By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — I’ve always found it funny how the brush used to paint first-round draft picks is often the same brush used to paint a team’s entire draft. What’s equally frustrating is this idea of trying to project what a 21- or 22-year-old will ultimately become in the NFL.
You hear and read terms like “high risk, high reward,” “reach” and “steal” all the time and you find yourself forced to throw all objectivity out the window.
We just have no patience as a sports-crazed society. Here we are just a handful of days removed from the goings on at Radio City Music Hall and already it’s been determined by people supposedly in the know that the Jets didn’t do that well. While I admit, based on my own personal desire to see this team go defense first and often, I didn’t like the direction the Jets chose to go in the first two rounds. But I’m not going to sit here and tell anyone that the team’s selections of defensive end Quinton Coples and wide receiver Stephen Hill were epic disasters. I’m also not in the position to say either will become immediate impact players in the NFL.
The picks are what they are and will be what they will be.
Yet, almost to a man I have read nothing but draft grades for the Jets ranging from “F” to “C+” all over the Internet, and not from fans, mind you. Recognizable names from respected media outlets seem to know Coples will become the next Vernon Gholston and that the Jets’ other selections will almost certainly result in the end of General Manager Mike Tannenbaum’s tenure, as soon as the end of the 2012 season.
It’s all just nonsense. Can we let this thing play itself out at least a little bit? Of course not, because, again, we all know the answers before even a single practice has been held. It’s typical and, frankly, quite ridiculous.
If nothing else, the Jets got faster and bigger all over the field. They are now a deeper team and will almost certainly have more than just a handful of positional battles at training camp. If you are a veteran and you’re coming off a less-than-stellar 2011 season, you better be prepared to bring it in Cortland, because the Jets have brought in young and athletic reinforcements who just may be naive enough to not get caught up in the numbers game.
I made it known I wanted the Jets to draft South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram in the first round, even if that meant trading up to get him. It turned out that Ingram was there at 16, but the Jets were enamored with Coples. So be it. I don’t like the fact that the Jets drafted a guy at a position where they already have two capable starters. Nor was I in love with the idea of Coples not being a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. But at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, with 4.7 40-yard dash speed and a wingspan that would give a small plane a go, who am I to say Coples wasn’t the right pick?
Say what you want about Coples not having the right mental motor to be an every-down player, but Rex Ryan tends to bring out the best player in the individual. I honestly do not see this guy loafing around or not motivated to get to the quarterback. We’re just conditioned to believe someone can be a reincarnation of Gholston. That doesn’t mean it will happen.
I also didn’t like the idea of the Jets drafting a wide receiver so early, mostly because they have made it no secret they hope to run the ball as much as a college wishbone team. But with Georgia Tech’s Hill in the second round the Jets are getting arguably the fastest wideout in college football, who just happens to be from the same school that produced the best wide receiver currently in the NFL, the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, not to mention the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas. I’m not saying Hill will become either, but the pedigree of that school at that position of late suggests the possibility it could happen.
Do you see the deep threat here the Jets have lacked forever? If nothing else, Hill will run his fly patterns and soften up opposing secondaries. Again, there’s no denying his talent. It’s just a matter of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano making good on his promise to make the Jets’ offense more explosive.
I felt better about things as Friday progressed. The selection of Demario Davis of Arkansas State in the third round has real potential. I’m not saying he’s starting at outside linebacker, but at the very least he’ll probably be lighting people up under Mike Westhoff’s command on special teams, in addition to situational use from scrimmage.
Davis, at 6-2, 235, is a tackling machine with a motor that doesn’t quit. In time, the Jets will likely be looking at a very good run-stopper who will be able to get to the quarterback out of the 3-4. His speed is his gift, but could also be his curse in the NFL. Over pursuit could be a concern, so emphasis on technique will be a must for this kid going forward.
Like I said earlier, the brush used to paint the first-round pick often taints an entire team’s draft. The Jets’ 2012 effort may very well end up being known positively or negatively as the year they took Coples, but they seemed to address needs on a responsible level once Saturday rolled around. Remember, the Jets did not have a fourth-rounder due to the Tim Tebow trade and gave Seattle their fifth- and one of their seventh-rounders to move up in the second round to get Hill.
Over the last two rounds on Saturday, the Jets addressed safety and the running game. They may have found a bigger version of Jim Leonhard in the sixth round with Josh Bush of Wake Forest, a cerebral player who, though undersized, has a nose for the ball. In addition, the front office was admittedly stunned when South Carolina’s Antonio Allen, a player who figured to go in the third or fourth round, was still available in the seventh. Allen recorded four fumbles recoveries and had nine tackles-for-loss in 2011, the type of numbers that suggest he’ll fit right into the Rex way of thinking — a strong safety who will use athleticism to cheat for the big play.
The Jets also raided the high-octane Baylor offense, selecting running back Terrance Ganaway and massive offensive lineman Robert T. Griffin.
Many people wanted to see the Jets get someone to push Shonn Greene, because many believe he’s simply not a 20-carry back in the NFL. I, for one, was intrigued with the idea of the Jets possibly pursuing then-free agent Michael Bush to give the Jets a battering ram running game. Well, if Ganaway, a guy who bulldozed his way to 1,547 yards this past season, can transition his 241-pound frame to the rigors of the NFL, the Jets may eventually have not just one but two loads to bring down.
Their last pick, wide receiver Jordan White of Western Michigan, had an astonishing 140 receptions this past season, becoming one of just six players in NCAA history to reach that number. Of course, White’s competition left a lot to be desired, but just know he comes from the same school as the Packers’ Greg Jennings, a receiver who needs no introduction anywhere in the football world.
So I guess my point is don’t let the Coples selection cloud your overall judgment of what the Jets accomplished last weekend. Sure, they took a lot of guys who you may not know or who weren’t, that damning word again, “projected” to be this or that at the next level. The bottom line is all that talk means very little. The draft is by and large a crapshoot. It always is.
But just know the Jets are several steps closer to being a much more athletic team and certainly one that will not tire out in the second halves of games. A lot of guys are going to play and the odds are there won’t be a fantasy football stud among them.
But the NFL is never fantasy. It’s deep-rooted in reality. And the reality with the Jets right now is they are definitely better than they were not a week ago.
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