Oct 22, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) kneels prior to kickoff of a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets have one of their more important drafts coming up in 2017. If they get it right then odds are they can avoid a long, painful rebuild.
Sometimes the best way to go about it is old school. That means harping back to good, old smashmouth football on offense and playing great defense. New York still has enough pieces in place to get something going. It’s about filling enough gaps to avoid any serious long-term breakdowns. Here is an effort that could push them in the right direction.
The New York Jets have often had their greatest success when they’re able to run the football. It was true with Matt Snell in the 1960s and again with Freeman McNeil in the 1980s. It was true with Curtis Martin in the early 2000s and again with Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2009 and 2010. Run the ball and play good defense. It may sound old school but it works for this franchise. Until they can find a solution at quarterback, that’s how they should approach it.
With Matt Forte aging and now dealing with a torn meniscus, the backfield is a question mark for New York. That’s why drafting Leonard Fournette makes plenty of sense. He is the type of rare running back talent a team can build around. Maybe not quite Adrian Peterson but pretty close. He’s got that coveted mix of size, power, vision and breakaway speed. Feed him 20-30 times a game and the Jets will always have a chance to win. Presuming the defense can be fixed.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles tackle Roderick Johnson (77) blocks against North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
OT, Florida State
If a team is going to run the football, they better invest in the other key element to doing so: the offensive line. Once a strength of the team, age and injuries are starting to take their toll. Nick Mangold is done for the year and they had to trade for veteran Ryan Clady just settle the issue at tackle. It’s a temporary fix at best. New York would be wise to find a young edge protector for the future if they want keep things stable and maximize Fournette.
Roderick Johnson knows everything there is to know about being a true offensive tackle. He protected a franchise-caliber quarterback in Jameis Winston and has opened lanes for a potential 1st round running back in Dalvin Cook. He’s been somewhat inconsistent in 2016, but the ability has never left him. When his fundamentals are under control there isn’t a player on the field he can’t block.
Sep 18, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston College Eagles defensive lineman Harold Landry (8) tackles Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
OLB, Boston College
Leonard Williams is going to be the star the Jets need him to be up front on defense. The next part on their to-do list is finding an edge rusher who can take full advantage of his presence. This has been a gross oversight by the Jets for years. Really ever since Rex Ryan took over. They haven’t found an outside linebacker who can provide legitimate speed to compliment the power pushers. This is something they have to try changing.
Good news is this draft class is loaded with high potential prospects. One name getting overlooked is Harold Landry. Playing out of Boston College is a big reason for that. They just haven’t had a lot of success lately, but that’s not the case for him. It’s rare to see an edge rusher have 15 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss in a season. That speaks to a player with an inherent sense of how to penetrate the backfield and make plays. He’s got the tools to fit what the Jets do.