For an NFL fan there are few offseason events as exhilarating as seeing your favorite team trade up during the draft to select a player previously thought to be unattainable.
Just ask Jets fans who were, for the most part, thrilled to see their beloved squad move up to the fifth pick and select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in this year’s draft.
But in their short sighted excitement, these same fans may overlook the impact that such a deal can have on a team’s overall roster. Moving up in the draft inevitably means having to trade away subsequent picks and, in some cases, established players.
This wreaks havoc on a team’s depth chart, and the Jets are no exception. Having only selected 13 players in their last three drafts, including just three in 2009, the Jets are dangerously thin at several key positions.
Last season, rookie tight end Dustin Keller emerged as one of Brett Favre’s favorite targets, recording 535 receiving yards and three touchdowns. And while there’s no denying Keller’s prowess as a receiving threat, his blocking leaves much to be desired.
With Chris Baker, a solid contributor from last year’s team, defecting to the Patriots, the Jets re-signed 31 year old veteran Bubba Franks earlier this week.
Franks will be counted on to block, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll make it through a full season, especially considering he’s missed 16 games over the last two years due to injury. But even if Franks stays healthy the Jets could certainly use some additional assistance.
Perhaps the team’s greatest hope for reinforcement at the tight end position is undrafted rookie free agent J’Nathan Bullock, who played basketball at Cleveland State but hasn’t played football since high school.
Ever since former Kent State basketball standout and current NFL pro-bowler Antonio Gates took the league by storm with his athleticism, teams have been searching for a tight end in his same mold.
But early reports from rookie camp indicate that Bullock is struggling to make the adjustment to the gridiron, suggesting that he may end up being a failed experiment. If the Jets are unable to find another reliable option at tight end, they could experience some difficulties on offense this season.
Speaking of difficulties on offense this coming season, the Jets also appear to be short handed at the wide receiver position following the departure of former top option Laveranues Coles.
While Jerricho Cotchery is a very strong second option, the Jets are still in desperate need of a number one receiver to play opposite the sixth year veteran.
Chansi Stuckey, entering his third year, was productive last season during his first healthy campaign but seems more suited to catch passes out of the slot.
And David Clowney, who impressed last preseason as a rookie but missed most of the regular season due to injury, can also expect to see some throws come his way but shouldn’t be viewed as a potential top target.
Having ignored their glaring need for a receiver up to this point in both the draft and free agency, the Jets will need to find a solution quickly if they want either Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens to find success as the team’s starting quarterback.
Possibilities include the Browns’ Braylon Edwards and the Bengals’ Chad Ochocinco, although the Jets would likely have to give up even more draft picks and/or talent at key positions to make these acquisitions.
With new Jets head coach Rex Ryan expected to install the aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme that brought him so much success with the Ravens, the team will need to rely on at least one of its defensive ends to bring pressure from the edge.
This will be particularly crucial in the AFC East, where the Bills and Patriots both employ pass happy offenses, featuring Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, respectively.
On one side the Jets have a solid contributor in Shaun Ellis, a 10th year player that posted strong numbers last year but could show signs of age as the season progresses. And the spot opposite Ellis still needs to be filled following the departure of veteran Kenyon Coleman through the Sanchez trade.
Needless to say, the Jets don’t feature much depth at defensive end, so an untimely injury or unforeseen complication could leave the team in a tough situation at some point during the season.
And with the defensive end position holding such importance in Ryan’s coaching strategy, the Jets would be well-served to land a veteran via free agency.