While the 2013 NFL Draft is lacking somewhat in major stars, it has significant depth at many positions where the Jets require help. The scouting departments of many NFL teams will be tested when searching for the diamonds in the rough in this draft. Drafting an Andrew Luck or an RGIII is not hard—it is obvious. Finding a Russell Wilson-type player later in the draft is where the challenge lies.
The Jets have all seven of their picks this year, one in each round. Given the depth of the draft class and their needs, they could easily find three starters or more in this draft. Finding the right guys will depend not only on the Jets making the right decisions but also on serendipity allowing the players they need to be available.
Let us take an optimist's view and consider what the best-case scenarios are for the Jets. Here are the seven picks they would make in a perfect world where everything goes their way.
In an ideal world, Geno Smith—the consensus top quarterback prospect in the 2013 NFL draft—will be available at the No. 9 spot for the Jets. It has at certain points seemed like the Kansas City Chiefs—who desperately need a quarterback and have the No. 1 overall pick—will take Smith.
However, it is increasingly seeming plausible that he could drop to the Jets. He has moved down many draft boards recently. He has been described as being closer to Ryan Tannehill than Andrew Luck in terms of potential. Tannehill was the No. 8 pick in 2012.
Smith has speed and accuracy, and he could potentially find success in the new West Coast offense that new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg aims to implement. His high energy and toughness are traits that the Jets always seek to have.
During his impressive 2012 collegiate campaign, Smith threw for 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions. More importantly, He completed 71 percent of his passes, demonstrating accuracy that can translate to an NFL offense. His ability to complete short passes efficiently makes him suited to a West Coast offense.
Many mock drafts have the New York Jets picking an outside linebacker in the first round in 2013. This is warrented, given the poor play from their linebackers in 2012. Moreover, their most veteran outside linebacker—Calvin Pace—was recently released as a cap casualty.
While the Jets have an excellent defensive line and a top-notch secondary, they have a terrible linebacking group as a whole. Their worst position is outside linebacker They do not have even one definite starter yet at outside linebacker for 2013.
Jarvis Jones out of Georgia would be an ideal candidate to fill that whole. The 23-year-old prospect is an NFL-ready and highly talented outside pass rusher. He is already drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
The Jets are not the only team showing interest in Jones, who led the NCAA in sacks this past season. Some mocks have him being taken as high as fourth overall. However, concerns about his long-term health have caused his stock to fall. His history of spinal stenosis has brought into question his ability to sustain a long career in the NFL. The chances of his being around in the early second round are becoming non-trivial. According to Tom Melton of NFLDraftMonsters.com:
This might seem outlandish, but I don’t think [Jones is] even close to a lock for the top 15 right now, and after people start overreacting to his medical condition there will be plenty of people exclaiming that he will fall to the third round or maybe even further if enough NFL teams take him off their draft board. I won’t try to downplay how serious his condition can be because based on what I understand he could be at risk for a serious injury, but I think that a team in the late first round will see a kid with a great motor, work ethic and a history of impressive production and either slide down to select him or move up and get him in the second round.
If Jones happens to be around in the early second round, the Jets have to pull the trigger on this potentially game-changing player.
In the third round, there will be some pressure on the Jets to pick a running back. Players like Joseph Randle out of Oklahoma State will likely be considered. However, having drafted three running backs in the past four years with relatively high picks (Bilal Powell, Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight), it would be prudent to fill a position of more urgent need.
If LSU safety Eric Reid is around in the third round, the Jets should feel lucky to have the opportunity to grab him. A talented playmaker, he has garnered praise from WalterFootball.com:
Reid had a breakout 2011 season. He was part of phenomenal secondary with safety Brandon Taylor and cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu and Reid tied for the team lead with 76 tackles each. Reid also had two interceptions, two tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and two forced fumbles. He was a Second-Team All-SEC pick in 2011.
Nevertheless, Reid could potentially be available in the early third round. His stock fell slightly in 2012, possibly knocking him out of late first round and even the second round. To quote WalterFootball.com:
Reid had an inconsistent junior year to hurt his draft stock. He seemed to miss Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor. Reid's splash plays were down, and he didn't have as large a presence. Reid especially needs to improve his pass-coverage skills for the NFL. He was burned through the air throughout 2012.
While Reid is currently far from perfect, he could be a steal in the third round. An athletic and talented player who is developing his pass-coverage skills, he could replace LaRon Landry. Landry has similar problems in pass coverage and is looking for an enormous pay raise.
The Jets need two starting outside linebackers, and DeVonte Holloman would make a great teammate for Jarvis Jones. Projected to be a late third-rounder, Holloman could easily be around in the early fourth given how plentiful outside pass rushers are in this year's NFL draft.
According to Derek Stephens of CBSSports.com:
[Holloman has an] athletic-looking frame with a sturdy, thick base and long arms. Exhibits strong play-recognition and anticipation against the pass. Diagnoses the run early, and takes good angles to the football. Anticipates and approaches the gap with good timing on runs between the tackles.
The athletic senior out of the University of South Carolina caused trouble for SEC quarterbacks for four years. With a 4.5 40-yard dash time (according to NFLDraftScout.com), Holloman has more to offer physically than the aging veterans the Jets had in 2012.
Holloman is also capable of playing strong safety but is more likely a pro prospect at outside linebacker. Within Rex Ryan's highly unorthodox defense, he could potentially serve in a hybrid role. Veteran linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott had to play limited snaps in 2012 because they were not fast enough to be in certain formations. With Holloman's flexibility and athleticism, he has shown that he might be able to become an every-down linebacker right away.
In a perfect world, he will be available in the early fourth round, and the Jets will grab him.
Right tackle is an important hole in the Jets offense. While Austin Howard served as a stop-gap in place of Wayne Hunter in 2012, the Jets need a long-term answer to fill out their offensive line.
Brian Winters of Kent State is a player who can fill that hole. While he could potentially go as early as the late third round of the draft, he could easily be around in the late fourth or early fifth round. At 6'6'' and 294 pounds, Winters' body and skill set are those of an NFL right tackle, though it has been suggested that adding ten pounds to his frame would make him even better.
Pass-blocking is Winters' weaker point, which is common for rookie offensive linemen. He has good hand placement but sometimes overextends his outside foot which can compromise his balance in pass blocking.
His run blocking, however, is already high quality, perhaps good enough for him start in the NFL as a rookie. If he can continue to improve his impact blocking beyond the line of scrimmage, he could be of immediate value to any run-heavy offense. According to NFLDraftMonsters.com:
At worst Winters can be a starting [right tackle] who can be a liability at times in pass protection, but in the best case Winters will be a starting tackle who fits into a zone blocking style scheme.
Winters has started every game in his four years at Kent State, 50 games in all. He has an NFL-ready right tackle and could fill a need for the Jets right away in 2013. The Jets would be hard-pressed to find better in the fifth round.
With both starting offensive guards hitting free agency, the Jets are likely to draft a guard this year. While Chance Warmack's name has floated around, he is most likely going to be gone in the first round. The Jets should look to the later rounds to find a replacement at guard.
Alvin Bailey out of the University of Arkansas is a player who could fit in well with the New York Jets. Projected to go as high as the fourth round, Bailey could also be around in rounds five or six given that this year's draft is heavy on offensive line talent.
The Jets had two successful years in 2009 and 2010 riding one of the best and most consistent offensive lines in the NFL. When they lost that consistency and quality along the line, their overall play suffered in 2011 and 2012, contributing to two seasons without playoff action.
Bailey has the main traits the Jets want. He is a powerful guy who can make impact blocks and help the ground game. Even with the transition to a more West Coast offense, the Jets are going to want to be physical and run the ball. Of further importance is that Bailey is flexible enough to play both left and right guard.
At 6'5'' and 312 pounds, Bailey is the type of blocker who can help get the Jets' offensive line back to where it was in 2010. He has the potential to become the kind of player Brandon Moore has been for them. Matt Slauson became a successful starting guard for the Jets after being drafted in the sixth round in 2009. Bailey could potentially do the same out of the sixth round.
Finding quality in the seventh round is tough in the draft. The way to find useful players there is to grab someone with mid-round talent who slipped through the cracks. In a perfect world, wide receiver Marcus Davis will be one of these guys for the Jets.
At 6'4'', Davis is a speedy and promising wide receiver, but he could easily drop into the later rounds. Projected by some to be a seventh-round prospect, Davis could join forces with Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill to form a young receiving squad of the future for New York.
As Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com put it:
A talented but frustrating prospect on tape is Virginia Tech's Marcus Davis, who is expected to test very well in Indianapolis. Effort and consistency are large issues that will be tough to overlook, but with impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump, Davis could prove to be worth the risk based on his athletic potential.
The seventh round is definitely a time to take risks. If Davis is still available early in the seventh round, he would be a perfect final pick for the New York Jets.