The New York Jets head into the 2009 draft with many holes to fill and will have six draft choices to use on them, pending any tradebacks to recoup picks. Here is a draft preview/outlook on the positions that the Jets could look to fill.
The Jets will enter the draft with three quarterbacks on the roster, all of which have a grand total of eight starts in the NFL, and all of which belong to Kellen Clemens.
After being the team's second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft and being the quarterback on the roster with the most in-game experience, he has the edge right now to start, but don't count out 2007 undrafted quarterback Brett Ratliff, who the team is extremely high on. Erik Ainge was the team's fifth-round draft choice in the 2008 draft, but is unlikely to garner much interest in terms of being the team's starter this season.
Head coach Rex Ryan has preached since his arrival that he is content with the Jets current quarterback situation and intends to go to camp with these three at the helm. It seems quite clear now that they do not intend to target a veteran, because they have let each veteran go by without making a run at them.
Jeff Garcia, who started 10 games for the Buccaneers last season, signed on to be the Raiders' backup for $1 million this year. If the Jets had any interest in signing a veteran, you would have thought that they would have jumped at the opportunity to get Garcia at that cheap price. Luckily, they didn't...and that was the right move.
So, it will be interesting to see how strong the interest is on getting a quarterback in the draft.
Thomas Jones was the AFC's leading rusher in 2008. His backup, Leon Washington, is arguably one of, if not, the best change-of-pace back in the NFL. Both of these running backs are looking for new contracts this offseason. The Jets will find a way to lock up Leon Washington long-term. He wants to be here for a long time and the Jets would love to have him.
Still, with Jones' age and his contract situation, the Jets are hesitant to offer a new contract to the 30-year old tailback. Could the Jets look to draft an eventual replacement for Jones high in the first couple rounds of the draft, or will they choose to go with what they have?
The Jets also have Marcus Mason, Danny Woodhead, and Jehuu Caulcrick on the roster. They will likely compete for a spot as the third-string running back.
After the Jets sent Laveranues Coles packing, wide receiver became even a bigger need than it was before. The Jets have Jerricho Cotchery, clearly one of the two starters, but they have a few other wide receivers who are less seasoned that will likely compete for a few spots on the roster.
Chansi Stuckey, the Jets seventh-round pick in 2007, really came on strong last season with Brett Favre at quarterback, reeling in 32 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
David Clowney appears to have caught Ryan's attention early on. The third-year wide receiver finally got an opportunity to shine and did just that in his first preseason game with the Jets, collecting four receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were for 70+ yards each. His speed would give the Jets a nice deep threat to complement the possession receiver that Cotchery is on the opposite side.
Last year's sixth-round pick, Marcus Henry, brings the height that could make him an end zone threat, standing at 6-foot-4-inches. It is just unknown if he has the talent or ability to be a key player in his second-year. Brad Smith has the most experience of the bunch, but is more of a role player.
Wide receiver appears to be one of the Jets' top priorities in the draft, and with the 17th overall pick, there will be plenty of choices with names such as Darrius Bey-Heyward and Percy Harvin.
Dustin Keller is the lone tight end on the roster. The Jets need to find a complement to Keller's receiving ability and find a big blocker in the later rounds of the draft.
Richard Quinn of North Carolina made a visit to the facilities last week and should be a consideration. Though he didn't make many catches during his collegiate career, he is an absolutely massive, outstanding blocker that could help this team. NFL Draft Scout has him pegged to go in about round four.
There was also a report that stated the Jets are considering the idea of moving defensive end Kareem Brown to tight end. With minicamps going on this week, we will likely learn more about it, but it is some food for thought.
Each of the Jets projected starters on the defensive line will all be on the wrong side of 30 to start the season. The Jets also have signed backup Marques Douglas, who is 32, and likely nearing the end of his career. The entire defensive line should be a priority in this draft, but more so at defensive end.
Tyson Jackson is a very intriguing prospect to come out this year and would be a great fit to put next to Kris Jenkins and opposite Shaun Ellis at defensive end.
With Ryan addressing much of the defensive problems this offseason, grabbing Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard to fill holes, and trading for Lito Sheppard to fill the void at cornerback, this team could be a top-tier defensive end away from having a top five defense, and one that could carry this team to the playoffs alone.
So, when the Jets traded for Sheppard, did the Jets fill their void entirely for the cornerback spot? Well, not quite.
When the team signed Sheppard to a new contract, it was essentially a a one-year tryout with the Jets. He will receive a $3 million base salary for 2009, but is due a $10 million option bonus on the fifth day of the 2010 league year.
This will likely force the team either to choose if they want him back and renegotiate a contract or release him.
The Jets also have Dwight Lowery on the roster, who did very well for the team for what he was...a fourth-round pick last season. Eric Mangini threw him into the fire, starting the team's first 10 games before being pushed to the bench. It's clear Lowery has the ability to be a solid cornerback in this league, but for now, he will resort to competing with Donald Strickland for being the team's nickel back.
The Jets have an interesting decision to make whether or not to look at a top cornerback to draft in the first couples rounds of the draft this year. My gut tells me they will go with what they have right now. It is not a high priority to go with cornerback this year, and the Jets should go elsewhere with their high picks.
Should I even include this on here? Right now, the team has Reggie Hodges penciled in as their starter. The Jets will definitely send out a few phone calls after the draft is over and bring in a couple of punters that didn't have their name called.
Offensive Line/Defensive Line Depth
Last but not least, the Jets could use some line depth on both sides of the ball. Outside of the five starters on the offensive side of the ball, the Jets have Stanley Daniels, Wayne Hunter, and Robert Turner to fight for a couple of backup spots on the line. The Jets could definitely look at a late-round offensive lineman to add to the mix.
Despite having plenty of bodies on the defensive line, it is just a question to how much talent they have to backup their starters. The Jets used Sione Pouha in a backup role behind Kris Jenkins at nose tackle last year.
They also signed 320 pound Howard Green to help solidify that position. The team has been developing Mike DeVito as a defensive end and he has seen spot work, recording 24 tackles with a half sack in all 16 games last season. He seems likely to grab a spot. The Jets will also bring second-year defensive lineman Brian Schaefering and last year's practice squadder Ropati Pitoitua in to the mix to compete for a spot.
The Jets have the 17th, 52nd, 76th, 115th, 193rd, and 228th overall picks in the draft. It will be interesting to see which way they go with their first couple of picks in the draft.
Will they choose to solidify their defense in the first round by going with a guy like Tyson Jackson if he falls to them? Will they choose to go with a signal caller and give the franchise a face? Or will they choose to go with a wide receiver and give help to the three quarterbacks that are already on the roster?
We'll find out soon.
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