Over the past four days I have watched the filmed games of the following players: Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Nick Perry, and Whitney Mercilus. None of these four players showed any evidence of being a dominant pass rusher suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Courtney Upshaw is a two time national champion with experience as a dual role 3-4 outside linebacker/4-3 defensive end. He was a very good player when it came to stopping the run but rarely displayed the skills of a legitimate NFL pass rusher. Upshaw often struggled to get past offensive tackles and almost all of his sacks were one of two varieties: 1) when he was completely ignored by offensive tackles and could run straight to the quarterback with no one blocking him, and 2) effort sacks, which are not going to happen often in the NFL.
Melvin Ingram is an athletic and versatile player. Based on what I saw from his film, Ingram is definitely not a 4-3 defensive end, but more of an outside linebacker. This could be seen as a good thing but he hasn’t shown a consistent ability to get past offensive tackles.
In fact, based on the film I saw, he was actually most dangerous as a pass rusher when playing defensive tackle, which he wouldn’t be big enough to play in the NFL. Ingram could play inside linebacker and outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but he’s most likely never going to be a player who gets more than ten sacks in a season.
Nick Perry is an excellent fit as a defensive end in a wide-9 scheme, which is something the Jets don’t utilize. Some might argue Perry’s time at the elephant position, a defensive end who can drop back in coverage, in 2009 is evidence of him being able to play outside linebacker, but I doubt that he could play outside linebacker full time. He would at best be a situational pass rusher in New York.
Whitney Mercilus looked terrific as a pass rushing defensive end in 2011. Unfortunately I see it as a risky move to try making Mercilus switch from his natural position, 4-3 defensive end, to the 3-4 outside linebacker position. Another key thing to consider is the fact he never had a good year before 2011, something that eerily reminds me of Vernon Gholston. Mercilus is definitely not an ideal pick for the Jets.
So what should Mike Tannenbaum do? I would suggest getting a player like Ronnell Lewis or Cam Johnson in the third round, both of which are good pass rushing outside linebackers. If this is not what the New York Jets want to do, then I would recommend waiting until next year’s draft to find a pass rushing outside linebacker.