Inside & Outside the Lines: LB Edition
JETS: With the 6th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the New York Jets select... is the question many Jets fans and football analysts are trying to figure out as April 30th rolls around. The Jets G.M. Maccagnan made it clear that the jets will draft BPA. It could be anyone at this point from Marcus Mariota to Amari Cooper/ Kevin White to Leonard Williams or could it be an OLB/DE in Dante Fowler Jr./ Vic Beasley?
So far this season the Jets account for 9 total LB's. More will be added to the roster but let us look at the current state of the Jets LB's core. Your supposed starters for ILB/OLB are ILBs: D. Harris & D. Davis. OLBs: Q. Coples & C. Pace/J. Babin. Aside from those 4-5 players there is a pretty significant drop in quality LB depth. That depth consists of: ILB: J. Lattimore & M. Harvey. OLB: T. Reilly & I. Enemkpali. Those names don't really scare many offensive coordinators or offensive players to say the least. Can they produce and help in 2015? Yes, will they is yet to be seen. There in lies the need to get a top-tier pass rusher, one the Jets have been without since John Abraham. I see the Jets double dipping this year at pass rusher. It is a deep class of pass rushers and the Jets would be foolish if they only got one. In this draft pass rushers are at a premium especially since it has been a passing league as of late. At 6 the Jets are in prime position to land one of those elite pass rushers. If i am the Jets and Dante Fowler Jr. falls to me I wouldn't hesitate at all to select him. Dante Fowler Jr. is without a doubt the best pass-rushers in this years draft. I would go as far as saying i would even trade up a spot or two to get him, he is that good. At 6'3 261lbs he is as versatile as it comes. Fowler can play anywhere you ask him to play be it left/right end, D-tackle, OLB plug him in those spots and watch him get to the QB and is a sure-tackler. Career stats: 140 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 5FF & 34.0 tackles for a loss. Other quality pass rushers the jets could grab in later rounds. OLB- E. Kendricks OLB- S. Thompson OLB- E. Harold OLB- T. Jones** ** Sleeper pick.
EAGLES: The need is not so great at pass-rusher for the Eagles. This offseason Eagles traded for LB Kiko Alonso and resigned OLB Brandon Graham. They also restructured Demeco Ryans and Bryan Braman and gave more up front money to Connor Barwin. The only other pass rusher seen let go was an aging Trent Cole who had a phenomenal career in Philly but due to age and salary cap reasons was released to pay his replacement in Brandon Graham. Now, I wouldn't be shocked if Philly grabbed another pass rusher at some point in the draft but the Eagles have set themselves up pretty nicely at LB that it frees them up to make moves at other positions of need.
One question however leading up to the draft is what to do with Mychal Kendricks? Anyone would say well it is obvious you keep him. He is young and he is very very good at his position but when you restructure ryans and bring via a trade an elite prospect in Kiko Alonso and sign Brad Jones you have to wonder where does Kendricks fit in all of this. Kendricks has not been to this point restructured and is at his last year of his contract. If I am Chip Kelly is my thought to trade him? It will be interesting to watch how it all unfolds i believe it will all unravel at this years NFL draft.
At OLB your starters are Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham they are good enough to demand double teams and can put pressure on the QB. Travis Long is someone i would keep an eye on as a depth player alongside Braman but i still see Eagles grabbing someone in the later rounds that can be put in the rotation to give the starters rest.
OLB: Connor Barwin/Brandon Graham. ILB: Kiko Alonso/Demeco Ryans/Mychael Kendricks/ draft pick? The mere fact that the Eagles have who they have at LB'er is a testament to what Chip Kelly and Billy Davis want out of there linebackers. The LB position has drastically improved in the Chip Kelly era compared to the Andy Reid era. I would take todays LB core over Andys Reids any day. I don't expect this to be the end result of the mad scientists experiment. Stay tuned.