Final Grades for New York Jets’ Rookie Class
Final Grades for New York Jets' Rookie Class
Last April, the New York Jets were a team in turmoil. They had just hired John Idzik to be their new general manager, and there were all kinds of questions about the futures of Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Idzik put his mark on the franchise early by trading superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis, but the Jets were relatively quiet in free agency. The draft was going to be the most important part of the offseason, and Idzik and Ryan had seven picks to work with.
The Jets surprised many people by taking two defensive players, Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson, with their first two picks. They followed that with one of the most talked about moves of the draft, selecting quarterback Geno Smith in the second round. These three players have been in the spotlight all season, and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
The Jets then drafted three straight offensive linemen before finishing up by selecting fullback Tommy Bohanon. All told, the Jets landed five players who started the majority of the season, though they have met with varying degrees of success.
Milliner and Smith have both had ups and downs, most of which have been very well publicized. Richardson has been a star, and he is a candidate for Rookie of the Year. Finally, Bohanon has been quietly successful while guard Brian Winters has quietly struggled.
In large part due to the presence of Smith, this draft will class will define the franchise for the next several years. They were part of a surprisingly successful 8-8 campaign as rookies, and they will be expected to play a big role in improving in the future. Now that we have seen them play for a full season, here are the final grades for the Jets’ 2013 rookie class.
CB Dee Milliner, 1st Round, 9th Overall
The Jets drafted Dee Milliner 9th overall, taking the player many viewed as the best available. They claimed he was not a direct replacement for Revis, but no one believed them then or now. Milliner dealt with a shoulder injury in training camp, and it led to him struggling in the first three weeks, including a halftime benching in Week 2. Milliner then missed three games with a hamstring injury, and returned to struggle for six more weeks, including two benchings.
However, Milliner made huge strides over the final four games, and he even won AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 17. Milliner finished the season with 56 tackles, 17 pass deflections and 3 interceptions, and he displayed his potential over the final four weeks. The Jets will be expecting Milliner to take a massive leap forward next season, and a full offseason of NFL coaching and weight training will be very helpful.
The red flags on Milliner in the draft were his health and his hands, and both proved to be issues at times. He also made some common rookie mistakes, such as giving receivers too much space and keeping his eyes in the backfield. His grade is low because he struggled for so long, but Milliner made some big strides, and his future is definitely looking bright.
DT Sheldon Richardson, 1st Round, 13th Overall
The Jets used the pick they acquired in the Revis trade to draft Sheldon Richardson, and they could not have possibly done better. Richardson was a monster on the interior from Day 1, recording 77 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He was one of the most important players on the NFL’s 3rd ranked rush defense, and he is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Richardson will continue to anchor the Jets’ outstanding front seven next season, and he should get even better. The Jets will be looking to see Richardson improve as a pass rusher, and they hope he will follow the same career trajectory as Muhammad Wilkerson. Idzik had to get this pick right to justify trading Revis, and he hit an absolute home run.
QB Geno Smith, 2nd Round, 39th Overall
Geno Smith had a huge roller coaster ride this season. He was up and down for the first seven games, awful for the next five and finally very solid for the last four contests. Overall, he completed 55.8% of his passes for 3,046 yards, 12 TDs and 21 INTs. Smith also displayed some promise as a runner, carrying 72 times for 366 yards and 6 TDs.
What got lost throughout the season was the fact that the consensus belief about Smith in preseason was that he was nowhere ready to play as a rookie. That showed very often, as he struggled to make decisions quickly and was often inaccurate. However, there were still several games in which he flashed his considerable potential to be a dual threat quarterback.
Like most highly drafted young quarterbacks, the future of the franchise hinges on Smith. The Jets must get him much better weapons this offseason, which will go a long way. However, Smith is responsible for improving himself, and full offseason spent studying the playbook will be crucial. Smith has the potential to be a solid starting quarterback, and the Jets must develop him.
LG Brian Winters, 3rd Round, 72nd Overall
The Jets took Brian Winters in the third round with the idea of making him their starting left guard, but a training camp injury slowed that plan. Winters still took over the job early in the season, but he struggled mightily. The transition from Kent State to the NFL was as difficult as everyone worried it would be, and there are questions about whether or not Winters will be the starter next season.
His biggest problem might be his lack of strength, and a full offseason in an NFL strength training program will do him wonders. He plays between D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, which covers for many of his mistakes. However, Winters’ level of play was simply not good enough this season, and he has to make major improvements if he wants to stay the starter.
OT Oday Aboushi, 5th Round, 141st Overall & OG Will Campbell, 6th Round, 178th Overall
The Jets selected tackle Oday Aboushi and guard Will Campbell in the 5th and 6th round, respectively, and neither offensive lineman played a down in the regular season. They were drafted for depth and development, so no one is quite sure what the Jets have in these two players.
They will both be in training camp next summer, but they will have to earn their spot. In their second season the Jets will want to see Aboushi and Campbell become reliable backups, or they will not be around very long.
FB Tommy Bohanon, 7th Round, 215th Overall
The Jets’ final pick was fullback Tommy Bohanon, and he turned out to be a steal. Bohanon carried the ball 17 times for 62 yards and caught 11 passes for 69 yards, but his major contribution was very good lead blocking for the league’s sixth ranked rushing offense.
Bohanon should have the fullback spot locked down for quite some time, and his physical blocking is a great fit in the Jets’ power run scheme. However, given his performance in college and what he did with his few touches as a rookie, one can’t help but think the Jets are underusing him as a runner and receiver. Expect that role to expand next season, and Bohanon should continue to be a bargain for the Jets.