As draft day nears, the hype and rumors around top rated players have begun to grow in both size and lunacy. Personally, I think that any speculation beyond analyzing basic needs and team visits should be kept to a minimum as the truth behind such news and rumors very often lead to empty hopes.
So, following those guidelines, I am going to look at the New York Jets special teams and how that relates to the upcoming draft class. I have said since before the 2015 season that the NY Jets have a huge problem with special teams (NYJets Should Shake Up Kicking Game). Before the 2015 season, the Jets lost a key special teamer Nick Bellore to free agency. Bellore was a special team’s machine, it seemed like on every kickoff or punt he was the first to the ball, and his loss was well noted. Initially, it looked like Zack Sudfeld could be that replacement but he tore his ACL before the season started. However, much on the defensive side of special teams can be fixed with coaching, as new special team’s coach Jeff Hammerschmidt goes to work but you still need some reliable personnel. At this point, the only thing that the NY Jets can do is hope that Sudfeld comes back from his ACL injury, or someone else steps up to fill the gap as special team’s gems are few and far between.
However, the bigger problem lies in the kicking game. Kicker Nick Folk and punter Ryan Quigley started the 2015 season, a duo that was half-decent at best. Nick Folk, who spent the last couple weeks of the 2014 season barely making 25-yard field goals due to injury, sustained a quad injury mid-season and found himself on IR soon after. Concern is beginning to rise about Folk’s durability, and it may be time to replace him (I know; I can’t believe I’m saying that about a kicker…). The issue is that good kickers are hard to find as the Jets found out after signing K Randy Bullock to replace the injured Folk. There are four options in this upcoming draft.
Roberto Aguayo (Florida State)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (UCLA)
Ross Martin (Duke)
John Lunsford (Liberty)
But I would hope that the Jets would learn their lesson about picking kickers in high rounds (Mike Nugget, Rd. 2, 2008). However, in Round 7 or after the draft, the Jets should chase after one of these four.
The Jets punter situation is even murkier. Former Jets punter Ryan Quigley left the team for the Eagles this off-season and the Jets are now in need of a punter, and hopefully, one of a higher caliber than Quigley was. It was almost stunning how many times fans saw Quigley punt a ball less than 30 yards almost directly sideways. But, like kickers, good punters are also hard to find. The last time the Jets had a good punter was in 2010 with P Steve Weatherford. The solution to the Jets punter problem may also be found in the draft.
Tom Hackett (Utah)
Drew Kaser (Texas A&M)
Lachlan Edwards (Sam Houston State)
In the later rounds. Army punter Alex Tardieu has been said to be drawing interest from the Jets in the last couple days.
With no current solution at quarterback and a defense that still has a lot to prove, the special teams is going to be key for the Jets success next year and the best place to turn now is the draft class of 2016.