In the wake of Saturday's Senior Bowl, here's some interesting notes which I thought Jets fans who are turning their eyes from the regular season to the draft might enjoy. We will be releasing these in a series of installments over the next day or two so keep checking back for more Senior Bowl content with a Jets focus!
Who's your Dadi?
According to WalterFootball, the Jets had a meeting in Mobile set up Tuesday night with Virginia Tech outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas. Nicolas is nimble, has a relentless motor and at his size (6'3" 235 lbs) is best suited as an OLB in a 4-3 or as a situational pass rusher. Nicolas had 18.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a junior in 2014 before deciding to stay for coach Frank Beamer's final season in an attempt to become the top edge rusher in the country. His senior season turned into a disappointing affair and his low point probably came in November after he unintentionally struck an official (see it here) and was suspended half a game by his coach, which might have sunk his draft stock even further.
Many expect the Jets (dating back to 2010) to use a first round pick on an edge rusher, but with an blitz confident head coach and stellar talent along the defensive front finding a discount-bin player seems a smarter method to me. Nicolas is more the sort of arbitrage edge-rusher who could complement the team and scheme and which I could easily see the Jets pursue on Day Two of the NFL Draft. In the right system, Nicolas could platoon on passing situations with Lorenzo Mauldin for a devastating one-two punch and would allow the Jets flexibility to find other impact players at offensive line or elsewhere with their first pick.
Can Braxton Miller make the leap?
For those in attendance in Mobile, no one garnered more oohs and aahs (here, here and here) in practice than Braxton Miller. Miller didn't have the most productive season as a first-year receiver, but he might have made the play of the year with his "B-Button Spin Move" against Virginia Tech.
With a QB logjam at Ohio State, Miller was stuck in an impossible situation under Urban Meyer and he's made the most of it by converting to before heading into the NFL Draft process. There's not a lot of instant success stories for converted quarterbacks in the NFL, but there is enough precedent among players like Denard Robinson, Brad Smith, Julian Edelman and Antwan Randle-El that some enterprising NFL team will give it a try. What makes it more feasible is that Miller has incredible athleticism - we'll know just how athletic come the NFL Combine - that using his 2015 season as a means to accelerate his transition to receiver will make it more palatable for an interested NFL team.
Miller might have put on a show in Mobile, Matt Waldman preached patience on his site saying that "even if [Miller is] beating everyone here at least once, he often didn't do it twice with the more patient defenders. Although he's not ready to make his mark immediately as a full-time NFL starter, it might not take him long at this rate of his development." Braxton Miller might have put on a show in Mobile, but he needs to demonstrate improvement on his route-running skills on his Pro Day or any private workouts to cement a second round grade.
It would be interesting to see how the Jets could find a spot for Miller, but depending on how well his agility scores are at the Combine he might well get some team to reach for him in the late first round.
If the Jets were to get a crack at drafting him I would imagine it would be in the second round, and they still might have to move up to earlier in the round to grab him. Miller will be a curious player to watch throughout the draft, but I just don't see the Jets getting the chance to use one of their first three picks on him.
Kenyan Drake, the Human Rorshach Blot
There seems to be a lot of buzz, but also a lot of mixed sentiment on Alabama RB Kenyan Drake. Drake played in a complementary role behind The Mountain (AKA Derrick Henry) in a change of pace role for Nick Saban with the Crimson Tide to both TJ Yeldon in 2014 and Derrick Henry again this past year. There's very few secondary talents in a collegiate backfield who go onto great things in the NFL, but can the changing way that the NFL uses running backs allow Drake do just that? Apparently NFL teams in Moblie used Reggie Bush as a comparable, which means I'm, at the very least, paying attention to Drake. But maybe that's comp is not meant in a purely complementary fashion when it comes to Bush's skills as a blocker? Bush was never much of a pass blocker and according to Rob Rang Drake was routinely "getting blown up" in pass protection drills during practice at the Senior Bowl.
Even if Drake is a pocket rocket, NFL teams are going to be hard pressed to manufacture touches for a player who has zero versatility when needed to block. Unless Drake's eminence as a blocker can improve, opposing edge-rushers will quickly get the signal that they can have a free shot at the quarterback any play in which Drake is on the field. The Jets could use an explosive pass catcher like Drake, but not at the cost of getting their quarterback leveled. Maybe Drake can stick in the league as a Theo Riddick type, but for Drake to carve out a larger role and justify a second day draft pick he must get significantly stronger as a pass protector first. Teams will be watching him closely and putting him through as many pass protection drills as they can between now and April.