With a trio of rookies in key positions last year, the Jets exceeded most expectations. Unpredictable and charismatic, Rex Ryan was impressive in his coaching debut.
Mike Tannenbaum will need to make his early picks in the 2010 draft count because they traded their third, fourth, and fifth-round picks. However, they are set to receive one of the Philadelphia Eagles' two fifth-round picks from the “conditional picks” part of the Lito Sheppard deal.
As one of the final playoff teams to make a divisional round appearance, Tannenbaum will be somewhat handcuffed in the free agency market.
First, a quick look at both sides of the ball before the seven-round mock draft.
Mark Sanchez should improve after his okay—sometimes shaky—rookie season. Shonn Greene impressed the team enough in limited action to the point Thomas Jones probably won’t return unless a restructured deal is reached. Ownership has 3.3 million reasons not to pick up his option but that would leave them without potentially two-thirds of their backfield if Leon Washington can’t fully recover from an ugly compound fracture in his fibula.
Jerrico Cotchery is a nice No. 2 receiver but Braylon Edwards needs to prove he’s capable of holding down the top spot—something he hasn’t done yet. He’s an extremely frustrating player because he sometimes appears to have the make-up of an elite receiver, but inconsistency has prevented him from reaching his potential.
Dustin Keller is a pretty good safety valve at tight end for Sanchez to grow with. However, they might consider finding a speedy, tough, and sure-handed receiver as a priority in the draft—visions of former Jets standout Wayne Chrebet come to mind. Even though he went undrafted out of Hofstra, Jets front office personnel would be thrilled to have that kind of production out of an otherwise early round selection in this draft.
Even though Mike Pettine orchestrated the league’s stingiest defense, he will likely have a new weapon or two at his disposal in 2010. Marques Douglas and Shaun Ellis are both capable, but not really explosive, options anymore. Both players turn 33 this season.
How many more unproductive seasons can the team handle from Vernon Gholston? Apparently Rex Ryan is ready to give him one more shot. Lito Sheppard was part of the best pass defense but he’s clearly not the same pro-bowl player of past seasons and he hasn’t lived up to expectations. At least not enough to warrant a $10 million option bonus when the league season officially begins Mar. 5.
Kris Jenkins will hopefully return to form after his 2009 season-ending torn-ACL injury.
BEST CASE: Brandon Graham (DE/OLB – Michigan)
The Wolverines defender was a terror in the Big Ten and any sleeper status he had is diminished after his MVP-showing at the Senior Bowl.
He would instantly upgrade the Jets ability, or lack thereof, to generate a consistent pass-rush.
Graham might be a bit undersized by NFL standards, but he’s the epitome of explosiveness. With his gym-rat, high-motor characteristics, Rex Ryan just might trip over himself running to the podium without even consulting Tannenbaum and the Jets scouts. However, their lucky stars would need to align for Graham to be available at No. 29.
MIGHT SETTLE FOR: Everson Griffen (DE – USC)
Mel Kiper has him going to the Seahawks fifteen picks before New York’s turn comes up. While I’m not overly impressed with Griffen, he can get after the quarterback with a blend of speed and athleticism—rare for somebody at his position. However, he’s struggled with consistency throughout his college career.
Taylor Price (WR – Ohio)
The Bobcats are by no means a program known for churning NFL-ready playmakers. Price is a very fast and quick receiver whose relative obscurity in NCAA circles was more a product of his lack of having a dependable quarterback to put him in a position to consistently succeed.
When Price was lined up against the best college players in the nation during the Senior Bowl, he caught everyone’s attention. Speed in the 4.3 range, sticky hands, toughness, and route-running precision have catapulted him into the early rounds. At 6’0” 200 pounds, Price is a perfect complement to an otherwise stagnant passing game.
Myron Lewis (CB – Vanderbilt)
An underrated player on a bad team is a perfect recipe for late-round value. Lewis has the size (6'2'', 210) to hang with the big receivers in the AFC and the speed to stay on their hip on deep routes.
Hits and tackles with authority and, like a few other secondary prospects, Lewis can unequivocally transition his bad intentions for anybody carrying or catching the ball into punishing collisions—which is good.
Pettine needs to find a new starter and capable depth at cornerback after Sheppard’s imminent departure.
The Jets should focus on finding depth and/or developmental prospects for positions which are aging rapidly. Damien Woody and Alan Faneca are still key components of the Jets' dominating run-blocking unit but both players are considered to be in the later stages of their career.
Mike Tepper (OG – California)
Impressive 2009 season which saw the 6’5” 330-pound versatile lineman earn First Team All-Pac 10 honors.
Tepper showed incredible dedication after coming back from two serious—and fluke—injuries. He tore a pectoral muscle and was hit by a car a few years ago, which the NCAA determined was enough to grant him a sixth year of eligibility.
If he fails to make it in the NFL, it won’t be for a lack of work ethic or commitment.
Shawnbrey McNeal (RB – Southern Methodist)
The former Miami Hurricane is one of the record-number of early entry prospects in the 2010 draft class. So why would a player projected to be selected in the final rounds of the draft forego his senior year and a chance to improve his ranking? With an ailing mother and a financial predicament facing his family, McNeal made the choice he hopes can provide assistance. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s one hell of a motivator for the only player to surpass 1,000 rushing yards while playing for June Jones.
McNeal’s a threat catching the ball and his 4.48 speed could give offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer a third-down option or depth behind Leon Washington, depending on how he looks when the Jets begin offseason programs several weeks prior to the draft.