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Football Perspective’s Thoughts on the Jets Draft

Yesterday, I discussed some of my general reactions to the NFL Draft. Today, my thoughts on the Jets draft in particular.

Milliner Island

Milliner Island.

Round 1, Pick 9: CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)

Some mocks had Milliner, the consensus best cornerback in the draft, going as high as third overall.  The Jets had a need at cornerback following the Darrelle Revis trade, and perhaps the same scouts who fell in love with Revis (and not the ones scouting Kyle Wilson) saw similar traits in Milliner. So from that standpoint, the pick makes sense.

But I’m not sure if the selection fits in with the team’s overall philosophy.  By trading Revis, the implication was that the Jets don’t think any individual cornerback is all that valuable in both Rex Ryan’s scheme and in a division that features a two (tight end)-headed bohemoth. That’s a reasonable position to take, and trading Revis — instead of paying him $16M/year — is consistent with an organizational philosophy that values depth rather than a singular talent at cornerback.

But then why spend a top-ten pick on a corner?  Perhaps the Jets just think Revis wasn’t ever going to be Revis again, and the two moves had nothing to do with each other.  Maybe New York just likes young corners.  New general manager John Idzik restructured Antonio Cromartie‘s contract to provide immediate cap savings, but he’ll count for $15M against the salary cap in 2014.  And while Cromartie was excellent in 2012, he’ll be 30 years old this time next year; the Jets may want to move on from him at that point.  Add in the fact that 2014 is Wilson’s final year, and Milliner may be the only cornerback on the roster in both 2013 and 2015.

Takeaway: The pick fills both a short- and long-term need, and the Jets got good value with the 9th pick, even if the selection is a little peculiar in light of recent events.

Richardson knows old man football when he sees it.

Richardson knows old man football when he sees it.

Round 1, Pick 13: DT Sheldon Richardson (Missouri)

Richardson is an athletic marvel who projects as a penetrating, one-gap force in the NFL. When Missouri played Texas A&M, Richardson dropped into coverage and was used as to spy on Johnny Manziel. Against the Crimson Tide, Richardson recorded 14 tackles. But Richardson was the first defensive tackle off the board because of his ability to penetrate the interior of an offensive line.

He lined up in the three-technique in Missouri’s 4-3 defense and would play as an end when the Tigers had a three-man line. Jene Bramel did a great job describing the role of a three-technique here, but for a shorthand, just think of Warren Sapp or John Randle. The issue is that the Jets play a 3-4 defense and Richardson happens to play the same position as the Jets best defensive player, Muhammad Wilkerson. New York also invested a first round pick in 3-4 defensive end Quinton Coples last year. So what’s the plan?

Some think the Jets will now move to a 4-3 defense. There are several problems with that. First, allow me to provide a (very) basic explanation basic explanation of how and why a 4-3 defense can set up a three-technique or under tackle for success. If you’re an X’s and O’s guy, you can skip to the next section.
The diagram below shows a 4-3 “under” front; in this scheme, Richardson would play as the under tackle (UT). This is the scheme that players like Sapp and Randle starred in:

4-3 under

Amid the praise Sapp and Randle received, there were critics who argued that both players were glorified defensive ends whose high sack totals were given extra credit because they played along the interior. That’s because in this system, the under tackle often operates like a defensive end, but he is only as good as the two players lined up next to him.

The defensive end to his right — think Chris Doleman or Simeon Rice — is ideally a premier edge rusher. That is the player for whom the term “Blindside” was created: it’s the explosive right defensive end whom not even the best left tackles can shut down. In this front, you can see that the end is lined up on the left tackle’s outside shoulder; this means that on the snap, the left tackle will need to take a step to his left to ensure that the speedy defensive end doesn’t race around him to the quarterback.

Taking that step to the left places the left guard on an island. That’s because the center and right guard are asked to double-team the nose tackle, who is the type of player an offensive coordinator can’t ask the right guard to handle alone. For Randle, that big-bodied player was Hollis Thomas or Jason Fisk; for Sapp, it was Anthony McFarland. The 2008 Vikings are another good example, with Pat Williams as nose tackle, Kevin Williams as under tackle, and Jared Allen as the right defensive end; all three made the Pro Bowl that year, with the latter two being first-team All-Pro selections, too. Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins was the best three-technique in the NFL last year, but he’s helped out by playing alongside nose tackle Domata Peko and right defensive end Michael Johnson.
The problem is the Jets have neither an elite edge rusher nor an elite nose tackle. In fact, they don’t even have an average 4-3 defensive end or an average tackle who could line up over the nose (or shaded to one side). If John Idzik’s plan was to move to a 4-3 defense this off-season, a better plan would have been to:

1) At 13, draft Star Lotulelei; and

2) At 39, draft a player like Tank Carradine, or after taking Geno Smith, drafting a player like Damontre Moore or Alex Okafar in the middle rounds.

The Jets didn’t make a push for a Cliff Avril or Michael Bennett or Shaun Phillips, players who could provide a bridge at 4-3 end (and in the case of Phillips, serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker, too). They didn’t make a move for C.J. Mosley or Roy Miller (who helped pave the way for Gerald McCoy‘s breakout season). Instead, the Jets signed two former Chargers, DT Antonio Garay and OLB/DE Antwan Barnes.

If the Jets want to play a 4-3, there are three options.

1) Place Garay at nose and Barnes at right defensive end, leaving Coples as the LDE and Richardson as the three-technique. The problem is this takes Wilkerson off the field. If they put Wilkerson as the three-technique next to Garay, that leaves Richardson off the field.

2) Line Wilkerson as the LDE, Garay as the NT, Richardson as the DT, and Coples as the RDE. Wilkerson has shed about 15 pounds of weight this off-season and is under 300 pounds. That might indicate that he’ll be playing as a 4-3 defensive end, but he lacks the explosiveness to excel at that position. And for that matter, Coples seems overmatched as a right defensive end. He’s ideally a 3-4 end. So you’d be moving two of your best players out of their natural position to accommodate Richardson, and you still need an uprade in the short-term and replacement in the long-term at nose tackle (unless, by chance, Kenrick Ellis develops).

3) Have Barnes at RDE, Richardson as RDT, Wilkerson at LDT, and Coples at LDE. This works well for Coples and Richardson, but is this a good use of Wilkerson’s talents? In third down and obvious passing situations, I expect the Jets to occasionally trot this lineup out, but this group wouldn’t hold up very well against the run. With the weight loss, Wilkerson transitioning to a 1-technique seems unlikely. And let’s not forget, without Sione Pouha last year (who has not been replaced), the Jets rush defense dropped to 26th in the league. The Jets have done next to nothing to address this fact since the season ended.

According to Football Outsiders, on average, the Jets fielded 2.53 defensive linemen, 3.69 linebackers, and 4.79 defensive backs on each play last season. According to Mike Clay, the Jets played in a 3-4 on 36% of defensive snaps last year, with a 2-4-5 being the second most common lineup. Clay confirmed that the Jets lined up with four defensive lineman on just five percent of all snaps in 2012. While the Jets occasionally use a 4-3 (and may do so more in the future), I think it’s more likely that the Jets stay in a 3-4. Moving to a 4-3 would expose David Harris even more than the current system, and the Jets don’t have any attractive options with experience as 4-3 outside linebackers.

Assuming the Jets stay in a 3-4, Richardson could work as a 3-4 defensive end, but again, those spots appear filled with Wilkerson and Coples. And the Jets still need to find a nose tackle. I don’t think either Wilkerson or Richardson is capable of excelling at that position, and surely that’s not the master plan. Another option is the Jets could move Coples to outside linebacker when the Jets play a 3-4, but I personally don’t think he’s explosive enough to excel there (and lining Richardson at end could wind up being a waste of his explosive talents).

Which leaves me just wondering what the Jets have in mind for Richardson. It’s one thing to be multiple and capable of playing a 3-4, 4-3, 3-3-5, or any of the dozens of iterations Rex Ryan has cooked up. And it should go without saying that Ryan knows more about defense than just about anyone on the planet. But no matter how the Jets line up on the field, they’re always going to need an edge rusher who can get to the quarterback/open up the pocket and a player capable of occupying the center and a guard. Right now, they have neither. Those are the two most critical positions to fill in a 3-4 defense, and the Jets didn’t address either spot despite having two top-fifteen picks. Had they exited round 1 with Lotulelei and Jarvis Jones, the Jets would have significantly upgraded the front seven. Now? It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on.

Conclusion: Jets fans don’t want to hear it, but the likely answer is Richardson is just a rotational player this year who will see only a few hundred snaps. Richardson, Coples, and Wilkerson may only see the field together in obvious passing situations. Long-term? Your guess is as good as mine.

Round 2, Pick 7: QB Geno Smith (West Virginia)

Can you believe I’ve written so many words without even getting to Smith? I wasn’t in favor of the pick because the issue is as much the quarterback as it is the supporting cast. Smith isn’t Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, so selecting him isn’t going to automatically fix the problems on offense.

The tight end situation may be the worst in the league. The receivers have promise, but on a bad day, Santonio Holmes is hurt, Stephen Hill can’t catch a pass, and Jeremy Kerley is overmatched as the team’s number one wideout. Running backs Mike Goodson, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell are average at best, while the offensive line consists of two star lineman and a frantic search for the other sixty percent.

After a couple of days to reflect on the selection, though, I like the pick. The era of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, and Greg McElroy is over, and that’s a good thing. The Jets added David Garrard but he’s not the type of player you can count on. Ideally, I thought the Jets should bolster the rest of the offense and fix the quarterback position next year, but I can’t argue with the position that Smith fell to them at 39 and became a value pick. He’s not being paid much and the team is not heavily invested in him. The New York media may prevent it from becoming one, but ideally, this is a relatively low-risk, high reward pick on a player that at least has some upside. Had the Eagles drafted him at 4th overall, the reaction would be “well maybe he can be a franchise quarterback.” When the Jets draft him at 39 the reaction is predictably “LOL #CIRCUS.” He’s worth the risk because he at least has the potential to be the quarterback of the future.

For those looking for more Smith analysis, you can check out this article where I looked at all Mike Leach/Dana Holgorsen quarterbacks and my statistical ranking of the top college passers of 2012.

Round 3, Pick 10: G Brian Winters (Kent St.)

Am I going to pretend to know anything about a guard from Kent State? Absolutely not. He’s known as a physical guard with a wrestling background, and scouts generally seem to like him. Here’s what I can add:

  • From 1970 to 2008, there were 90 guards selected in the third round of the draft.
  • 11% of them never played in the NFL.
  • An additional 21% (total 32%) started fewer than 10 games in their first five years (although one of those players was Guy McIntyre, who made five straight Pro Bowls beginning at age 28).
  • An additional 23% (total 56%) started fewer than 24 games in their first five years
  • 21% (total 77%) started between 25 and 48 games in their first five years
  • 17% (total 93%) started between 49 and 64 games in their first five years
  • 7% started more than 64 games in their first five years
  • Only three players — McIntyre, Russ Grimm, and Will Shields ever made a Pro Bowl.

Round 4 Pick traded for Chris Ivory (Saints)

I liked the trade for Ivory, but was disappointed with the compensation. Idzik had been in a staring contest with Mickey Loomis for weeks and eventually blinked. With the 106th pick, the Jets could have selected Johnathan Franklin, Marcus Lattimore, Stepfan Taylor, or Zac Stacy, and would have had both a younger and a cheaper running back. Sure, Ivory doesn’t have much tread on his tires (and he’s not old, either), so I understand the desire to trade for him instead of rolling the dice on a rookie. The Jets signed him to a three-year deal worth $10M — that’s not expensive, but the 106th pick will count for fewer than two million dollars against the cap over that period. All things considered, I would have held out for a fifth round pick or simply drafted Franklin or Lattimore, instead of spending a fourth to acquire him. But he’s a violent runner that should inject life into what has been a moribund running game for the last two years.

Round 5, Pick 8: T Oday Aboushi (Virginia)

Round 6, Pick 10: G William Campbell (Michigan)

There were 430 offensive lineman drafted between 1970 and 2008. 217 of them started 2 or fewer games in their NFL careers. Aboushi struggled at the Senior Bowl and at the combine, while Campbell is a project pick: he was a defensive lineman in college.

Round 7, Pick 9: FB Tommy Bohanon (Wake Forest)

The Jets have another T-Bo.

Undrafted Free Agents: Central Florida linebacker Troy Davis; Hawaii defensive back Mike Edwards; Clemson offensive lineman Dalton Freeman; Northern Arizona offensive lineman Trey Gilleo; Eastern Illinois defensive lineman Roosevelt Holliday; Iowa State defensive lineman Jake McDonough; California (PA) safety Rontez Miles; Texas A&M defensive end Spencer Nealy; Boston College tight end Chris Pantale; South Florida offensive lineman Mark Popek; Tennessee wide receiver Zach Rogers; Pittsburgh tight end Mike Shanahan; Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola; Bethune-Cookman wide receiver K.J. Stroud and Marshall wide receiver Antavious Wilson.

I’m not sure what to say here, although some of the receivers (Rogers, Spadola, Stroud, and Wilson) will be worth monitoring.

  • Bob

    Good analysis, as usual.

    I imagine that the Jets will utilize more 4-3 and less 3-4, but that both looks will be use. I’ll speculate further that Coples will play DE — but I’m not sure whether it’ll be RDE or LDE. If I had to guess…RDE. I say that because I wonder if Wilkerson could be more of a non-traditional 4-3 NT, playing end on rushing down/distance (with Garay/Ellis inside) and moving inside in passing situations (with Coples, Richardson, and Barnes as the other DL).

    Going with the thought above: Barnes looks like the wildcard to me. In a 3-4 alignment, he’s obviously an OLB. Could he be used in that capacity in a 4-3? Maybe. There’s no guarantee that Calvin Pace sticks or is worth starting.

    It’s also worth mentioning that Coples has very similar dimensions to another notable UNC product: Julius Peppers.

    Coples: 6’6″ / 284 with a 4.69 forty (1.63 ten-yard split).
    Peppers: 6’6″ / 283

    Of course, it doesn’t make sense to get too caught up in Combine numbers. With that said, though, Coples’ numbers compare pretty well to 4-3 DE prospects in this year’s draft:

    Dion Jordan – 1.64 split at a considerably lighter 248 pounds
    Ezekiel Ansah – 1.62 split at 271 pounds
    Damontre Moore – 1.72 split at 250 pounds
    Margus Hunt – 1.63 split at 277 pounds
    Bjoern Werner – 1.67 split at 266 pounds
    Alex Okafor – 1.69 split at 264 pounds

    Out of all the 4-3 DE prospects to work out at the Combine, only Mingo (1.57), Ty Powell (1.58), Corey Lemonier (1.56), Trevardo Williams (1.58), and Armonty Bryant (1.59) were markedly better. The average among all 4-3 prospects: 1.64.

    That doesn’t mean that Coples can or will make the transition to 4-3 RDE, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a chance given how well he did at UNC in that capacity.

    I’m also curious to see if Wilkerson ends up being used at 4-3 LDE similar to Red Bryant in Seattle.

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks Bob.

      I agree that Wilkerson/Coples/Richardson/Barnes will be the pass-rushing look when the Jets have four down lineman (and probably when they have three down lineman, too, with Barnes standing up). I think that should work pretty well. The bigger issue I have is on traditional downs, as I just have little faith in Garay/Ellis and think the Jets won’t be able to get much of a pass rush. And while the pass/run lineups sound nice, they don’t work well against a player like Brady, who will keep a certain defense on the field with the no huddle.

      Barnes as a 4-3 OLB? It’s possible. But I have little faith in a set of linebackers that goes Barnes-Harris-Davis. IMO, both Harris and Davis are better off as inside linebackers.

      Hey, maybe Coples turns into Reggie White or Julius Peppers – that’d be a pretty welcome situation. But I’m not going to bank on it. His best year in college was in 2010 when he lined up inside. Coples is an incredible athlete, but I really think he’s better fit as an interior rusher. He’s not Julius Peppers, which isn’t really a knock on him. That said, good info on the splits from the combine, so thanks for that.

      I think either Wilkerson or Coples could play that Bryant role, but they’re really better off teamed with a player like Clemons or Irvin. IMO, the hardest positions to find are the NT and the edge rusher, and it’s disappointing that the Jets ignored them again.

  • Bob

    Forgot to add: Coples obviously lacks the same level of elite athleticism that sets Peppers apart. The comparison was for body type, not ability.

  • draftrobot

    Good analysis overall. However as a lifelong Tampa Bay fan, I feel you missed a few of the finer points of the under front.

    1. It’s nice but not essential to have an elite right defensive end. Everyone remembers Simeon Rice playing next to Warren Sapp when the Bucs won the Super Bowl and a few of their other good years toward the end of that team’s run, but earlier in Sapp’s career when he put up his best pass rush numbers, the Bucs had garbage at right defensive end. Rice didn’t even come to Tampa until the 2001 season. When Sapp had 12.5 sacks in 1999, the right defensive end was Steve White who only had 2.0 sacks.

    Similarly, the best under tackle since Sapp, Minnesota’s Kevin Williams, put up his best pass rush numbers with the least help from his teammates. When Williams put up 11.5 sacks in 2004, the right defensive end was Kenechi Udeze who only had 5.0 sacks. I don’t have data to back this up, but I think interior rushers tend to put up their best numbers when they’re playing without an elite speed rusher who gets to the QB before the slower interior guy gets there.

    2. The nose tackle in an under front is absolutely just a role player. You don’t need an elite player, at all. The whole point of the under front is for the nose tackle to draw the double team not because of overwhelming talent, but because of alignment. By lining up the nose tackle between the center and right guard and the under tackle between the left guard and left tackle, the nose tackle immediately penetrates upfield, forcing the center to have to block him and it’s almost geographically impossible for the center to double team the under tackle without exposing a giant hole in the protection.

    While Anthony McFarland was a name to non-Bucs fans as a former 1st round pick and later contributor to the Colts’ Super Bowl run, he was never a difference maker in Tampa. He was primarily drafted as insurance in case Sapp ever went off the deep end and ended up as nose because Sapp never went off the deep end and they had to play him somewhere. In 1997 when Sapp had 10.5 sacks, the nose tackle was veteran journeyman Brad Culpepper. When the Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2002, McFarland was on injured reserve and the nose tackle was Chartric Darby. The Bucs made it work no matter who the nose tackle was.

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks draftrobot. Appreciate your insight.

      1. That’s an interesting point: it might be easier for an interior rusher to rack up sack numbers when he’s playing alongside an average end because he won’t “lose” sacks that go to the elite DE. Worse for the defense, obviously, but in the “meet at the quarterback” philosophy perhaps it’s the DE getting those sacks instead of the DT. Still, I think life is a lot easier for the tackle, and he’s able to work in true one-on-one situations when he’s got an elite edge rusher next to him. Obviously you can uses stunts and blitzes to create favorable situations, but I think at the base level, the more pressure your RDE places on the defense, the easier life will be for everyone else.

      2. Fair points, too. Perhaps Garay or even Ellis can be that player for the Jets. I think you might be selling McFarland a little bit short. OTOH, perhaps it’s just a case of when you’ve got a HOF under tackle, the rules don’t apply as much.

      • draftrobot

        The under tackle is left one-on-one with the left guard because of alignment. When the nose tackle rushes into the center since he lines up almost right over him, there’s literally only two offensive linemen to block the under tackle and right defensive end. If the center tries to sell out and double team the under tackle, the nose tackle or middle linebacker is left with a gaping hole in the middle of the line to run throughand kill the QB.

        The best thing having an elite right end like Simeon Rice is he can get half a step around the arc faster than your average rusher which causes the left tackle to have to kick out wider and thus forces the left guard to have to cover more real estate between the left tackle and center.

  • George

    Out of interest and given what was said in the 2012 College QB’s post, and given the situation with the money tied up in Sanchez, would you have rather they’d perhaps gone for an offensive fix in the 2nd Round something like a Robert Woods who went a couple of picks later (given the fact that the perceived 3 best WR’s and the top TE had gone by that point) and perhaps tried to pick up someone like a Tyler Bray later on, for even less expense (so to speak)?

    As mentioned in the College QB’s post, Smith’s value went up under a Dana Hologorsen system with a lot of passes being short to a dynamic slot player in Tavon Austin, given the Jet’s style of offence is he really the right fit for the value taken? I’d say it’s way better than what the Bills did with EJ and it isn’t a reach in terms of talent, it just doesn’t feel like the right fit to me and possibly a touch expensive for possibly not being the right fit tactically (I think I may have said something contradictory to this at some point – just looking at it for what it is now though).

    • Chase Stuart

      I think taking Woods/project QB would be a reasonable argument instead of Smith.

      As for the Jets, I’m not sure what the offense will look like. With a new OC in Marty Mornhinweg, I don’t think anyone knows what to expect.

    • JWL

      Ehh, I saw Smith throw many passes down the field. I am not going to rip him for throwing short to Austin. That stuff happens in the NFL anyway. This is the 2010s, not the 1960s.

      Guy gets drafted by the Jets, so obviously he will fail. That is the general consensus.

  • maxnote

    As a Seahawks fan, I’d thought I’d explain a little bit of the Red Bryant LDE position. Bryant plays at the 5-technique spot and 2-gaps, just like a 3-4 DE. Both because of this scheme and because of his skillet, he gets virtually no pass rush, and he comes off the field on passing downs.

  • Bob

    It looks like Coples will play OLB in 3-4 looks:

    DE Wilkerson
    NT Ellis/Garay
    DE Sheldon Richardson

    OLB Barnes
    ILB Harris
    ILB Davis
    OLB Coples

    Coples confirmed Thursday he’s switching to OLB and he is excited to play his new position.

    After weighing 290 lbs. last year as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, Coples is down to 285 lbs and said he expects to be play between 280-285 this season.

    “I feel good,” Coples said of the switch. “I think it’s definitely going to open up more opportunities for me to get to the quarterback and also show my athleticism and drop into coverage.”

    The Jets informed Coples, their first-round pick in 2011, of the switch Monday, following the conclusion of the NFL Draft. While the Jets added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to their line, giving them three first-round defensive line picks in the past three seasons, Coples said that didn’t play a role in his move.

    Coples has trained as an outside linebacker before. He did some preparation heading into the 2011 draft in case teams viewed him as an outside rusher, as well as with the Jets last spring. So far, Coples said the transition has gone well.

    One of the biggest adjustments he said will be tackling in space, as he now will have to be a factor down the field in tracking down receivers and backs. He’s also been working on dropping into coverage, another added responsibility.

    He expects this is going to be a more permanent move.

    “We got depth at the d-line position,” Coples said. “I think it would be more of a permanent job than a back-and-forth thing, but you never know. A package could come up where I play defensive line as well. Either way, I’ll be prepared.”


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