By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Regardless of the sport, there is a tried and true principle to any draft — selecting the best available player, regardless of his position, is generally the safest bet and time and again the smartest play.
Expect the Jets to do a lot of that during the NFL draft. I just suggest they start doing so sometime Friday instead of during the made-for-TV prime-time special that will be Thursday night’s first round.
As I’ve written, the Jets’ needs are many, but not overwhelming in any one area, save for maybe safety and, to a lesser extent, wide receiver, but both those positions can be found later and still potentially yield a nice return on the investment. I’d implore the Jets to take best available as often as possible. They do, after all, have 10 picks over the seven rounds, an unusually high number for them, and having too much talent at any one position isn’t a bad thing because it gives a team options and flexibility.
But now that I’ve laid their apparent strategy out there, the Jets must ignore me for at least for one day.
If there was ever a time to address a need it’s in the opening round, where the Jets figure to get an every-down player regardless of whom they select. However, there is just one player they should consider going the extra mile to get and that’s Melvin Ingram, the highly touted outside linebacker from South Carolina.
At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Ingram brings a rare combination of power, speed and versatility. This is a player Rex Ryan can build schemes around. He can play the outside or the inside, or can even line up at tackle. In the 3-4 he’d go a long way toward alleviating the Jets’ problems actually sacking the quarterback, as opposed to the pressure they have consistently created over the last few seasons but have failed to turn into momentum-changing moments.
Ingram figures to be solid against the run, regardless if you are looking for someone to set the edge or get the job done in the open field. He’s also surprisingly good in coverage. Now while he wouldn’t likely be the guy to cover the stud tight end like the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, one look at film shows that Ingram can get down the field quickly and has the type of hands and innate football sense you’d see in a corner.
Give the Jets a player like Ingram and slot him in alongside David Harris, but with similar responsibilities to Calvin Pace, a healthy Bryan Thomas and Aaron Maybin and you have the potential for mismatches regardless of where he lines up.
The problem with picking Ingram is the Jets are not alone in their interest. Various mock drafts from a multitude of respected outlets have him going anywhere from No. 7 (Jacksonville) to 16, where the Jets currently are. The price to move up to get him will vary depending on how high they think they’ll need to go. Many reports have suggested the Jets will do whatever it takes to get Ingram, a player worked out extensively by Ryan and one who figures to be at the top of their war room board, but the cost could end up being prohibitive.
Those in the know have suggested to get into the top 10, the Jets would likely have to trade their first- and second-round picks, plus possibly a later-round selection for the opportunity to grab Ingram. They’d likely also get back a later-round selection, which could possibly be a fourth-rounder, a slot they don’t currently have due to the trade that brought Tim Tebow here from Denver.
That’s a stiff price. No question about it. But due to the reasons I illustrated before it’s a necessary risk, one that could yield the type of impact defensive player that could help carry this team for years.
A logical trading partner could be Carolina at No. 9, for the front offices of the Jets and Panthers have a good working relationship and have done business in the past. Back in 2007 the Jets shipped their first- and second-round picks, Nos. 25 and 59 , respectively, to the Panthers to move up to No. 14. The Jets then took a guy named Darrelle Revis, while the Panthers came away with mainstays to this day, linebacker Jon Beason and center Ryan Kalil. So, the stage could be set for a similar meeting of the minds.
It’s largely believed the Jets would need to trade their first-rounder and third-rounder to move up to just outside the top 10, so basically anywhere within six spots of where they currently are. That could be necessary if a deal can’t be worked out with Carolina and teams like the Jaguars and Panthers go in another direction and a team like Arizona at No. 13 gets a shot at Ingram. Reports have indicated the Cardinals have a somewhat serious interest.
Again, if you agree moving into the top 10 for Ingram is worth the cost, then parting with a 1 and 3 is a no-brainer.
But after Ingram, as far as the Jets’ board goes, things should get more manageable. Many experts have tabbed Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw as the guy the Jets could get at 16. He’s a safe pick, no question, but in my opinion does not offer the ultimate long-term upside that Ingram would demonstrate. There are many who think Upshaw could end up being more like Thomas, a seven- or eight-sack guy who sets the edge against the run, but offers little else. There was also concern over Upshaw’s somewhat lackluster offseason which featured him putting on a ton of weight and maybe not giving his best performance at Alabama’s pro day, after missing the NFL Combine.
That could be overblown, but as long as Upshaw doesn’t become the second coming of Vernon Gholston the Jets would be fine in picking up a player of his vast ability.
Another safe pick at 16 would be Alabama safety Mark Barron, who would definitely solve a need for the Jets. Slot him in with newcomer LaRon Landry, Eric Smith and possibly a re-signed Jim Leonhard, and the Jets would be in much better shape than they were a year ago. But just know there are teams with interest in Barron, namely the Dallas Cowboys, who pick two spots before the Jets. If for whatever reason Ingram and Upshaw are gone, the Jets would possibly have to get creative to get Barron.
Personally, I think the Jets are better suited avoiding a safety in the first round because there are other players they can target later that would also improve their secondary. That said, there are also a plethora of hybrid OLB/defensive ends that could be taken later to alleviate the failure to get Ingram or Upshaw. I’ve mentioned many of them before and the list of very good options seems to grow by the day.
Because General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, the man who makes the final call in the Jets’ war room, has said in the past past that the Jets like to go best available and has had much more of a penchant for moving up during his tenure, the odds are strong the Jets will not trade down or out of a certain round. What the board says will dictate the move. It’s that simple.
For those of you wondering aloud about the offensive side of the football, your concerns are justified, but they simply do not fit this draft all that well, at least in the early rounds. Mocks have slotted Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd to the Jets at 16, but many other experts have said the guy won’t make it out of the top 10. And I just do not see the Jets trading up to get a player like Floyd when their offense under new coordinator Tony Sparano figures to be run-dominated. A more likely scenario would have the Jets taking an offensive lineman who can play immediately, and as early as the second round.
So, to sum it all up, I see the Jets going all out for Ingram in the first round, but settling for Upshaw should things fall a certain way. After that, get ready for what their board says and a multitude of offensive players taken from Round 5 on.
The Jets will then pick up the scraps to end free agency, including possibly signing a cheap veteran alternative at receiver and on the offensive line, players that could very well be starters before all is said and done.
Then, once they arrive in Cortland in July, let the learning process and positional battles begin.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
Who do you think the Jets should take in the first round? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …