FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Admittedly, this year was the first time I put my undivided attention towards the NFL Draft. In recent years, I’d follow the draft and then research the players that my team drafted after the fact. Or I’d just rely on the whispers and thoughts that Mel Kiper Jr. kept in his Hall-of-Fame hair (I don’t suggest that for anybody, FYI).
But after a lot of research and time logged behind the computer screen I felt ready to dive head first into the draft for the Jets Insider. My work even paid off, as I was asked to participate in a mock draft, where myself and fellow Jets GMs correctly selected Muhammad Wilkerson with their 30th overall selection. We even received an A- for our grade. Please, hold the applause. Now I know grading a team’s draft just a day after the whole process has ended is a slightly unreasonable task, but right now I think I can accomplish anything. So here goes nothing.
1st Round (30th overall): Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple: A
- In an era where there’s a premium on taking value over necessity, the Jets were able to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone by taking Wilkerson. The Jets, who often struggled in disrupting the backfield last season, get a 5-technique player who can compete for a starting role from day one. Picture how Bill Belichick used Vince Wilfork on the line for the Patriots last year: Wilkerson can be switched from the edge to inside and even has the size to play the nose if needed — creating mismatches wherever he’s placed. But expect him to play opposite 33-year-old Shaun Ellis in the Jets 3-4 defensive scheme.
3rd Round (94th overall): Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton: A-
- Again with that whole killing two birds with one stone thing. At 6-5 346 pounds Ellis just might have the size to replace the gaping hole Kris Jenkins is leaving behind in the middle of the defense. Ellis has first-round talent, but slipped due to off-the-field troubles. According to Newsday’s Rod Boone via Hampton coach Dominic Rose, the issue was over a girl. I mean, who hasn’t made a bad decision or two because of a girl — this guy just happens to be nearly 400 pounds, so it’s magnified. On the field, however, Ellis has the rare ability to get to the quarterback at the nose tackle position. But much like Jenkins, Ellis must keep his weight down if he wants to make an impact in the league. The potential is there.
4th Round (126th overall: Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville: C
- Powell, who will join LaDanian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight in the crowded Jets backfield, will be fighting for the third-string job with McKnight who showed little signs of life last year. I’m not crazy about this pick where his lateral speed is lacking (which gives the Jets three RB with a similar weakness), but is a better pass protector than McKnight and has good vision and instincts. Fun Facts: the Jets have drafted 13 players under Rex Ryan and four have been running backs (Greene, McKnight, Conner and now Powell). Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Dwight Lowery and Brad Smith were all drafted in the fourth round — Mike Tannenbaum knows how to get value in that round.
5th Round (153rd overall): Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU: B
- Lacking size, Kerley makes up for that with accurate route running and his versatility as a return man on special teams. And getting him for a cheap fifth round price more than likely spells the end of Brad Smith in a Jets uniform — likely leaving more capital to sign Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.
7th Round (208th overall): Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama: C
- Like the Patriots, who are set at quarterback but took Ryan Mallet in the third round, the Jets selected McElroy as an investment. The guy may not even make the team this year but given his intelligence, his natural leadership capabilities and his winning history why not take a chance on him? Also, Tannenbaum aligns himself to the same school of thought as Ted Thompson, the former Green Bay Packers director of player personnel who drafted Matt Hasselback and Aaron Brooks during the prime of Brett Favre’s career only to trade them and get a good return on his investment.
7th Round (227th overall): Scotty McKnight, WR, Colorado: C+
- If nothing else he will be a great security blanket for his longtime friend, Mark Sanchez. But this guy reminds me of Jet great Wayne Cherbet. The guy is gritty, unheralded and has the potential to be a solid possession receiver. All he did in his time at Colorado was become one of 10 NCAA players historically to catch a ball in every game in his collegiate career.
Overall Grade: B+
- They addressed their immediate needs in the front seven with their first two selections and did so quite well. They also found the apparent replacement for Brad Smith in Kerley. The Powell pick, which may very well pan out, is what’s really questionable to me. Tannenbaum didn’t address the defensive backfield or offensive line, both areas where the tread is wearing thing. But Wilkerson and Ellis have the potential to make an immediate impact on a defense that was already among the best in the league.
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