With the first round of the 2013 NFL draft in the books, there were a few twists and turns along the way for the New York Jets. For starters, the Miami Dolphins exchanged draft picks with the Oakland Raiders and moved up to the No. 3 overall selection to take Oregon defensive end, Dion Jordan, a player linked to the Jets on many mock drafts.
With the No. 6 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns selected LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, the apple of Rex Ryan’s eye and overwhelming favorite to land with New York in the minds of many draft experts. With the Buffalo Bills on the clock at No. 8, they opted to trade down to No. 16 with the St. Louis Rams; nabbing West Virginia standout wide receiver Tavon Austin. As both the Dolphins and Bills did their part to keep impact players off the Jets’ roster, John Idzik and company secured the highest-ranked cornerback of the 2013 NFL draft class in Dee Milliner.
Expected to fly off the draft board as early as No. 3 overall, the former Alabama Crimson Tide standout fell into Gang Green’s lap at the No. 9 spot. With the Jets recently parting ways with All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the comparisons between No. 24 and Milliner are already underway. Idzik explained his draft philosophy and why Milliner was an easy choice with their top draft selection.
“That is wrong,” rebutted Idzik that the Jets were determined to replace Revis. “That had nothing to do with this. It’s purely based on the player. It may be perceived that way, but the reality is Dee was one of our highest ranked players, regardless of position on our board. So we took him.”
In Rex Ryan’s world, versatility is the name of the game, making Milliner a crown jewel of the Jets’ defense.
“Again, I think he’s a complete player,” said Ryan. “He’s a great tackler. He’s physical. He can play press man (and) off man. You name it, he can play it, inside, outside, whatever.”
Milliner’s draft stock slipped in the days and weeks leading up to the draft with teams expressing concern over his surgically repaired shoulder which he had operated on in March. Milliner is expected to be ready for training camp, so evidentially his torn labrum didn’t scare off the Jets.
“We’re comfortable with the medical,” noted Idzik of Milliner’s injury. “He’s had a few things. He’s a very physical player. He doesn’t miss time. He played through the injuries. He attended that Indianapolis Combine so he could compete. That’s very important to us, and then had his surgery post-Combine, so that says something (about) the kid. Dee just loves football. He just does not miss practice. He does not miss games. That was really important to us. But in short, we’re comfortable with his medical.”
The Jets stayed defensive in the first round selecting defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson out of the University of Missouri at No.13 overall.
Apparently there was no argument from New York’s head coach.
“You can’t blame this one on me”, joked Ryan. “I think everybody is surprised, every team in the league is thinking I’m surprised that this guy was there. These two players that we got, I think and we’ll all see soon enough when we get out there, but when John mentions these are impactful players, I believe he’s exactly right. These two guys are going to make an impact for us. We love what they bring to the defense - the kind of mentality that both these young men play with are the same traits that we look for in all of our players, but they certainly play like a Jet.”
Ryan went on to explain what his new defensive tackle brings to the table and what stood out when the Jets evaluated him at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“His ability to change direction is uncanny,” noted Ryan. “We were talking, I don’t know if we’ve seen a defensive tackle this athletic. We couldn’t think of one. They had him play linebacker against (Texas) A&M one game and stand up. You’ll see a special athlete. His athletic ability, his balance, it’s special.”
On draft day, speculation grew that the Jets were looking to trade down and stockpile picks in what many experts are calling a deep draft class. In the end, the Jets couldn’t forgo the opportunity to draft players the caliber of Milliner and Richardson.
“We entertained a few potential scenarios, but when we saw the players on the board we could draft, it would have to be pretty attractive for us to leave our top four,” admitted Idzik.” Again, in the end, it was too good for us to pass up.”
The Jets finished their 2012 campaigned with the No. 6 ranked defense and No. 30 ranked offense; leaving fans questioning their decision to address the defensive unit with two first round picks. New York’s general manager insists that he didn't forget about the team’s offense and is convinced there are several impact weapons left for the taking.
“We’re not done,” declared Idzik. “We have two days of work to do. We also said from the beginning we feel this draft is very deep. We’re going to take the same philosophy going forward into the second (round), the third (round) and right on through the draft. We’re going to take the best players. We’re going to assemble the best team of players and let them compete. That said, once you get down a little bit further in the draft, it stands to reason by numbers (that) there will be more offensive players that will stack up. We’re cognizant of that, so we’ll address need, but again, talent will trump need, especially higher in the draft.”