This is the seventh of this season's articles on newyorkjets.com about the draft and free agency from the independent personnel analysts at Real Football Services. Real Football's final Round 1 mock draft will appear later this week.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on newyorkjets.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New York Jets organization, front office staff, coaches and executives.
If you were to ask any Jets fan what the ideal result would be coming out of draft weekend next week, the team's haul of prospects should probably include a quarterback, an assertion that we don't necessarily agree with. That ideal wish list would also probably include some explosive offensive weapons, which is in line with our thinking, and is critical to the Jets' long-term future.
But the fact of the matter is this team has shown in recent years that it has the ability to succeed with limited offensive resources, including a rookie QB in Mark Sanchez in 2009, if its defense has the personnel in place to attack opposing offenses.
For that reason, defense is the focus of our ideal Jets draft. It's also because the defense can be fixed and improved much more easily, and in the short term can help bring the Jets back to respectability more quickly.
To be sure, the team has a long list of needs on the offensive side of the ball, and a good percentage of this year's draft picks must yield at least one or two starters and several immediate contributors. With eight picks (including Tampa Bay's 13th pick in the first round as part of Sunday's Darrelle Revis trade), we will be looking for a pass rusher and a corner on defense, two offensive linemen, a receiver, a tight end and a running back.
Round 1 (Pick 9) — Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
It's been our position since the season ended that the Jets are in need of an impact pass rusher. In fact, we felt they missed a golden opportunity to pick up that type of player in last year's draft when they passed on players like Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry and Courtney Upshaw. With the ability of their corners to excel in man coverage, even with Revis not included in that group, a player who can dictate protections and get to the quarterback from a number of different points on the field could instantly put this defense back on course. Remember, this is a unit that ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense in 2012, in the midst of an awful season, without an impact pass rusher, and without their best player after Revis' Game 3 injury.
Jones is the 12th-ranked player on our board and sits ahead of players like Ziggy Ansah and Barkevious Mingo, whom we view as longer-term projects. Ansah is extremely athletic, with a high ceiling, but has an alarming lack of football experience and seems to lack the instincts and football IQ to excel at this point. Mingo certainly appears to have the physical tools to be a standup pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme, but the fact is he's never actually played the position and could accurately be described as a 'tweener who currently lacks the bulk and strength to succeed as a 5-technique DE and could struggle if he can't win his 1-on-1 matchups with straight speed off the corner as a pass-rushing LB. There are also questions about his ability to drop in coverage.
Jones is scheme-versatile, having played the role of a pass-rushing LB in Georgia's 3-4 but also possessing the skills and physical tools to possibly play as a down lineman in a 4-3 front, making him an excellent fit in Ryan's hybrid defense. He has also been extremely productive, recording 44 tackles for loss and 28 sacks, one INT, six passes defensed and nine forced fumbles in 28 games over the last two seasons.
Of course, there's little consensus at this point on which players will be taken in the top 10. If any of the top offensive tackles, or a top cornerback like Dee Milliner, or certainly Dion Jordan — considered by most to be the best pass rusher in the draft — were to fall to the ninth pick, the Jets would have to seriously consider them all.
Round 1 (Pick 13) — D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama
This is a huge coup for the Jets. Many scouts have Fluker rated closer to 20-25 in the first round, but the former Crimson Tide standout is a perfect fit for the Jets, who are in dire need of a run-blocking right tackle. He's massive at 339 pounds, a true mauler in the run game, and once he gets his hands on you, it's all over. He's got a good motor and plays with a pretty good mean streak for a big man. He can set the edge in the run game and creates rushing lanes with his size alone. He's a dominant run blocker who will change the face of the New York rushing attack.
As with the No. 9 pick, there will be plenty of options here. Given the news of the Revis trade, picking a CB like Xavier Rhodes could make a lot of sense here. Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson should still be on the board, as will TE Tyler Eifert.
But as much as we talk about needing offensive weapons, once again there are impact players to be had at the top of Round 2, and the opportunity to select such a dominant run blocker like Fluker simply outweighs the other options in our mind.
Round 2 (Pick 39) — DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
If there's some uncertainty at the top of the first round, you can be sure there are a lot of different ways this draft could go heading into Round 2. The Jets will have to see how the picks fall, but at 39 they will certainly have their choice of good players. In fact, they will be able to address any number of needs with an impact player here.
Of those needs, we wouldn't say wide receiver is the biggest. The return of a healthy Santonio Holmes and the continued development of young receivers like Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill give the team some weapons to work with.
But Hopkins is a remarkably productive player (206 catches, over 3,000 yards, 27 TDs, 12 100-yard games), with solid size (6'1", 214), and great intangibles. Goal-oriented, tough, competitive and hard-working are all adjectives used by scouts and coaches to describe Hopkins. He's a polished route runner with extremely reliable hands, which will make him a strong fit for a West Coast system. He will be graded down because of a lack of measurables — he's not tall, exceptionally fast (4.57), or particularly strong – but he's a fantastic value here. What a weapon for a struggling QB.
As we mentioned, there are a lot of different ways to go here. TE Zack Ertz should be available, but while he's a fantastic receiving threat, his blocking can be suspect, which is a problem in Marty Mornhinweg's run-first system. Corner has to be considered a big need given the current uncertainty at the position, but as you'll see, there are some excellent options in the upcoming rounds at that position, and the Jets have shown the current group can excel even without Revis. They could also be looking for another starter on the offensive line, and they need a running back. But all those positions can deliver value in the later rounds as well.
Round 3 (Pick 72) — Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
We've seen Banks mocked as high as the second half of the first round, but we've also seen him in the second half of the third round. So, this being the "ideal" Jets draft, we're going to be THRILLED that he falls to us at pick 72! He's a press man cover corner with great height (6'1"), long arms (34"), and quick feet, and has a ton of game experience, playing in all 51 games in his MSU career and starting 45.
He's also versatile, having played corner and safety, and is also a punt returner. He's another productive guy who recorded 16 career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. He's not afraid to play physically and is a willing and able run defender.
We know he sounds a little too good to be true for the third round, but being as tall as he is, he's lanky and not always as fluid as some other corners, doesn't have great top-end speed, and didn't run well at the combine. These things will cause him to drop in some teams' eyes, but his football skills are undeniable. He's a fiery guy, a true competitor who gives Rex some versatility on the back end, which should also help him get on the field sooner than later, especially now that Revis has moved on.
If Banks is gone, CB Robert Alford (6'0", 185) from Southeastern Louisiana could be a viable option at this pick. He's graded a step below Banks but went to the Senior Bowl and really impressed with physical, instinctive play and an ability to make plays on the ball.
Round 4 (Pick 106) — Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Taylor is a well-built, durable back who rushed for over 4,300 yards and 40 TDs and averaged over 5.0 yards per carry at Stanford. He also shows great ability as a receiver with 97 catches and five receiving touchdowns. He's a smart, aggressive runner who hits the hole quickly and is not afraid of contact, and also has experience as a blocker in blitz pickup while playing in the Cardinal's pro-style offense.
He's not a player who stands out in one specific area, which will limit his grade on most draft boards, but he does everything very well and provides consistency and production at a position of need. A tough kid with great versatility.
Round 5 (Pick 144) — Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia
Washington wasn't much of an impact player on a Bulldogs defense that was loaded with NFL talent, but he's a freak athlete with all the tools to rush the passer. He's 6'4" and 265, has 34" arms, and ran a 4.55 40 at the combine, among the fastest at his position. And what is that position? He has experience as a 4-3 DE, a 3-4 OLB, and has even moved inside as a pass-rushing DT at times.
As we all know by now, that position versatility is vital in a Rex Ryan scheme, and though he was a rotational player at Georgia without a real role, if given the specific job of getting to the passer, his athleticism could help him make an impact right away. Some scouts and personnel people will grade him up because of that athleticism, but others have graded him down significantly because of his lack of production and some off-field issues.
Round 6 (Pick 178) — Oday Aboushi, G, Virginia
Scouts feel Aboushi, a left tackle at UVa, is better-suited moving inside in the NFL. As a guard he has excellent size (6'6", 318), is physical and aggressive as a blocker and is an effective blocker at the second level, and will dominate and pancake his man.
Many will try to grade him out as a tackle and his slow feet and upright stance will hurt him. But in tight quarters, where he can lock on his defender, he will have great success, particularly in the run game. He should compete with Vladimir Ducasse at RG. Imagine the Jets lining up Aboushi and the 6'5", 339-pound Fluker next to each other on the right side, leading the way for a physical back like Taylor.
Round 7 (Pick 215) — Levin Toilolo, TE, Stanford
Here's a guy who actually beat out Coby Fleener for the Cardinal's starting TE job in 2010 before a knee injury sidelined him for the season. But once healthy, he recorded 49 catches and 10 touchdowns as a secondary target over the last two years.
At 6'8", Toilolo provides a huge receiving target and strong hands but also has surprising speed and quickness to threaten the seam. At 260 pounds, he has the size, strength and bulk to dominate as an inline blocker. A terrific two-way TE who can be a factor in the passing game and the running game.