Draft 2012: The two-caste draft of the Jets, from fast Stephen Hill to slow Jordan White
The following is an analysis of the Jets draft picks from Rounds 2 through 7. My analysis of Jets first-round pick Quinton Coples, who we now know was merely a consolation prize in lieu of the more coveted Bruce Irvin, is here.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (6-4, 215)
He looks like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green. If he rounds out his game, he’ll play like them too.
Hill ran a blazing 4.31 at the combine, and put up eye-popping numbers in the broad jump and vertical jump.
Hill’s status as the Official Wide Receiver Freak of the 2012 Draft translates to the field in one important way: He’s is a lethal deep threat, who averaged an astonishing 30 yards per catch his senior year. This is why the Jets packaged a fifth and a seventh-rounder to move up four spots to pick him.
It’s not just his speed and size that make him dangerous downfield: Scouts say he’s good at tracking the ball in the air and has excellent body control. What’s more, having played in Georgia Tech’s run-heavy, triple option offense, he marshals his size in the service of being an excellent blocker.
But just as there’s no shortage of tantalizing potential, there are no shortage of question marks and areas that need improvement. For one, Hill only had 49 receptions during his college career. While that stat comes with the caveat of Georgia Tech’s offense, it touches on some of Hill’s negatives: his reputation for dropping passes, his unpolished route running and his undeveloped skill at reading coverages.
And because his speed is predicated getting his long, loping strides up to full acceleration, scouts say he lacks the “suddenness” to get open on short and intermediate routes. For all of the impressive things Hill did at the combine, one negative stands out that directly relates to this: His wide receiver-worst 4.48 seconds in the 20-yard shuffle.
Where he fits:
The Rex Ryan-era Jets aren’t about half-stepping. Their rationale for selecting Hill is obvious: If we’re using a second-round pick on a wide receiver, we might as well take one that can become the best damn receiver in the draft.
Hill has a ways to go to get there, but he’ll get the chance: Ryan said he expects both Hill and first-round choice Quinton Coples to start this year.
Hill’s selection represents a perfect marriage between a player and a system. The Jets’ run-heavy offense requires receivers to block well, which Hill does. It’s also reliant on a fast downfield receiver to keep cornerbacks and safeties away from the line of scrimmage, thus enabling both the running game and the short and intermediate receiving threats of Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes to thrive.
Their offense was at its best in 2010. With Braylon Edwards fully integrated as a viable deep threat, the Jets finished 19th in the league, with 5.2 yards per play. Last year, with Edwards replaced by Plaxico Burress, who had lost two steps since his pre-prison days and could no longer outrun defensive backs, the Jets offense plummeted to 27th, at 4.8 yards per play.
There were other factors, obviously, like the dramatic fall-off of the offensive line, and of course everything in football is interrelated. But restoring the deep passing game is as good a place as any to start in curing what ails the offense. For all of Mark Sanchez’s flaws, throwing the bomb is something he does very well.
3rd Round (77): Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State (6-2, 235)
Davis is very fast and aggressive. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, and used that speed to be an extremely productive sideline-to-sideline tackler at Arkansas State. He also rushed the quarterback with his hand in the ground on third downs, which surely piqued Rex Ryan’s mad-scientist imagination for designing third-down blitzes.
Scouts say Davis has excellent instincts to quickly diagnose running plays, but can be overaggressive and overrun the ballcarrier, thus subjecting himself to cutbacks. In the passing game, his instincts aren’t as good: Scouts say his aggressiveness compels him to bite on play-action fakes and that he’s slow to diagnose crossing routes in his zone.
His speed and fluidity make him a good candidate to improve as a pass defender, but he has his work cut out for him. Playing in the lower-tier Sun Belt conference, he was athletic enough to dominate despite his flaws.
Where he fits:
This year, he’ll be a contributor on special teams, thanks to his speed and abandon. Apparently, he was one of special teams coach Mike Westhoff’s highest-rated players.
Next year, he’ll replace Bart Scott at inside linebacker.
Scott, 32, is still effective against the run but comes off the field in likely passing situations. His salary is guaranteed this coming season per an agreement he signed before the 2011 season. But if the Jets cut him before the 2013 season, they would save more than $7 million off the salary cap.
For the Jets to ever overtake the Patriots, they need to figure out a way to cover Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots' dynamic young tight ends at the vanguard of the N.F.L. trend of utilizing athletic tight ends out of spread formations.
In the teams’ two meetings last year, the pair combined for 241 receiving yards. Covering the tight end had was a vulnerability for the defense all of last year: According to FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metric, the Jets ranked 27th in the league against tight ends.
Both Scott and David Harris are better against the run than the pass. The Jets’ safeties match that description as well: Right now, LaRon Landry and Eric Smith are the only safeties on the roster, and both of them profile more as strong safeties best suited to playing the run.
6th Round (187): Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest (5-11 203) 7th Round (242): Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina (6-2, 202)
In Short/Where they fit:
Because the Jets traded both their fourth- (Tebow) and fifth-round picks (Hill), they didn’t select again until the 187th pick. This means their draft class was divided into two castes: The heavy investments and the flyers.
The Jets took two flyers at safety. We discussed the Jets’ issues at this position before, which earlier this offseason compelled Antonio Cromartie to prematurely announce via Twitter that he was moving to the position. Jim Leonhard, the team’s starting free safety for the past three years, is coming off major knee surgery and is a free agent. Eric Smith is due to see his salary jump from $700,000 to $3 million, which means he’ll likely face the choice of having his contract restructured of being cut. Other than Smith, LaRon Landry and a fellow named Tracy Wilson who was recently signed and who 90 percent of Jets fans likely have never heard of, the Jets had no other safeties on the roster.
Bush and Allen give the Jets quantity, and some chance at discovering quality.
They’re different types of players: Bush, a converted cornerback, is the better cover guy. Allen, who played a hybrid safety/outside linebacker position at South Carolina, is the better tackler.
It was something of a mystery that Allen went as late as he did. He was an impact player on an excellent South Carolina team, which had the second-best defense in the powerful SEC. But because he didn’t play a true safety position, it’s likely that N.F.L. scouts saw him as a square peg.
6th Round (185): Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor, 6-0, 239
Ganaway is 35 pounds heavier than the average back at the combine, but scouts say he runs more like a smaller back, with more quickness than you’d expect but not as much power.
Scouts say he has good patience, but this sometimes works against him when he precludes himself from gaining a head of steam. Jets fans who have followed what pundits have said about Brandon Jacobs, formerly of the stadium co-tenant Giants, might know this as “tiptoeing.”
Ganaway’s uncle is Jeremiah Trotter, who played 11 years in the N.F.L., most notably for the Eagles.
Where he fits:
After a promising start to his career, starting running back Shonn Greene has seemingly plateaued as a pedestrian player. He’s a decent enough between-the-tackles runner, but he lacks any semblance of breakaway ability and brings little to the table as a receiver. His hold on his job is tenuous: He’ll be a free agent after this year, so the Jets have little incentive to make him an indispensible player.
Ganaway will challenge second-year-man Bilal Powell as the team’s second option as a traditional power back. Powell did little to distinguish himself in his rookie season, so a good training camp would allow Ganaway to climb the depth chart in a hurry and challenge Greene for every down carries.
Joe McKnight, who has thus far failed to translate his talent on special teams to every-down play, will be in contention for a bigger role as well.
Former Colts general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian had an interesting take on Ganaway. Like many things people say about the Jets these days, it had to do with a certain backup quarterback.
“When you look at what Ganaway did in college … option,” Polian said. “What did Tim Tebow run in college? Option. You got a package right there. That’s your package. That’s part of what they drafted here.”
6th Round (203): Robert T. Griffin, OG, Baylor (6-6, 335)
Oh, awesome, the Jets got Robert Griffin from Baylor? Now there’s someone Mark Sanchez should actually be threatened by!
Oh, wait, it’s actually Robert T. Griffin, who, according to a Sports Illustrated article that takes the joke a little too far, is also known as “RG2,” “Deuce,” and “Big Griff.”
Other than that, it’s hard to find much information about Griffin. Like Ganaway, his teammate at Baylor, he’s also a big dude.
Where he fits:
Starting guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson are both free agents after this year. In terms of depth along the offensive line, former second rounder Vladimir Ducasse has failed to launch, and the rest of the depth chart is peopled by practice-squad fodder like Dennis Landolt and Caleb Schlauderaff. It behooves the Jets to get some bodies in there, preferably big ones.
7th Round (244): Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan, 6-0, 210
A very productive, polished receiver at Western Michigan, who does everything you’d want a receiver to do—run good routes, find open spaces in the zone, adjust to throws to different parts of his body, use his frame to shield defenders, snatch the ball with his hands at its highest point—except run even moderately fast.
Speed is overrated in wide receivers, but White’s 4.72 40-yard-dash time might be a deal-breaker. Or it might not.
It should be noted that White also tore different ACLs in 2006 (his redshirt freshman season) and 2008.
Where he fits:
White has a good shot of making the team as the fifth receiver. He’s exactly the type of player who could impress in preseason games and snag a job.