Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comA few weeks ago, on one of the Spreecasts that Corey and I did due to the craziness at SNY around Mets spring training, a listener/commenter asked me where the sweet spots are at any position in the 2014 NFL Draft. It was a great question. While I had a sense about the answers, I unfortunately didn’t have any real evidence. But I loved the idea as a post and have been thinking about it for weeks now.
It has taken me time to tinker, research and display the information I came up with, but we think you will like the results. Be sure to add your thoughts in the comments.
The Process: After a lot of noodling, I thought one of the quickest ways to shortcut the process would be to hijack someone else’s deep research on the 2014 NFL Draft. I love CBS Sports top 1000 prospect list and use it all the time, so I took the their prospect rankings as a starting point. I then made sure that each ranking corresponded to the correct round’s total draft picks while taking into account the news about compensatory picks. After, I did some pivot table magic (sorting and cross-tabulation) to come up with how many players at a given position project to be drafted in any given round. For example, want to know how many offensive tackles project to be taken in the second round? Just look at the table below.
Here are the results with a color coded “heat map” to demonstrate where there are higher/lower frequencies of players in a given round. After the jump are some of my general conclusions and how it might pertain to the Jets on May 8-10.
Need Supply — The best teams try not to draft for need, but ignoring need is dangerous as well. For example the Jets need a second starting wide receiver and Rex Ryan, Marty Mornhinweg, John Idzik and Terry Bradway have shown a pattern of attending the Pro Days of likely receivers drafted before the third round. In no particular order, the Jets have needs at the following positions: CB, DE/OLB, FS, OT, RB, TE, WR. If you start weighting where the need is based on filling out their 2014 roster, I’d place Rounds 1-3 emphasis on WR, TE, FS and CB. I’d place Rounds 3-5 emphasis on DE/OLB, OT and RB. That seems to match the Jets needs as they head into the draft season very well.
Just Round the Corner — A lot of hue and cry went up about the Jets letting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (after Vontae Davis, after Alterraun Verner, after Darrelle Revis, etc.) slip through their fingers. I was among the inconsolable at the time, but just look at the table above!!! Only WR rivals the number of corners projecting to be drafted. Even when you add together all offensive linemen likely to be drafted together does it barely surpass (five starting OL spots compared to two CB on an NFL roster) … that should be an indication of just how strong the draft is at corner. At the end of the fourth round, 20/33 cornerbacks project to be drafted. For the Jets, while drafting a first round talent like Darqueze Dennard would be a slick addition, the Jets have
five six draft picks before the end of the fourth round, where the class is at its absolute deepest. The Jets could draft a system corner with some of the traits they are looking for before the end of the fourth round whom they could groom into a larger role in time. The Seahawks have done well in drafting deep at cornerback … can the Jets demonstrate an ability to find corner talent that projects well for them? It might be the most economical investment of resources and yield the greatest long-term gain and pairing for Dee Milliner.
Address the Outside, Episode VI — It never fails that every year since Rex Ryan came to New York that he is widely expected to have his team draft an outside linebacker in the first round to boost his external pass rush. Since then, Ryan has been happy to bring Calvin Pace back year after year to set the edge, stuff the run while using situational players to rush the passer. Ryan would rather place an emphasis on cornerbacks and defensive linemen for his system due to the abundance of the spread formation in the NFL, where non-coverage linebackers consistently feel the squeeze. With the Sons of Anarchy in place, I think the Jets can get away with a later round player to groom as an eventual replacement to Calvin Pace’s role while injecting some youth into the situational pass rush until such a time.
Stone Free — There’s not a lot of talented free safeties in this year’s draft class and the Jets prospects of drafting a coverage safety seems a hit or miss proposition. If the stars align, they might draft a safety, but due to the overall lack of talent at the spot don’t expect the Jets to reach for a player either. That doesn’t seem to be John Idzik’s way. If they do draft such a player? It would most likely come in the first or fourth rounds.
Receiver rich — One of the big talking points of this draft over the last few months is how deeply talented the receiver position is. Looking at the data this way shows just how deep the class in fact is. There haven’t been six WRs drafted in the first round since 2009, but beyond just the first round look at how consistently high the frequency of receivers stays compared to other positions throughout the draft. The Jets could feasibly find a starter through the draft’s first three rounds easily and then even pick up some more later as special teamers or project players thanks to this year’s glut of 102 underclassmen who declared for the draft.
Deep in the Backfield — From what we hear, the Jets are intently looking to upgrade their running back position this offseason. The Jets haven’t placed high emphasis on the position via free agency. Idzik and the Jets were curious, but seem to be letting MJD find another team. Their hesitance to sign MJD to $3 million per year is understandable; running back has become one of the most disposable positions in the last ten years. Between Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell neither are playmaking threats via the pass, and so the Jets are intently looking for a player who can come in on third down in the model of Gio Bernard was with the Bengals in 2013. To justify gameday activation, we expect the Jets would want that player to have value as a returner too. This draft has plenty of talent between the second and fifth rounds and so the Jets don’t need to rush to find their man.
In the second part of this study, we’ll take all this and apply it to specific players. Add your thoughts in the comments!