We are delighted to introduce the newest RFH contributor, Glenn Vallach. He is a Jets fan (but not like you ones you know and can't stand), and co-captain of the world-renowned Del Boca Vista Virgins Seinfeld trivia squad. The following is a gem of analytical draft goodness. Behold:
Outlook: After a second consecutive AFC championship heartbreaker, the Jets enter the 2011 draft with six picks at their disposal, and some relatively obvious holes to fill. They desperately need somebody, anybody, who can get to opposing quarterbacks, whether it be an outside linebacker or defensive end. They could use a dominant nose tackle to anchor their 3-4 after releasing the injury-riddled Kris Jenkins. They also need help at safety. With the uncertainty of free agency amidst the lockout, wide receiver has become a position of concern.
But predicting GM Mike Tannenbaum’s draft strategy with any conviction is a shaky proposition. The Jets have used only seven picks over the last two drafts combined, and only 17 since 2007, repeatedly trading up to nab the big fish that caught their eye. Tannenbaum famously gave up his first and second round picks, along with three roster players, to move up to the five spot to grab Mark Sanchez in 2009. Then, just two rounds later, Tannenbaum again paid the price for an upgrade, ceding his third, fourth and seventh round picks to move up 11 spots in the third round to scoop up Shonn Greene. Tannenbaum’s hyper-aggressive “I get what I want” technique isn’t a new development, either - he traded the Jets’ first, second and fifth round picks to move from the 25th pick to the 14th pick in 2007, and then selected Darrelle Revis. He soon sent three more picks to the Packers to move up for David Harris in the second.
As if Tannenbaum’s assertive quality over quantity approach doesn’t muddy the waters enough, he’s also demonstrated a shocking willingness to ignore the Jets’ supposed needs and take “the best player available”. He chose Harris for a team that already had Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton. He took Greene when the Jets still had Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Even the Dustin Keller selection in 2008 raised eyebrows, as few considered tight end a pressing need at the time. Clearly, the Jets won’t think twice about taking elite talent to fill holes that don’t need filling, a tactic Tannenbaum stressed at the Jets’ pre-draft press conference last week.
One thing that does seem certain is the Jets’ willingness to spend. Recent reports indicate that the Jets have doled out $162.2 million in guaranteed salary to first rounders since 2000, an average of $10.8 million per player, tops in the AFC East. For some perspective, that’s more than twice the amount the Pats have spent in the same time frame.
Likelihoods: Though “Mr. T” has defied convention throughout his drafting tenure, you’d have to imagine certain circumstances will guide, if not constrain, the Jets’ approach this weekend. The first is the lack of a second round pick, traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie last year, a shortage that would appear to hinder the Jets’ ability to move up in the first round again. It’s tough to upgrade in the first round without giving up a second rounder, and without any obvious wish-list candidates slotted to go early, it seems unlikely that Tannenbaum would mortgage his future drafts to do so.
Second, you’d think that this will be a defense-oriented draft for the Jets. They’ve taken offense with six of their last seven draft picks, and have identifiable weaknesses at DT, DE/OL and safety. Combine this with the fact that Rex Ryan butters his bread with defense and it’s hard to fathom that Tannenbaum will continue to spend 85% of the Jets’ picks on scoring. After an entire offseason of Rashard Mendenhall nightmares and hearing about opposing quarterbacks leisurely camping out in the pocket for minutes at a time, expect the Jets to reinforce their D.
Third is the fact that the lockout will probably tie Tannenbaum’s hands when it comes to pursuing quality at the expense of quantity. The lockout has prevented teams from making off-season trades and signing free agents, a factor that will make GMs want to accumulate as many useful pieces as possible rather than sacrifice several chips for one of the elites. When you take into account that the Jets have a solid core, but several areas of need, it’s doubtful that Tannenbaum will package two or three picks to grab the next Shonn Greene or David Harris. If anything, look for the opposite.
Will these dudes be around next year to to this with their arms?
Needs/Wants: Again, it is no surprise that the Jets are looking to add a nose tackle, exterior pass rusher and a safety, but there are some other areas they may want to address.
With Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards free agents, wide receiver is a possibility.
With unproven sophomore Vladimir Ducasse slated to take over for Damien Woody at right tackle, and guard Matt Slauson coming off a shaky year in pass protection after replacing Alan Faneca, Tannenbaum may look to beef up the O-line a little bit, especially with Wayne Hunter, Ducasse’s likely competition for the right tackle spot, currently not under contract. Though it is unlikely that the Jets will jump the gun on pass protection after picking Ducasse in the second last year.
Punter Steve Weatherford is also a free agent, and the Jets may look to replace him with one of their last picks.
Targets: Tannenbaum recently said that the Jets are targeting eight to ten players at 30, and it stands to reason that their first round selection will go a large way in shaping the rest of their draft. We take a look at some of the players the Jets may have on their wish list, as well as the needs that those players address, below:
Phil Taylor – It won’t take too many trips around the internet to see that most are pegging the Jets to take Baylor DT Phil Taylor with their first round pick, and for good reason. Taylor possesses a unique combination of colossal size (334 pounds) and surprising speed (5.09 40 time) that seems to render him an ideal nose tackle for a 3-4. With Kris Jenkins gone, and Sione Pouha already 32, Taylor seems like a logical choice for the Jets. A huge body that can take on double teams like Taylor is crucial to any 3-4 scheme, and many felt that the Jets were scrambling to compensate for Jenkins’ injury from week one onwards last year. But let’s not fit Taylor for an enormous Gang Green jersey just yet. There are rumblings that Taylor won’t get past the Chiefs at 21, and on top of that, he comes with some recently raised medical red flags. MRIs at the NFL Combine revealed that Taylor has bones growing together in both feet, a condition that cannot be remedied through surgery. Couple that with the fact that he’s putting a ton of weight on those feet – he’s gotten up to 380 pounds in the past – and played 43 games in college and Taylor’s a risky choice with a ton of upside.
Corey Liuget – Liuget, also a DT, exploded onto the national scene with a dominant performance for Illinois against Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl. At 6’2 and 300 pounds with a sub-5.0 40 speed, Liuget excels at both stuffing the run and rushing the quarterback. All in all, he’s just incredibly well-rounded and projects to be a great fit in the 3-4. Apparently Rex Ryan agrees, as he visited Liuget’s pro day in March, and presumably would love for him to replace Jenkins at nose tackle. This is probably wishful thinking, however, as many have Liuget slotted to earlier in the first round, possibly to St. Louis at 14, the Giants at 19 or New Orleans at 24.
Justin Houston – This would be a pick for all the Jets fans who pulled their hair out last season while Jay Cutler repeatedly dropped back from center, went through his progressions, sat in the pocket, sipped a pina colada and went through his progressions again before finally deciding on airing it out to a streaking Johnny Knox. Everybody knows the Jets couldn’t get to the passer last year unless Rex Ryan unleashed an exotic, uber-aggressive blitz, and even then they had trouble. Houston, a 6’3, 270 pound OLB/DE from Georgia, may address this problem more than anyone else who could still be around at 30. He had 10 sacks last year and 7.5 the year before that, and this was in the NFL Developmental League, the SEC. He turned heads at the Combine with a 4.62 40 time, and has the size and speed to play either OLB or DE for the Jets in the 3-4. On the other hand, boy is Houston a polarizing pick. A lot of experts have him going well before the Jets at 30, while many others have him buried in the second round. Several critics have highlighted his questionable “motor” and his inability to do anything well besides rush the quarterback. These shortcomings have led many to compare him to, gulp, Vernon Gholston. Oh, and he had substance abuse problems at Georgia. This could be an interesting one.
Brooks Reed – The 6’3 263pound outside linebacker from Arizona is another consideration for the Jets at 30. In fact, the Reed/Houston debate has been raging on Jets’ internet message boards for weeks now, as the two stand juxtaposed in many ways. Unlike Houston, Reed’s “motor” is widely considered unparalleled. Also unlike Houston, he opened eyes with his 1.54 second 10 yard dash time, a good litmus test for explosive first steps and pass rushing ability. Though he largely played DE in college and worked out with the linemen at the Combine, his direction-changing ability and quick first step renders him a good candidate for OLB in the 3-4. However, his college numbers are not staggering, as he had less sacks in three years as a starter than Houston did in two. Reed wasn’t even considered a first-round prospect until his impressive Senior Bowl and Combine performances. Let the Reed v. Houston debate continue.
Rahim Moore – If the Jets decide to go safety in the first round, and they do only have one safety currently under contract, Moore is their guy. The 6’0 200 pound UCLA prospect is considered by most to be the best safety in a weak class for the position. He had a monster 2009, leading the nation with 10 interceptions as a sophomore, and had an impressive pro day at UCLA. He projects to be a nice ball-hawking safety with good hands and footwork. But, there are concerns. He regressed badly in his junior season in 2010 and had a ho-hum 40 time at the Combine. He also appears to lack the size and strength to be an effective tackler at the NFL level. The Jets do need a safety, but it’s hard to imagine them taking a guy with as much bust-potential as Moore. Look for them to address center-field later in the draft.
And that’s our Jets 2011 Draft Preview. Of course, Tannenbaum and Rex are probably targeting a bevy of guys for the first round and onwards, and the five choices above are merely a sampling of the position and player-types that many believe the Jets need to zero in on. Heck, knowing Tannenbaum he may just do something crazy and sell the farm for Von Miller. That’s the beauty of the draft. Enjoy everybody!