2011 NFL Draft: Grading the Jets' First Round and What to Expect in the Next 6
When the Jets chose to draft Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th overall pick in this year's draft, they had plenty of other options at the defensive end position—one of which was top-ranked Da'Quan Bowers. The 6'3", 280-pound end was not drafted in the first round.
When the two are stacked up against each other, most would choose Bowers, as he seems like the more athletic of the two. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds and did 22 repetitions during the bench-press test.
Meanwhile, Wilkerson who is heavier and slower, weighed in at 315 pounds (but stands tall at 6'4"). He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds and did 27 bench-press repetitions at the NFL combine earlier this year.
One of the benefits of having Wilkerson is that he may seem large and only useful to clog the holes an offensive line tries to create, but the Jets can use him in several places on the defensive line. For the draft, Wilkerson was listed as a defensive end, while some people refer to him as a defensive tackle.
What the Jets want to do with him is completely up to them. Now that the lockout has been lifted and teams can begin to interact with players, they may get Wilkerson on an offseason workout regimen that will bring his weight down but also make him stronger so that his presence is still felt.
What's the next position the Jets should improve?
What allows the Jets to do so is Wilkerson's ability to get off blocks, get to the edge when playing against tackles and his pursuit to the ball. He may seem like a man who does not move much, but as Wilkerson's highlight tape shows, he has the agility and skills to be a productive end.
While the Jets have said ability to move Wilkerson to defensive tackle or keep him at his listed position, it is very likely he will play for the Jets as a defensive end. His agility and ability to read plays coming off the edge will be a great asset that Rex Ryan will definitely take advantage of, and when it comes to Ryan's exotic blitzes, Wilkerson will definitely be a key role in many of those plays.
What to Expect in the Coming Days
While it's great the Jets fulfilled one of their needs, which was a defensive end, they still have other areas that need to be addressed—the first of which is wide receiver. As of today, the Jets will be given rules from the NFL regarding how they negotiate contracts with free agents and trading players during this year's draft.
It is likely that the Jets will re-sign receiver Santonio Holmes sometime in the near future, while letting go the idea of bringing Braylon Edwards back, as may be facing some jail time for violating his Cleveland probation.
Look for the Jets to use their fourth-round pick to draft a receiver. While they may not get someone as talented as A.J. Green, there may still be skilled players when they use their 126th overall pick.
The other position likely to be addressed early on is the safety slot. Before the Jets were destroyed by the Patriots in December, starting safety Jim Leonhard was injured during practice, leaving the Jets with Eric Smith and Brodney Pool. Neither could play as well as Leonhard has, making it harder on the Jets cornerbacks to keep receivers from getting opportunities to take advantage of the mediocre safeties.
Since the injury, there has been no word on Leonhard's recovery, and if he does not return with the same intensity and talent he had in 2010, someone else will need to take his place.
The Jets may try to trade into the second round or into an earlier slot in the third round. In 2009 they made two trades for better picks, showing they're not afraid to take those kinds of risks. The Jets have some players that may not be of high value in 2011 that may be useful to other teams, and now that the NFL will allow players to be traded during Friday's and Saturday's draft sessions, the Jets may be more inclined to trade up and fulfill their remaining needs (i.e. outside linebacker).
As of right now, the Jets are doing a good job; while they've only made one pick, it was one that will help the Jets for years to come, as they selected a multi-talented player. Watch Rounds 2-3 tonight, as the Jets will have the 30th pick of the third round. Rounds 4-7 will take place tomorrow beginning at 12 pm Eastern Daylight Time.
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