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New York Jets: Who Should They Have Drafted in the First Round of the 2012 NFL Draft?

November 11th, 2012 at 12:53 PM
By Chris Tripodi

With just two sacks on the season and one of them becoming a negative play after a face mask penalty, it's hard to argue that Quinton Coples has been anything but a bust for the Jets so far this season. We here at Jets 101 were lukewarm on the pick of Coples, thinking that there were many better options still on the board. While the players we mentioned back in April haven't done much themselves, they are a few others drafted in the back half of round one that stand out as good matches for the Jets.

'100_0153' photo (c) 2010, Matthew Tosh - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Doug Martin: While Shonn Greene is on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season, he just hasn't been very good. He's averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and if you take away his 161-yard outburst against the Colts, he's averaging just 3.3. The offensive line hasn't been great at opening up holes for Greene, but he is a back that just cannot make his own yardage and relies on the line opening big holes.

Meanwhile, Martin has rushed for 794 yards this season and had 251 yards on the ground last week, almost half of Greene's 509 for the season. That historic performance also came after the Bucs lost All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to injury and included three touchdowns of over 45 yards, showing the big-play ability the Jets running game and their offense as a whole lacks. New York's longest offensive touchdown this season came in Week 1 on a 33-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Stephen Hill.

I understand not trading the farm for Trent Richardson and that Martin would have been viewed as a reach seven months ago, but he sure would make the Jets' inept offense a lot better right now. With Martin getting 15-20 carries as a starter, being an outlet for Mark Sanchez out of the backfield with a depleted receiving corps and relegating Shonn Greene to the backup role he's proven successful in, the Jets offense may be running on all cylinders halfway through the season. Instead, the next Ray Rice is thriving in Tampa Bay and making fellow Class of 2009 quarterback Josh Freeman's life much easier.

Chandler Jones: The Jets have just 12 sacks as a team, 29th in the NFL and just two ahead of the last-place Jaguars. Jones has six sacks this season to Coples' two and while 16 team sacks would only bump the Jets up to 20th in the league, Jones' immediate impact getting to the quarterback would certainly help a Jets' pass defense that did lose star cornerback Darrelle Revis earlier in the season.

No Jets' defensive player has more than Coples' two sacks this season and Aaron Maybin, last year's pass-rushing phenomenon, has just one tackle on the season. For the sake of comparison, that's as many tackles as Sanchez has this year. The Jets would certainly benefit from having an established pass rusher and even if Jones' play tails off as the season wears on, his upside is similar to Coples and he's made an immediate impact. Making matters worse for the Jets, he's done it for the division rival Patriots.

Dont'a Hightower: One of many Alabama defensive players that would have fit well for a lot of teams, Hightower is another talented defender the Jets will get the privilege of facing for the next 5-10 years as a member of the Patriots. An inside linebacker with the Crimson Tide, Hightower has proven his versatility by starting on the strong side of New England's 4-3 defense and played well against the Jets a few weeks ago with 7 tackles and a sack.

While third-round pick Demario Davis has filled in admirably for Bart Scott, his talent level is nowhere near Hightower, who would have probably beat out the veteran Scott in training camp. At the very least, he could have taken Bryan Thomas' run-stopping outside linebacker role and would certainly represent an upgrade over Garrett McIntyre.

Hightower is third on this list for a reason, as the Jets need for another linebacker wasn't quite as immediate as a running back or a pass rusher and they did pick up a solid player later on in Davis. Even still, Hightower has made a bigger impact than Coples in 2012 and can match the New York rookie's upside, while the team could have used that third-round pick on a quarterback like Nick Foles to groom if Sanchez's struggles continued or a speedy wide receiver like T.Y. Hilton or Chris Givens even though they had already drafted Hill, since the Jets lack of depth at receiver behind the injured Santonio Holmes is a glaring hole in the depth chart.

Hindsight is certainly 20/20 and the book is not closed on Coples' career yet; not by any means. He was expected to be a project and is certainly meeting those expectations. However, when your team sits at 3-5 and your first-round pick has been virtually invisible all season, it's tough not to think about what could have been if the team had gone in a different direction. You can argue that any of these players with the possible exception of Hightower would have added at least one win to the Jets' current record.

Tags: Aaron Maybin, Alabama, Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, Chandler Jones, Demario Davis, Football, Mark Sanchez, New York, New York Jets, NFL, Quinton Coples, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Trent Richardson

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