It is a best-case scenario when the strength of the draft lines up with a team’s weakness, a perfect storm of talent based on need. For the Jets and Giants, consider this week’s draft a perfect match.
With both teams needing help along the defensive front, this not only shapes up as a good opportunity to get better in a hurry for both New York teams. It’s a great chance.
How formidable does this year’s selection process shape up when it comes to the big guys up front and at pass rusher?
“It’s a historically good defensive line group,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout who is now one of the most respected voices for draft coverage. “I think we’ll see that reflected in the first 15 picks of this year’s draft.”
The Jets (third overall) and Giants (sixth and 17th overall) will thus be in prime position to get impact players at just the right time. With both teams desperate to improve the pass rush and overall defensive play, this could be a sensational opportunity.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said it’s a no-brainer that he needs help on defense – even though this may also be the year he selects the successor to 38-year-old quarterback Eli Manning.
“We went 4-4 the second half of the [2018 season], and we had three games that if we make a [defensive stop], we are 7-1,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t have too many playmakers. You talk about roster construction, I have always been a big believer that if you look at the great defenses, they have a lead dog in every level. A legitimate playmaker at every level of their defense. I said it at the postseason presser and I will say it again, we need some defensive playmakers.”
It's uncertain which order Gettleman might choose said playmaker, since there is also a major need at quarterback. But it would be a shock if he didn’t come out of the draft with one of the big-time defensive players to add to his front seven.
Same with the Jets, who haven’t had a legitimate outside pass rusher since John Abraham, a first-round pick in 2000. Mike Maccagnan will have several options if he stays at No. 3, although he has indicated a preference to move down and acquire additional picks. Even if he does swing a trade, there should be help available up front.
Among the top-rated pass rushers in the draft: Nick Bosa of Ohio State, Josh Allen of Kentucky, Brian Burns of Florida State, Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat of Mississippi, and Clelin Ferrell of Clemson.
The best of the interior defensive linemen: Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins of Clemson, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Dexter Lawrence of Clemson and Jeffery Simmons of Mississippi State.
“I think it is obviously a good defensive line draft,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “It’s fun to watch that come about. We go in stages over the years, where you see a good group of defensive linemen and then you see a dearth the next year. This year, it’s a strong year.”
With such an abundance of talent will come a difference of opinion on many of the prospects. Some scouts love Oliver, others think he’s a shade too small at around 6-2. Some prefer Williams, the disruptive interior force for Alabama and the latest member of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide to enter the draft with a big-time reputation.
“There are teams that are production-based, and there are teams that are trait-based in terms of what they look for in players,” Jeremiah said. “I talked to a coach the other day who said if I was in San Francisco [with the second overall pick], I’d take Rashan Gary over Nick Bosa.”
There could be a debate in the Jets’ draft room over whether to take Oliver — who could play an Aaron Donald-type role in Gregg Williams’ defense — over Allen, a more traditional edge rusher.
Bottom line for Jeremiah: “I just think who impacts the game the most out of all those guys.”
The best of the bunch? “I would stick with Quinnen, because I think he impacts the game on every single down.”
Williams might be gone before either New York team is on the board, but even if he’s not available, there’s plenty from which to choose. In a draft that’s widely considered one of the best in years on defense, the Jets and Giants should come away with some major upgrades where they’re needed most.