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Sunday, May 11, 2014
Sunday notes: An inside look at Jets' draft

By Rich Cimini

Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets' most prolific draft in 16 years:

1. Cheaper by the dozen: The history books will show that the Jets and San Francisco 49ers tied for the most selections -- 12. In terms of volume, this was the Jets' biggest haul since 1998, when Bill Parcells was running the show and drafted 12 players. They'd better hope this one turns out better than '98, which produced only one quality player -- tackle Jason Fabini.

2. Balanced attack: The Jets selected six players on offense, six on defense. So everybody in the building is happy.

Rex Ryan
"I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization's excited about these players," said Rex Ryan about the Jets' draft.
3. Needy Jets: They always talk about taking the proverbial "best player available," but this smacks of a "need" draft. Basically, the Jets devoted half the draft to their two biggest needs, picking three defensive backs (two corners and one safety) and three wide receivers. The last time they took three receivers was 1990, when they drafted Reggie Rembert (traded before the opener), Terance Mathis and Dale Dawkins.

4. Enough speed? The prevailing thought going into the draft was they needed to pick a burner at wide receiver, a home run threat to play opposite Eric Decker. It's still an issue, as they passed on the high-profile prospects. Who are the starting receivers? Decker and ... Jeremy Kerley? He's better in the slot. Stephen Hill? Come on. The Jets are hoping one (or more) of their three receiver picks can develop into that kind of player. Jalen Saunders (fourth round) is small and shifty. Shaq Evans (fourth) had five touchdown catches of 54-plus yards in his career. Quincy Enunwa (sixth) set a Nebraska single-season record with 12 touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the Gator Bowl. So we'll see.

5. John the deliberate: There were 27 trades during the draft, but the Jets were one of only seven teams that didn't get involved. General manager John Idzik took a passive approach, letting the draft come to him, as they like to say. That's unfortunate, because the Jets -- armed with eight tradable picks at the outset -- wasted an opportunity to jump up and grab players they really liked. You're not going to have 12 rookies on your opening-day roster, so why not use some of the picks to improve your draft position? Instead of attacking, they played a read-and-react style. I wonder if everyone in the draft room was comfortable with that strategy.

6. Mission impossible: We live in a world of instant analysis, so draft experts and folks like me are required to assign grades as soon as the draft is complete. In most cases, it's a pointless exercise. For the record, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Jets a B, same grade as last year. The Jets received generally favorable reviews from the so-called gurus, yet it's interesting to note that only two picks (Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro) appeared in the pre-draft top-100 lists of Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and Scouts Inc. As a matter of fact, eight of their picks were ranked 200 or lower on the Scouts Inc. list. Hmm.

7. Rex the restrained: Rex Ryan, who famously gloated last season that the 2013 draft was an "A-plus" for the Jets, refrained from making any over-the-top declarations -- well, kind of. "To say it's an A-plus now, I’m not going to do that," he said. "But I think give us the season, let that thing run out, then I’ll be more than happy to. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's an A-plus again because I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization’s excited about these players." Last year's draft produced five starters; that won't happen this year.

8. Coach Mac attack: The happiest guy in the building might have been new special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. Except for quarterback Tajh Boyd, the draft is filled with prime candidates for special teams. That should help improve the overall athleticism on a unit that showed signs of decay last season. The most dynamic addition is Saunders, who scored on two punt returns last season and averaged 15.4 yards.

9. I.K. is OK: I never thought defensive Michael Sam was a serious possibility for the Jets because, at 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, he's not an ideal scheme fit in Ryan's base 3-4. But in the sixth round, the Jets drafted defensive end I.K. Enemkpali, who is 6-1, 261 pounds. Not only is Enemkpali slower than Sam, based on their reported 40-yard dash times, but his level of competition in college doesn't match that of Sam -- Louisiana Tech and Missouri, respectively.

"I don’t know that we’ll get into guys that we would have considered and comparing them against ours," said Idzik, when asked why he took Enemkpali over Sam. "Obviously, we felt very good about I.K. and he has a chance to fit a role here, come in and compete." The Jets did Sam a favor by not picking him. The media attention in New York would've been crazy, a major distraction for him and the team. Sam landed in the ideal place. Kudos to the St. Louis Rams.

10. Character issues: At least three of the 12 picks were arrested in college. Enemkpali was arrested in the spring of 2011, and charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He received a school suspension. In March 2012, Amaro was arrested on felony credit card fraud; the charges were eventually dropped. In December  2012, Saunders was arrested for marijuana possession. The charge was dropped when a teammate took responsibility.

11. Two firsts: Enemkpali became the first player from Louisiana Tech drafted by the Jets. Ditto for cornerback Brandon Dixon, from NW Missouri State.

12. Different strokes, different folks: Under Idzik, the Jets have drafted 19 players in two years. His predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, selected 21 players in his last four drafts.

13. Matty Iced: If I'm Matt Simms, I'm feeling a bit concerned about my job security. Ryan made it quite clear he was the driving force behind the Boyd selection.

14. The Black Holes: I found it interesting the Jets used their first two picks on positions in which they haven't had much drafting success -- safety and tight end. The last drafted tight end to make the Pro Bowl was Mickey Shuler (1978, third round) and the last safety was Erik McMillan (1988, third round).

15. Quote of the draft: From Ryan's post-draft news conference: "Did we get everybody we wanted? As far as you guys know, we did."