Updated, 2:53 p.m. ET
Although the 2011 NFL season ended not more than two weeks ago, it feels like forever since the Jets last took the field. Unfortunately, it’s only February and we have a long way to go until the Green & White head to Cortland, N.Y., for 2012 training camp.
For now, winter continues to roll toward spring, which signals one of the more exciting dates on an NFL fan’s calendar: the draft. The annual April football extravaganza provides for a long weekend full of anticipation and optimism as the top college players wait to see whose NFL colors they will don in the fall. Fans will glue themselves to the television as their team selects the next piece to a championship puzzle.
The draft is still more than two months away, but it’s never too early to speculate, right? We won’t make any premature guesses, but we can take a look at what the experts are saying right now about the Jets and their first-round selection, 16th overall:
Today — Charley Casserly, NFL Network: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
“At some point, the Jets need to find a linebacker that can get to the passer.”
Tuesday — Rob Rang, CBSSports.com: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
“The Jets have struggled against tight ends this season and could use an instinctive, big-hitting safety to fall into their lap. While the team certainly has other needs to consider, if Alabama’s Mark Barron is available, perhaps it might be wise to take the easy way out.”
Tuesday — Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com: Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina
“Ingram might be the most versatile defender in this draft. He finds ways to create pressure in the backfield.”
Feb. 10 — Russ Lande, The Sporting News: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
“Mark Sanchez regressed in 2011, and the Jets need a strong rushing attack to help him. Richardson has the talent to be a dynamic offensive weapon.”
Feb. 7 — Chad Reuter, NFL Network: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
“The Jets averaged 3.8 yards a carry in the running game and gave up 40 sacks this season, meaning changes are coming on the offensive line. DeCastro possesses everything a team could want up front, so he won’t escape the top 20 overall selections of this draft.”
Feb. 6 — Robert Davis, FootballsFuture.com: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
“Floyd has the size and leaping ability to do what Plaxico Burress did for the team last year, but can do a lot more damage outside of the red zone. He would be a great complement to Santonio Holmes, but he also has the ability to become the team’s #1 target one day.”
Feb. 6 — Evan Silva, Rotoworld.com: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
“Blackmon is a media darling after twice winning college football’s Biletnikoff Award and scoring three touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl, two on busted coverages and the third on a badly blown tackle. NFL teams will not grade Blackmon as a top-ten prospect after he runs a 4.55-4.60 at the Combine. Blackmon would fit in New York, however, as a physical, possession-type No. 2 receiver to bookend Santonio Holmes.”
Feb. 2 — Todd McShay, ESPN: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
“The Jets need help in the secondary to deal with the Patriots’ tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez twice a season, and Barron is the only 2012 safety prospect with a first-round grade. He does everything well, showing instincts and playmaking skills in coverage and the ability to be a physical run defender when playing near the box.”
Jan. 27 — Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
“The Jets desperately need a pass rusher to help their defense return to the ranks of the elite. Upshaw’s motor and relentlessness will allow Rex Ryan to scale back the risky blitzing in critical situations.”
Jan. 18 — Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
“In Barron, the Jets would get the best safety in the draft, a big, rangy talent with big-game experience and the ability to match up against taller receivers and tight ends. The Jets have schemed around a weakness at safety, but it’s time to put a better talent back there.”
Jan. 17 — Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
“The sooner Jets fans don’t have to see Eric Smith running five yards behind a receiver, the happier they’ll be. Rex Ryan, too.”
Jan. 16 — Charles Davis, NFL.com: Nick Perry, DE, USC
“The Jets have a glaring need for a pass rusher, and this youngster really came on late.”
According to these experts, Barron is the early favorite for the Jets in the first round. Considered the top safety in this year’s class, he was a key to the Crimson Tide’s national championship run in 2011. He is coming off a campaign where he was a consensus All-American, leading the nation’s top overall defense.
Despite the success he enjoyed this past season, Barron’s current injury situation serves as a proverbial fly in the soup for NFL teams needing secondary help. He underwent double-hernia surgery in January and will need at least two months to recover. He will not be able to participate in the combine and is doubtful to take part in Alabama’s pro day set for March 7.
While Barron currently stands as the top safety prospect, look for players like Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen and Boise State’s George Iloka to climb up draft boards in the coming months.
Among the remaining opinions, four experts believe a pass rusher (Ingram, Upshaw, Perry) is the right choice, two are looking for a wide receiver (Floyd, Blackmon), one thinks an offensive lineman (DeCastro) is the call, and another sees a standout running back (Richardson) joining RB Shonn Greene in the Jets backfield.
Take these projections with a grain of salt. Mock drafts are only now starting to trickle out of the national media, and many more are on their way. Nonetheless, it’s a good starting point for all Jets fans itching to hear the first name called on April 26.
Tags: 16th overall pick, Charley Casserly, Eric Smith, Mark Barron, Mark Sanchez, Mel Kiper, Melvin Ingram, NFL Draft, Rob Rang, Todd McShay
Posted in Andrew LeRay | 185 Comments »