Jets swinging for fences in 2012 draft

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
11:08
PM ET
Stephen Hill and Quinton CoplesAP PhotoThe Jets are making a statement by gambling on Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples.
Leave it to Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and the New York Jets to roll the dice. After the first two days, it's obvious the Jets are going all or nothing in the 2012 NFL draft.

New York's first two picks -- enigmatic defensive end Quinton Coples and inconsistent wide receiver Stephen Hill -- make a statement. It says the Jets are targeting raw talent over consistency and production.

That's always a risky move, particularly coming off a year when the Jets underachieved and imploded down the stretch.

The Jets have locker room issues. They may have a contract issue with Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. And there's a potential quarterback controversy hovering over the team.

The least New York could do was make safe draft picks. But that clearly wasn't the case.

The Jets are swinging for the fences with Coples and Hill. They may hit two home runs or they could strike out on both. The difference is the Jets are not the rival New England Patriots or crosstown New York Giants. The Jets cannot afford to whiff on top draft picks.

The Jets traded up four spots to take Hill. He was taken with the No. 43 overall pick, which is a solid value if he pans out.

Hill is a physical marvel with a rare combination of size and speed for the position. He averaged 29.3 yards per catch last season but had only 28 receptions. If Hill can put it all together, he could be a steal and a good deep threat in New York's "ground-and-pound" offense.

Coples is a top-10 talent whose stock fell dramatically because of questions about his motivation. There is speculation that he (at worst) quit on the Tar Heels last season and (at best) was on cruise control.

The production from Coples' junior year to senior year certainly shows something happened. Now, the Jets have to handle the fallout.

"I think that's a fair question," Ryan said of Coples' motor. "The guy did have seven sacks as an interior lineman, that’s pretty good numbers-wise. But I think expectations going into the season, he might’ve been behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III; he’s probably the highest-rated player going into the season based on the previous season, with the 10 sacks. You don’t see that from an interior lineman, a guy that's 6-6 and 285 pounds. So, I think maybe [he] did not meet those [expectations] as a player."

The rookie did not want to address his motivation issues in college with the media and just wants to look forward.

"I've been working hard, to be the best I can be and be the best Jet I can," Coples said. "What happened last year is what happened last year. I’m looking forward to being one of the best pass-rushers."

What matters most is what Coples and Hill do in the pros. The past can be an indication of things to come or a learning experience, depending on the person.

New York did make a seemingly safe pick in the third round with linebacker Demario Davis. But it's going to take good coaching and leadership in New York to get the best out of Coples and Hill. Ryan is a good defensive coach, so no worries there. Leadership with the Jets is a much bigger issue.

Last year proved that someone needs to step up and take hold of the team. Earlier this offseason, I wrote that top players in New York such as Revis, quarterback Mark Sanchez and Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold have to do a better job of keeping everyone in line.

Like their top draft picks this year, the Jets are a boom or bust team in 2012.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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