By Joe Giglio
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Heading into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the New York Jets profiled — due to multiple picks, a new general manager the recent trade of Darrelle Revis — as one of the most intriguing teams.
With the ninth and 13th picks, New York entered the night poised to improve their team for the present and long term. As Commissioner Roger Goodell read the names, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner at No. 9 overall and Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson four picks later, it became even more clear that John Idzik is the man in charge of the draft room.
Selecting two top defensive players would seem to always be the preference of the defensive-minded Rex Ryan. But the upcoming 2013 season — coming off of a disaster of an offensive performance in 2012 — is different.
Even without Milliner and Richardson who, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, were two of the top four players on the Jets’ big board, Ryan could piece together a defense good enough to win football games this season.
Yet, heading into a season without a contract extension, Ryan needs help on the other side of the football.
If Ryan was pulling the strings in the draft room, it’s likely the Jets wouldn’t have let St. Louis jump them in order to select wide receiver and playmaker Tavon Austin. If short-term goals were the priority, Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert would be Mark Sanchez’s new security blanket. If putting the most balanced, competitive team on the field for 2013 were the objective on Thursday night, Chance Warmack would have been the ninth pick in the aftermath of losing out on Austin.
Of course, this process should excite Jet fans. It’s not about the short-term any longer. It’s not about the splash, filling the need or making the headline. For Idzik, and almost any good general manger, it’s about following the board, picking value and building for the future.
Milliner, despite his injury history and high self-confidence, is an excellent prospect after excelling in the SEC. He displayed versatile coverage skills and thrived after being the top recruit in Alabama’s 2010 class.
Richardson, despite prospect maven Mike Mayock saying that he doesn’t quite fit the Jets’ system perfectly, is a strong and explosive prospect to add to the front line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. As Mayock further explained, Star Lotulelei, taken a pick after Richardson by the Carolina Panthers, actually fit Ryan’s scheme better.
To Idzik, it didn’t matter. He’s building a team for the long term by selecting the most dynamic prospects with future potential. If the goal was to win in 2013, offensive players — at least one — would have come with the haul last night. If the goal was to at least fit Ryan’s scheme perfectly, Lotulelei would have been the defensive lineman selected with the 13th pick.
After the first round was completed, Ryan joked that fans and media couldn’t blame these picks on him because they are defensive players.
“I shouldn’t say my line, but I might as well,” said a smiling Ryan. “You can’t blame this one on me. We love what they bring to the defense. The kind of mentality that both these young men play are the same traits we look for in all our players.”
Yet, for maybe the first time in his time as a football coach, Ryan can’t be totally thrilled with the pair of defenders. They may very well help him keep high-powered offenses under 20 points on a regular basis in 2013, but there’s no guarantee that his offense can get close to the 20-point mark to win those football games.
Idzik and Ryan aren’t on the same page. One is here for the long haul. One is here for a year.
Don’t let the defensive picks from Thursday night change your understanding of the reality.
If Ryan truly yielded power in that war room, the offense would be trotting out new weapons on Friday.
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