Now that the NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone it is time to start putting together the New York Jets draft board. Recently Matt Bitonti from DraftDaddy.com took the time to answer a few questions about the 2011 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to begin on April 28th.
TR: Matt before we go into some of the players, what is your evaluation of this year’s draft class? Do you think it is a deep class in terms of talent?
MB: It depends on how we define deep. At the top end, Carolina’s draft slot at one overall is a tough place to be. There’s no Mario Williams or a Jake Long type of ideal player that is a physical prototype available at the top end. There is no Ndamukong Suh in this draft. But overall there are a higher number of blue chip players than usual, and there are tons of great red chip players. In other words, once you get past the top 10 or 15 picks there’s great value for the next 40 slots. Good news for the Jets picking at #30 overall.
TR: In the past the Jets have been very aggressive trading up to get guys that they want. Can you see a guy in the first round that the Jets may move up to get?
MB: Jets scout Joey Clinkscales has stated in the press that they like defensive end Cameron Jordan out of California. If the Jets really want Jordan they will have to trade up, because he’s probably not escaping the top 20 picks. However, due to the Antonio Cromartie trade the Jets do not have a second round pick. If the Jets want to trade up, they probably don’t have the ammo with this year’s draft picks. To do it, they might have to mortgage future picks. In addition if there is no CBA agreement between the players and owners, then player-for-pick deals (like the Mark Sanchez trade with the Browns) cannot happen. It has to be picks-for-picks. This all adds up to a trade-up being highly unlikely.
TR: It is no secret that the Jets are in desperate need of a pass rusher. What players do you think can fill that role for the Jets? Are there are any potential sleepers?
MB: Absolutely there are some great pass rushers in this draft. Let’s start with Brooks Reed out of Arizona. Reed was a beast in Mobile and followed it up with an outstanding workout at the scouting combine. He’s a high motor prospect with exceptional strength and aggression; a perfect fit for Rex Ryan’s defense. There are other interesting names, for example outside linebacker from Nevada Dontay Moch, a speed rusher who tallied twenty-seven career sacks for the Wolfpack. Looking further, Fresno State linebacker Chris Carter, another all-WAC performer could be an interesting pass rush specialist available in the middle or possibly even late rounds. We could talk about famous players like Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, but these are unlikely to be available when the Jets pick. Long story short, if they are there, it’s an easy pick.
TR: There is a chance that the Jets will lose defensive back Antonio Cromartie to free agency. What is your evaluation of second year player Kyle Wilson? Are there any corners that caught your eye at the combine?
MB: Rookies like Wilson often “hit the wall” halfway through their first year in the NFL. Usually football players get an off-season to recover. Rookies don’t get an off-season. Wilson went from the bowl game to the Senior Bowl, to the combine, to his pro-day, to Jets mini-camp, and then Jets training camp. There were short breaks along the way but no real recovery time like a true off-season would provide. With Darrelle Revis holding out, Wilson was taking a lot of reps in preseason and it all caught up to him. With a full off-season, there is still hope for this player to fit in as a second CB in the Jets defense. I liked this player last year in Mobile and I still like this player today.
As for the draft eligible cornerbacks, I don’t believe the Jets will choose one in the first round. Looking later, I have a high opinion of Virginia Tech’s Rashad Carmichael. He doesn’t have ideal size/speed numbers but that’s part of the reason he could make it to the Jets pick at #94 overall. He’s a man-to-man player who can shadow opposing receivers and be left on an island. Other less-than-premium players that have value in Rex’s defense scheme include Louisville’s Johnny Patrick, Stanford’s Richard Sherman, and Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling.
TR: What is your evaluation of the safety position in this year’s draft class? Do you see any players that can fit in with the Jets schemes?
MB: We talked earlier about how the draft overall isn’t a bad crop. However the Jets do have a safety need and this is an atrocious free safety crop overall. There are names at strong safety, but there is a problem finding coverage players who can rove deep middle on passing downs. It might make more sense to take a cornerback and move Dwight Lowery to safety permanently. Or convert a cornerback like Dowling or South Carolina’s Chris Culliver to safety from day one in the league. If the Jets do decide to draft a safety, two names I think are tolerable are Clemson’s Marcus Gilchrist and North Carolina’s Deunta Williams. It’s very possible that we don’t see any safeties drafted until the third round this year.
TR: The Jets have a significant amount of players heading to free agency, which will make this a very important draft to fill some holes. How do you see this draft working out for the Jets? What would be your ideal draft for the Jets round by round?
MB: Great question. Ideally they need a pass rusher in round one, someone who can collapse the pocket. Whether that player is a defensive end or an outside linebacker, it almost doesn’t matter. With Shaun Ellis and Jason Taylor likely leaving they need both positions. I tend to believe outside linebacker is a bigger need. What the Jets don’t need is a defensive run stuffer, as they have those types of players already. It’s also possible that the Jets will target a wide receiver if they decide not to bring back Braylon Edwards. Miami’s Leonard Hankerson actually ran faster than expected at the scouting combine and has a knack of catching less than ideally thrown footballs. Leonard could be a safety blanket for Mark Sanchez.
So to break it down I’d like to see a OLB or Hankerson in round one and a cornerback or safety in round three. As for the later rounds, the Jets need a blocking tight end (like Marshall’s Lee Smith) to replace Ben Hartsock, a swing offensive tackle to back fill for Wayne Hunter, and some developmental linebackers to work on special teams.
Finally I’d like to see some more defensive line sleepers on which Rex Ryan can work his magic. I could see a player like West Virginia’s Chris Neild being completely overlooked by the entire draft and Rex Ryan turns him into the next Mike Devito. Rex Ryan has a knack for turning cheap defensive line talent into functional if not dominant players, and the Jets should take advantage of that asset. Only if there is obvious value (i.e. Cameron Heyward) in the first round will the Jets take a defensive down lineman.
TR: Matt, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions it is greatly appreciated.
Please check out DraftDaddy.com as the website provide a tremendous amount of draft information including player rankings and mock drafts.