The New York Jets fulfilled expectations in addressing the front seven early in the 2013 NFL Draft, but judging by the booing at Radio City Music Hall, Gang Green nation did not expect them to do it with Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson at No. 13.
Many respected draftniks believe Richardson is the best defensive tackle on the board and love the inside penetration he offers, but most expected 3-4 defensive teams with a need at nose tackle to go with the wider Star Lotulelei if he was available. Richardson was widely mocked as a 4-3 DT to teams like the Carolina Panthers, where Lotulelei went, so go figure. It’s hard to imagine Richardson on the nose but perhaps — if New York is not using him to fill the void left by NT Sione Pouha — the Jets will place him at 3-4 defensive end and move Quinton Coples from the line to outside linebacker.
After trading Darrelle Revis for the No. 13 overall and a 2014 conditional pick this week, the Jets reloaded in in the secondary with their first selection, taking Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner at pick No. 9. The Jets made this selection knowing they were slated to draft again four picks later.
Asked by Deion Sanders immediately after the selection as to whether he can fill Revis’ shoes, Milliner responded “I know I can” — but that won’t dismiss the weight of expectations that comes with replacing the league’s best cornerback in the country’s biggest media market. Then again, playing defense for Nick Saban probably carries a high level of scrutiny and expectations in its own right.
Coming out as a defensive back from a Saban defense has drawn both reasons for optimism and pessimism in the lead-up to this draft, depending on who you ask. While recent ‘Bama pick Dre Kirkpatrick failed to make a splash last year due to injuries and early-round pick Javier Arenas hasn’t proven more than a solid nickel corner, the range of coverage situations Milliner has been able to excel in could translate well to the next level. Some have criticized the fact that he played a lot of zone in Tuscaloosa, but the increasing incorporation of zone-read offensive schemes in recent years makes it even more crucial to have cornerbacks who can vacillate effectively between man and zone on the defensive side.
It was feared that Milliner’s draft stock could take a hit due to reports about him having undergone five surgeries, but the fact that he didn’t leave the top 10 shows little worry in general manager John Idzik or Coach Rex Ryan‘s eyes.
But what may be the biggest shock is that the Jets let a talented classes of edge rushers drop past picks No. 9 and No. 13. It remains an area that needs addressing regardless of where they may move current pieces, so it will be interesting to see what the Jets do with the No. 40 pick.
For more information on Sheldon Richardson check out his 2013 NFL Draft Profile here!