After picking Ohio State's Vernon Gholston with their top pick, the Jets have one mean pass rush on paper.
Itís been several days since the draft now, and Jets fans have had adequate time to digest the rollercoaster that was the first day, as well as the longevity of the second (being that it consists of five rounds now rather than four).
For the second year in a row, Mike Tannenbaum pulled a major move and traded back up into the early part of the draft after his first choice, and this time it was for a position that no one thought would even be on the Jets radar come draft day, tight end. A pass rusher was obviously going to be a high choice at some point for Gang Green in this draft, and the other forgone conclusion was that the Jets were going to do their best to go after an elite offensive weapon, be it a wide receiver or running back. The last position anyone thought theyíd go after would be a tight end, but lo and behold, thatís exactly what the Jets got when all was said and done.
The rest of the draft was filled with interesting and smart picks from this writers perspective. Letís get right down to the meat and potatoes of the prospects and how theyíll impact the Jets, as well as my final grades and prospects to keep an eye on for 2009:
-Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State: This pick was inevitable once the board fell the way it did. He was clearly the best prospect left on the board and also filled a dire position of need for this defense. Let me be clear on something right now as well, I was not the biggest fan of Gholston as a prospect. And it goes far beyond the ďhe takes plays offĒ clichť. I think that the steroid rumors were too rampant and also visually suspicious, and I also heard way to many contradictory points about his personality. From some I heard that he was just a quiet, polite person who kept to himself; while I heard from others that his teammates at times sometimes considered him an oddball out who wasnít communicative with them at all. Take it for what you will, but I read conflicting reports on all ends of the spectrum. Thus, I had my concerns.
Taking that into account, itís foolish to deny his physical capabilities. And itís also worth noting that it is somewhat ironic that the Dolphins took Jake Long with the first overall pick, as it was Gholston who absolutely dominated Jake Long this past year when Ohio State Michigan; and when I say dominated, I mean that he was literally knocking Michigan QB Chad Henne (also selected by Miami, ironically) down simply by bulldozing Jake Long all the way back into his own quarterback (hint; do some searching on Youtube if you havenĎt seen it, youíll find it). So the next several years should provide some entertaining match-ups between the two. Also, front offices out-think themselves far too often in drafts. They look past whatís obvious and think themselves right out of the best player there is, which in this case was probably Gholston.
Lastly, this front office has drafted four starters with blatant All Pro potential over the past two years on the first day of the draft (Ferguson, Mangold, Revis, and Harris), so anyone at this point whoíd question their now infamous methods of scouting needs to have their head examined.
Iím giving them a B+ for this pick. Gholston was the best player on the board and filled a position of need.
-Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue: Simply an outstanding natural athlete from all aspects, Keller transformed himself over his college career into one of the top tight ends in the country, and firmly established himself as the number one overall prospect for the position after a stellar combine workout (including a 4.53 40-yard dash time). I think that the Jets reached slightly for him, and Iíd still like to know why they traded up into that specific slot (were the Giants ready to take a precaution for a possible Shockey trade?), but once you get into the late first, itís really anyoneís ball game in regards to who the best available player at that point is. At most, they reached on Keller by about fifteen picks, and even I was a little shocked they didnít go after a receiver, but the bottom line is that the Jets needed a playmaker and thatís exactly what Keller is.
Further, Jet fans can point to Chris Baker all they like, but the fact of the matter is that heís been a verbal nuisance in recent weeks and is nothing more than a decent player. Franks is nothing more than a blocking/red zone option, and nothing helps a young (or weak-armed) quarterback like a playmaking tight end. Sure, there are concerns about his blocking, but a great blocking tight end isnít exactly the highest priority for a team that just made some major upgrades to its offensive line and was in desperate need of someone who can create some excitement on offense.
Overall grade for the Keller pick; B-. Iíd still like to know why it was necessary to trade up seven slots to get him when he would have already been considered a slight reach at pick 36, let alone 30. That being said, Keller is a phenomenal physical talent and should provide the Jets with a much needed compliment to Coles and Cotchery.
-Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose St: The Jets then traded down in the 4th, recouping a 5th rounder in the process and selecting this former Juco transfer. I thought this was a smart and safe pick. Lowery should definitely turn into a solid rotational player at worst, and will be able to contribute on special teams early on. Heís a bit of a tweener type, meaning his skill-set doesnít exactly fit cornerback or safety, but itís hard to imagine that Mangini has plans for him at the strong safety position, considering the competition he already has at it (Smith and Elam), as well as the need for competition and depth at cornerback.
It is worth noting that he does have marginal speed, but he does seem to play faster than he times. Grade for Lowery: B+. I would have preferred some depth on the offensive line at this point, or an ILB, but Lowery was a safe pick and CB was a need coming into this draft.
-Erik Ainge, QB, Tennessee: And just like that, Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington suddenly have competition for the position. This was a total boom or bust pick, and was obviously a move on the hope that he can either light a fire under the big two, or give them a legitimate run for their money. Ainge is a total project, loaded with physical talent but just never seemed to materialize while playing for the Vols. It always seemed like weíd hear every preseason about how this was Aingeís year that heíd step up and turn into an elite QB, but it never seemed to happen. I think Jet fans need to be patient with this pick, realize that he has a ton of work to do, and even if he gets it all done, thereís still no guarentees with Ainge that heíll turn into something.
Iím grading this pick out at a C+, and for one reason; I have no idea why they passed on Jonathon Goff (ILB out of Vanderbilt) at this pick. He fell into the late fifth, and would have been an absolute steal at that point, which he wound up being for the Giants. On top of that, ILB is such a need for this team in the long run, and Goff would have been an excellent long term project who could have filled in on rotational duty and special teams off the bat. Iím happy that the front office took a chance on a QB with Aingeís potential, but Iím extremely unhappy that they clearly passed on the best available player at that pick. Granted, itís the late fifth round, but players like Goff only fall for foolish reasons on the part of teams, and I think thatís exactly what happened.
-Marcus Henry, WR, Kansas: Henry was one of my sleepers for this draft going back to last season. Heís a hard working, tall WR who runs his routes well and knows how to separate from defenders. Henryís a player who I think will have a long career in the NFL as a depth receiver, and could very well turn into a quality #2 eventually. For a sixth rounder, Iím grading this out at an A-.
-Nate Garner, OT, Arkansas: Project pick who could turn into a decent backup at some point. Nevertheless, heís a player whose best days could be ahead of him. Heís not the most athletic lineman in the world, but he could eventually provide depth behind both tackle positions. Grade for Garner; C+. I thought there were some better prospects on the board at this point, but itís hard to criticize seventh round choices to a high degree, however I do think that prospects like Josh Barrett, safety out of Arizona St, or Peyton Hills, fullback out of Arkansas as well would have been smarter picks.
Overall grade for this draft: B/B+. The front office did a good job of mixing it up between proven college players with great intangibles and some of the best athletes of the draft. I think at several points they did pass on a better player here and there, but nothing to an extreme degree. The bottom line is they drafted depth in the mid and late rounds for positions of need, and two playmakers early who should have an instant impact on both sides of the ball.
Grading out the rest of the conference:
Buffalo - A. Outstanding draft for the second year in a row. McKelvin and Hardy were excellent value picks and the Bills did a great job of filling needs while not reaching for anyone. Keep an eye on their 7th rounder, OT Demetrious Bell out of Northwestern State, as he was one of my higher rated sleepers going into this past weekend.
Miami - A. Jake Long aside, Phillip Merling was a great pick to start off the second round, and trading back up for Michigan QB Chad Henne was a masterful move and a steal that late in the second. Hampton DE Kendall Langford was a favorite of mine for a long time, and OT Shawn Murphy out of Utah St should provide some much needed competition and depth on the line. Great draft for Parcells and Co.
New England - D+. And this has nothing to do with the Mayo pick, which I actually liked. Not one pick of theirs made sense afterwards (correction, the Crable pick SLIGHTLY made sense). Terrence Wheatley out of Colorado is an injury plagued, undersized, weak CB who is not a good fit for that defense. Matt Slater wasnít even projected to get drafted yet they threw away a fifth rounder on him, and they used a third rounder on a quarterback when they currently have a first ballot hall of famer under center who never gets injured. Do you think Indianapolis would ever waste their time with such absurdity? I donít care what you think of OíConnell as a prospect, because when you have Tom Brady as a quarterback, OíConnell is never going to see the field. And donít try to tell me that heís being groomed as Bradyís successor; by the time Bradyís ready to step off the field, OíConnell will be long gone and on another roster. Third rounders donít get five to six year contracts. The Crable pick was decent and he should turn into a capable OLB in Belichickís 3-4, and heís the only reason why New Englandís grade gets the + next to the D, however there were several better prospects on the board at that point as well that I feel New England passed on.
Four prospects to keep an eye on for 2009:
-LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh - Quite possibly the best player in the Big East going into next season. McCoy is technically a sophmore, however heíll be three years removed from high school next year and thereís whispers heís already thinking about declaring. Iím a Rutgers fan, and he scares me to death, so Iím cheering him on this year as I want him out of the conference.
-Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia - The red shirt sophomore is probably the early favorite to be 2nd on preseason Heisman charts to Tim Tebow. He is without question the best running back that Georgia has seen since Herschel Walker, and will be one two main reasons that Georgia competes for a National Championship next year (the other being QB Matthew Stafford). Heís also a local boy, as he graduated from Middletown South High School in New Jersey.
-Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC - One of my favorites for next year. Heíd be a fantastic fit for the Jets 3-4 defense and very well might be the hardest hitting linebacker in the country. It the Jets are drafting in the top ten to fifteen next year, I have to believe that Maualuga will be directly on their radar, however with a stellar senior campaign, he might even go higher than that.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland - One of the nationís most explosive recievers, he boasts a fantastic blend of speed and size and is probably the most physically gifted reciever in this class. He was probably the best receiver in the nation for the last few weeks of the season as well. With Coles aging and the possible lack of depth at WR for Gang Green, theyíll most certainly be keeping an eye on him.