The New York Jets with their thirtieth overall selection have to find a way to get the pieces to push them over the top. Two consecutive AFC Championship Games means they’re close to winning a coveted title, but they need that last bit of umph to get them over the hump.
Most would blame QB Mark Sanchez as the biggest obstacle for them to overcome. With a solid running game, two quality receivers, and one of the league’s best offensive lines, there isn’t much to dislike about the Jets offense, except the quarterback. Sanchez is still growing up as an NFL quarterback and the Jets may be in the market to add a few more pieces to help him along.
But they could also look to shore up a defense that had some drop-off from being the best in the league in 2009 to being the sixth best. That’s still better than what most teams sport on defense, but they do have their share of weaknesses.
One of the issues the Jets face is that they were built for last year to be their Super Bowl run, with several of their key players becoming prospective free agents once the labor crisis gets settled. Wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, defensive end Shaun Ellis, safeties Brodney Pool and Eric Smith, as well as inside linebacker David Harris are all potential free agents. And since the Jets aren’t expected to bring back all of those players, their first round pick might be used on a potential replacement.
And the player I see the Jets landing at this spot is Temple defensive end/tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.
Harris is the safest of the group because the Jets already slapped him with a franchise tag. The Jets certainly plan to bring back one of their receivers, most likely to be Holmes. Their need at wide receiver is somewhat abated by having Jerricho Cotchery ready to step into whichever’s vacant shoes.
But that doesn’t mean that the Jets couldn’t look hard at one of the receivers at the top of the draft with this pick. Jon Baldwin would be a big tall vertical threat that could ably fill Edwards niche going forward. While if Torrey Smith is available, he too would be a nice replacement for Holmes, if he’s the one departing. And with Brad Smith also hitting the open market, a nice slot option such as Titus Young or Jerrel Jernigan might also look good in green.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie doesn’t seem likely to return, especially since the Jets used their top pick on Kyle Wilson last year. That likely means that the Jets won’t draft a cornerback with their top pick this year, but someone like Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris could be possibilities still. Williams is probably the preferred of the two since he’s a big press corner like Rex Ryan prefers.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis is probably going to be back, but he’ll be 34 when next season starts, and they cannot count on him to continue to produce at a high level. He’s already seen a decline in sacks and tackles in each of the past two seasons. This was a problem position throughout the year, which is why the team was forced to start Mike DeVito and pick up Trevor Pryce midway through the year. Wilkerson or Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward would be really good fits here.
Safety is another concern, with a late season injury to Jim Leonhard really hurting them. If they can nab a safety like Rahim Moore with this pick, it would allow them to let Pool and/or Smith walk in free agency. Moore would be an ideal fit in their scheme, playing the centerfield position where he showed ballhawking skills a year ago with 10 picks.
The Jets also may want to address their edge pass rush, and probably would look at Akeem Ayers or Brooks Reed if available here. Reed has been compared to Clay Matthews, and if the Jets agree then it would be hard to pass him up at this point.
Offensive tackle might be another area the Jets look at due to them cutting Damien Woody. A right tackle like Gabe Carimi would be a nice addition at that spot. Possibly even then looking at Marcus Cannon as well there.
Nose tackle could be a position they look at with them also dumping Kris Jenkins. They’d like to bring him back, but they might go young by taking someone like Phil Taylor to play the nose. After all starter Sione Pouha isn’t getting any younger at 32.
Most likely the age of their key players on their defensive line will mean the Jets prefer to address that spot. But I do think a safety like Moore or a pass rusher like Reed would be very tempting to them.