The offseason so far has been both exalting and depressing if you’re a Jet fan like me. For the past year or so, fans have been calling for the head of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer because of his inability to correctly utilize the strengths of the offense. On top of that, he has done a poor job developing so-called franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez who, with another poor season, will be slapped with the bust label very quickly. The Jets front office heard the calls of Jets fans and media alike and decided to ax Brian Schottenheimer on January 10. His replacement will be former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. This benefits the Jets on multiple fronts, but none bigger than the fact that Sparano is a guy who wants to run the football. This Jets team is not in rebuilding mode, but rather in revival mode. A fresh start.
Round One: With the first pick, the Jets grab Nick Perry, Defensive End, Southern California.
Nick Perry is a talent that may be very appealing to the Jets. The team has lacked a good pass rush for years, leading to them giving Calvin Pace a contract that was worth more than him if he was made of gold. Pace hasn’t exactly panned out, and there is no true starter across from him. Perry could come in and sure up that second spot. He is fast, has great straight line speed, surprising strength, and is aggressive in his pursuit of the quarterback. A young revival could be just what this Jets defense needs to take a step back onto the pedestal as an elite defense. One of the most appealing things about Perry that separates him from the rest of the competition is his speed. He has been clocked at around 4.5 in the 40 yard dash. If the Jets defense had a speedy guy like him, many big plays they gave up to the outside (i.e. Darren McFadden in week 3) could have been prevented. He may not be a three down linebacker yet, but Perry could be exactly what the Jets defense needs.
Round Two: Zebrie Sanders, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
As I mentioned earlier, the Jets basically have no pass rush whatsoever. Well, the also can’t defend the pass rush. Wayne Hunter stepped into the starting role in 2011 to replace the retired Damien Woody. The result: Mark Sanchez was the 13th most sacked quarterback in the league. Hunter also got practically no push in the running game. This forced the Jets to go to unconventional and uneffective methods of protection, including using Matthew Mulligan, who committed a penalty on what seems like every other play, and Vladimir Ducasse, who is possibly the worst offensive lineman in the league. There is no depth behind Hunter, so his replacement needs to be found on the outside. Zebrie Sanders had a hot n’ cold season, performing well against some teams (Boston College), and pretty poorly against others (Oklahoma, Florida). He is balanced in protection and should be able to come in and start, as Rex Ryan loves to do with his rookies, or at least provide some quality depth in case the Jets pick up a veteran in free agency.
Round 3: Nick Toon, Wide Receiver, Wisconsin
Nick Toon could very well go in the late second round, but should he fall, the Jets must pick him up. Picking Toon would be a blast from the past for many Jets fans, as his father, Al, was a great Jets receiver in the 80s. Nick is coming out of a Wisconsin offense that prides itself on running the football. This meant a lack of balls being thrown his way, so his stats don’t really tell his whole story. The Jets love having a tall deep threat as their #2 receiver, and Toon could really excel in that role. Plaxico Burress did an OK job this year, but is clearly not the long term solution. One other thing the Jets front office could love about Toon is his blocking ability. The Jets just brought in Tony Sparano to be their offensive coordinator in 2012, so it is very likely that they will be running the ball a good 30-35 times per game. Having a receiver on the outside who could throw key blocks to spring running backs loose is really attractive. While it may be smart to target a free agent wide receiver to be a starter, Nick Toon is a player who could really be a future star.
Round 4: Tank Carder, Inside Linebacker, TCU
There is word out of New York that Bart Scott won’t be back with the team next season. This will force the team to look for a new guy to step into the #2 ILB role next to superstar David Harris. Tank Carder had a very nice 2011 campaign and showed that despite a lack of bulk, he is a very tough player. That is something that Rex Ryan really admires in his players. While it would be smarter to get a starting inside linebacker in free agency to be a temporary solution for 1-2 years, Tank Carder could be a developmental project that pays off as he has flashed his potential this season.
Round 5: George Iloka, Safety, Boise State
The Jets have arguably the worst pair of starting safeties in the league in Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard. While Leonhard plays adequately for a Rex Ryan style 34 defense, Eric Smith is just plain horrible. He can’t cover, he is slow, gives up the big play all the time, loses containment, and makes really poor decisions when adjusting coverage. He must go. Iloka is a guy who can become a star in this league with the right coaching. He is 6’3″ and is very fast for his size. He has a huge ceiling, and if he can mature as a player, he can be special. The Jets also love to have a ton of defensive back’s on their roster, so this could be an even more attractive pick for that reason.
Round 6: Dominique Davis, Quarterback, East Carolina
The Jets have a sticky situation at quarterback. GM Mike Tannenbaum has stated that Mark Sanchez will start in 2012, but what is there behind him? Mark Brunell has said he’d like to return, but that is highly unlikely considering not only his age, but he showed that he has lost all throwing ability when he stepped in for Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter late in the season. Then there is Greg McElroy. He showed promise in the preseason, arguably being the best rookie passer during the span, but was put on IR before week one of the regular season. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he went on the radio and ridiculed the Jets locker room to no end. As Rex Ryan would say, “That’s not being a Jet!”. There is a possibility that because of that incident, the team may give him the ax. Behind him is Kevin O’Connell. He’s an excellent waterboy, but his quarterback skills are lacking. It would be very wise if the Jets targeted a project quarterback not only in free agency, but in the draft as well. Dominique Davis is the definition of project. While he completed a very solid 68 percent of his passes in 2011, including going 40 for 45 in one game, he threw 19 interceptions. If he can mature and learn to read defenses, he could be a good career backup.
Round 7: Michael Williams, Tight End, Alabama
As I mentioned earlier, the Jets backup tight end, Matthew Mulligan, specializes in creating penalties. New OC Tony Sparano loves to use extra blocking to protect the quarterback, so having a solid blocking tight end like Williams, who helped create holes for the best running back in the country, could really bolster Mark Sanchez’s protection and make his life easier.