocking him. Another bonus for Moore is that he'll be only 20 years old when he's drafted. The negatives about him are that he was arrested for marijuana possession prior to his sophomore season and that he'll probably be gone by the time the Jets pick.
Starting guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson are free agents. The Jets simply cannot afford to start Vladimir Ducasse at guard next season, unless they want opposing defenders consistently breaking through the line of scrimmage. If the Jets don't sign two starting-caliber guards, they should draft Chance Warmack.
Warmack is easily the top guard in the draft, and he's been the strongest blocker on Alabama's offensive line. He has elite run-blocking skills and is also a strong pass protector. He's very intelligent, tough and durable. While this isn't the sexiest pick, it would immediately improve the Jets offensive line. The Jets need the help, as they allowed 47 sacks this season (their highest total since 2007) and only finished 12th in rushing offense.
Austin Howard started at right tackle for the Jets this season. While he was better than Wayne Hunter, (then again, who isn't?), he still allowed 10 sacks this season. And there's no way that the Jets are keeping Jason Smith and his $12 million potential earnings for the upcoming season.
Enter Jake Matthews, son of NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. There are some scouts who believe that Matthews has more potential than teammate Luke Joeckel. He started at right tackle for the entire season and he blocked for Johnny Manziel very well. He's best at run-blocking, but he still shows tremendous promise at protecting the quarterback. He has a very good work ethic and would help the right side of the Jets offensive line.
If the Jets draft a pass-rusher first…
1. TE's Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame or Zach Ertz, Stanford
Dustin Keller is a free agent, and even if the Jets re-sign him, he can't be trusted to stay healthy the entire season. The Jets need to add a major weapon to the offense. Seeing how much success the Patriots have running their two tight end sets, why can't the Jets?
Both tight ends are great receivers and have made big improvements in their blocking. They have great size (both are 6'6" and 250 pounds) and can generate mismatches in the passing game. Both were the top targets in their respective aerial attacks and will be a quarterback's best friend in the NFL. If the Jets can draft either one of these tight ends in the second round after selecting Jones or Moore, I think this would be the best possible scenario for them.
2. OL's Barrett Jones, Alabama or Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Another option for the Jets is to draft an offensive lineman in the second round. Jones can play any position on the offensive line, although his best position in the NFL would most likely be guard. He's extremely intelligent and was a major reason why Alabama's run offense was so successful this season.
Cooper is an extraordinary run-blocker and very athletic. However, he is a bit undersized (6'3" and 295 pounds), so he may have a bit of trouble blocking huge defensive tackles on the inside. He is definitely a first-round talent though, and the Jets should be thankful if either of these offensive linemen fall to them in the second round.
If the Jets draft an offensive lineman first…
3. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU or Alex Okafor, DE/LB, Texas or Corey Lemonier, DE/LB, Auburn
Montgomery is a very powerful pass-rusher and is elite at stopping the run. He can rush the passer from the inside or the outside, and he's even covered tight ends occasionally throughout the season. He is extremely passionate about the game and has a tremendous motor. Montgomery has the most potential out of the three.
Okafor had eight sacks in his senior season and he has great athleticism. Lemonier has the physical tools to develop into a very strong pass-rusher. He has good size and speed, and he plays very aggressively.