Round One Focus Should be on Offense
Should the Jets go offense or defense in round one?
Before the Revis trade this was a simpler question, they only had one pick therefore they could only go with offense or defense, but now they have two of the first 13 picks and could focus on one side or the other or take one of both.
To me the answer to this question is simple, offense, defense, it doesn’t matter just take the best player available and if John Idzik follows that strategy, as he said he would, that should mean the Jets will take two offensive players in the first round (unless they trade down, which they’re reportedly considering but would be impossible for us to predict with who and for what at this point).
Through this entire draft process I’ve had many debates with people who say the Jets have to draft a pass rusher, the biggest flaw in most of my opponent’s arguments was they were arguing just for the idea of a pass rusher and didn’t have any one player in-particular they wanted, as long as he was a pass rusher. I’d argue they should focus on one of the guards (Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper) and the rebuttal would be “you can’t take a guard over a pass rusher,” to which I’d say, “you can when you don’t love any of the available pass rushers.”
I wouldn’t draft Warmack or Cooper over JJ Watt or Aldon Smith, but this group of pass rushers are not near that level while many scouts have Warmack and Cooper as their highest graded guards ever (scouts seem to be split on who they like they best, it’s all about personal preference as Warmack is more raw power and Cooper faster and more athletic). I don’t buy into the idea of a guard not being worth such a high pick, especially not in this year’s draft which lacks elite quarterbacks, offensive play-makers and defensive difference makers.
The Jets went from back-to-back AFC Championships games to two straight years of missing the playoffs due to a dysfunctional offense and the failure of that offense can be traced back to cracks in the offensive line. The season following the second AFC Championship appearance the Jets still had three Pro-Bowl caliber players on the offensive line (Mangold, Ferguson and Moore), one serviceable guard (Slauson), but a disaster at right tackle (Hunter) and as they say, you’re only as strong as your weakest link and Hunter was as weak as a link can get.
When Damien Woody retired the Jets made the horrendous mistake of banking on Hunter to fill Woody’s role and they paid dearly for this mistake. They have somewhat corrected that mistake with the play of Austin Howard but while he improved, and the line as whole improved and actually played fairly well last year, the quickest way to turn this offense around is by building the offensive line into a dominate unit once again.
Mangold and Ferguson are still among the best at their positions, Howard should continue to improve as he goes into his second full season as a starter, Slauson and Moore are gone, but they signed Willie Colon to play one of those guard spots and if they add Warmack or Cooper (whichever one they feel is the better fit) they could easily have one of the better offensive lines in football again.
Remember what protecting your quarterback and openning up running lanes looked like? Well you’d be reminded immediately if the Jets went with either of these guards. Draft a guard with the ninth pick, steady the line and it will help every player on the offense.
As stated earlier my case against drafting a pass rusher is that I simply don’t love any of them. If Dion Jordan were to slip it would make the decision tougher, but I’m far from sold on Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones and Ezekiel Ansah. If the Jets selected Mingo I’d defer to Rex, just as I did with the Coples selection last year, Rex knows what he wants and needs from his defenders and if he thinks he can turn Mingo into a star I won’t doubt him, I’m just not so sure he’s really as, “smitten,” with Mingo as has been reported. So many people seem convinced they’ll take Mingo that it makes me think they probably won’t take Mingo.
Ansah is too raw and too much of a project and for all the talk of downgrading Manti Te’o based on his poor performance against Alabama somehow Jones has managed to escape the same criticism even though he was equally non-existent against that ‘Bama o-line. Against NFL offensive lines I don’t expect Jones to have the success he did in college, it will be like playing Alabama 16 games a season. He got by purely on speed in college and that likely won’t be enough to be a difference maker in the NFL and there’s not much more to his game than speed and effort (I do love his energy and effort though).
While I don’t love the projected first-round DE/OLBs there are a number of options I like in later rounds, (Jaime Collins, Sio Moore, Chase Thomas, Corey Lemonier, Alex Okafor).
So at nine I’d pass on the pass rushers and I’d most certainly pass on drafting a cornerback in round one as well. I know people have thrown out the idea of taking a corner in the first to replace Revis but that’s some extremely faulty logic right there. Just as I don’t think you should take a pass rusher just to take a pass rusher neither should the Jets draft a corner early just to replace Revis.
Obviously Revis will need to be replaced, but Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant are not worth drafting that high, especially not with the added pressure of being known as the guy replacing Revis. Draft a corner in round two or three, (Jamar Taylor, D.J. Hayden, Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay, Robert Alford or Blidi Wreh-Wilson), sure, but not in round one there’s not enough difference in talent to justify it.
So for the 13th pick, no pass rusher, no cornerback, I haven’t even mentioned quarterbacks and that’s for a reason (I love Geno Smith, if this was 5-10 years ago I’d happily take him, let him sit and learn, but I’m not sure he’s ready to start now. I’d also be more inclined to take him if I was another team, you know a team with some type of successful track record developing quarterbacks, but that clearly doesn’t describe the Jets). Which leaves me with one of two different types of play-makers to choose from.
With the 13th pick, the decision should come down to Tavon Austin and Tyler Eifert and admittedly I’m torn. I can build a strong argument for Austin over Eifert, but I can just as easily argue Eifert over Austin.
The argument for Eifert over Austin is fairly simple, Eifert is easily the best/most NFL ready tight end in this draft and has been extremely successful throughout his career at Notre Dame where he was often asked to bail out some really bad quarterbacks (Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees make Sanchez and Garrand look like Hall-of-Famers). Eifert has a big frame (6′5 1/2″, 250 lbs.), great hands and does a great job of winning jump balls. He’s a complete tight end, he can block, he can run all the routes in the book, can create mismatches all over the field and most importantly has all the tools to be a quarterback’s best friend. Austin, however is only 5′9″, 174 lbs., which makes him mostly a slot receiver, but he’s more than ‘just a slot guy.’
Austin can win outside and can cross or drag his way past defenders with ease, but he’s a more explosive/dangerous version of Jeremy Kerley (much more explosive and dangerous but still). With two of their top three receivers being undersized (Holmes and Kerley) and Jeff Cumberland and Hayden Smith as the current tight ends it would seem Eifert is the better immediate fit for this offense.
The argument for Austin is actually just as simple, it just requires a slightly more long-term view. Sure maybe it makes more sense to add Eifert over Austin for this year, but Holmes isn’t likely to stay with the Jets much longer and do you really want to pass up the most explosive play-maker in the draft because you have other players like him, just not as good? Austin plays bigger than his size and can be more of a complete receiver than many want to give him credit for, but it’s his electric speed (4.4 40) and quickness that makes him so tempting. He uses his speed to his advantage but he’s also a smart and savvy route-runner with good body control and above average hands.
People have compared Austin to Percy Harvin and it’s an easy comparison to make as long as you point out Austin is nowhere near as physical as Harvin, which is a big part of what makes Harvin so good but also probably doesn’t help his injury issues.
With a draft devoid of elite play-makers the Jets could grab the best of this year’s crop and dip into a much deeper tight end pool in the later rounds, as the drop off from tight ends after Eifert isn’t nearly as big as with the elite play-making receivers after Austin.
How the players come off the board before their picks will dictate what choices are made, but there’s still talent on this defense, and plenty of quality defensive players to be added in later rounds, and very little play-making ability on the current offensive roster.
Either one of the guards and either Austin or Eifert would instantly improve this offense and give Idzik a nice core of young talent to build on for the future. After going defense in the first round the last three years, it’s time for the Jets to invest in some elite offensive talent.