In 2013, the New York Jets stunned the mock draft universe by not selecting an outside linebacker. As the 2014 draft debate begins, the only certainty is that more surprises await us.
Nevertheless, it's time to start thinking about the Jets' strategy. What needs do they hope to fill with draft picks instead of or in addition to free agents? How will they prioritize or rank filling these needs?
Here's an attempt to sort out how the Jets prioritize their needs. The following factors influence these rankings:
- Acknowledged need: There's a strong consensus that the Jets need to upgrade their offensive skill positions, wide receiver and tight end. On defense, they could use safeties with deep coverage skills and who pose more of a takeaway threat. Other potential needs, such as offensive line, outside linebacker, cornerback and running back, will rise and fall in significance depending on salary-cap moves, the free agents they re-sign and the free agents they recruit.
- Depth of the draft pool: For example, there appear to be more blue-chip prospects at wide receiver than at tight end. That may compel the Jets to give tight end a higher draft priority.
- Strength of draft vs. free-agent market: Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle, outside linebacker and cornerback are among the deepest positions in the 2014 draft. The free-agent market may be strongest at cornerback, safety, offensive tackle, running back and kicker.
- Competitors' needs: Part of deciding who to select in each round is determining who will remain available in future rounds. That means being able to project other teams' needs and strategy.
Right now, acknowledged need has the strongest weight in determining ranking, followed closely by depth of the draft pool. Comparison of the draft pool with available free agents is important, but it will be less of a factor as draft day draws near because by then the best free agents will most likely have contracts, which will also change acknowledged needs. Since everything is so in flux right now, competitors' needs receive the lowest weight.
It's also true that, thanks to their free-agent losses in 2013 and the Darrelle Revis trade, the Jets will have more picks than the standard seven. Still in doubt are the position and number of compensatory picks. Including the Revis pick means there could be as many as five extra picks and as few as one. It's probably best to assume the worst until learning differently.
With these criteria in mind, let's try to glimpse inside the minds of the Jets' draft strategists.
Sources (if not otherwise specified):