Thursday, April 25, 2013
NFL Draft: New GM, same old Jets
By Rich Cimini ESPNNewYork.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Same New Jets.
On the first big night of the John Idzik era -- A.D., as in After Darrelle -- the New York Jets attacked their big rebuilding project by following an all-too-familiar script. With their two first-round picks on Thursday night, the Jets went:
They selected cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the ninth and 13th picks overall, respectively. It sure looks like Rex Ryan, perceived as a lame-duck coach, still wields some influence in the draft room.
Dee Milliner will not be able to avoid the Darrelle Revis comparisons.
"You can't blame this one on me," Ryan joked, suggesting that Milliner and Richardson were rated so highly by the entire organization that his usual, pro-defense lobbying efforts weren't necessary.
Idzik said Milliner and Richardson were ranked among the top four players on their draftboard. Which begs the question: Where were the offensive players?
The Jets ignored their 30th-rated offense, a big-time dis to a unit that produced only one memorable play last season -- the Butt Fumble. They have no game-changers on offense, with glaring needs at wide receiver, tight end and running back.
Instead of adding a weapon for quarterback Mark Sanchez -- they bypassed talented tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson -- Idzik gave Ryan a couple of consolation prizes after trading his best player, Darrelle Revis.
Mind you, this was the fourth straight year the Jets picked a defensive player in the first round.
Somewhere, Sanchez had to be thinking, "Little help, please." The last time the Jets invested a first-round pick in a skill-position player, not counting quarterback, was 2008 -- tight end Dustin Keller.
One NFC scout, speaking late Thursday night to ESPNNewYork.com, said officials in his draft room were surprised when the Jets passed twice on a wide receiver. They also passed on Geno Smith and every other quarterback in the draft.
It's premature to rip Idzik for turning a blind eye to the offense -- still plenty of draft to go -- but this was a bit of a head-scratcher. Not only were the Jets noncompetitive last season (five games of single-digit scoring), but they lost a couple of capable starters in Keller and running back Shonn Greene.
Idzik admitted he was "tempted" to pick an offensive player, "but you're not going to succumb to temptation." He said Milliner and Richardson were no-brainers because of their standing on the board, although he acknowledged they gave some consideration to trading down from the 13th pick.
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One AFC executive speculated the Jets were thrown off their game plan when pass-rushers Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo and wide receiver Tavon Austin went in the top eight.
The St. Louis Rams, thinking the Jets would take Austin, traded up eight spots to grab him with the eighth pick. The Jets did have a keen interest in Austin, the most electrifying player in the draft. Enough to take him at nine? It would've been a discussion in their draft room.
In terms of pure value, it's hard to quibble with Milliner and Richardson, both of whom were widely regarded as top-10 talents. Milliner slipped because of medical concerns; he's one month removed from shoulder surgery, one of five surgeries in his career at Alabama.
He has the body of a 10-year veteran, which has to be a concern. Idzik said he's "comfortable with the medical," adding they expect Milliner to be ready for training camp.
An executive from another team, speaking on the condition of anonymity, painted a similar picture, saying Milliner was "cleared by most teams. I don't think [his medical history] is a deterrent."
Can he play? Absolutely. He's a top-five talent, but don't expect him to be another Revis. Unfortunately for Milliner, he faces a career of Revis comparisons. Such is life when you're drafted four days after one of the biggest trades in franchise history.
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"It's unfair to Dee," Idzik said. "We drafted Dee because of his talent. If you insinuate that, it devalues Dee a little bit. It's pure and simple: He was the best player."
Milliner, who said in an interview Wednesday he has the potential to be another Revis, toned down the bravado after he was picked. Funny how that worked out. Now, the pressure is on. Every time he surrenders a long completion, he'll hear the Revis whispers.
Richardson doesn't have to worry about being compared to anyone. He, too, is a legit talent -- an interior lineman who "jumps off the tape," Jeff Bauer, the Jets' director of college scouting, said. "His ability to change direction is uncanny."
The question about Richardson is with his attitude. A rival scout called him "a goof ball," an immature kid who occasionally clashed with his coaches at Missouri.
With Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, the Jets have the makings of a dominant line. Ryan loves him some defensive linemen, and he was tickled by the pick. Both picks, really.
"Those two guys will make an impact for us," said Ryan, who now has a better chance of showing his new boss how good a defensive coach he can be.
Yep, this was Christmas morning for the coach and -- surprise -- he got two new toys, not coal.