The Jets have drafted 23 players over the last five years. Of those picks only two were linebackers, Vernon Gholston now ‘thankfully’ gone drafted in 2008 and David Harris drafted in 2007. Bryan Thomas most likely will not be retained. Bart Scott has become a part time player and will be 32 in August. Calvin Pace will turn 32 in October, while still a serviceable player, Pace had only five sacks in the 2011 season and his best days are behind him.
Looking at the free agent market not to many names jump out. Yes, Mario Williams would be great but I just don’t see how it is financially possible given the salary cap position the Jets are in. The Jets may want to sign a stop gap guy with some NFL experience but a truly impactful player may be out of reach.
While I love reading mock drafts I’ve never seen one that turned out to be correct. It’s too hard with all the trades and rising and falling players. I don’t know what the Jets will do in the draft, trade up, down or neither but I’ve tried to lay out some linebackers, where I think they’ll be drafted, and why I like certain ones. The Jets have a glaring need for speed, athleticism and more depth especially at linebacker hopefully these needs can be addressed in this draft.
The Big Names Possible Top 20 picks:
Courtney Upshaw, OLB – Alabama
Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB – Illinois
Nick Perry, DE/OLB – USC
Early Picks, More Likely if The Jets Trade Back:
Vontaze Burfict, ILB – Arizona State: Burfict is a versatile ultra aggressive player whom I watched many late nights during the PAC-12 season. He can play inside or outside. He has great speed and plays to contact. You can blitz him or drop him back to cover, maybe even a tight end. I can just see a Tom Brady sandwich with Mo Wilkerson and Burfict as the bread. I’d love to see a Harris/Burfict combo for years to come.
Dont’a Hightower, ILB – Alabama: Hightower played within a 3-4 system for Nick Saban and went up against elite talent of the SEC week after week. He’s a solid tackler and can get after the quarterback. Big, strong and fast would be a fine consolation prize if Burfict is gone.
Vinny Curry, DE/OLB – Marshall: If the Jets get a stud ILB and also land Curry life would be good. Curry can get up on the quarterback but is big enough to set the edge and play the run. He has good speed and could also play with his hand in the dirt if need be. If the jets trade back in the 1st they may be able to move up into the early 2nd if need be to get Curry without losing to many precious picks.
Mid Round Pick:
Tank Carder, ILB – TCU: Reminds me of his ex-teammate now Cardinal Daryl Washington. Carter is good tackler who can also play in space. He has a nose for the ball and can make plays against the pass. might be a little bit of a project, if available in the fourth round he’s a good value for some depth.
Later Round Pick:
Cordarro Law, OLB – Southern Miss.: Will be interested in seeing how he does at the combine. Has good football speed can play in space as well as get after the quarterback. Law played well in the Conference USA Championship game against Houston.