The New York Jets 2013 NFL draft picks haven't even taken the field for their first minicamp yet, but their impact is already being felt on the roster.
Two of the seven players drafted will likely be the starters at their positions, and another three will at least be competing for a starting job.
Here's my take on how the Jets depth chart shakes up for the 2013 season.
Free-agents and trades are in red, draft picks are in blue, undrafted free-agents are in purple. Layout courtesy Greg Bedard, with some minor changes.
The Jets are at 92 players, but their draft picks remain unsigned; the Jets will have to cut two players to get down to 90 total.
Some thoughts on the depth chart as it stands:
- David Garrard has plenty of experience running West Coast offenses, and that should serve him well enough to win the starting job in training camp. He has not played meaningful football since 2010, but he was beating out both Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill with the Miami Dolphins before he suffered a knee injury that ended his season. When healthy, he's a better quarterback than Mark Sanchez. There's no rush to put Geno Smith in the starting spot, and watching David Garrard for a full season could work to his benefit.
- Running back is easily the most improved position on the Jets roster this offseason. Shonn Greene (career 4.2 YPA) could still be an effective back in his role as a short-yardage between-the-tackles runner, but the Jets upgraded by moving on from him and trading for running back Chris Ivory (career 5.1 YPA), who brings a similar style but more explosive and decisive at the line. Bilal Powell came on strong at the end of the season (75 carries, 299 yards, 3.99 YPA, 4 TD final seven games). Those two project as the torch-bearers for the Jets in the backfield. The Jets didn't have a good third-down back last year, and found one this offseason in Mike Goodson, who adds some versatility as a pass-catcher (35 carries, 16 receptions in 2012). Joe McKnight has failed to claim that role in the past, and Goodson's experience won out for me.
- The offensive line has turned over greatly in the past few seasons, with three of the team's starters from the 2011 season no longer on the roster -- only D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold remain. Austin Howard could be a solid starting right tackle, though he'll always be limited somewhat because of his athleticism. He ranked out as the eighth-best run-blocking tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Willie Colon could be an upgrade over Matt Slauson if he's healthy, especially in the passing game, where Slauson gave up 40 pressures, 20 hits and 12 sacks over the past three years. While Stephen Peterman has started the past 48 consecutive games for the Lions, it could be hard to replace Brandon Moore, who has been a rock for the Jets in the running game.
- The Jets' most questionable pick in the draft, by far, was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the 13th pick. He's a good player, and an effective inside pass-rusher. The Jets needed to boost their pass-rush, so the pick makes sense overall. Here's where the trouble kicks in: He projects as a defensive end in the Jets' 3-4 scheme. The Jets have already drafted two of those in the first round over the past two years -- Muhammad Wilkerson in 2011 and Quinton Coples in 2012. Coples is strictly an edge guy, so he's not going anywhere. They could move Wilkerson to the nose tackle or the one-technique (inside shade over the guard) but he graded out as the second-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL behind only J.J. Watt according to Pro Football Focus. He's at his best pushing upfield as a five-technique (over the tackle).
- Could they be working up more 4-3 elements to the defense? That front would likely consist of Coples on the edge, Wilkerson and Richardson as interchangeable tackles at the one- and three-techniques, and one of the outside linebackers on the edge. It would be either Antwan Barnes or Calvin Pace; both have extensive experience playing end in a four-man line. That assembly on the defensive line could have some trouble against the run, but they could cycle in a true nose tackle like Antonio Garay or Kenrick Ellis in more obvious running situations. Health is an issue for both, and neither of them are going to wow you with an array of pass-rush moves, but each would provide a stout presence at the point of attack, and someone capable of occupying multiple blockers as Sione Po'uha did last year.
- The Jets impact rookie will be Dee Milliner. People who complain about Milliner's injuries are just trying to sound smart. Fact is, several doctors have already come out and said not only that Milliner's labrum will heal in time for camp, but that there is a low risk of him reinjuring it down the road. He'll win the starting outside job opposite Antonio Cromartie, and as the No. 2 cornerback, he'll probably be tested more frequently than Cromartie. The other knocks on Milliner are that he doesn't have good hands and he doesn't backpedal well. NFL Network showed a few dropped interceptions and slip-ups during drills at the combine when he was selected. On the field, though, there were few corners in college football that could stay with their man on as consistent a basis as Milliner. Rex Ryan will have no qualms about putting him in man coverage, even as a rookie.
- The Jets did a little garbage-picking with free-agent signees Willie Colon, Mike Goodson, Antonio Garay and Antwan Barnes. All four have the potential to be good players, but all four have suffered their share of injuries during their careers. It's no coincidence that each was given a one-year deal. The Jets have a good opportunity with those four signings to find some players for the long-haul, especially Garay and Barnes, who would both fill huge needs for the Jets at nose tackle and outside linebacker.
- The overarching theme of this offseason: competition. The Jets brought in veterans and young players alike at several positions, following the model which Jets general manager John Idzik saw to success with the Seahawks as their vice president of football administration. The Jets brass keeps reiterating that theme of competition. If that's the goal, it looks like they've done a good job. On paper. In May.
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