There's a lot to get into here, so let's get started. In case you didn't know, I'm a Jets fan, hence my interest in writing down my thoughts after a busy weekend.
One of the interesting parts of the Jets trading up for Mark Sanchez was the recognition of two coaches going after "their guys" for their system. Last year, the Jets had Kenyon Coleman at 3-4 DE and Abram Elam at SS. Both players were just cogs in the system; when Rex Ryan came over, he brought in Marques Douglas, who played 3-4 DE for Baltimore last year and earlier this decade, and also Jim Leonhard, starting SS for the Ravens. So Ryan brought two guys that fit his version of the 3-4 -- two guys that he clearly liked -- to replace previous role players (Coleman and Elam).
Then the Jets want to move into the top five to grab Sanchez, and Eric Mangini's there holding the valuable pick. What does he want? Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam, two guys who can come in and start for the Browns and help Cleveland adjust to the complicated Mangini defense. There's no way the Jets can trade a backup DE and a backup SS, along with a backup QB, to anyone else but Mangini. But for Cleveland, it was a coup -- they got three guys they really like, and a second round pick. For the Jets, they gave up a second round pick and simply depth to move from #17 to #5; easily the least a team has given to trade that far into the top five in recent history.
So for starters, I was happy to see the Jets didn't have to give up next year's #1 or more than just this year's #2 to move up. That said, is Sanchez really worthy of the #5 pick? I don't know. He's simply not the prospect that Matthew Stafford is -- he can't carry a team, in my opinion. He's your prototypical "keep the offense moving" type of guy; he won't jumpstart an offense but he won't shut one down, either. He's not Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer or Jay Cutler or Matt Stafford; ironically enough, I don't think he's similar to Joe Flacco, who is four inches taller and has a much stronger arm; Sanchez projects as more of a system quarterback. Sanchez, if things go well, will be an elite game manager. He's not going to be a top 3 QB in the NFL. But the ironic part is Sanchez is a better fit for the Ravens' (and now Jets') style of play than a Flacco or Cutler type is; Sanchez should be a Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees, Jeff Garcia or Chad Pennington with an NFL arm sort of player.
Now is Sanchez worth the #5 pick? If he turns into a Mark Brunell or, even better, a Boomer Esiason, type, then yes. But if that's his ceiling and he's not very likely to reach it, then he's not worthy of the pick. On the other hand, the Jets can evaluate this trade as 'is he worth the #17 pick, the 2nd rounder and bench depth?' That's a different question entirely (more on that later). Sanchez is a fascinating prospect for two reasons -- he's been called the safest pick in the draft by some people yet he fits the typical bust profile. We don't have a lot of film on him. He's almost never had to carry a team. He didn't have to throw into tight windows. He was asked to do very simple things, playing with elite talent against bad defenses. He never faced much adversity. So there is a lot of unknown with Sanchez.
Conversely, there are a bunch of things that make him very safe. No one works harder. He's a very strong character guy, and a tremendous interview -- his face will be all over NY, he will be the Jets, going forward. He'll be interviewed a million times by the NY writers and come out looking great in all of them. The Jets gave him a private workout and sent him the playbook two days beforehand; he had mastered nearly the entire thing by the time the Jets arrived and he made all the correct throws. That sort of football IQ makes him a very safe player. He's got a great play action move, something important to the Jets run first philosophy. He can move and throw on the move. He's highly accurate.
So while Sanchez is a solid prospect, the Jets also missed out on some very good players. Pre-draft, I was hoping for Brandon Pettigrew, Jarron Gilbert and Jarrett Dillard to fall to the Jets in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds. To me, that would have been a terrific draft, with a backup option of Maclin in the first round and depth at OL, TE or RB in the third. The Jets could have done any of those things. So why are Pettigrew, Gilbert, and Dillard a better group than Sanchez and Greene? The Jets could have made the defense even better with Gilbert, who has terrific potential, and the offense would have really benefit from a TE like Pettigrew and a smart player like Dillard. The Jets still don't have a blocking tight end on the roster, and that's a significant issue. With Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff at the helm, the team would have been very strong as long as one of those was at least decent.
Still, I'm glad the Jets didn't stay at 17 and take Percy Harvin or Beanie Wells. So it could have been worse. I think the 2009 Jets are worse off by doing what they did than what my hope was, but the future may be brighter. At this point, it all becomes a question of what type of player Sanchez becomes.
Moving on, I don't love the trade up for Shonn Greene, but I get it. My favorite draftnik, Sigmund Bloom (who writes for both Footballguys.com and Draftguys.com), always throws the word "clarity" around, and nothing speaks clarity more than this move. Ryan says Greene was by far the best player on the Jets board entering Sunday, and the team was more than happy to give up some picks to get him. Ryan saw a team excel with a three headed monster last year; he's going for that again. Consider the '08 Ravens RBs vs. the '09 Jets RBs:
Player Age Wt Ht BMI
Le'Ron McClain 24 260 6-0 35.3
Willis McGahee 27 228 6-0 30.9
Ray Rice 21 195 5-9 28.8
Thomas Jones 31 220 5-10 31.6
Leon Washington 27 210 5-8 31.9
Shonn Greene 23 235 5-11 32.8
Only two teams gave three RBs 100 carries last season; the Ravens, largely by design, and the Saints, largely due to injury. Ray Rice was the speedster and the third down back; that's Leon Washington's forte. McGahee was the old veteran, who could play every down and do it all, but was no longer excellent at anything; McClain was the plodder, and the big, bruising, one dimensional power back. That's where Shonn Greene comes in -- the Jets did not have the bruiser, the power, the inside presence. Now Washington's much better than Rice, and Jones in '09 should be considerably better than McGahee was in '08, so the Jets have the start of a terrific ground game. But as Ryan said after drafting Greene, he wants the Jets to have some pound and ground, and Greene is that pound.
GM Mike Tannenbaum remembers the three straight runs from the goal line last year that ended with no points. That's not going to happen with Greene. I expect Jones to lead the team in rushing, Greene in rushing TDs and Washington in receiving. So while I don't love the trade up for Greene, it shows clarity on the part of the team -- Ryan knows what he wants to do and what he needs to have to do what he wants. He wants three RBs and wanted a power runner, but he didn't have that. Now he does. This isn't about sending a message to Thomas Jones but about playing power football. Greene is a big back with great footwork; he's not a good blocker and is definitely a 2-down back at this point, but he's going to be grinding out the 4th quarter of games. A 39" vertical leap with the weight he's carrying shows the power he has in his legs. He also ran a faster 40 than Knowshon Moreno. Here is how I project the Jets RBs to perform this year, barring injury:
Jones: 280 carries, 1200 yards, 6 TDs; 30 rec, 200 yards, 1 TD (182 fantasy points)
Washington: 110 carries, 500 yards, 4 TD; 50 rec, 400 yards, 2 TD (126 FP);
Greene: 110 carries, 400 yards, 8 TDs; 5 rec, 30 yards, 0 TD (91 FP)
Total: 500 carries, 2100 yards, 18 TDs; 85 receptions, 625 yards, 3 TD
The passing game still only has one proven WR, although Leon Washington will be split out wide more frequently this year and Dustin Keller will be used in that way, too. I suspect the Jets top three leaders in receiving yards will only include one wide receiver, Jerricho Cotchery. Sanchez or Kellen Clemens will have to be creative this year, but Keller and Washington help because they provide mismatches for defenses. It's also possible that one of David Clowney, Brad Smith, Marcus Henry and Chansi Stuckey will develop into a legitimate wideout, but I wouldn't count on any one of them breaking out. The Jets desperately need that big, fast WR to stretch the field, but that's not necessarily Rex Ryan's M.O.
On defense, it's hard not to be super excited. The Jets defense should be much better this year with Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Lito Sheppard and Vernon Gholston. Obviously Ryan should make this a unit that attacks the passer. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery are a terrific 1-2-3; Leonhard and Rhodes complete a Jets defensive backfield that could be one of the best in the NFL, with three Pro Bowl caliber players and a SS that is perfect for Ryan's system.
At LB, Bart Scott and David Harris are terrific inside; between Vernon Gholston, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace, the Jets OLBs could get 20 sacks. I know people like to rip on Gholston, but he was terribly misused by Mangini and Ryan is the perfect guy for him. Obviously everything starts with Kris Jenkins up front, and he was outstanding last season.
So we know what Ryan's doing. He's crafting this defense in Baltimore's image -- it should be one of the very best in the league. The running game should be one of the tops in the league, and expect Jones/Washington/Greene to get around 500 carries this year. A solid game manager is all the Jets need at QB, and in time, that's what Sanchez will become. How quickly he develops will answer the question of how far this team goes in '09 and '10. In my perfect world, the Jets would have traded into the 3rd round to get Jarron Gilbert or the 5th round to get Dillard, and had they done either of those things I would have given this draft an A.