Well fellow Jets fans, another NFL draft, is in the books. Let’s hitchhike through these picks, shall we?
Round 1: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Pryor will be an instant starter right now and hopefully for 10+ years. At the risk of jinxing this player terribly, Pryor is possibly an all-time great pick; Rodney Harrison or Ronnie Lott are not completely unrealistic expectations. Yes I know that’s a crazy prediction to make. But everyone I talked to raves about this player. He describes himself as fearless and it’s clear from the film that he’s an impact player. He can ball hawk, not strictly a run support player, and a huge upgrade over Dewan Landry or whoever they were planning to trot out there at safety.
The Jets defense wasn’t actually elite last season. They got their sacks and were great against the run but how many times were they burned on third and real long? The Calvin Pryor selection is a direct response to that problem.
Who else could they have taken? The only value WR the Jets could get day one was Brandin Cooks, and it’s hard to imagine a lineup with Cooks and Jeremy Kerley on the field at the same time. I personally might have selected Darqueze Dennard but Dennard might not have started as a rookie (more on that when we discuss the McDougle pick). Pryor will start, and that’s a draft pick that has more impact.
A quick word about the value of the safety position, there were four safeties in round one but only three quarterbacks. The Cardinals trade down and subsequent pick of Deone Buchanon seemed like a pouty response to Pryor going two slots earlier. The Packers took Hasean Clinton-Dix and the Niners took Jimmy Ward, one year after taking Eric Reid in a similar spot. Safeties are at a premium these days, and with all the changes to the game emphasizing passing, it makes sense that safeties would go up in value.
It’s also clear that Pryor was graded out higher than most players left on the board, as many respected sources had him as a top 15 pick. The Jets have only had two drafts in the John Idzik era but a hallmark of his selections in round one is “someone who could have gone higher.”
Round 2: TE Jace Amero, Texas A&M
There was a point during the draft process when Jace Amero was basically a first round lock. There are many examples from the board where Jets fans were hoping all spring he’d be the pick at 18. To get this player at 49 is enormous value. Amero fell to round two for various reasons (not running an elite 40 yard dash is one possible weight on his stock), but he’s a huge target who creates match-up issues against linebackers and safeties, and can immediately upgrade the passing attack. As smart-but-shadowy message board poster Miss Lonelyhearts pointed out, the fact Amero came from the Air Raid offense (same as Geno Smith) and produced as a Y position WR out of that system (basically the Wes Welker role) is a huge reason to like the pick. Obviously the Jets aren’t running the Air Raid but if they believe that Geno is the future (and passing on Manziel is an endorsement of sorts), having a tight end who is raised up in the same concepts can only help. Amero might not start right away over Jeff Cumberland but he will play double tights for sure and can contribute a ton as a rookie, motioning out as a receiver. This player will have to learn how to be an NFL quality blocker but that’s fixable and often the case with college tight ends.
Jets fans went bananas about McDougle pick, in large part because they never heard of him. Also because we are Jets fans and we have to panic about something during the draft. But make no mistake, this player had buzz. Gil Brandt said he was a probable third round pick, based on his pro day, where McDougle vertical leapt something ridiculous like 37 inches. McDougle is a great athlete, who has been unlucky with injuries. The “good” news is all his injuries were upper body stuff (collarbone, shoulder, hand) and can still run like the wind. McDougle is a willing tackler and most of these injuries occurred while he was throwing himself at ball carriers. This is an injury-upside pick where the guy’s value could have been higher than it was, in theory, if he were healthy. Note that the Patriots basically made the same type of pick in round one. If a team is going to make this type of speculative reach its better they do it in round three than round one. It should also be noted that the third round has been a wasteland for this franchise in recent years (BJ Askew, the Boar Hunter) and it’s almost like they treated it as an early fourth rounder, which is fine by me.
Fans shouldn’t expect McDougle to start in year one, as the Jets are paying Dimitri Patterson pretty well this year. This is why Darqueze Dennard didn’t make quite as much sense in round one as Calvin Pryor; the Jets are looking at a lineup of Dee Milliner, Patterson and Kyle Wilson for week 1. As other message board posters have pointed out, McDougle kinda sorta looks like Milliner in the face, which is a useless but fun corollary. But long term, McDougle has real potential to start in Rex’s system and it wasn’t as terrible a reach as some fans are making it out to be.
Round 4: WR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
As board guru Villian The Foe pointed out, Saunders is a dynamic punt returner. That’s important. Kerley has been doing that job when healthy and that’s a terrible way to run an impact special team position like PR. The guy who runs a 90 yard return can’t be busting his rear on offense too and be expected to make a huge play. Keep that returner fresh and maybe he breaks a big play. Some might say PR is not a “starter” position and to that I say don’t be a dummy. Saunders “starts” as a PR day one, and maybe he’s a replacement for Kerley on real offense someday over the rainbow. Or maybe he’s just an awesome punt returner and that’s fine.
Round 4: WR Shaq Evans, UCLA
Evans is a real interesting prospect, with upside to be a starter one day. Evans was a four star prep out of high school who transferred from Notre Dame to UCLA. This is not an uncommon route as Joseph Fauria made the same exact move on his way to the pros. After sitting out a year, Evans was the Bruins’ best receiver until he graduated. Evans is not perfect with his hands but he’s got pro attributes (6’1”, 210, 4.5 40 yard dash) and known as a hard worker. Evans is known as a deep threat as many of his catches went for over twenty yards. Evans probably needs time to develop the finer parts of being a pro wide receiver but he should be a good bet for the number four spot on the depth chart, and could overtake the perpetually disappointing Stephen Hill.
Round 4: OG Dakota Dozier, Furman
Prediction time: Dozier is probably the guy who replaces Willie Colon at right guard after next year. I don’t have much faith in either Will Campbell or Oday Aboushi, it’s safe to say that Dozier is a better prospect than both of them. Without waxing too poetic about a player whose obvious nickname is “Bull”, this kid is a mauler. A college tackle who will convert to guard, his stock in trade is getting out of his stance quickly and getting to the second level. Dozier does a nice job maintaining and finishing his block, and he’s had a number of pancake blocks over the course of his career. People might think Furman is a “small” school but Dozier played well against LSU and has further experience against top athletes through his all-star games. Nice pick who will sit a year but has actual starting potential as early as next season.
Side note about all the round four picks, they were all at the Reese’s Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama and all had really strong showings. It’s a smart strategy to go after the underclassmen early and use the fourth round on the solid but not amazing Senior Bowl performers. The Jets obvious had a plan when they were in Mobile and the fourth round is where it all came together.
Round 5: ILB Jeremiah George, Iowa State
George will start his career as a backup, behind Demario Davis and David Harris. However, George has real starting potential as the team has to be targeting David Harris big contract after this season. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Harris (who was inherited from the Tannenbaum regime) is still here in 2015. It’s also hard to imagine a scenario where special teams dynamo Nick Bellore is starting on real defense. George is known as a thumper, and comes from a Cyclones program that has produced several decent ILB’s in recent years (A.J. Klein, Alvin Bowen). George is another explosive athlete with a 38.5 inch vertical leap and 4.66 40 yard dash at pro day. This is another pick with actual starting potential, and if you are keeping track, I said that about the six other picks so far. If the Jets can get even three or four starters out of this crop it will be remembered as a great draft. Seven starters would be moving at ludicrous speed.
Round 6: CB Brandon Dixon, Northwest Missouri State
Dixon is a raw athlete (former junior college transfer) who is probably going to start out on special teams, where he has experience contributing in college. Dixon has a ton of work to do to develop into a real NFL cornerback, but he reportedly has the work ethic to make the transition. Dixon doesn’t have blazing speed but his 4.4 40 yard dash at Indianapolis is certainly fast enough for the job. It’s not crazy to see this pick as McDougle insurance, the Jets need an eventual starter to come out of this draft, they hope between McDougle and Dixon they will get at least one. One would have to be a psychic to know which of these guys will make it but it’s safe to predict (or hope) that at least one won’t fail.
Round 6: WR Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska
Enunwa is a similar pick to Shaq Evans, in that he’s got professional size and speed, he’s a deep threat (99 yard touchdown against Georgia in the bowl game) and he looks good “getting off the bus” as they say. Like Evans, Enunwa is far from a finished product and he especially needs to work on mastery of the route tree; it’s not all going to be Go routes. Enunwa is known as a capable run blocker and an all around physical player. The thinking behind the pick is sound, it is a position of need and the Jets are clearly believers in the buckshot approach in this draft: take more than one at the same position of need hope at least one pans out. It would not be completely surprising to see this player on the practice squad, as he might be too raw to contribute this year (and unlikely to get poached when all he can do is run bomb routes).
Round 6 DE/OLB IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech
Enemkpali is an interesting pick. The Jets clearly need someone to replace Calvin Pace and backup Antwan Barnes, should the latter get hurt again. Enemkpali is probably not going to do all that in year one but unlike some of the other day three picks, this player might actually make the team. Enemkpali can contribute at special teams and as a situational pass rusher, as he learns the coverage aspects of standing up in Rex Ryan’s defensive system. He is not an amazing athlete (4.8 40 yard dash at pro day) but he’s known as a tenacious overachiever with a high motor.
Round 6 QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
This pick was met with great dismay by the fans, but I don’t see the problem. This isn’t Dave Yovanovitz. He wasn’t drafted as a favor to Rex’s son Seth (the walk on linebacker). Boyd is a draft able quarterback with big game experience against ACC and SEC foes. He plays well in these games (especially the LSU bowl game in 2013). He can make the odd play with his legs. In theory, Boyd can be a back up and compete with Matt Simms for that third spot.
At this point in the draft they aren’t necessarily looking for guys who will start right away, they are looking for guys who can make the team better in the long run. All of these sixth rounders can do that. Or they can wash out, but either way these are viable risks at this point in the process.
Round 7 OLB Trevor Reilly, Utah
Once upon a time, this player was rated as a first round prospect by Baltimore’s hair helmet hero, Mel Kiper. While that projection was probably overly hopeful, because of his age (26), Reilly had a really big year as a senior and ended up with a round three/four grade by NFL Draft Scout, who called him “surprisingly nimble”. Long term, Reilly could be in that mix for backup DE/OLB with Enemkpali and in the short term, he will hope to make this team as a special team player (also like Enemkpali).
Notice the trend with the Jets draft, after rounds one and two: taking more than one athlete at the same position, and hoping at least one of the picks will hit. Overall this draft class has huge potential and the team did a great job loading up with talent. Maybe one day, in the near future, the Jets will be the type of team where their late round picks don’t automatically make the roster. If that happens it will be because of the success of drafts like this one.