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NY Jets: Finding An Edge

Which edge rushers are most likely to end up with the Jets?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that the 2015 NFL draft is heavy on edge rushers.  It's also no secret the Jets need an edge rusher.  In addition, GM Mike Maccagnan is on record as saying ideally he would draft an edge rusher every year.  The obvious implication: the Jets will very likely choose one or more edge rushers in the 2015 draft.  The question is, which one(s)?

One approach to answering this question might be to look at the draft history of the Arizona Cardinals when head coach Todd Bowles was the defensive coordinator there.  What kind of edge rushers did they select?  Now, there are serious limitations to this approach.  Bowles was only a defensive coordinator with the Cardinals for two years, too short a time to establish any definitive trends.  In addition, as defensive coordinator, while he undoubtedly had a voice in the draft room with respect to defensive players, he clearly did not have final say.  It's also true that you can only choose the players available at the time your selection comes up, so the way the board falls is a large influence in who you draft, and may trump your preferences for the "ideal" player at any particular position.

With those major caveats in mind, and taking this with more than a few grains of salt, humor me for a moment as we examine the type of players drafted on the edge by the Cardinals during Bowles' time there. Perhaps we can glean an inkling of the kind of player Bowles wants on the edge.

Todd Bowles was defensive coordinator for the Cardinals during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.  In that time the Cardinals drafted two edge rushers.  In 2013 they selected Alex Okafor in the fourth round.  Okafor is a 6' 4", 264 pound OLB/DE who hardly played his rookie year but came into his own in year two with eight sacks.  In 2014 the Cardinals selected Kareem Martin in the 3rd round.  Martin is a 6' 6", 272 pound DE.  In the 5th round the Cardinals also selected Ed Stinson, listed as a DE but really more of an interior guy at 6' 3", 287 pounds.

Obviously two players do not make a trend.  On the other hand, defensive coaches undoubtedly have certain characteristics they look for at certain positions.  Maybe you look for all out speed, or maybe huge size.  Maybe you like leaping ability, or maybe big hands or long arms.  These aren't the end all and be all of draft selections, but they are undoubtedly major considerations and a starting point for many coaches in talent evaluation.  In Bowles' case, the Cardinals took two edge rushers with similar physical characteristics.  It may well mean nothing, but perhaps it means Bowles likes edge guys with length and a certain amount of bulk.  Okafor and Martin are both taller and somewhat heavier than your average edge guy.  Neither is an all out speed demon on the edge.  Both are big and physical enough to set the edge effectively.  Perhaps Bowles looks for those characteristics.  Again, this is highly speculative, but humor me.   What if that's the case?  Which guys in this year's draft fit the bill?

We can start by eliminating some guys.  In the early rounds Shane Ray, Vic Beasley, and Eli Harold do not fit the bill.  On the other hand, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Preston Smith, Danielle Hunter and Lorenzo Mauldin seem to better fit the mold.  In the mid to later rounds, if the stereotype holds, perhaps the Jets will be looking at guys like Za'darius Smith, Trey Flowers, Lynden Trail, Cedric Reed and Max Valles.  Guys like Davis Tull, Kwon Alexander, Jordan Hicks and Mike Hull would seem to be less likely choices.

In all likelihood this is just an academic exercise, and the Jets' selections will not particularly match any preconceived physical profile. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out.  If by chance the edge rusher(s) taken by the Jets do in fact fit the mold, perhaps we have more confidence we know what the team will be looking for on the edge in the future.