With March just around the corner, we turn our attention to free agency and the draft. For the first time since 2008, the Jets own a top-ten pick that they did not have to trade up for, which in and of itself should indicate how relatively successful this recent era of Jets football has been.
However, it is only fitting that the Jets would control a top-ten pick in one of the weakest drafts in recent memories especially when it comes to some of their key-need positions - most notably at quarterback. The relative weakness of this draft class also makes it one of the more unpredictable ones even for the "experts" as there appears to be no consensus on anything. This is doubly true for the Jets at number nine where I must have seen about 10 different mock drafts, each with a different opinion as to who the Jets will select.
Since there is arguably no real consensus guy that is a must-draft/can't-miss type prospect (you could make the argument for Jarvis Jones provided that he drops) and given the fact that the Jets have a wide array of holes to fill and only a finite amount of cap space with which to work with, it may behoove them to trade out of the ninth overall pick. Granted, the amount of holes that will need to be filled on draft day is largely dependent on what John Idzik and company are able to do in free agency and who they decide to retain.
The Jets really need a productive, 2006-esque draft because it's safe to say that they haven't really been able to maximize the potential of the draft for a number of years now. The Tannenbaum regime's philosophy of trading up to get their guy worked exceedingly well in a handful of situations but that philosophy is too risky, as it can blow up in your face (see Mark Sanchez). Since the bounty that was the 2006 draft, the Jets have made the fewest draft picks of any team in the NFL and have not hit on a high enough percentage of those picks, which has largely contributed to the mess that the team finds itself in right now.
With that in mind, the Jets should probably look to shop that pick provided that they can get some good value for it because they need to stockpile picks in order to restock the roster with cost-controlled players. Part of the reason the Jets have lacked in depth and salary cap flexibility goes back to the point I already referenced when it comes to making too few picks but hand-in-hand with that has been their need to fill holes via free agency. Since the new CBA was signed this could prove significantly more costly. If you need an example of how much of a crap-shoot free agency is now look no further than what the Jaguars doled out to Laurent Robinson last year.
Building a team predominantly through free agency is not a sustainable model and I'm not saying that's what the Jets have done but what I am saying is that their strategy as of recently had been slightly lopsided, favoring free agency a little more than they should have. Nevertheless, the time has once again come to establish a new "core" of players and the way to do that is by compiling as many picks as possible. While I acknowledge that the draft can be as much, if not more a crap shoot sometimes, it's also true that when you do screw up it costs less than missing on a high-priced free agent.
One thing that gives me pause about potentially trading out of the pick is the fact that the ninth overall pick has produced some pretty good players recently. Since 2009 players that have been picked with the ninth pick have included: B.J. Raji, C.J. Spiller, Tyron Smith, and Luke Kuechly. However, it is tough to put stock in recent drafts because before 2009 the ninth pick has produced some pretty forgettable drafts for some teams with names like: Keith Rivers, Ted Ginn Jr., Ernie Sims, and Reggie Williams. The truth is you never know who is going to pan out or not but most successful teams are built primarily through the draft and finding cost-controlled franchise players.
Talking about trading out may be a bit premature before the league year starts but it is something that is definitely worth thinking about for the team and fans alike. Of course this could all be moot if the Jets decide to trade away Darrelle Revis for a couple of number one's but regardless of what they do, it bears watching.