The 2014 draft is being talked about as the deepest draft in years, perhaps even the deepest draft in decades. We talked here about one of the possible reasons the 2014 draft is considered so deep. Maybe you think it's all just the usual pre-draft hype. But maybe this actually will be one of the deepest drafts in memory. Let's assume for the purposes of discussion that the 2014 draft is exactly that. Or at least that the Jets' front office is convinced this will be a historically deep draft. What then? How should the Jets approach this?
Perhaps as good as any place to start is with some breakdown on where exactly the depth is most evident. Some say the areas of greatest depth in this draft are at O-line, wide receiver and cornerback. While I don't necessarily disagree, this assessment is based on the individual talent levels at each position. A good approach to be sure, but I'd like to take a slightly different angle here. In keeping with my Deep End Of the Pool article referenced above, I'd like to look at exactly how early entrants impact certain positions in the 2014 draft.
Let's begin with the position probably most discussed in connection with the Jets' early selections: wide receiver. Talent assessors much more qualified than I are saying this is as deep a class of wide receivers as any in memory. While it may lack the generational talent of an Andre or Calvin Johnson at the top, it appears to have perhaps dozens of receivers fully capable of developing into legitimate first or second receivers at the NFL level. Looking specifically at the early entrants, an incredible 13 of the top 14 of the CBS Sports ranked wide receivers are underclassmen. This is by far the position most dramatically impacted by the record influx of underclassmen in the 2014 draft. What this means is not only is the 2014 class incredibly deep at wide receiver, but also the 2015 draft class has likely been stripped of a large part of its elite talent at the position. It would therefore be rather likely that when the 2015 class comes up, the wide receiver class will be seen as rather pedestrian. While this is not in any way guaranteed, the odds of the 2015 class looking anywhere near as strong as the 2014 class when the 2014 class has stolen from the 2015 class nearly all of the talent likely to go in the first two rounds in 2014 are extremely small. Nothing is guaranteed in the draft; it's all about placing your bets with the highest likelihood of paying off. Here, the likelihood of a 2014 wide receiver paying off looks a good deal better than the odds of a 2015 wide receiver paying off. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea to take at least one, and maybe even two wide receivers early in the 2014 draft, as you are unlikely to get another chance at such a bonanza before at least 2016.
Moving on to other positions inordinately effected by the huge influx of underclassmen talent, we come to tight end. Tight end is a reasonably strong, but not an overwhelmingly strong position in the 2014 draft. CBS Sports has 15 players at the position rated as a 7th round grade or higher. Of those 15, eight are underclassmen. In addition, CBS Sports has only four tight ends rated as definite third round grades or higher: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, and Troy Niklas. Every one of those four are underclassmen. So, once again the 2014 draft has stolen all of its top talent at a position, in this case tight end, from later classes. What this implies is that the 2015 class is unlikely to top the 2014 class in tight end talent. Given the Jets complete lack of talent at the tight end position, it would probably be wise to take at least one of the top four at this position, as the Jets are unlikely to find a better crop to work with next year.
At the running back position, six of the top eight CBS Sports rated backs, seven of the top 10, and 10 of the top 15 rated backs are underclassmen. Once again, the 2014 class has stripped later classes of a lot of top talent. With Chris Johnson already 29 and likely only having a useful year or two left in the tank, Chris Ivory injury prone, and Bilal Powell a JAG, it might be wise for the Jets to grab a back sometime around the fourth round, when many of the top guys should still be available. Next year's crop is unlikely to top this year's crop due to so much of this year's crop being stolen from next year.
Free safety is a position where only eight players have a sixth round or better grade from CBS Sports. Of those eight, five are underclassmen, including four of the top six. The Jets do not seem to value the position much, so they may well ignore it again this year, but if they are interested in upgrading at free safety in the next year or two (and with Landry slow and aging, they should be), 2014 would appear to be the year. I might look hard at Kenny Ladler in the fifth round here if he's available.
The positions of strong safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and the entire offensive line have not been overly impacted by underclassmen, so it may be safe to assume the 2015 class has retained most of its top talent at these positions. Offensive line and cornerback are reputed to be particularly deep in 2014, so it would be wise to make at least some investments here, but with 2015 retaining almost all of its talent at these positions, if the Jets miss here, they can probably get some good players next year. Coming lastly to the quarterback position, the top three rated quarterbacks as rated by CBS Sports are all underclassmen, but the Jets appear unlikely to choose a quarterback at 18, and all of these guys will be long gone by pick 49, so the underclassmen have no real impact here for the Jets. As always at the quarterback position (at least until we have a definitive franchise quarterback), if one is available that the team particularly likes, the Jets need to take him.
So where does that leave us? All other things being equal, the Jets might be wise to focus a little more on wide receiver, tight end, running back and free safety this year, because next year's crop has been heavily raided at the highest levels at these specific positions. Of course, such considerations should not trump good old fashioned talent evaluation and a best player available philosophy. But when faced with a choice among two or more players all rated by the Jets as virtually indistinguishable on their Big Board (and after the first round or two, this is likely to be the case more often than not), it might be wise to consider the positional factors noted here as a useful tiebreaker.
What about trades? Let's first look at trading down from the 18 spot. If the Jets believe the 2014 draft offers historic depth, it might be wise to attempt to trade down out of the 18th spot and pick up another early round pick. Of course, to make this work, some other team has to want to trade up. Perhaps the most likely trading partner is San Francisco. They are a team that is in win now mode, having fallen just short of a title for a couple of years now. It is possible they view themselves as just one impact player away from glory. In fact, it is rumored the 49ers are actively looking to move up in the 2014 draft, a move that would make sense for them if they see a guy at 18 who they think could be a difference maker sooner rather than later. As it happens, San Francisco is a near perfect fit with the Jets at 18. The 49ers have a total of 11 picks in the draft, with six in the first three rounds. If they traded #30 and #61 to the Jets for #18, it would be 900 points on the trade value chart going to San Francisco and 912 points going to the Jets. If the Jets needed to throw in another late round pick to even the trade, so be it. This would give the Jets a first, two seconds, a third and three fourths. Nice, but maybe we could even do a bit more.
This next idea is one I am generally opposed to, but might make some sense in the context of this being a historically deep draft. If the Jets believe the 2014 draft is truly one in a generation in terms of depth, then it might make sense for them to consider (gulp!) trading a pick from 2015 to get one more early pick in 2014. I wouldn't trade the first round pick, but I'd consider trading the second for a high third round pick in 2014. Again, we would need a trade partner. Cleveland has two firsts, a second, two thirds, and two fourths. Maybe they feel they have enough high picks in 2014 and would prefer moving up in 2015. Maybe not, but it's worth a try. I might dangle the Jets' 2015 second for Cleveland's first 2014 third, #71. The thought process here is that, if 2014 is truly a great draft class, then #71 in 2014 may well be equivalent in talent to whatever pick the Jets have in the second round in 2015. A gamble to be sure, but one that may well be worth taking.
Now the Jets have the following picks: 30, 49, 60, 71, 80, 104, 115, 137, 154, 195, 209, 210, 213, 233. That's 14 picks, perhaps too many. Time to reverse fields and trade up. The goal is to get one more reasonably high pick in 2014. Excluding comp picks, which can't be traded, we have 104, 115, 154, 195 and 233 to play with. Indianapolis has the fewest picks in the draft; they might be looking to add selections. They are sitting at pick 90 in the third round, 140 points on the trade value chart. Picks 104, 154, 195 and 233 add up to 131 points. Maybe Indianapolis does that deal, or maybe we throw in a non-starting player they might like. If we can make that deal, now we have picks 30, 49, 60, 71, 80, 90, 115, 137, 209, 210 and 213. Now we're loaded for bear, with one first, two seconds, three thirds, and two fourths in (theoretically) the deepest draft in decades. Let's take a look at what we might pick out from the draft store, shall we?
Using the CBS Sports Big Board, this is what such a draft might look like:
Pick 49 (Pick one) Cody Latimer, Jimmy G, Jace Amaro, Bishop Sankey, LaMarcus Joyner, Jeremiah Attaochu, Martavis Bryant, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
There is something for everyone in that list. Want to upgrade at guard? Nearly all of the best guards in the draft are on the list. Want a tight end or two? We can have those too, with the list containing three of the top four tight ends. Why not double up at tight end and instantly transform one of our weakest links into one of the league's best units? Want a safety or two? We've got many of the best ones on the board to choose from. How about some linebackers? Almost all the top choices are available to us. Running backs? We've got an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. We would miss out on many of the top wide receivers, but still have Lee, Benjamin, Latimer, Adams, Bryant,Ellington and Richardson from which to choose; surely we could find one or two from that bunch that would upgrade the team.
All in all, those eight picks, if the 2014 draft is as good as it's hyped up to be, could utterly transform this team for the next five to seven years. Multiple areas which are now weaknesses could be transformed into strengths as early as 2015, when the 2014 class starts to come into its own.
Now before we get the inevitable "no way x player will be there at y pick" comments, just keep in mind these aren't my rankings; I'm using CBS Sports' Big Board here. Also, if such and such a player goes higher, then inevitably some other player will be bumped down, a player you might like that currently isn't listed here. The point here isn't to specify the exact individual players that will be available. Rather, the point is to highlight just how many impact guys the Jets might be able to pick up in this draft, regardless of which player goes at which exact slot, if the Jets make it a priority to maximize their early round picks this year. Maybe the trades I suggest won't be available, but maybe similar ones with different teams might present themselves. However it works out, it might be wise for the Jets to accumulate as many picks in the first 4 rounds of this draft as possible. Doing so, if this draft is as deep as advertised, might well transform this team from a team with below average talent to a team with one of the more talented rosters in the NFL in just one year. I don't know if John Idzik is thinking along these lines, but if he buys into the this is a truly great class thesis, perhaps he should be.
What about you? What are your thoughts on how to approach this if it is indeed the deepest class in memory? How would you build this Jets team into a powerhouse?