The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They will be a frequent contributor on www.newyorkjets.com in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Jets fans have grown so accustomed to seeing him out on the field. Because of his workman-like performance, they even sometimes take his talent for granted. Every year the question is posed, "Is he done?"
Well, every year the answer has been no. Curtis Martin has set the watermark for Jets running backs for the rest of time, and although Martin should never be counted out or underestimated, at 33 years of age and coming off a season-ending knee injury, the Jets have to realize that future is coming faster than any of us would like when it comes to Martin and the running back situation. Knowing Martin as we do, and having seen first hand his outstanding work ethic, we wouldn't be surprised to see him bounce back with another career year like he had in 2004. But there is little question that the future Hall of Famer is entering the latter part of his career.
In addition to questions of Martin's age and durability, there are depth issues at the position. Longtime FB Jerald Sowell has been released, leaving the job to BJ Askew who has 21 career carries for less than 100 yards, and veteran RB Derrick Blaylock is coming off a broken foot. Cedric Houston showed flashes as Martin's replacement at the end of last season, but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in four starts.
There are four marquis players in this year's RB class. The obvious leader is Reggie Bush, and unless he somehow falls out of the top spot, which seems highly unlikely, the Jets would have to give up too much to trade into the first spot to get him. But if the Jets were interested in using one of their two first round picks on a RB, Memphis RB Deangelo Williams, Minnesota's Laurence Maroney, or USC's Lendale White could be available.
Williams and Maroney are considered mid to late first rounders who would be reaches at the #4 spot, and may be gone by the time Jets pick again at 29. However, if either should slip, they both have explosive speed and have the ability to be feature backs in the NFL. Maroney is explosive and has great cutback ability. He lacks bulk, but runs bigger than his size. Williams, on the other hand, has excellent size and bulk to go with his 4.4 speed.
In the second round, LSU's Joseph Addai should still be on the board. Though some prognosticators have called him a late first round or early second round value, the Real Football board shows him as a mid second rounder. He was extremely productive as a senior, and in addition to good speed, has the versatility to run inside or outside, is a strong receiver, can block, and will contribute on special teams. The third pick in the second round, where the Jets currently stand, might be a touch high for him, but if the team finds itself in a trade-down situation, he would certainly bring feature back talent to the roster.
The Jets have two third round choices, and at the very end of Day One, they could have an opportunity to select Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun or UCLA's Maurice Jones-Drew. Again, both were highly productive in college, but neither has ideal size to take the physical pounding they will be faced with as a feature back in the NFL. Both are just barely over 200 pounds and neither stands 5'10" (Jones-Drew is 5'6"). However, both ran the 40 in 4.3 and could make a contribution if used properly, running on the edge or as a receiver on third down as opposed to pounding yards inside.
With many other needs, there is a good chance that the running back situation won't be addressed on Day One. However, with a high pick in round four at the beginning of Day Two, there will still be two very good options at RB. Washington State's Jerome Harrison and Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood bothcarry Day One grades, but based on various team needs, could drop to Round Four. Harrison is a tough runner who can catch and also has experience as a return man. He probably lacks the size to be anything more than a change of pace back, but has good speed and could be a good system guy.
The better choice for the Jets might be Norwood, who also lacks bulk but has the frame to add size and may also be the fastest back in the class. He was a feature back in '05 and is one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his willingness to run inside, play physical and gain the tough yards. He is an aggressive runner who attacks the hole, will fight for yards and break tackles. In the open field, he shows good hands, can make defenders miss, and has home run speed.
Though there are more backs available in the later rounds, there is a big drop off in talent after those backs at the top of Round Four, and while most boast decent size or speed, few if any have both, and project more as role players or part time contributors.