Woody Johnson's new GM faces daunting challenges.
Whoever replaces Mike Tannenbaum as New York Jets GM will have to get maximum mileage out of the 2013 draft.
Salary cap constraints created by prorated bonuses mean the Jets will not be able to spend lavishly on free agents. Plus, the $5 million rookie cap can bring more new bodies aboard than spending the same amount on free agents.
The Jets must clean up their cap mess and figure out which free agents will leave. Once the air clears, they may need as many new bodies as they can get.
I set up this draft under the following assumptions:
—The Jets will free significant cap space by releasing linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, nose tackle Stone Prouha, quarterback Tim Tebow, safety Eric Smith and tackle Jason Smith.
—Safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, tight end Jeff Cunningham and wide receiver Braylon Edwards sign new contracts.
—Quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy remain. However, the Jets obtain an established NFL veteran to start in 2013.
—The Jets extend offers to outside linebacker Bryan Thomas, running back Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller, kicker Nick Folk and defensive end Mike DeVito. However, all decide to test the free-agent market and may not return.
This has the following effect on draft priorities:
1. Linebackers become the top priority. The Jets needed a pass-rushing threat at outside linebacker before considering their cap-based moves. Because of the cap, they may need to replace three starters in 2013.
2. Offensive skill positions are still vital. The new quarterback will need a workhorse running back who holds on to the ball and wide receivers who can catch balls that aren't thrown between the numbers.
3. The defense needs to replace Prouha. A new nose tackle who stuffs the run would address the team's most significant defensive weakness.
4. The offensive line needs bodies. Jason Smith's departure means less depth at tackle. Should Moore and Slauson not re-sign, the Jets need new guards as well.
One scenario follows, from last round to first.
Hughes playing for the University of Tennessee as a freshman.
Montori Hughes is a 6'4", 330-pound terror on running backs and quarterbacks alike. He has a knack for tackling runners behind the line of scrimmage.
Of his 30 tackles in 2011, 6.5 were for a loss, including one sack. When he can't get to the quarterback, Hughes is not lost for options, as he was credited for three hurries and one pass breakup that year.
The awards for Hughes keep mounting. As a junior, he earned both a Defensive Player of the Week award from the Ohio Valley Conference and a National Defensive Lineman of the Week from College Football Performance Awards.
In 2012, Hughes gained placement on the CFPA watch list for defensive ends and defensive tackles.
Marcus Davis in action against Boston College.
In 2012, Davis had four 100-yard games receiving, carried the ball twice for 48 yards and participated in three special teams plays. ACC coaches recognized Hughes' versatility by voting him honorable mention All-ACC.
Since he catches more with his hands than with his body, Davis makes plucking balls out of the air look easy. His fluid body control makes this look easy.
After the catch, his size helps him break tackles. He doesn't accelerate quickly but can get deep if he gets room to accelerate.
Davis has the makings of a big-play receiver whose size and hands give him the potential to make many a clutch play downfield.
Brian Winters takes on Army defender.
To call Brian Winters undersized at 6'6", 294 pounds sounds almost humorous. Yet, putting on another 10 pounds is exactly what one scouting report recommends. Doing so would bring Winters more in line with what is a standard weight for NFL offensive linemen.
Winters' strength, like many linemen, is run blocking. He finishes his blocks well, leaving many a defender on the ground. Winters' ability to work low to the ground, given his height, is uncanny.
Once he learns to handle defenders beyond the line of scrimmage, Winters will help to break many a long run.
Pass blocking is Winters' biggest challenge, but that is typical for an offensive lineman. He has good hand placement, but tends to overextend his outside foot which can compromise balance.
On the other hand, Williams has demonstrated good pulling ability on screen plays, which suggests he could play guard as well as tackle.
Winters has demonstrated enough potential to be the only Mid-American Conference player selected to play in the Senior Bowl.
Brian Winters is just what the Jets need: a lineman who is athletic enough to fit in either at guard or at tackle.
Kenny Stills has the makings of a durable possession receiver. The 6'1", 189-pound receiver increased his reception count from 61 during his freshman year to 75 in 2012.
He was named to three first-team or second-team freshman All-America teams. In 2011, Big 12 coaches named him to second-team All Big 12. The AP named Stills to its All Big 12, honorable mention team.
Stills is the kind of receiver who does many things well. He uses his quickness to get open, isn't afraid of contact and runs good patterns in traffic and on the sidelines.
He plays bigger than his size because of his quickness, physicality and body control. He may not dazzle the scouts with his speed, but he manages to get deep.
Last year, Stills averaged 11.9 yards per catch. His longest was 68 yards.
Eddie Lacy at the SEC Championship Game.
He is quick to the hole and can break tackles in traffic or make people miss in the open field
Lacy can outrun virtually anyone in the front seven and some defensive backs as well. He has good speed to the outside.
He has a nose for the end zone, scoring 13 touchdowns in his first 151 collegiate carries.
2012 was Lacy's first year as Alabama's feature back. He carried the ball 184 times for 1,182 yards and 16 touchdowns. That averaged 6.4 yards per carry. What's more, he caught 20 passes for 172 yards and another touchdown. That all-around effort earned Lacy first-team All-SEC honors.
That sounds like a "ground-and-pound" back to me.
If run defense and blitzing skills are what the Jets value in an inside linebacker, Nico Johnson should fit the bill. He has made his reputation as a run defender. More recently, he has shown potential as a pass-rusher in blitzing situations.
Blockers or power runners do not intimidate this 6'3", 245-pound linebacker. He stands his ground in both running and passing situations and even is involved in perimeter action.
Johnson is not known for pass defense, but he has several sacks and pass deflections to his credit. He is also capable of special teams play.
In 2012, Johnson was Alabama's third leading tackler with 54. Included in that number were two tackles for losses of six yards. In addition, Johnson forced two fumbles, caused a quarterback hurry and broke up another pass.
Alabama coaches named Johnson defensive player of the week twice and special teams player of the week once.
In other words, the Jets would be getting a versatile linebacker who isn't afraid to get in the middle of plays and knows what to do when he gets there.
Anyone who saw Barkevious Mingo during Clemson's opening drive in the Chick-fil-A Bowl came away with an appreciation for his potential. The 6'5", 240-pound Mingo logged a forced fumble on the second play of that drive that led to LSU's first score.
Mingo has been wreaking this havoc from a defensive end position, but his size and speed have scouts projecting him as an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com compares Mingo's speed to that of Jevon "The Freak" Kearse. Rumor has it that Mingo runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds.
Speed at outside linebacker is a trait the Jets thought they had gained when they acquired Aaron Maybin, but Maybin did not build on the promise he showed in 2011.
If Mingo is to avoid Maybin's fate, Campbell believes he must increase in strength and size. Mingo thrives at the collegiate level by being quicker than his opposition. However, when blockers do make contact he is controllable.
Mingo will have to become more physical to thrive in the NFL. However, he should not sacrifice his greatest assets, speed and agility, in the process. He will have to learn to think more strategically, to evade blockers by means in addition to speed to realize his potential.