While I refused to give the New York Jets a report card for their 2014 draft class, I do have an opinion on it. The Jets came to Radio City Music Hall to play, loaded with 12 picks, none of which the team decided to trade to move up. They had their plan and stuck to it, making no impulsive leaps up the draft order. And out of all 12 picks, I liked Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro in the second round the best.
The Jets made several good selections, so deciding just one best choice was tricky. Louisville safety Calvin Pryor was their first-rounder, and several football minds and former NFL safeties hailed the selection. Pryor is the perfect fit for a Rex Ryan defense, say John Clayton and Brian Dawkins. Mike Mayock said before the draft that he can see Pryor, a free safety in college, playing strong safety in the NFL just as well.
Cornerback Dex McDougle of Maryland was the Jets’ third-round choice at number 80 overall. Some criticized the Jets for waiting until the third round to address the largest dearth of talent on their roster, but McDougle is an NFL-level talent when healthy (he had season-ending shoulder surgery in 2013). Day Three selections can easily become important contributors, too – just ask late-rounders Tom Brady and Richard Sherman.
Amaro wants to catch 100 passes a year. For his rookie year, I’d settle for 80.
But if I’m picking just one player, I think Jace Amaro should prove to be the most immediate contributor to the New York Jets out of this rookie class.
I wrote in April that tight end was the Jets’ biggest draft need, not cornerback. I just did not feel any of the first-round cornerbacks would immediately improve the secondary; watching Dee Milliner struggle last year also gave me trepidation. On the flip side, the team needed another weapon on offense. Everyone talks about how weak and unremarkable New York’s offense was in 2013. The only way to fix that is to bring in more talent.
I waxed poetic about North Carolina’s Eric Ebron all spring, but the knock on him was that he didn’t block. Critics called him a “glorified wide receiver,” something many tight ends have become as the league grows more vertical. But Amaro is a better blocker than Ebron, and while there is certainly room for improvement, his being multi-faceted will come in handy in Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense.
I like Amaro’s attitude. Though the idiom “chip on his shoulder” gets thrown around a bit too much in sports anymore, Amaro seems hungry to prove wrong all the teams that passed on drafting him. He called himself a better tight end than Ebron and claimed he wants to be a Tony Gonzalez-type who catches 100 balls a year.
On top of everything, it was a value pick, too. Amaro was no reach for the Jets – he practically fell into their lap after being projected by many pundits as a late first-rounder.
Amaro is the last new weapon the Jets needed to revamp their offense. On the other side of the line from returning tight end Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro adds even more firepower to a once-lowly offense now stacked with Eric Decker, Jacoby Ford and Chris Johnson.
NFL Owners’ Meetings: The spring NFL Owners’ Meetings are currently being held in Atlanta. Today, the owners voted to move the point after touchdown attempt from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line for the 2014 Hall of Fame Game and first two weeks of preseason, as a test run for potentially lengthening the kick full-time. The owners also chose to table discussions about expanding the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams until October, meaning that the 2014-2015 NFL Playoffs will still feature just six teams from each conference. Finally, the league awarded Super Bowl LII in February 2018 to Minneapolis over Indianapolis and New Orleans.