By Kristian Dyer
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Don’t expect a big splash this NFL Draft, Jets fans. Instead, expect more of the same from John Idzik and his thoughtful, matter-of-fact and deliberate approach.
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it will build a playoff team sooner rather than later.
If one thing Jets fans learned about Idzik this offseason is that he won’t budge from his preparation. He didn’t cave in when there was an uproar to overpay for free-agent talent. And he won’t budge from his evaluations when it comes to making a pick. It’s how business is being done in Florham Park these days.
This is now the second draft for Idzik — the Jets general manager, he of the wispy hair and the penchant for polo shirts — who has a much different charge than in 2013. Last year, Idzik was under pressure to swing for the fences, hit a home run and give Jets fans hope after a disappointing season. He was expected to get game-changers, in particular a starting quarterback who would replace Mark Sanchez sooner rather than later.
He avoided that temptation and instead followed his draft board.
What he got from that draft was five starters on last year’s team, certainly an impressive number. While the individual merits of any player from that group of five can be debated, outside of Sheldon Richardson obviously, that the Jets got such wide-ranging contributions from five rookies last year is nonetheless a smashing success. There is a core in place for this team, including from a very solid 2012 class in what was Mike Tannenbaum’s final draft with the team.
This year, however, with a draft-high 12 picks, the Jets don’t need to gamble. Instead, what they need is some good old-fashioned pragmatism. In other words, no one is better suited for this draft than Idzik. He wasn’t pressured to take a big swing last year, and when he steps up to the plate this year he won’t take a big cut either.
Fresh off an 8-8 season that surprised nearly every pundit, this is far from being a bad Jets team. They are young at nearly every position and have very few needs (yes, even at wide receiver as the green and white upgraded with Eric Decker this offseason) where they have to plug in an instant starter. Instead, it is a draft where the Jets can draft quality and don’t have to feel obligated to reach for a player just to get an impact player for a glaring hole on the roster.
While there are few absolute strengths on this roster outside of perhaps the defensive line, there are also few areas of outright concern. This offseason addressed a number of issues at wide receiver, running back as well as adding Michael Vick at quarterback too and while the Jets do need to find a starting cornerback in this draft, they don’t have any major issues.
So Idzik can walk through the draft at a leisurely pace, hands in his pockets and whistle a tune if he so wants. He has flexibility to move up in the draft, trade back or trade out of this year’s draft if he can add picks next year. Does he really need to add 12 picks this year? Probably not.
But while he doesn’t need an instant playmaker, what he does need is solid depth. The Jets need to find players who can be their “next man up.” Outside of perhaps a starter or two from their first three picks, the mantra for the Jets must be to add quality up and down their roster.
They are blessed with young talent now and with improved play at the quarterback position, they would have been in the postseason last year. They retained much of their core this offseason and made several key upgrades at positions of need. The Jets are a better team right now than the one that got an impressive win in Week 17 in Miami to cap off an improbable season.
If they want to finish off this year with another Gatorade bath for head coach Rex Ryan, then they won’t roll the dice. They will follow their draft board and will take the best player available. They won’t reach, they will patiently work their board.
And they won’t listen to the cries for a big move or another playmaker. Instead, Idzik should and likely will trust his instincts and simply take the best football player left on their board.
That’s how championships are won, by being smart in May. And that’s how this version of the Jets will take care of business this week.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Jets as a beat reporter for Metro New York and also is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports and WFAN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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