Winners and Losers from New York Jets' Draft
The New York Jets have defied logic and have found a way to be both surprising and totally predictable.
By drafting USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams with their first-round pick, the Jets pulled off a stunner by grabbing a great player who had fallen to them and stayed true to form by picking a defensive player—particularly a lineman.
But that wasn't the only pick the Jets made, and in the wake of those picks, they left some people feeling pretty good about themselves and others feeling a little less than comfortable in their spots. Some players will be fighting for jobs or are looking down the road at some potential big changes in their future.
The players aren't the only ones who were impacted by the Jets' selections over the weekend, but who else is feeling a strong gust of the winds of change?
Winner: Geno Smith
Jets quarterback Geno Smith became a winner at 8:22 p.m. ET on Thursday, the minute the Tennessee Titans handed in their selection card for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Smith should not get comfortable in his spot as the starting quarterback, but with Mariota playing his football 883 miles south of MetLife Stadium, that should be far enough away that he won't be a threat to Smith's starting spot.
Smith has completed 57.5 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns, 34 picks and a 71.5 passer rating. Those are hardly the kind of numbers that should inspire confidence in his future prospects as a starter, but if anyone's going to milk some production out of him, it could be offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Mariota may be out of the picture, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is firmly in the mix as a potential candidate to usurp Smith as the starter.
Not only did the Jets fail to select a quarterback early in the draft, they also added wide receiver Devin Smith to the roster to give Smith (or whoever ends up the Jets' passer) another option on the outside.
Loser: Muhammad Wilkerson
With the sixth pick, the Jets had an opportunity to trade down and acquire more picks. Instead, they decided to stay put and take the best player available in the draft, defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's the fourth time in the past five years that the Jets have drafted a defensive linemen in the first round of the draft.
The first time they did it was in 2011, when they drafted Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple. Now entering his fifth year, Wilkerson is nearing the end of his contract, and the contract dispute is heating up with Wilkerson skipping an optional team workout.
If there was consternation over Wilkerson's future with the Jets, imagine what it will be like now that the Jets have more defensive linemen than they can feasibly get onto the field at any given time.
It's already started.
According to Kimberley Martin of NewsDay, the Jets have been gauging teams' interest in Wilkerson since free agency. With Williams as the first-round pick, it seems like only a matter of time before the Jets send Wilkerson elsewhere. Between Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Williams, the Jets have a lot of depth up front.
But how long can they afford to keep everyone in the fold?
Winner: Todd Bowles
As mentioned in the previous slide, the Jets have more defensive linemen than they can possibly get onto the field at the same time. That being said, they don't have more defensive linemen than they know what to do with. The Jets are loaded up front, and that's got to be a dream for new Jets head coach Todd Bowles.
The Jets have been building their defensive front in the mold of a 3-4 defense ever since Rex Ryan took the reigns as head coach back in 2009. Bowles hasn't had to make many dramatic changes to the defensive lineup in the wake of his arrival and Ryan's departure, but when a talented 3-4 lineman becomes available, and when that lineman is considered one of the best players in the draft period, it's prudent to pull the trigger.
Those players just don't become available all that often, and they're such niche players that it can be difficult to find them.
Despite passing on a few talented pass-rushing outside linebackers, the Jets improved their defensive front tremendously with the addition of Williams.
Loser: Calvin Pace
The sooner Calvin Pace is no longer chasing down quarterbacks for the Jets, the better off they will be.
They took one step closer to that result by drafting Louisville linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in the third round on Friday night.
Mauldin is 6'4" and 259 pounds, and he's a similar player to Pace at this point in his career. Mauldin is not regarded as particularly explosive—he ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and notched 20.5 career sacks at Louisville with a career high of 9.5 in 2013.
Where Mauldin will excel is setting the edge, where his strength and size can help him man up against NFL offensive tackles in run defense.
Rex Ryan never did a good job of finding or developing young talent at outside linebacker; with the selection of Mauldin, Todd Bowles appears to be refusing that same fate.
Winner: Marcus Gilchrist
The Jets signed safety Marcus Gilchrist to a four-year, $22 million contract at the beginning of the 2015 free-agency period, but despite the seemingly big commitment, the Jets were only tied to Gilchrist through the 2015 season.
According to Spotrac, the Jets would not incur any dead money if they cut him any time after this season, which means that while the Jets have shown confidence in Gilchrist as their starting free safety, he could be an afterthought in a heartbeat if the Jets feel like moving on.
That being said, the Jets did not add anyone to the roster that could threaten Gilchrist's spot as the starting free safety in 2015 or beyond.
Gilchrist has limitations in coverage and could be exposed at times, so the Jets may be looking for his replacement in 2016. But for now, Gilchrist can rest easy knowing that he doesn't have to look over his shoulder at anyone threatening to usurp him as the starter.
Loser: Brian Winters
The Jets have drafted four guards between Rounds 3 to 5 in the past three years. One of those guards was Brian Winters, who was drafted 72nd overall in the 2013 draft.
Over the past two years, Pro Football Focus has graded Winters as one of the 15 worst guards in the entire league out of at least 140 total guards. So needless to say, his career has not gotten off to a good start. In 2014, rookie Oday Aboushi performed well when slotted into Winters' spot after Winters was lost for the season with an injury.
Winters should be feeling less than confident about his standing on the roster, and now, with free-agent acquisition James Carpenter added earlier this offseason and Texas A&M guard Jarvis Harrison added to the mix as a fifth-round pick this year, the Jets appear to be bolstering their depth in hopes of a dramatic improvement in their interior blocking.