The mock draft is a funny thing, isn't it? This time of year, everyone--from professional analysts to casual fans (me)--put it upon themselves to predict what will happen in April, when each team concludes a months-long process of evaluating college talent and bets its future on a handful of young men.
You'll see it all: Big boards, single-team mocks, 1st round multi-team mocks, four-round multi-team mocks ... seven-round multi-team mocks. The combination will make your eyes bleed. (Yes, that was a Wu Tang reference.)
Ultimately, every mock draft is an exercise in persuasion. It is an argument that you make, favoring certain players over others, using data and evaluations for support, all the while attempting to observe realistic constraints (like the other teams that ALSO get to draft players).
But unless you've got the time to watch tape and chart plays, unless you have a feel for the finer points of talent evaluation at every position, and unless you understand the particulars of your team's offensive and defensive schemes--you're largely basing your mocks off of the same reports and evaluations that everyone has access to (and, most likely, other mock drafts). In other words, I've noticed that mocks start to look the same after they've bounced around in the Internet echo chamber; and many give little substantive rationale for their picks.
It's for these reasons that I want to mock a Jets draft that is, first and foremost, an exciting but realistic argument. Second, I also want it to be honest; and because I'm no expert, I'll try to cite the articles and evaluations that most strongly led me to my beliefs about certain players. Would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Round 1 - WR, Cordarrelle Patterson
The vast majority of mocks have the Jets picking a pass rusher in the first round, but if I'm GM John Idzik, I'd argue that the fastest way to improve this team--aside from drafting a day-one franchise QB, which this draft is notoriously devoid of--is to draft a rising star like Cordarrelle Patterson.
I can hear you groaning already. We need to apply more pressure to the quarterback! The Jets haven't had a pass rusher in forever! Yeah, yeah, I get it. But I wonder why people are so fixated on adding a pass rusher to a pretty good defense architected by one of the game's better defensive coaches--especially when the offense last year was almost unbearable to watch.
Jeremy Kerley was a bright spot on this team last year. But we're about to lose Dustin Keller and (less crucially) Shonn Greene to free agency. Santonio Holmes is returning from a serious foot injury. Stephen Hill showed flashes, but had the highest drop percentage in the league. The Jets need to reload on offensive talent if they ever hope to contend, and if they ever hope to surround a QB (Sanchez or anyone else) with a supporting cast he can grow with.
As Mike Mayock said about Patterson today, "You put him on tape, and he’s going to take your breath away." He is truly special--tremendous at getting separation, phenomenal after the catch--franchise WR special. He could very well become the playmaker on a team that sorely lacks them, and can contribute right away as a KR/PR. If you're still not convinced Patterson could be the guy at #9, read the effusive praise that Evan Silva at Rotoworld had for him. (Yes, at various times he likens parts of his game to Julio Jones, Randy Moss, and Adrian Peterson.)
Other Great Picks (OGP):
OLB, Dion Jordan - A popular pick across Jets mocks, and my vote for best pass rusher at this range in the draft (over Damontre Moore's inconsistencies and Barkevious Mingo). Would be delighted to have him as a Jet, but my gut says he could be snatched up before the 9th pick.
CB, Dee Milliner - Cornerbacks are the foundation of Rex Ryan's defense. It's becoming clearer that Kyle Wilson won't realize his 1st round value, and the Jets should not carry both Revis and Cromartie into the 2013 season. This is all to say that you'd be kidding yourself if you think that Rex Ryan and new DC (and former secondary coach) Dennis Thurman haven't already been knee-deep in Milliner's tape. He's the best corner in the draft, and the Jets could well be in a situation to draft him.
OG, Chance Warmack - Chance is a special player. There's no doubt about it. He won't make headlines on a week-to-week basis, but he will shore up the Jets' offensive line for years to come. Put me in the "#9 is too early to draft an OG" camp, but if the Jets go this way, you should be ashamed for pouting.
Round 2 - S, Bacarri Rambo
The Jets need to go beyond a band-aid approach to the safety position, and Bacarri Rambo is a first-round talent with off-the-field issues and a mean-sounding last name. He played well at the Senior Bowl, and despite being suspended for the first 4 games of the 2012 season (drugs), he finished the final 9 games with 76 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 sack and 3 forced fumbles. He's a ball-hawk who's got a great combination of speed and instinct.
This pick makes sense for the Jets because both of our starting safeties from 2012 are free agents and only one of them (Bell) is likely to return. Seattle took a chance on Bruce Irvin, a talented player with off-the-field issues last year. And we know that the Jets (while we aren't, say, the Bengals) are no strangers to the rehabilitation game either (one wouldn't need to look further than 2011's third-round pick, Kenrick Ellis). Idzik and Ryan would make a wise choice to shore up the backfield with Rambo.
Other Great Picks:
QB, Ryan Nassib - What a blessing this would be. And not because I think the Jets should take Nassib here, but because if Nassib actually lasts until the 7th pick in the 2nd round it will give the Jets their best chance in 2013 at trading down to accumulate more mid-round picks. (I think it's highly unlikely that a team will trade up in the first, unless Geno Smith falls to the Jets at #9.) In fact, if any of the following QBs--Smith, Nassib, Barkley, or Wilson--are available for the Jets at #39, I think there's a chance that another QB-needy team will hop up and trade picks.
OL, Barrett Jones - Would really depend on whether the Jets see him primarily as a guard (where they could use him) or as a center (where they have Nick Mangold under contract for 4 more years). If it's the former, Jones is a intelligent, athletic offensive lineman who could instantly upgrade the Jets' offensive line, and who could slide over to C as an insurance policy in case Mangold ever gets injured.
OT, DJ Fluker - A big tackle with long arms and some great performances under his belt against premier pass rushers. It's entirely possible, however, that he lands somewhere in the first round - even though people seem to be split on his ability to play the edge. If the Jets grab him in the second round, it wouldn't be crazy to think that he makes the transition to RG.
S, Matt Elam - Another well-rounded safety prospect who can play the pass and the run. While there are some doubts about his size and his ability to cover larger receivers, several have praised him for his lines to the ball and his aggressiveness. Plus, he comes without Rambo's off-field issues.
Round 3 - QB, Zac Dysert
I'm almost positive that the Jets are going to draft a QB this year. I think Rex Ryan watched Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers and their explosive style of offense and realized two things. (1) "Mine looks nothing like that." (2) "It's hard to defend an offense that does so many things."
So the Jets hired Marty Mornhinweig, who will likely install his brand of the West Coast Offense, a style of offense that uses the short-passing game as an extension of the run game and as a tool for opening the vertical passing game. The Jets also fired Matt Cavanaugh and brought in a new QB coach, David Lee, who's known for inventing the you-know-what. I do think that the Jets hope these two moves will give Mark Sanchez one last shot at redemption, but I believe these changes truly signal the organization is about to invest in a young QB and also experiment offensively.
Zac Dysert is a mid-round draft pick with some great raw tools, a lot of upside, and a nice system fit for the Jets' new WCO offense, which will be built on quick throws and timing routes. Evaluators consistently remark upon Dysert's touch. While he doesn't have the strongest arm, on tape he certainly seems to exhibit accuracy on underneath throws and deep throws. (Of course, his system didn't require a large number of deep throws; but he was still accurate when he had to make them.) He also ran plays out of the Pistol formation and, along with E.J. Manuel, is one of the best read-option QBs in this draft.
I won't omit the fact that he had a poor showing at the Senior Bowl, however, and that he does have a history of locking onto his first read and making some bad decisions. In fact, you can also dock him for pretty bad footwork on some of his throws.
But the thing that stays with me most when I watch Dysert is, "Man, is he exciting to watch." I've seen a lot of people refer to him as a "gamer." He has a knack for escaping pressure in the pocket. He can sling it on the run. And I think he could be the Jets' quarterback of the future.
Other Great Picks:
There's many, including other QBs who could fall into this range (E.J. Manuel, Tyler Bray, Landry Jones), but I'll mention just one...
S, DJ Swearinger - If the Jets don't pick up a safety in the 2nd round, they'd do well to pick up Swearinger, whose attitude about hits reminds me of Laron Landry. He's a leader with swagger, a certified terror. According to this evaluation by Eric Stoner, the Gamecocks' defense "... took on Swearinger's personality, playing with equal parts cockiness and violent reckless abandonment." Sounds like a Rex Ryan Jet to me. Plus he's got versatility -- "he's played as a center-fielder, can go down in the box as a strong safety, and even got a healthy amount of snaps at cornerback."
Round 4 - OG, Alvin Bailey
A strong run-blocker and pass-protector out of Arkansas. The entire Arkansas team struggled this year, which more than likely contributed to the dip in his performance in 2012. WalterFootball.com believes Bailey has a high ceiling and should only continue to improve once he reaches the NFL. They also compared him favorably to two of the higher-ranked guard prospects, Chance Warmack and Larry Warford.
Interestingly, because Arkansas flips their offensive linemen in different formations, Bailey has experience at both LG and RG -- great news for the Jets who have both of their starting guards up in free agency.
Round 5 - RB, Stefphon Jefferson
(Alternatively, RB, Zac Stacy or RB, Marcus Lattimore)
Shonn Greene is not going to be back, and Bilal Powell is may not be capable of carrying the brunt of the load. The Jets seemed to have missed on Terrance Ganaway last year, and need to hope that one of these backs is available to give them some value in the fifth round.
Stefphon Jefferson is my personal favorite of the bunch. He's a quick back with a sizeable frame, with the potential to be a real sleeper pick in the draft. And compared to Stacy and Lattimore, Jefferson has considerably more "tread on the tires." One final point: He played at Nevada and was coached by Chris Ault, father of the now-infamous Pistol offense, and could bring some new tricks to the Jets if they decide to add option elements into their new "explosive" WC offense.
Meanwhile, Stacy was the lead back at Vanderbilt and flashed great speed and vision at various times last season. Depending on how his health checks out, Lattimore may not last until the 5th round, as there's probably a team that will take its chances on his talent in spite of his injuries.